How to Reduce Muscle Soreness Before You Work Out

Pain on only one side is more likely an injury.

Pain on only one side is more likely an injury.

You know the drill: you get motivated to work out, you push yourself more than ever before, then you can barely walk the next day because your muscles are so sore. It's hard to stay motivated when it hurts to lift your arms when you wash your hair. However, there are a few ways to get your sore muscles ready to work out the next day and push through the pain to keep your workout routine on schedule.

Apply heat to your muscles by getting in a hot bath -- bubbles optional -- hot shower or by using a heating pad. This helps get the blood flowing to your muscles, getting them ready to work out again.

Warm up with dynamic stretching to loosen the sore muscles before you work out. Stand beside a wall or chair and swing your legs forward and backward for at least one minute then side to side for a minute. Make big arm circles forward and backward, moving your arms for about two minutes.

Do a light cardiovascular routine before you grab the weights again. Getting your muscles moving again helps the blood flush out waste products that develop as your muscles work, and reducing this waste helps alleviate the soreness. Try a brisk but not strenuous stint on the elliptical, getting your arms moving with the handles, or something simple like jumping jacks. Even a quick jog can help start the process of reducing your soreness.

Items you will need

  • Heating pad
  • Light weights


  • Stick to light weights after you get your muscles warmed up. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1/3 of your usual one-repetition maximum; normally you would use at least 1/2 to 2/3 of that max in a workout. Go low on the reps as well, with one or two sets of 10. The pain is caused in part by small tears in the muscle that are healing, so you don't want to push too hard and cause an injury.
  • It's best to give sore muscles a day off. Try alternating days and body parts; for example, work your arms one day, your legs one day and your core the next. Cardio is good for every day.


  • Sore muscles can hurt -- badly -- to the point that you think you have a strain or tear instead of normal soreness. It's always best to check with your doctor if you're concerned, but you can help determine the difference between an injury and soreness by checking both sides of your body. If they hurt about the same, the problem is likely standard muscle soreness. If one side hurts significantly worse, that's a sign of a bigger problem. Also, if the pain starts during the exercise instead of the next day, it could possibly be some sort of injury.

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