First, you need to know going into a workout program like P90X or Insanity that the first week or so, you will be more sore than you can remember, especially if you haven’t worked out hard in a while. It’s a shock to your body and your muscles will SCREAM! You’ll find it hard to put on a shirt, to sit down, stand up, walk up or down stairs, get in and out of your car. Basically moving will HURT for a few days LOL!
I get asked a lot by folks in their first week if they should skip a day or two to let the soreness fade before doing the next workout. The answer is NO! Push through the soreness. Stick to the schedule. Force your body to get used to daily exercise. That initial soreness will fade out after a week or 2 (depending on your fitness level) and you’ll be able to sit down again without your glutes sending a stabbing sensation up your back LOL!
Second, you’ll find that anytime you shift your workouts (each training block / month) you’ll get sore all over again. This is the premise behind muscle confusion as developed by P90X. After a month of doing one type of workout routine, your body gets better at doing it and the muscles get stronger, and the workouts may not make you sore at all. Then you switch it up and all of a sudden you are sore again. Muscle confusion! You are forcing the muscles to adapt again to new workouts (and thus get stronger).
So in most cases, muscle soreness is a good sign that you are forcing your body to change, and change is good! There is a whole other side to soreness, which is really not soreness but injury (like joints, tendons). I discuss those situations in my article “Injuries”, so if those describe you then check that out.
So what is soreness? It’s basically the results of causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers, and those tears make you sore as they repair. The beauty of muscle tissue is that it repairs by making itself stronger and more resistant to those micro-tears the next time. And it takes about 2 days for the fibers to repair if you are giving your muscles proper fuel through a recovery drink and a diet with good sources of protein. This is where the “48 hour rule” comes into play (see my articles “get some rest” and “overtraining” for more on that). This process of muscle breakdown/muscle repair gives us the great ripped physiques we want! But it also means that over time we have to get creative to keep our muscles confused! I’ve found that it’s harder to make myself sore after working out with these intense workouts for a year and a half than it was when I first started out.
So, what if you are like me and your bigger challenge is not overcoming soreness, but finding new ways to cause soreness? The key is to keep variety up, and the variety works your muscles in different ways and will get you past a plateau. Techniques I’ve used to vary my workouts and keep the muscle confusion going, even after 18 months of P90X and Insanity, are:
– Adding workouts. The Tony Horton 1-on-1 series has many unique workouts that I incorporate in my hybrids for more muscle confusion and more results. I particularly like the 30-15, Just Arms, Diamond Delts, Vol 3 Shoulders and Arms, Chest Back and Balls, V Sculpt, and Upper Body X. I’ve found creating hybrids that give me different workouts every month keep me progressing, rather than repeating a single program like P90X over and over and over.
– Adding resistance. If you can knock out chest and back without any soreness the next day, try it with a weighted vest. Bam! You’ll feel it the next day.
– Concentrate on form and working to failure. The reps that really cause those micro-tears are the last ones that you struggle or fail at, so don’t stop if you’ve got a couple more reps left in you. Get every bit of work out of every exercise you do. And the better you can keep your form, even while struggling, the more concentrated your efforts will be on the muscles you are wanting to target.
– Proper nutrition. No, proper nutrition doesn’t “cause soreness”, but it helps in the process of repairing the micro-tears from working out and thus getting me stronger, faster. I use a recovery drink (Results / Recovery Formula) after every intense workout to get my body out of the catabolic state (muscle break down) and back into the anabolic state (muscle repair/building) as soon as possible. I also make sure that every meal and snack I have throughout the day has some protein in it. Protein has amino acids, the building blocks of muscle fibers. The muscles need energy in the form of carbs and building blocks in the form of proteins in order to repair and grow. Be sure you are following a well-designed diet to make this possible (either the P90X nutrition guide or one of my suggested diets in the “nutrition zone” tab at the top of the screen).
