Muscles soreness, rest and gains

Are there data or at least rules of thumb in terms of how long to wait until you do exercise a muscle group heavily again for best gains in terms of fitness or strength?

Presumably, the sorer a muscle is, the more you should let it rest or only do light exercise with it. The soreness comes from muscle damage which is to be repaired, correct? From what I understand, letting a muscle rest is a good idea even without soreness because that’s when the muscle upgrades itself.

So we have two timelines: How long it takes for the muscle to repair itself which is related to soreness and how long it takes for the muscle to upgrade itself which is related to gains.

Do those two the very same process? If not, does the soreness repair process tend to be shorter than the gains improvement process?

If I exercise heavily on Day 1, am sore for Day 2 and Day 3 but not Day 4, does that mean that the bulk of the repairs have been completed? Does that mean that the bulk of the improvements have been completed? Would it be best to wait until Day 5 or Day 6 to exercise heavily again?

How does that pain/gain process apply to joints which can also hurt and possibly become stronger?

Explanation of the various routes to muscle growth.
(Spoilered for slight language at the beginning)

Generally, unless you drastically overwork, muscles are recovered in 48-72 hours.

Joint pain is never good. Tendons and ligaments take far longer to gain strength than muscles. Cartilage doesn’t heal.

You can work muscles more often if you only train to 80% of limits.

The work-to-failure mindset should be dedicated to regimens built around bodybuilding or powerlifting, as examples.

For example, there are many hard labor jobs and lifestyles that, by necessity, require you to not work to failure/exhaustion each time out.

In many parts of the world, in many disciplines, such as jiu jitsu, and some others that are not dominated by American/Western style bodybuilding and gym training, the idea of working to failure daily is considered ludicrous. I believe South American and some Asian cultures who excel in some fitness and athletic disciplines of the martial arts and their variants see the daily 80% method as a key to their dominance. If you look to the MMA/UFC, it’s dominated by physical specimens who don’t train to failure and exhaustion popularized by bodybuilding and 3-4 days rest cycles.

What are you trying to accomplish? Total exhaustion and failure of certain muscle groups each time they are trained can result in lower net gains, reduced calorie burn, consistent/chronic injury and reduced total activity, when you look at the totality of one’s daily activity.



The Athlean-X video linked has great info, as I’m subscribed to that channel as well.

Overall, when the soreness is gone the muscle has repaired and the hypertrophy you want has taken place. Note that when people say 24-72 hours later you can work out again, they’re referring to the average minimum repair times - waiting 4 or 5 days later will slow your progress, but that’s the only negative. If you’re not in a hurry or have a scheduling conflict, wait an extra day or two.

What I typically do is alternate heavy training. I do one workout shooting for gains, and after DOMS is gone in a day or two, the next workout I do a bit lighter weight with more volume, usually moving more slowly with strict form. The workout after that, I increase the weight again. Slower gains, but reduced risk of injury as I know the micro-tears that lead to hypertrophy have completely healed.

Thanks for the video. I found other good videos of theirs, especially the ones about correcting anterior pelvic tilt and lower back pain.

Are slow eccentric exercises easier on the joints?

Are there exercises one can do at home, in an apartment with downstairs neighbors, which do a good job of replicating the demands/benefits of running?

You’re right that working to exhaustion is probably a bad idea.

With the exception of lower back pain and cardiovascular/general fitness, I’m mainly after the psychological benefits of exercise. I can get those either from running or strength training. I’m starting to get the hang out of running but I don’t think I’ll do much running in the next few months with winter coming and my dislike of running on treadmills or in gyms which leaves me with strength training. I see increased strength and muscle hypertrophy as nice bonuses which I’d like to improve too but I’m not bodybuilding.

epbrown01 posted a good link.

"training not to failure’ brings up good info when used as search term.

Running is for runners (my mindset) … and I ran because I thought it was productive. It’s not (for me).

…and are you telling me that you can’t think of ways to get your heart rate up? I burn more calories washing my car or mowing my lawn than I would running. Choose activity over exercise.

Do you have a heart rate monitor?

Do you feel like running is fulfilling?


Keep in mind that there are lots of variations of exercise. If feeling good mentally is a primary motivator for you to exercise, consider group classes like boot camp, kick boxing, BodyPump, etc. These group classes will give you both aerobic and strength benefits, and are also “fun” in their own way. The instructor provides guidance and motivation which helps you get a great workout that flies by.

I feel that these kinds of general fitness classes are the best kind of workouts for most people. The classes are designed by professionals to give you a good workout, and the instructor guides you in proper technique and form. I feel an average person will get a better quality workout in a group class rather than on their own. This is because most people are not educated in proper techniques or even have specific goals they want to achieve. And there’s also the motivation factor. Solo exercises like treadmills and weightlifting can get monotonous and people often give up unless they have specific goals. If you are training to be a better runner, then you will be motivated to spend an hour on the treadmill. But if you’re just wanting to get healthier, the treadmill might not give you the motivation you need to continue.

If you decide to take group classes, be sure you start out slow and careful. A common mistake newbies make is trying to go at top exertion from their first class, but they often aren’t in good enough shape yet. They see everyone else in the class and try to mimic their movements and pace, but those people have been taking the class for a very long time. So the first few classes you should do at a lower exertion level and be listening to your body. Gradually increase your exertion over each class depending on how you felt from the previous class. This will help you advance without injury.

And lastly, if you decide to do strength training, use a single reference book or use a trainer. Weightlifting is more of a technical kind of exercise and you’ll need to get several factors correct in order to see results. Asking on a message board can be good, but the advice won’t be consistent. Each of us have our own preferences about how to do strength training, and they might not all be in sync. It would be like getting advice on cooking from chefs of many different regions. Each chef will give advice based on their region, but you won’t get tasty food if you try to combine the advice together.

There’s a thread dedicated to fitness questions and results here: