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Warming Up Does Not Prevent Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is caused by damage to the muscle fibers. It is not caused by tightness, lactic acid buildup, cold muscles or swelling, so muscle soreness cannot be prevented by stretching, cooling down, warming up, or by taking aspirin.

Muscles contain two types of fibers: white fibers that govern strength and speed, and red fibers that govern endurance. When you exercise vigorously, most of the damage occurs in the white strength and speed fibers. To strengthen these fibers, you have to exercise intensely and through discomfort, which allows the fibers to tolerate greater forces on them and helps you to become stronger and faster, but it also causes soreness. So, all athletes train by stressing and recovering. On one day, they exercise hard and fast. On the next day or two, their muscles are sore. They do not exercise intensely again until the soreness disappears.

If warming up does not help to prevent muscle soreness, why should you do it? You warm up to prevent injuring your muscles when you exercise more intensely. The first time you contract a muscle, you use only about 1 percent of its fibers. As you continue to contract and relax a muscle, you keep on increasing the number of muscle fibers that you can contract together, so you make the muscle stronger. That allows you to jump higher, lift heavier, throw further and run faster. Increasing the number of fibers that contract together also helps to prevent injury. The more fibers in a muscle that you contract together, the less force is applied to each individual fiber and the less likely you are to injure it. So you warm up to recruit more fibers in each muscle, to prevent injury and make you a better athlete.

1) Jim Schwane U of Texas.

2) Richard Lieber U Cal San Diego.

3) Robert Armstrong U of Georgia in Athens

4) T Yamanouchi, R Ajisaka, K Sakamoto, M Toyama, T Saito, S Watanabe, Y Sugishita. Effect of warming of exercising legs on exercise capacity in patients with impaired exercise tolerance. Japanese Heart Journal 37: 6 (NOV1996):855-863. The findings of this study indicate that warming of exercising legs improves exercise capacity in patients with cardiac disease and low exercise tolerance.

Checked 7/19/13

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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