After a particularly intense or high-volume situp workout, it’s likely you woke up the next morning feeling stiff and sore in your stomach muscles. Soreness isn’t a necessary indicator of a quality abdominal workout, but it does occur after you’ve challenged your muscles in a new way. There are techniques to help treat the discomfort, but you may need to hold off on another ab workout until it dissipates, depending on the severity.
Why the Soreness?
Muscle soreness is generally due to small tears in the muscle fibers that occur during an intense or high-volume workout. If you incorporate more sets or reps into your sessions, or include new ab exercises into your workouts, your abdominal muscles are put under stress that they’re not used to. The tearing damage that results from these workouts is what causes the feeling of soreness.
Soreness Isn’t Necessary
Your workouts don't always have to make you sore in order for them to be effective. In fact, you don't want to be sore after each of your workouts because you leave yourself at risk for overtraining, according to Dr. Thomas D. Fahey. Instead, to reduce the chances of soreness, exercise physiologist Jessica Matthews recommends to increase the intensity and volume of your workouts conservatively. She adds that once you’ve suffered ab soreness after your situp workout, you shouldn’t experience the discomfort again until its time to increase the intensity of your workout.
When you’re suffering from muscle soreness, your abdominal muscles will suffer from a lack of coordination and a decreased range of motion due to neuromuscular fatigue. As a result, you end up altering your movements and place more stress on your ligaments and tendons, which can lead to injury. If you’re still suffering from extreme muscular soreness, such as being unable to walk properly or have discomfort when sitting, don't perform another abdominal workout, even if it's scheduled for that day. According to fitness professional Jeff Butterworth, if you're just slightly sore, participating in a lower-intensity workout can help the healing process by increasing blood flow to the area, which in turn helps in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that facilitate healing.
If you’re suffering from soreness, you can help temporarily alleviate the discomfort with anti-inflammatory pain medications and ice. In addition, registered dietitian Gina Crome notes that regularly eating watermelon and drinking cherry juice, which possess L-Citrulline and anthocyanin, respectively, can help reduce soreness. Protein is heavily involved in the muscle-building and recovery process, so also take in lean proteins like poultry, beans, eggs and nuts.
- American Council on Exercise: What Causes Muscle Soreness and How is it Best Relieved?
- American Council on Exercise: Foods That Fight Muscle Soreness
- Boston Magazine: Ask the Expert: Should I Work Out When Sore?
- American Council on Exercise: If my Muscles are Sore from Previous Workouts, is it Safe to Exercise Them?
- SportsSci.org: Adaptation to Exercise: Progressive Resistance Exercise