Soreness From Stretching – what it actually means
“How do I know I have stretched far enough and pushed myself hard enough with my flexibility?”
“What are some of the feelings I should get so I know whether I have stretched hard enough in my stretching session?”
“Muscle soreness and pain is an indication I have trained hard enough so I should stretch till it hurts right?“
“If you don’t feel it, it’s not working… No pain, no gain right?”
These are just some of the questions our coaches receive around flexibility training and what to look for regarding progress.
So is it true? Do you need to feel sore after a stretching session to know that you have worked your body thoroughly enough?
To start off, let’s get clear on what exactly is the pain you are likely experiencing after your stretching session.
If you’re not aware, the sore feeling you get within the first few days after you train is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short.
DOMS can be defined in simplest terms as localised pain, in trained muscles, as the result of exercise.
The rate at which DOMS is experienced varies from person to person, but it generally occurs between 24-72 hours after training.
Most of us can relate to this feeling after doing strength workouts in the days prior. However DOMS can also extend as a reaction to all sorts of training stimuli.
If you get DOMS, here is a summary of the symptoms you can expect to experience:
> Inflammation and swelling around the muscles that were involved in training (this is similar to the ‘pumped’ look you can get in the gym)
> Stiffness in joints around the inflicted muscles
> Possibility of lost strength and range of movement (ROM) in the affected muscles
> And of course, localised pain in the trained muscles
It’s likely you have experienced all these symptoms at some stage after training.
What causes these symptoms and DOMS itself?
In the simplest terms, you could say that DOMS is mainly caused by the body not being ready for the stimulus being imposed on it – and the key words to remember there is: ‘The body not being ready’.
Hence new stretches, increased ranges of motion, and greater degrees of intensity that you’re unaccustomed to, have the potential to make you sore.
Although you can expect some soreness from stretching from time to time (given the above), if you’re frequently sore after training, you’re likely over-stretching.
But no pain, no gain, right?
Wrong! It has never been proven that DOMS is a necessary and sufficient condition for increasing flexibility…. Or any other fitness attribute for that matter.
In fact, if you go into your stretching sessions with the goal of creating soreness, this won’t get you very far towards your flexibility goals and it could end badly for you – possibly with injury at worst, or delayed progress at best.
Sorry – masochism is not a smart approach to stretching.
If soreness is the aim and indicator of progress, then you might as well throw yourself in front of an oncoming bus.
“So when can I tell that I have stretched enough?” you ask.
When you reach the YOUR maximum painless range of motion – yes this depends on your level of advancement and your given stage of training.
These thresholds will change over time as you progressively increase your ranges of motion in both dynamic and in static (isometric and relaxed) stretching.
To be blunt – you are overstretching if you regularly feel soreness and pain.
In fact, if you get sore regularly, it’s likely that you’re doing stretches (or applying stretching techniques) that are too advanced for your current ability level.
When you start strength training, you never started with full range of motion Olympic lifts and doubled your intensity every session – the same holds true for your stretching.
Be patient and Kaizen-like in your approach – aiming for small increases over time as your muscles and joints adapt.
For more on this and the training topic of muscle soreness and what it means for your progress, check out our No Pain, No Gain videos below:
Remember that you are not aiming to feel soreness – you are aiming to see progress in your muscular length and tension.
Be objective, not subjective in your approach.
Measure your range, not your pain!
Are you feeling worse for wear and even sore after your stretching despite your best efforts not to?
Does it feel like you’re practicing a lot but you’re not getting anywhere with your flexibility, your tightness, and your restrictions?
If you’re serious about changing this, then reach out to one of our expert coaches.
Our method of stretching not only makes your muscles more supple, but it also makes them stronger and more functional in the newly acquired positions.
If you’re really tight, restricted and ultimately frustrated with your body and its lack of functionality, then talk to one of our expert coaches.
Fill in your details below to find out more about our program and see if you are a good fit for a specifically tailored plan to fast-track your goals: