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Strength Training Tolerance
MSUphysicsFRIB posted:
This is a question for Rich Wiel, or anyone else who can contribute. What physiological changes happen that cause the recovery from strength training to not be so painful after the first couple of times?

It is something that happens on the metabolic level--does the body get better at handling oxidative stress? Or is it something that happens to the nervous system? Do the nerves get desensitized so the muscle tears no longer cause so much pain?

I ask because when I started weight training this years after not doing it for a while, I was in bad pain for over a week after the first session. I could barely lift my arms up to brush my hair. After each session I noticed that the pain didn't last as long and wasn't as intense. Now the pain level is completely tolerable.
MSUphysicsFRIB responded:
Sorry Rich, I misspelled your last name above.
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE responded:
A few things probably happen.

1. The soreness after the first day (actually after just half a day) is from accumulation of fluid in the muscle for healing in response to micro-tears in the protein filaments. The swelling causes the pain. Once more cells are activated with more training the muscle compartment is able to clear fluid faster.

2. There probably is some CNS effect as you suggest. As you work out more your brain is able to recruit more muscle fibers. This effect is almost immediate, (which explains why after just a couple of workouts you are stronger because you can recruit more fibers), and with more fibers recruited the stress int he muscle is less.

3. As you activate glycolysis your muscles get better at processing lactic acid, which changes the pH in the muscle to less acidic, which reduces pain. It is well known that athletes are able to work the lactic acid and tolerate it better and better as they train harder.

4. There also is the benefit of training where perceived exertion decreases.

What would have helped after your first day of training is to do some light cardio and stretching to move the fluid out of the muscle. It was the micro-tears in the muscle fibers and the subsequent swelling that accumulated over the first few days that made it so painful. Hope that helps. Rich
hornlaw replied to Rich Weil, MEd, CDE's response:
Rich - since I'm not educated in the sciences, I fould this issue to be fascinating...I'm glad someone asked!
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE replied to hornlaw's response:
I'm glad you found it fascinating. When I teach it in the classroom people frequently report back that it helps them appreciate what's happening to their body while they work out. Some say they imagine their cells doing things such as building muscle and transporting oxygen. They say it motivates them, which I can understand. I believe that understanding it for people who are interested deepens the experience of working out. I did a quick search for you to see if I could find some web sites with basic exercise physiology information. This was the best one I could find after a brief search

Don't get discouraged if some of it goes over your head. Take whatever you can from it. Enjoy!

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