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What Should You Do if Your Abs Hurt After Workouts?

author image Shannon George
Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.
What Should You Do if Your Abs Hurt After Workouts?
Working out with a trainer can help you prevent muscle strains from improperly performed exercise. Photo Credit Satyrenko/iStock/Getty Images

A sharp pain in the rectus abdominus muscle after a workout may indicate a muscle injury, while a more generalized pain in the abs may just mean you have normal post-workout muscle soreness. Depending on whether your abdominal pain is caused by a muscle injury or soreness, you may require rest or a rehabilitation program that includes medical treatment. Safely performed exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles can help you prevent post-workout ab muscle pain.


If you experience a generalized pain in your abdominal muscles after a workout, you probably have delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is a normal reaction to physical exertion, especially if you've worked out more intensely than usual. Fortunately, you don't need to do anything other than rest your sore muscles in order for DOMS to go away. According to a paper by Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico, the pain associated with DOMS typically peaks 24 to 48 hours after working out and resolves, with rest, within 96 hours. Therefore, normal post-workout ab soreness should disappear after a few days of avoiding exercises that involve the abdominal muscles -- such as sit-ups, other core-strengthening exercises, or twisting motions, like swinging a baseball bat.


Post-workout pain that's sharp and localized to a specific spot on your ab muscles, particularly if it is accompanied by swelling, may indicate that you've sustained a sports injury during your workout. Unlike DOMS, muscle injuries, depending on their severity, may require a rehabilitation program which could include medication, physical therapy or even surgery. Abdominal strain injuries -- i.e. an inflamed or ruptured rectus abdominal muscle -- may occur in weightlifters, throwers, rowers, pole vaulters, wrestlers and in other sports that involve rapid trunk movements. If your abdominal injury does not improve with rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, or if the pain is severe, you may need to seek professional rehabilitation treatment from a health care provider or sports injury specialist.


If you regularly experience sore abs after working out, there are certain measures you can take to prevent it from occurring in the future. First, if your workouts involve resistance training,you may be able to prevent injuries and reduce symptoms of DOMS by learning proper exercise technique from a qualified instructor, such as a certified personal trainer. A trainer can help you determine whether you're performing abdominal exercises correctly and at an appropriate duration and amount of resistance. A properly executed resistance or isometric training program to strengthen the core muscles can also help prevent abdominal soreness associated with playing your favorite sport or doing cardio activities. Additionally, warming up before every workout with stretches and light cardio is important for preventing workout injuries and reducing symptoms of DOMS.


While post-workout soreness in the abdominal muscles that goes away after a few days is not serious, any abdominal muscle injury that causes in swelling or intense pain should be taken seriously and evaluated by a medical professional. Chronic pain which persists over a long period of time may also be serious. If you experience abdominal pain during your workout, it's important to stop exercising, as continuing your workout may cause more harm. Some exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles during rehabilitation or for injury prevention include the bridge exercise and the plank exercise.

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