It is often claimed that good training must be followed by muscle pain. The worse the better. But does this theory still stand? Did you get the most out of your training if you can barely move the days after?

The short answer:  There is no doubt that heavy training can lead to muscle damage and muscle pain. But for the time being there is little or no evidence that muscle damage is mainly responsible for muscle growth. Muscle growth is probably a result of other training effects, such as tension on your muscles and metabolic stress. More and more studies show that these two factors are the main reasons for muscle growth.

What determines muscle growth?

In 2010, leading researcher Brad Schoenfeld came up with the theory that muscle growth is likely to be determined by three factors, namely:
  • Tension of the weight on your muscles and tendons, the stretch and collusion.
  • Metabolic stress: substances that your body releases as a result of heavy or frequent contraction. See this as a type of waste that stimulates muscle growth.
  • Muscle damage to the muscle: damage resulting from the stretching and contraction of the muscle. Training causes damage to the muscle cells and ligaments, which the body must heal before the next effort can take place.
In recent years, more and more researchers are researching this topic and they are wondering to what extent and to what extent the three factors above influence muscle mass. The biggest doubts currently exist about the direct benefit of muscle damage.

Spinal damage is not the most important factor for muscle growth

Why is not muscle damage the most important reason for muscle growth?
You can also develop muscle damage by walking down a mountainYour muscles are thereby extended by making a downward movement with your foot. If you repeatedly do this, there is muscle damage and you can experience muscle pain the next day. Despite the amount of muscle damage you hardly build muscle mass. You can experience just as much muscle pain from a leg workout in the gym, but mass building is much faster with strength training compared to a tough long walk.


The main reason for this is that the tension of the weight on your muscles is many times higher than with strength training. Your body wants to adapt as well as possible to the next training load. The best way is to build up more muscle mass so that you can move more easily and experience less resistance.
Spider damage is therefore not primarily responsible for the growth of muscles, but more a result of the training. And possibly contributes little to no contribution to muscle growth. If it already contributes then it is not the main reason for the growth. These are the tension on the muscle and the metabolic stress. A recent review article confirms this and indicates that muscle damage has no (in) direct influence on muscle growth.

Blood flow restriction training as an argument

This also appears to be apparent in research into so-called blood flow restriction training. In this type of training you train with a lighter weight and a squeezed muscle group. By squeezing the blood supply, more metabolic damage may occur, with the aim of building up more muscle mass. The striking thing is that strength athletes who use blood flow restriction can build up a lot of muscle mass, but have much less muscle damage than the group doing traditional strength training.

Do you always have to go to the hole?

Muscle pain is often associated with a super heavy workout where you train to muscle failure. In other words, make all sets as heavy as possible.
We do not recommend going to the end of every training session. Do not almost always lead to muscle failure with compound exercises. This way you avoid annoying injuries and eventually you get much more out of your training. You can read how you train in a dosed way in  this article about training to muscle failure  and this article about choosing the right training volume .

How do you build muscle mass?

The build-up of a muscular body often takes years. But if you want to speed up this process, there are a number of points that you can pay attention to. In this article you will read the most important tips for building muscle mass faster .

So, is muscle damage necessary for muscle growth?

There is no doubt about the fact that heavy training can lead to muscle damage and possibly muscle pain. But for the time being there is little or no evidence that muscle damage is mainly responsible for muscle growth. Muscle growth is probably mainly due to other training effects, such as tension on your muscles and metabolic stress. More and more studies show that these two factors are the main drivers of muscle growth.
Do you want to know more about muscle pain?  What are the causes and what can you do about it? Read this extensive article about muscle pain.