The general principle of weight training is that the development you’re seeking will result from working your muscles with enough intensity that they adapt and grow. If your squats workout is intense enough to produce those gains, it’s bound to fatigue your thigh muscles and create some soreness. Especially for beginners, the exertion required for productive weight training makes this soreness somewhat unavoidable. However, you control certain factors that can accelerate your recovery between workouts.
Why Your Quadriceps Are Sore After Squats
Weight training and other strenuous exercise can trigger delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, starting about 24 hours after a productive workout. This soreness is thought to be the result of microscopic tearing in your muscle tissues during exercise. Changing your physical activity level or exerting your muscles to the point of fatigue are the most common causes of DOMS. Squats exert your quadriceps, one of the largest muscle groups in your body. Normal muscle soreness from weight training might seem especially sensitive when you feel it in a muscle group as large as your quadriceps.
Food And Drink For Muscle Soreness
Contrary to some claims, there may not be a magic potion that erases the discomfort of DOMS. However, soreness from exercise is a great indicator of your progress through workout recovery. Sore thigh muscles from an intense squats workout may not be the most pleasant, but that discomfort helps encourage you to allow yourself two to three days of muscle recovery before you cycle back to squats in your weekly workout rotation.
Dehydration can make DOMS more uncomfortable, so choosing water and juice over diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol can help your recovery. Sports drinks supply sugar to provide your muscles with fuel for energy.
Warm Up And Stretching
Stretching and warming up your quadriceps before exercise can boost the elasticity of your muscle tissues, making them more resilient to tissue tearing during your squats workouts. It’s thought that warming up and stretching before exercise can reduce muscle soreness in the days following your workout. It’s also thought that activity and stretching during your recovery days may lessen your soreness as well.
DOMS will kick in 24 to 48 hours after your squats workout or other significant exertion of your muscles. Your quadriceps will need up to 72 hours after that workout to repair the tissue strain caused by weight training. Some treatments, supplements or nutrients may help alleviate some of the discomfort from DOMS, but your muscles will need that two- to three-day timeline to fully recover from a significant workout.
You should always seek advice from a qualified professional before trying any remedies or treatments you’re not familiar with. Before changing your physical activity level or exercise program, consult a professional trainer and request an in-person evaluation of your goals and ability level. This is especially important for the safety of beginners and for individuals learning how to use new equipment or do new techniques or exercises.
- American Council On Exercise: “If my muscles are sore from previous workouts, is it safe to exercise them?”
- Running Times: Why Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a Good Thing
- Strength and Conditioning Journal: Recommendations for the avoidance of Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness; DJ Szymanski
Chuck Dye is a professional copywriter and award-winning journalist. His experience includes reporting and copy editing, earning awards from the Football Writers Association of America and Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Dye holds a master's degree in communications and a bachelor's degree in journalism, both from the University of Oregon.