What To Do For Sore Muscles

For those of you just starting a workout program I’m guessing you’re dealing with muscle soreness and I’m guessing it’s pretty bad. I know I was extremely sore during my first week of both Insanity and P90X. With Insanity my legs were killing me and with P90X my chest and shoulders were very sore for a whole week. I get questions from people dealing with muscle soreness all the time, so I wanted to address some common questions and give you some tips on what to do for sore muscles.

First What Causes Sore Muscles?

what to do for sore musclesSore muscles, or delayed onset muscle soreness are really caused by the small tears that you make when you’re working out, and those tears are amplified when you’re doing a new workout, something your body isn’t used to.  That’s why you typically get very sore during the first week or two of a new workout.  As your body adapts and gets used to those workouts you won’t get as sore, which is why it’s important to change up your routine on a regular basis.  This is really the idea behind muscle confusion with P90X.  When you introduce new workouts and new moves, it forces your body to adapt and change.  And with that comes some muscle soreness.

What To Do For Sore Muscles –  Should I Keep Working Out?

Probably the most frequently asked question around what to do for sore muscles is “If I’m really sore, should I still do my workout or should I wait until I’m not sore?”  First off, it’s good to know that you need to distinguish between muscle soreness and muscle pain.  Muscle soreness shouldn’t be a sharp pain, it’s more of a dull, achy pain.  If you’ve actually injured a muscle, the pain will be sharper.  So as long as it’s just muscle soreness, then yes, you should be continuing with your scheduled workouts.  You’re going to be sore during the first week, but you have to keep pushing to make your body change.  So don’t skip workouts the first week!  You actually should keep moving instead of sitting around, because you’ll just prolong the soreness if you don’t stay active.

How To Reduce Muscle Soreness

The second most frequently asked question is “What can I do to reduce the soreness?”  And that’s a great question.  There are some things you can do to reduce muscle soreness, but you’re most likely not going to be able to eliminate all of it.  Here are some things I do to reduce my muscle soreness:

1) Don’t skip the stretch.  I know it’s really tempting to fast forward through the stretch at the beginning and just stop right when your workout is done, but please, don’t skip the stretch!  Stretching is incredibly important and you should always make sure to go through the entire stretch.  I would even recommend additional stretching, especially during the first couple weeks.  If you keep up with your stretching you will keep your muscles loose and keep them from getting more stiff and sore.

2) Foam roll.  If you could afford it, I would say get a massage.  But that would probably get a little pricey after every workout.  The next best thing in my opinion is foam rolling.  If you’re interested to learn more, check out my article Benefits of Foam Rolling.  You can basically give yourself a deep tissue massage, which will help repair your muscles and can greatly reduce muscle soreness.

3) Drink plenty of water.  Keeping your muscles hydrated is very important as well.  When you’re working out you might be sweating a ton if you’re like me, so it’s critical to stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated make sure nutrients that your muscles need to repair themselves get to the muscles.

4) Use a recovery drink.  Most recovery drinks out there are designed to help repair your muscles after an intense workout which will help reduce muscle soreness.  The ideal recovery drink is 4 parts carb to 1 part protein.  Glutamine and creatine are also helpful in aiding muscle recovery.  There are many options out there that will work.  Personally, I use the P90X Results and Recovery Formula because it has the optimal 4:1 carbs:protein ratio and it works for me.  It helps me recover faster from my workouts which is always a good thing.  Right after an intense workout is really the only time you want to spike your blood sugar and insulin response, because that is what will aid your muscle recovery.  That’s exactly what recovery drinks do.

Hopefully this has been helpful for you and gives you a little better idea of what to do for sore muscles which I know a lot of people deal with.  If you’re just starting P90X or Insanity, I’m sure you’re experiencing some sore muscles (or at least you should be!) and these tips should help you recover faster.


Hey Coach Tom, thanks for the great article! As a massage therapist myself I have found that massaging my own feet, legs, glutes is very helpful in the recovery of the soreness. I use a tennis ball against a wall or door to put pressure on specific muscles similar to the foam roller and it works great! I also do more stretches than they do in the dvd and it helps me more also.


Hey Tom, so I'm wondering about the hydration part of this. I have a suspicion that I'm not drinking enough. How would I know? I generally drink 3/4-1 gallon water a day (including in my whey shakes and recovery drink), and generally 3-5 cups during a workout (not including recovery drink). Is this enough, and if not, what actually happens to our bodies and workouts when we don't get enough water? Also, how do I know if I'm hydrated enough?

Coach Tom
Coach Tom

No problem Susan! I really appreciate your insight as a massage therapist too! Totally agree that the stretching at the end of the DVD's might not be enough for many people. I like the tennis ball idea too!

Coach Tom
Coach Tom

Hey Jeremy, good question. Hydration can be different for everyone but a good test is checking the color of your urine. The clearer it is the more hydrated you are. Typically I don't count water in shakes towards my water intake. I only count the plain water that I drink. When you're dehydrated your muscles do not function as well and nutrients don't get transported like they should.


  1. […] DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is something everyone experiences when they start a new program.  If you’re not sore after your first P90X or Insanity workouts then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.  I still get really sore when I switch from one program to another.  Being sore isn’t a bad thing, it means you’re challenging yourself in the workouts.  Here’s what I do to help my sore muscles recover. […]

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Youtube