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foam roller exercises can help prevent workout pain

Best Gear to Prevent Workout Pain

No pain, no gain. Right? Wrong. It’s way past time to retire that old adage because it does more harm than good.

Some discomfort after a hard workout is normal. However, pain shouldn’t be the norm. If you can’t get through a run, weightlifting session, or group yoga class without considerable discomfort, it’s time to figure out why.

For most people, it comes down to using the wrong workout gear. In this blog, we’ll explore the best gear to prevent workout pain so you can get back to enjoying exercise instead of dreading it.

We’ll also answer the following questions:

    How much pain is normal during a workout?

    Some discomfort or muscle soreness during and after a workout is fine. In fact, if you’re new to an exercise particular program or type of exercise, your are very likely to feel the effects of using muscles you didn’t know you had!

    However, normal pain levels vary from one person to the next. Everyone has a different pain tolerance and response to new or more difficult exercises.

    Before you can establish your threshold between normal and abnormal pain during a workout, you must first learn to distinguish between muscle soreness and pain.

    Muscle soreness vs. DOMS

    Muscle soreness is a natural response to intense exercise, and it typically happens 24 to 48 hours after the workout. Muscle groups you worked on can feel achy and tired.

    However, sometimes you can experience what’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It happens most commonly after high-intensity exercise. You might be dealing with DOMS if:

    • Your muscles are tender to the touch.
    • You have a decreased range of motion.
    • Your muscles are swollen.
    • You have lower back pain.
    • You experience short-term depletion of muscle strength and control.

    If your muscle pain doesn’t begin to ease up after a few days, you’ve likely overdone it or injured yourself. You may want to see your doctor.

    Why is exercise so painful?

    Science has some interesting explanations about why exercise is so painful. One of the most popular theories is that certain types of exercise build up lactic acid in your body. This argument is flat-out wrong. 

    Lactic acid is the fuel your muscles need during intense exercise. Your body breaks down glucose and other carbohydrates to make it. It’s a myth that lactic acid trapped in cells causes muscle soreness after a workout.

    Another theory is that post-exercise soreness is linked to nerve compression in the muscles.  There is some research to support this notion. However, a lot more data is needed before this idea can be considered reliable.

    The most common reason exercise can be painful is that you’re trying something new or making your old routine more strenuous. Any time you include a new exercise in your workout, you use muscles you may not have used before. That increases your chances of feeling discomfort during and after exercise.

    Poor form – especially with weightlifting or yoga – also can cause pain. Correcting your form should relieve the pain you feel during the workout. Speak with a personal trainer to ensure you’re doing moves correctly before you cause an injury.

    Should you stop working out if you feel pain?

    Pain is sometimes a warning sign you’re about to do something stupid (like tear a muscle, sprain a ligament or worse). When it comes to workouts, the most common type of pain you can experience is called somatic pain. It includes pulled muscles, sprained ankles, and broken bones.

    It’s never OK to push through the pain during a workout. While it’s normal to feel the burn of a good workout, never ignore sharp or strong pains while exercising—because either can be a sign that you’ve put too much strain or stress on a muscle, tendon, or joint. Instead, you should stop before you cause a serious injury.

    Listen to your body.

    What should you do if you feel pain during a workout?

    If you feel pain during a workout, it’s important to stop and assess the situation. Continuing to exercise through pain can worsen an injury if one has occurred. Here are some steps you can take if you start to feel more than a good old-fashioned burn during your routine.

    • Stop exercising immediately. Whether you’re on your fifth repetition of a weightlifting move or halfway through a planned 5-mile run, if you feel abnormal pain during a workout, you must stop immediately.
    • Rest and apply ice. Sprains, strains, and other acute injuries respond best to immediate rest and application of ice for 15-20 minutes several times a day. Elevating an injured area helps reduce swelling and pain.
      • Assess the pain. Take note of the location, severity, and type of pain (dull, sharp) you’re experiencing. You may need to relay this information to a healthcare provider or personal trainer.
      • Seek medical attention. If the pain persists after you’ve rested and applied ice for a few days, it’s time to see your doctor. With a diagnosis, you’ll know how to work around the pain so you can stay healthy and resume appropriate workouts.
      • Modify your workouts. You might need to modify your exercise program to avoid injury or prevent additional damage to an area. A certified personal trainer can help you come up with an alternative plan.

      What’s the best gear to prevent workout pain?

      Choosing the best gear to prevent workout pain is your best bet for avoiding exercise-related injuries. Depending on the type of physical activity you engage in, one or all of the following recommendations can help you avoid discomfort during and after your workouts.

      • Athletic shoes with proper support. It goes without saying that if you’re running, you need a pair of supportive athletic shoes designed to absorb shock and reduce stress on your joints. Runners aren’t the only ones who benefit from the right pair of workout shoes. Wearing shoes with adequate support prevents ankle and foot pain regardless of your activity.


        • Compression clothing. Compression sleeves and socks improve circulation and reduce muscle soreness and fatigue during and after workouts. If you are prone to tendonitis in your elbow, using a compression band that applies gentle pressure to the tendon near your elbow joint stabilizes the area and prevents pain.
        • Foam rollers. Before and after an intense workout, find yourself some foam rollers and use them to make your muscles more pliable. These work well for the large muscle groups in your legs and glutes. You also can do foam roller exercises after a workout to relieve sore muscles the next day.                                                                                                    
        • Lifting belts. You may have noticed the hard-core weightlifters at your gym using lifting belts before they squat a ridiculous amount of weight. Those belts come in handy for a variety of exercises, so don’t be afraid to try one out. Any time you’re doing an exercise that requires you to stabilize your spine to alleviate pressure on it and your lower back, a lifting belt can help.
        • Mobility bands. Dynamically warm up your leg muscles before an intense workout with the assistance of mobility bands. They’re thicker and smaller than typical resistance bands. They fit around your thighs while performing certain exercises that activate your abductor and rotator muscles. Use them as part of a light warm-up routine to prevent pain (and injury) during workouts. 
        • Roll-on pain gel. Applying a high-quality topical pain reliever post-workout doesn’t prevent workout pain, but it does ease any mild discomfort that’s normal after an intense session.

        Gains without the pain

        Working out should not hurt like hell. Some pain is normal, but if you find yourself unable to move the next day, you may need to reevaluate your workout regimen.

        Consider adding one or more of the recommended gear in this blog. That should help. In addition, don’t be afraid to seek help of from a certified personal trainer who can help you craft a workout routine that works best for your body.

         About the Author: Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, feature writer, and the author of War Ends with Me


        1. Dynamic Stretching Exercises. Accessed April 14, 2023.
        2. Have We Looked in the Wrong Direction for More Than 100 Years? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Is, in Fact, Neural Microdamage Rather Than Muscle Damage. Accessed April 14, 2023.
        3. Foam Roller Exercises to Relieve Muscle Pain – Ask Doctor Jo. Accessed April 14, 2023.
        4. Is There Such a Thing as ‘Good Pain’ and When Should You Listen to Your Body? Accessed April 14, 2023.
        5. Lactic Acid. Accessed April 14, 2023.
        6. Sports Injuries. Accessed April 14, 2023.
        7. Why do muscles get sore after exercise? Accessed April 14, 2023.
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