Thanks for the article Coach! I was going to ask if I was working out too intensley seeing as how my chest, back, triceps, and legs are so sore. I am worried however about being able to use proper form on my arms/shoulders workout today since I don't have my normal range of motion. Good to know that this will only be a temporary problem.
Well, I knew if I came here I was gonna find my answer...lol...I just started the LessMills combat program I'm on my 4th day I was gonna skip the work out since my legs are sore and I can't walk right I thought giving my body a day to recover was gonna help but I guess I better stay with fight!.. Thanks coach!
Hey coach! I've been doing beachbody programmes like P90X, X2 (didn't finish), insanity and now asylum for 11 months.. I don't feel sore at all now even though I'm doing a new workout programme (asylum).. I run a competitive race like 10k and 16k almost once a week but I can still continue my workouts without feeling sore.. Is my body plateauing?? I'm eating around 1000kcal a day at 5', around 115lbs.. I'm guessing it's because asylum workouts are slightly shorter than insanity month 2 and p90x workouts that's why i don't get sore.. any idea? thanks!
Vee, I wouldn't say you are plateauing. Sounds like you are just in great shape. Keep pushing hard and find ways to intensify the workouts.
Did chest and back today and I can barely type this message correctly. Just trying to wash my hair was almost impossible. LOL Can't wait for plyo tomorrow. I didn't think that I worked hard enough for my recovery drink today (cuz you said to make sure that you earned it!) so I skipped it. I only took some glutamine. Thanks for the article coach. I'm on day 7 and still pushing play!
Hey coach, Question on soreness. Sometimes I feel sore, sometimes I don't, even if the intensity is the same. Sometimes I also feel sore in weird places- for example, I did Chest/Shoulders/Tris from P90X and did Ab ripper X2 (got sick of ARX from the first P90X so decided to try something new for variety). I feel nothing really in my abs, a bit but not much in my chest (even though I used weight plates on my back for pushups) and a bit sore in my lats. Shoulders and tris are relatively sore. Any idea why this would be? Thanks!
Jeremy, this could be just due to your muscle groups being at levels of development. It could also be a sign that you are compensating in some moves and using those other muscles during movements you may not be intending to use them in. CST really works the shoulders, all push up movements do (especially when you incorporate lateral movement like flys).
My legs are so sore from plyo today (day 2) I dont see how I will be able to get through ab x. How long did it take you before you made all the way through ab x? L
Hey Jason, it took me until about half way through the second month. Keep pushing play man! You'll get there!
i woul honestly go buy some weights right now but my parents hate when i have weights they think i'll kill myself with them. so yep bands are all i got sadly.
i'll make sure everytime i do rep that my hands dont just fall but i control the bands, like if it was a weight.
well i can say my left one is pretty much recovered, but i noticed it occured when i was lifting for size and now that i lift for lean it doesn't have any trouble. i just want to know if i can use resistance bands when bulking.
ok! just one thing i have bicep tendenitus on my left arm and it just started to recover, i rlly wanna bulk up but i have to go for LEAN when it comes to lifting. its worked so far but i was wondering if i can use some heavy resistance bands when it comes to gaining, do you recommend this?
I'd hate to steer you wrong Jimmie and have your tendonitis flare up on you again. Only you can judge the level of recovery in the bicep at this point.
hey coach i did ''just arms'' yesterday and i didnt get sore at all today? will i not gain that pound of muscle this week since there not sore? (doing a bulking phase)
Hey Jimmie, not necessarily. You can't control whether or not you feel sore. But you can control if you push your muscles to failure during the workout. Keep bringing it! And they will respond!
Coach, Quick question about recovery.... I have been taking ON scope, half banana, peanut butter, cinnamon after a workout to recover. Also I take GNC mega men vitamin a tab a day. I again take same mixture for shake before the bed. I still feel too much soreness. Is it an indication of not recovering soon? Is my own recovery drink not working? I would appreciate your input.
