Strength Training – Is “no pain, no gain” necessary?

resources BOSIC

There has been a long term belief in the fitness community that soreness or DOMS (Delayed onset of muscle soreness) is a good indicator of a successful gym session, but is this true?

Being sore after a workout is the side effect of your muscles trying to adapt to the new stimuli that you are presenting them with.

DOMS is a muscle soreness and stiffness that occurs 24-72 hours after training. It is a sore, aching, painful feeling in the muscles after unfamiliar and unaccustomed intense exercise. The idea is that the soreness you are feeling post exercise is ideal and a great indicator of gains to come in the form of muscle growth (hypertrophy) and will lead to an increase in overall performance. But what if I were to tell you that this indeed simply a myth?

Flann et al. conducted a study where they compared two groups, one pre-trained group and one naïve group, doing resistance training with the same workload. The pre-trained group initially followed a three-week ramp-up program to prepare their bodies for the same subsequent eight-week resistance program that both groups would follow together.

The results showed that both groups demonstrated significantly differing levels of muscle damage, with the pre-trained group having no demonstrable muscle damage throughout the eight weeks. However, the naïve group showed muscle damage well above normal levels and much greater levels of perceived muscle soreness. Even though the naïve group showed increased measurable muscle damage and perceived DOMS, both groups showed equal gains in quadriceps muscle size and strength. Concluding that muscle damage and elevated levels of perceived soreness are not required for gains in strength and hypertrophy, therefore disproving the notion of “no pain, no gain.”

A better way of measuring your workout effectiveness and “gains” is to employ the principle of progressive overload. Progressive overload simply means gradually challenging yourself more as you get stronger and increasing the intensity of the training stimulus.

Some examples of this include:
increasing the weight
increasing the number of reps you’re performing
increasing the distance you run


Kyle L. Flann, Paul C. LaStayo, Donald A. McClain, Mark Hazel, Stan L. Lindstedt; Muscle damage and muscle remodeling: no pain, no gain?. J Exp Biol 15 February 2011; 214 (4): 674–679.

Getting Back Into Training & Exercise After A Break

podiatry BOSIC

It’s a brand new year and everyone is creating their own goals to accomplish, many of which involve fitness and health. As physio’s, we see so many people starting to exercise again which is so great to see. So let me guide you through your first few weeks to get you back safely.

Here is an amazing chart showing what happens to our muscles if we have gone on holidays or have had an injury that has stopped us from exercising.

Image sourced from Sports Injury Bulletin

Blue line – if you only reduce your usual training by 10% you will only get a minimal amount of fitness loss

Yellow line – if you reduce your training by 50% you will get a 5-10% of fitness loss

Red line – if you reduce training by 70% (i know i have over these holidays) you will have a 5-20% loss of fitness

Purple line – bed rest or no training means it may take you several months to return to your strength before you took the break

Green lines – starting to retrain and fitness coming back

Unfortunately we lose our fitness more rapidly when we don’t train or decrease training compared to gaining fitness. This also accounts for professional athletes, that is what makes their job so hard to maintain. 


Here are some tips on how to get back to training safely:

  1. Do not go back to the weight you used to use before your holiday, make sure you drastically decrease then slowly increase. This is a good time to have a physio or exercise physiologist help find your new baseline.
  2. When getting back to running, we lose this fitness faster than our strength fitness. For example, sprinting fitness decreases in one week, how crazy is that!!!  Start off slow and decrease your distance. If you feel this is not enough, do a little strength work out after your shorter and slower run. Your fitness will start to improve and you can decrease risk of injury this way.
  3. Have fun while doing it. Put on your favourite tunes or go to the park to get some fresh air! If you’re in Australia, don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

Now that you know you have to increase slowly, stay tuned for my next blog on how many repetitions you should be doing for strength vs endurance training! And if you have any questions or would like help attaining your new baseline to stay injury free, click here to book an appointment with me and I can help you on your New Year’s journey to fitness!


Your friendly physio, Paulina Backiel



References (from Sports Injury Bulletin)

Issurin V. Block periodization: breakthrough in sports training. Ultimate athlete concepts; 2008.

Shattock K, Tee JC. Autoregulation in Resistance Training: A Comparison of Subjective Versus Objective Methods. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Feb 13. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003530. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32058357.

Helms ER, Byrnes RK, Cooke DM, Haischer MH, Carzoli JP, Johnson TK, Cross MR, Cronin JB, Storey AG, Zourdos MC. RPE vs. Percentage 1RM Loading in Periodized Programs Matched for Sets and Repetitions. Front Physiol. 2018 Mar 21;9:247. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00247. PMID: 29628895; PMCID: PMC5877330.