Being Sore Doesn't Always Mean You Had a Great Workout — Here's Why

POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd
POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd

"I'm ordering crutches on Amazon." Fellow fitness editor Gina Florio was joking (sort of) with me after a particularly punishing butt and legs day at Barry's Bootcamp. We all know that feeling of being so sore it hurts to walk down the stairs, sit on the toilet, or even take off your sweaty sports bra. After my own first Barry's class, my abs killed every time I laughed — it was awful. But it's par for the course in the fit life, as we're sure you're well aware. But should you be feeling that way every time you work out?

In short, no. But it's not a bad thing to be sore, either (hooray for muscle changes!). Let's get into some specifics and common questions, with insight from some of our favorite trainers.

Should You Try to Get Sore?

"Soreness doesn't define your workouts, and should not be what you strive for every workout session," said Sandy Liang, elite personal trainer at Crunch. "Continue to aim to challenge your body, but do not make it the goal to be sore always."

Caroline Jordan, health and wellness coach and Equinox agrees. "It's not necessary to be sore after every workout to experience results. Consistently leaving your body a sore wreck is a perfect way to eventually end up overtrained."

Does Feeling Sore Mean You Had a "Good" Workout?

All the trainers we talked to agreed: no. "While soreness is an indicator of a hard workout, it's not necessarily the best indicator of a good workout," said Caroline. And Sandy echoed that sentiment: "Feeling sore the days after your workout does not mean you had an effective workout."

If You're NOT Sore, Does That Mean You Didn't Have a Good Workout?

No. It probably just means your body has adjusted to the routine. "Your body will get conditioned as it builds strength and endurance," said Erica Stenz, trainer and VP at Barry's Bootcamp in San Francisco. "But if you continue the same workout regime for too long, you should switch things up so that your body doesn't plateau."

Why Do We Get Sore?

"Why we feel sore on some occasions and not others is due to change — you doing something differently or new to stress your body," said Sandy.

Have you tried a new workout lately, or worked a new muscle group you haven't used in a while? "After implementing a new workout routine or program, it's common to be sore for the first few workouts," said Caroline. "But the soreness shouldn't linger more than a few days. Soreness is your body's way of saying that it needs recovery before the next session."

Sandy wants you to "think back to when you first started working out." She reminded us of those early days when we were new to fitness and always trying something new: "you experienced soreness that probably lasted for even a week!" When you become slightly more experienced, "you may find that you do not get as sore or sore as often. That's because your body just got way better at adapting to stress being put on your body, and recovering from the stress. That is fine. That is just naturally how our bodies work — adapting to the environment."