In beginner strength training the way it is usually recommended, how much is soreness, DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), and inflammation associated with the productive muscle breakdown that creates stronger muscle as one recovers?

Put another way, how much pain is necessary for strength gains? Bonus points for describing optimal training with minimum soreness while still making progress.

  • There are also neuromuscular changes for example – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 16:10
  • No - but one reason for many sets (other than muscular breakdown) could be neuromuscular improvement. – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 16:38
  • IMHO, for many of us, the main downside of strength training, inflammation, DOMS etc, are connected to tearing, damages, breakdown in the muscles. It is therefore important to what extent gain is related to tearing, damages and breakdown. I can't see how I can ask this in a much better way. Practical applications is of course important, but are much more complex. – Olav Dec 18 '12 at 10:20
  • I think inflammation, soreness and DOMS are related to muscle tearing/damages/breakdown, and also that these factors are most important on the pain-side of strength training for me and many others. My question is about the gain-side :-) – Olav Dec 18 '12 at 15:57
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    I have no idea which relationship you mean. Be clear. You keep dropping facts you think you know--overtraining is common in bodybuilding, inflammation is related to muscle breakdown--but no one has any clue how these relate to your question. At this point I'm starting to believe that you have no idea what your question is. – Dave Liepmann Dec 19 '12 at 14:05

To what extent is the organisation of strength training [...] "just" about getting an optimal breakdown of muscles?

Strength training is about allowing you to lift more the next time: to get stronger. It's about causing an adaptation in the muscles. This is hypothesized by many to be due to "breakdown" as you call it, but that can mean something more severe than actually happens, and it is also due to neuromuscular adaptation (better recruitment of neurons).

I don't think actual underlying mechanism is very important. Your body at least acts as if this was the case. So, the model works.

I'm going to talk about stress and adaptation, rather than breakdown because I think those words better describe what is going on and don't commit to a particular model of what's actually improving at the lowest level.

do you have several sets to be able to break down muscles more than you can in one set?

If you do several sets, your muscle does more work, is more stressed, and will adapt more between now and your next workout.

Are rest periods there so that you won't be to tired to push your muscles (into more breakdown)?


To what extent will a given breakdown have less effect if the body is used to it?

Your body will stop adapting to a given amount of stress (load, weight) after it adapts to it. This is why it should be possible, and suggested, to add weight to your lifts every workout. If your previous workout did it's job, you should be able to lift more on the subsequent one.

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  • Pain (inflammation, DOMS), is AFAIK mostly connected to tissue damages, so if gain/pain is important, it should also be best to see gain in that way (If it is a correct way to see it) – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 22:54

This is, from what I can tell, four questions in one.

1) How much of strength training about optimally breaking down muscle, even for beginners?

Strength training is always about optimal muscle breakdown. However, there are varying levels of what one wants to achieve strength wise. Are you trying to train for the next strong-man contest? Mr./Mrs. Universe? Recovering from chemotherapy? Sport specific? Each one requires a different regimen, but all are geared towards optimal muscle breakdown.

Endurance training for your muscles is different as well. This style is more about getting to a certain strength point and being able to repeat the movements a lot. An elderly person, for example, would want to endurance train their muscles to help them with activities of daily living (getting out of a chair, lifting groceries, taking stairs more easily, etc.).

2) How many sets and repetitions would one need to do to achieve an optimal breakdown?

There are so many ways to answer this question it is ridiculous. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve.

3) What are appropriate rest times between sets, and then between workouts?

See question two.

4) When do routines need to be changed to keep having an optimal effect?

This depends on what you are trying to achieve... Bulking-up? Change more than you stay the same (this is still debatable, I was thinking for starters though). Just want to be able to get groceries out of the car? Don't need to change once you get to a weight that you feel meets your grocery lifting needs.

This question is VERY broad and I hope a couple of other posters can help expound on my answers.

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  • 2,3, 4 in your answer doesn't correspond to my questions – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 14:35
  • You might not know it, but the way you asked your question it does. – BryceH Dec 13 '12 at 14:52
  • Sorry, it corresponds, but are not the same. – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 14:53
  • About 1. I think the difference between strength and bulk is not very big, and the optimal program for one would not be very wrong for a beginner without specific goals? If you do pushups with the purpose of becoming good at pushups its something else. – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 14:59
  • Reg 4) Say if you do pushups with good progress, then you stop at n reps, and your level (in max reps) stabilizes. A breakdown-view will say that it stabilizes because the breakdown and thus rebuilding get lower. Another view I often see is that the body will not rebuild it self stronger because it is used to it. This can be just a different way to look at it, or something more. – Olav Dec 13 '12 at 15:28

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