Does the pain indicate that you have trained very hard and well? Does lactic acid really cause muscle soreness? Can I ignore the sore muscles and continue as before? Can stretching prevent muscle soreness?
There are many myths about muscle soreness – we’ll show you the most important myths.
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Myth 1: Muscle soreness is a proof of effective training
Although many athletes still believe that muscle soreness is a particularly “good” intensive workout and ensures muscle gains, the opposite is more the case.
“Hard muscle soreness is not only painful, but also impairs the function of the muscles, as the fibers can no longer tighten properly,” says expert Fleckenstein.
It is better to adjust the training individually so that you are exactly at the stress threshold and after that no or only weak pain occur. These usually disappear after a few hours – and you can actually see this as an indication of the optimal amount of sports.
Myth 2: Lactate causes muscle soreness
No there: The lactate, as the lactic acid is called, can do nothing for it if our muscles ache after the workout. Because then the muscle pain would not also occur after forms of movement or sports that hardly form lactate – for example, strength training. “In muscle soreness, too intensive training and/or an unfamiliar load have destroyed the smallest structures in the muscle,” says Koller.
“Depending on the size of the damage, the body decides whether to repair or replace the broken muscle fibers. If the demolished Z-slices can be patched, the original cell is preserved. The molecules responsible for muscle contraction, myosin and actin, attach to the Z discs, which contract and relax the muscle again. However, if a repair is no longer worthwhile, the muscle fiber flies out.
Satellite cells located there with the quality of stem cells divide, fill the gap created and a new muscle fiber is created,” says biologist Koller, who has already seen all kinds of frayed Z-disks under the microscope.
Myth 3: Sore muscles I can simply ignore
Big mistake: A muscle with sore muscles is injured and an injury must always be cured. This does not mean bed rest, but at least a change in training.
The affected muscle areas are considered a taboo zone for the period of regeneration and should be spared, because the overstressed fibres do not need any further stress.
But anything that helps the body to repair itself is welcome. The more the organism relaxes, the faster it can recover.
For example when going for a walk. The heart and circulation are stimulated, which increases blood circulation and makes it easier for the body’s building materials to reach the construction site. Combined with deep and calm abdominal breathing, the process can be gently accelerated.
The organism changes into its relaxation mode, puts the veins wide and the material flow is optimized, the regeneration proceeds. However, this depends on other factors such as training condition and age. Those who continue training nevertheless risk additional damage and serious injuries such as extremely painful muscle fibre tears.
“In addition, the faster the body wears out, because the capacity for cell regeneration is limited and constant repair of battered muscle cells makes the satellite cells age faster,” warns Koller.
Myth 4: Stretching prevents sore muscles
No chance: Because whether a muscle was stretched before the load or not has nothing to do with the subsequent load, which causes muscle soreness. Stretching after a workout that is too heavy also does not offer any protection or compensate for the damage caused.
Slight stretching can also be useful in the treatment of sore muscles. Care should be taken not to stretch to pain, but only as far as painlessly possible. Otherwise it can even worsen the condition. When stretching, the already demolished structures are pulled further, stretching the muscles in turn provokes a stretching reflex and thus further contraction.
What really prevents is a sensible workout with the right intensity. Of course, it is not always easy to set the right stimulus, but everyone should try it. An experienced trainer is seldom at the side of a recreational athlete. The rule is: less is actually more. Connected with a conscious, eccentric training, if such loads are lining up.
Myth 5: Massages alleviate sore muscles
Better keep your hands off it: Kneading can even damage the muscles – and you haven’t gained anything with it. The classic massage stretches the tissue so that the flow of nutrients and waste products in the metabolism functions better – the injured fibers are again strained, which worsens the healing and only delays the subsidence of symptoms. The same applies to stretching.