Hey Ruwan, the best way to know would be to try an "official" recovery drink like Results/Recovery formula to see if the right proportions of electrolytes, carbs, protein, glutamine, creatine, and minerals helps you recover faster.
GREAT POST COACH!!! I too believe that it's important to speed up the anabolic process, that's why I put an emphasis on feeding my body with the essential amino acids that'll help with that tremendously. Doing this regularly during and after workouts has helped keep me from being too sore.
This post is right on time. I started month 3 of my P90x hybrid with Insanity on Monday and I am extremely sore. Great post coach. Go Dawgs!!!
Great post coach. I am also at that stage where I have to find new ways to get sore. Just have to bring it harder.
Ahhh! I wish I would have read this before my workout this morning. My biceps still were killing me this morning from back and bi's 2 days ago so I didn't go as hard on them in Tony Hortons "just arms" routine. P.S. wow tony goes slow in his volume 1 workouts...kind of annoying always having to fast forward the chatter with Mason lol
Hey Coach, One a different note...remember couple days back I posted my progress on weight loss so far (~11lbs). Well, I got my wife hooked on workouts as well and she has been doing Insanity and 10 Minute Trainer combo for about 50 days. Guess what...she has lost 18lbs so far !!! Back to reality for me :) Bring it
When you use muscled you haven't in a long time they pain...i think its as simple as that. Have been doing Insanity/P90X for 4 weeks now and feel amazingly fit while running etc. Last week played squash for an hour and my foreams, inner thighs and back was sore :)
Thank you sir. I've done several rounds of P90X and my wife and I just started another after a 2 month hiatus in prep for P90X2. It's just amazing how much stamina/muscle/strength you lose after a short period of time. We've never skipped any portion of a workout. Just curious about the science behind it. Thanks again.
Kind of related question. On workouts that repeat, like Chest and Back, how do you handle fatigue during the workout? Tony says pace yourself for round 1 so you can do round 2. Well, muscle tissue still rips during round 1, so what's really the point of round 2? I've always wondering if round 2 is over-doing it. Fast twitch muscle versus slow twitch muscle, etc. Once it's destroyed it's destroyed right? Once a muscle is "jelly" isn't it really over at that point? Thanks!
Hey Ian, you may feel wasted after round 1 if you haven't built some muscle stamina, but that's different than really causing the microtears that lead to stronger muscles. Sure, you have started the process after 1 round (or even the first set technically), but do the whole workout to get the most out of it.
Hey Coach Wayne, I do not get sore in some muscles, but some I do. For example, back and shoulders hardly get sore but chest, triceps and biceps do.I have increased weight and even reps but they still do not get sore. I was wondering if that is a bad thing or will I still be getting the results even though I dont get sore.
Hey Esteban, like I said in the article above, I don't usually get sore anymore either (a function of my fitness level). But ideally, you want to try and find new ways to force your muscles to adapt.
Man, I remember that 1st week of P90X, specialy the 1st time that I did Plyometrics... OMG, that was thought! Then you do Insanity and is like, WOW... MOM! can it get any worst!!!
I am a nero-muscular therapist and work with tri-atheltes and a few professional football players. The treatment I always suggest as a simple at home remedy for sore muscles is a contrast treatment. A contrast treatment is simple. 3 min of heat (a heat pad) followed by 30 sec of ice on the effected area. The heat brings in fresh healthy blood and the ice acts to flush things out. Reapeat this process 3 to five times over 45 minutes up to twice a day. Fresh and healthy blood will act to speed recovery. Also try a friction warm-up on the area you will be working. Quickly rub the muscle area until the skin is warm to touch. (about 30 seconds per muscle) This also gets the blood moving. This can be done before and after a work out. I remember using these treatments daily my first few weeks of p90x and recommend it to many of the people is see on a daily basis. Awesome and very important post coach, thanks for all you do. Bring it!