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Posted by Barry on Apr 18, 2012

Wow I am Really Sore!

Is being sore a good thing?  A bad thing?  Or both?  Soreness takes many forms, and we have to understand a couple basics about soreness that will help us as we work to maximize our results.

First, you need to know going into a workout program like P90X or Insanity that the first week or so, you will be more sore than you can remember, especially if you haven’t worked out hard in a while.  It’s a shock to your body and your muscles will SCREAM!  You’ll find it hard to put on a shirt, to sit down, stand up, walk up or down stairs, get in and out of your car.  Basically moving will HURT for a few days!

I get asked a lot by folks in their first week if they should skip a day or two to let the soreness fade before doing the next workout.  The answer is NO!  Push through the soreness.  Stick to the schedule.  Force your body to get used to daily exercise.  That initial soreness will fade out after a week or 2 (depending on your fitness level) and you’ll be able to sit down again without your glutes sending a stabbing sensation up your back!

Second, you’ll find that anytime you shift your workouts (each training block / month) you’ll get sore all over again.  This is the premise behind muscle confusion as developed by P90X.  After a month of doing one type of workout routine, your body gets better at doing it and the muscles get stronger, and the workouts may not make you sore at all.  Then you switch it up and all of a sudden you are sore again.  Muscle confusion!  You are forcing the muscles to adapt again to new workouts (and thus get stronger).

So in most cases, muscle soreness is a good sign that you are forcing your body to change, and change is good!

So what is soreness?  It’s basically the results of causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers, and those tears make you sore as they repair.  The beauty of muscle tissue is that it repairs by making itself stronger and more resistant to those micro-tears the next time.  And it takes about 2 days for the fibers to repair if you are giving your muscles proper fuel through a recovery drink and a diet with good sources of protein.  This is where the “48 hour rule” comes into play.  This process of muscle breakdown/muscle repair gives us the great ripped physiques we want!  But it also means that over time we have to get creative to keep our muscles confused!  I’ve found that it’s harder to make myself sore after working out with these intense workouts for almost 2 years than it was when I first started out.

So, what if you are like me and your bigger challenge is not overcoming soreness, but finding new ways to cause soreness?  The key is to keep variety up, and the variety works your muscles in different ways and will get you past a plateau.  Techniques I’ve used to vary my workouts and keep the muscle confusion going, even after 23 months of P90X and Insanity, are:

– Adding workouts.  The Tony Horton 1-on-1 series has many unique workouts that I incorporate in my hybrids for more muscle confusion and more results.  I particularly like the 30-15, Just Arms, Diamond Delts, V Sculpt, and Upper Body X.  I’ve found creating hybrids that give me different workouts every month keep me progressing, rather than repeating a single program like P90X over and over and over.

– Adding resistance.  If you can knock out chest and back without any soreness the next day, try it with a weighted vest. You’ll feel it the next day.

– Concentrate on form and working to failure.  The reps that really cause those micro-tears are the last ones that you struggle or fail at, so don’t stop if you’ve got a couple more reps left in you.  Get every bit of work out of every exercise you do.  And the better you can keep your form, even while struggling, the more concentrated your efforts will be on the muscles you are wanting to target.

– Proper nutrition.  No, proper nutrition doesn’t “cause soreness”, but it helps in the process of repairing the micro-tears from working out and thus getting me stronger, faster.  I use a recovery drink (Results / Recovery Formula) after every intense workout to get my body out of the catabolic state (muscle break down) and back into the anabolic state (muscle repair/building) as soon as possible.  I also make sure that every meal and snack I have throughout the day has some protein in it.  Protein has amino acids, the building blocks of muscle fibers.  The muscles need energy in the form of carbs and building blocks in the form of proteins in order to repair and grow.  Be sure you are following a well-designed diet to make this possible (either the P90X nutrition guide or one of the other nutrition plans).

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