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If you do too many squats in one session, you could have sore muscles for days.
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You had a great leg workout the other night, but now you can hardly move because your thigh muscles are so sore. Welcome to the wicked world of delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS can make even the most gung-ho gym-goer curse her luck and vow to never perform another squat again every time she tries to walk up the stairs or sit on a chair. Fortunately, there are a few tips and preventative measures that you can take to alleviate and counteract muscle soreness.
Understand Muscle Soreness
What causes DOMS is not entirely known, states the American Council on Exercise, but it's highly likely that the soreness comes from microscopic muscular tears that form while exercising your muscles. You'll generally feel DOMS rear its ugly head on your thigh muscles 24 to 48 hours after you've performed squats. A variety of factors affect whether you'll have DOMS after a squatting exercise session, including the intensity of the exercise, the duration, whether you've warmed up your muscles before exercise, stretching and post-session recovery.
Increase Gains Gradually
Contrary to the "no pain, no gain" attitude, muscle soreness is not an inevitability when you exercise. In order to keep yourself pain-free while still building muscle, you'll need to find the sweet spot between maximum effort and gradual gains. If you're new to exercise, performing 50 squats while holding 20-pound weights will most likely leave you sore for the next few days. If you gradually increase the number of reps or amount of weight every week, however, you'll give your muscles an opportunity to build and repair. If you're sore for a few days after doing squats, that's a good indication that you're pushing your body beyond its limit. Next time, scale back slightly, either in repetitions or weight, and stop at the point where your muscles feel fatigued.
Warm it Up
Warming up your muscles before you exercise is another way to ensure that you won't be limping for days after your perform squats. To warm up your muscles, try jogging or walking in place for five to 10 minutes before every exercise session - even strength training. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you only need to warm up before cardio exercise, but keep in mind that warm muscles are less likely to tear and may help to protect you from injury. After you've finished your strength training session, spend a few minutes stretching your thigh muscles.
Get Some Rest
According to Julia Valentour, an American Heart Association Training Center Coordinator and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, it's important to give your thigh muscles rest after a strength training workout. Valentour also explains further that the large quadriceps muscles on the thighs need a full 72 hours to recover from intense activity, compared to the 48 hours needed for smaller muscles, like your core muscles. So, if your muscles are sore after squats, make sure you avoid training your legs for three days. It's okay to perform cardio exercise during that time or to do a strength training session that targets other muscles, but save the squatting sessions for two days per week only.