No pain no gain.
Anyone who has been around a gym for awhile has heard this saying many times. While there is truth to it, there are different kinds of pain. If you are just starting your journey with weight training you will probably experience some “good” pain after your first few workouts. The severity will depend on how hard you challenge yourself.
Start off easy and don’t push yourself too hard. Too many sets, repetitions or too high of intensity will give you DMOS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Weight training causes minute damage to the muscles at the cellular level. While this does not sound good, aside from the soreness it is not harmful. In fact the muscles react to the repeated stress on the muscles by coming back stronger and denser. It’s actually how you improve when combined with good nutrition. DMOS may last for your first few workouts but will decrease in severity as you continue to train. Many seasoned trainers look forward to mild muscle soreness after a challenging workout. DMOS can also be present when changing your workout routine or after an extended layoff.
Another type of pain that is not harmful and can actually feel good when you have trained for awhile is the lactic acid burn. When you are repping it out with the weights and contracting the muscles there is energy being used, and waste products that come from that energy consumption by the muscles. One of these waste products is called lactic acid and can cause a burning sensation in the muscles being used. It is a temporary pain that goes away quickly after the muscle is allowed to rest. A trainer who does higher repetitions and chases the muscle pump (engorging the targeted muscle with blood) will often experience lactic acid build-up. Sometimes the actual muscle pump can also be painful as the muscle is so full of blood the fascia that encases the muscle fibres can be stretched, which encourages growth.
There are also pains that are not so good and here are a few. Use caution while training with any joint pain. If you have a previous injury or a joint condition talk to a trainer about ways to train around it. Different exercises, traction versus compression, higher reps, different angles are all ways that may lessen the pain.
Repeated training loads that are too heavy can cause cumulative damage to joints, tendons and ligaments. If you are training and always have a dull aches around certain joints or areas and it seems to take a lot of warm up sets for it to go away it may be time for a scheduled break, a change in routine or a repetition increase/weight decrease.
Muscle tears can happen to any athlete and gym goers are no different although it is rare. If you feel pain or an immediate burning sensation in a muscle when training stop immediately and ice it. If there is bruising or discolouration you may have torn a muscle and should seek medical attention.
Over extending a muscles range of motion can cause tendon or muscle pain and damage and is most common with hamstrings, low back, pectorals, lower biceps and shoulders. Know your range of motion and if trying to increase it do it gradually.
High level athletes are there because they have a high level of pain tolerance. This will increase with repeated training and intensity, but it’s important to be able to distinguish between a good productive pain and one that may be detrimental to your progress.
No pain no gain does hold merit, but train smart!