The philosophy of "no pain, no gain" has some merit but the confusion occurs when thinking that one must experience muscular pain every time during and after workouts. The reality is you can accrue increased strength and muscle hypertrophy without the muscular burning sensation during a set or from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) after a workout. DOMS is the body's response to pain experienced one to three days following an intense workout after muscle fiber micro-tears have occurred. The lingering soreness following an intense workout occurs as the body goes through the healing process (i.e., muscle inflammatory response) and can last up to a week. During the healing process, the muscles can become stronger and bigger. But DOMS does not necessarily need to occur in order for the body's muscles to get stronger or bigger. The same statement can be said regarding the lactic acid burning sensation experienced during an intense set--the burning does not need to occur for muscles to get stronger or bigger.
This bears repeating: Do you need to feel pain in order to gain more strength and muscle mass? The answer is NO. The pain is merely your body's signal that you trained hard a couple days ago and that's all. The pain is NOT a necessity for increased strength and muscle mass to develop. In fact, muscle soreness is not a good indicator of muscle damage. This means that muscle damage (and the inevitable healing that occurs afterward which causes muscle hypertrophy and increased strength) can occur irrespective of muscle pain. Experienced lifters become more aware of this over time as their body adapts to the training stimulus (i.e., loads, sets, reps, etc.) and they tend to not feel as much residual muscle pain. As a side note, be sure to understand the difference between muscle pain ("good" pain) and joint pain ("bad" pain). Generally, "good" pain should feel like a dull, slow-onset, aching pain that occurs during a hard workout set (i.e., muscle pain) whereas "bad" pain will feel like a sharp, quick-onset, focused pain (i.e., joint pain). Remember, pain is the body's response mechanism to a stimulus, whether good (muscle pain) or bad (joint pain).
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.