Is it ok to train with sore muscles or DOMS?

Starting a new training program is HARD. If you’re new to working out or are returning to exercise after an injury, you may be wondering whether it’s ok to train with sore muscles. Let’s start at the beginning…

What is delayed onset muscle soreness?

DOMS arises from difficult workouts that cause micro-tears in the muscle. It’s the tears that cause the feeling of soreness. Don’t worry though; while it sounds like intentionally tearing your muscles would be a bad thing, these micro-tears cause the muscle to grow and become stronger.

Should I still workout if I have DOMS?

Luckily, delayed onset muscle soreness doesn’t stop you from exercising for long. 

The upshot? You can work out if you’re sore. The key is not to exercise the same muscle groups that are hurting. For example, you could do legs one day and exercise your upper body the next. By doing so, you’ll still be able to get exercise and allow your lower body to recover and rebuild.

My workout program is designed to work different muscle groups throughout the week which means I give muscles ample time to recover before working them out again. The full body days in my program are also designed to bring blood flow to your sore muscles to aid in recovery.

With a day or two of rest and good nutrition, your muscles will repair themselves and become stronger for the next workout.  

Has my workout been effective if I don’t get DOMS? 

You shouldn’t label a workout as ineffective because you don’t experience severe muscle aches afterwards. This pain differs in intensity from person to person, and will lessen over time as you get used to the exercise. It does not have a correlation to muscle growth or improved fitness.

6 ways to reduce DOMS

Luckily there are a few things you can do to reduce DOMS when it arises.

1. Don’t go too hard, too fast

Don’t just smash it as hard as you can in a hurry to get to your goals faster. Remember, strength and fitness is a gradual process. You don’t want to cause extreme discomfort after your first session. Trust me, nothing’s worse than being severely demoralised from post-workout aches. 

There are a lot of myths flying around about weight training, I’ve written a post that debunks 6 of the biggest myths around strength training.

2. Take time to do a proper cool down

I know it’s so easy to skip the cool down at the end of your workout but it’s something you should always try to do to improve your recovery time. I suggest going for a light walk after a tough workout to break up the lactic acid. It also allows you to reflect on and record your progress.

3. Keep moving on rest days

Keep moving on your rest days and participate in light activity for active recovery. Swimming, stretching, yoga, brisk walks – just keep your body moving.

4. Get down with the foam roller

Applying pressure to specific points in the body using your own bodyweight on top of the roller can help release muscle tightness or trigger points, also known as ‘knots’. This self-massage technique will loosen the muscles and help return them to normal function.

5. Take a warm bath

As well as being a great way to relieve stress, a warm bath can help to increase blood flow to your muscles. Doing so will help them recover by removing waste products and delivering nutrients to aid repair.

6. Stay hydrated

This is SO important. Staying hydrated is another great way to reduce muscle soreness. Make sure you carry a water bottle with you and take regular sips throughout the day.

A final word 

My best advice when weighing up whether or not to train with sore muscles is to listen to your body and distinguish between muscle ache, general fatigue and an actual injury.

If there is bruising around the site of pain or you’re worried, there may be some damage, so stop any activity that aggravates the area and seek medical advice. As an alternative, you could also consider training another part of your body or performing a non-weight bearing form of exercise instead like swimming or cycling.

As always, if you have ANY questions please email me. I love hearing from you and always answer your messages personally. Send me an email anytime at

Alexia Clark