Soreness Isn’t a Goal

Training Progress

No pain, no gain is perhaps the most common exercise mantra. As a result, countless athletes equate post workout soreness to a beneficial training session. Therefore, many believe that a lack of soreness indicates a lack of effort. Unfortunately, that assumption could not be further from the truth. Soreness doesn’t indicate progress, thus should not be viewed as a goal. True progress is measurable. It is easily tracked and observed in action.

Soreness Does Not Indicate Progress

Speaking as a coach, I am not paid to develop sore athletes. My job is to improve their performance. The presence of soreness is irrelevant. As discussed below, no one cares how the athlete feels. What ultimately matters is how the athlete performs.

Furthermore, as you gain experience, you naturally won’t feel the same soreness that you did as a beginner. Once again, that doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard enough. It simply highlights the fact that you’ve improved. You can handle greater volume and more intensity.

Speaking for myself, it is very rare for me to wake up with considerable soreness. The lack of soreness certainly does not indicate a lack of effort however. I still work just as hard as I ever did. It’s just that my consistency over the years has gradually improved my work capacity and recovery abilities. In my eyes, that’s a plus. I don’t need soreness to know that I’ve worked hard. I’d rather focus on legitimate improvements that can be quantified and tracked over time.

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“Make measurable progress in reasonable time.” – Jim Rohn


  1. Ross,

    Do you track progress on a daily basis? There are good days and bad days, so there will be fluctuations on a daily/weekly basis.

    Secondly, what kind of indicators do you normally look for? Do you go for PR’s on a regular basis?

    Thank you

  2. Apologies…I’m in China, youtube is not always available here, was just able to get the video and you’ve explained it in it.

  3. the only good thing about soreness is when it confirms you were working the correct muscles! lol. i do all my strength work on my own, so if i’m trying a new exercise (new to me) that is supposed to work a particular muscle, it’s nice to wake up and realize that yes, i was working the correct muscle based on my doms location! haha. sometimes during the work itself, it’s hard to tell whether i’m actually targeting correctly when i’m just teaching myself proper form, etc. anyway, great post! other than what i mentioned, i can’t stand being super sore. like you said, it hinders your subsequent work til it goes away.

  4. Ross,

    I’ve been training consistently for at least 10 years, albeit not always smart and for varying goals, but almost everyday I train, no matter what the focus (strength, hypertrophy, power, etc…) I am always sore. Some days it’s not to bad while others I loathe sitting on the toilet. What are your thoughts on this?

  5. Great post Ross. Even after all these years, I sometimes still have to remind myself that just because I’m not aching the next day doesn’t mean I’m not putting in the same effort. Have a good one.

  6. I don`t agree 100%. You need to differentiate. Soreness shouldn`t be the main goal, yes but a sign, that you have trained hard enough. But not “over the top soreness” that you are totally beat down the next day, but tired enough, with some nice burn, remember that leg quote from fedor emilanenko?

    1. Leaving the gym tired doesn’t mean you’ll wake up sore, and even if you do, it doesn’t mean you’ve progressed. Real progress can be tracked, and that’s what truly matters (as discussed within the video).

  7. As a beginner, I really needed to hear this; soreness vs progress. I didn’t want to think I would always be so sore I couldn’t perform my daily tasks (getting groceries, etc). Really glad I found your site. Thank you!

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