Why Do Your Muscles Get Tired When You Exercise?

During exercise your muscles work hard to lift a load. Whether it be resistance training or aerobic exercise, your muscles are under siege and you feel weakness during exercise.

When your muscle tissue's main energy source ATP — adenosine triphosphate — becomes depleted through weight training, your muscles become fatigued. (Image: Peathegee Inc/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

Your body's neural response to this load is to recruit muscle fibers to complete the task, but muscle fibers become tired rather quickly. This is due to muscle tissue's main source of energy, called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP according to ACE Fitness.

As your muscles use up this energy source, they become tired and fatigued.


When your muscle tissue's main energy source ATP — adenosine triphosphate — becomes depleted through weight training, your muscles become fatigued.

Resistance Vs. Aerobic

Your muscles get tired easily during a heavy weight training session compared to jogging because more ATP is used up when the stress of heavy weight training takes a toll on ATP stores in your muscle tissue.

ATP is used up very quickly in your muscles, which is why you can't do an unlimited number of bicep curls, for instance. At some point, your muscles tire and you can't do another rep. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, uses your body's aerobic system to generate new ATP to fuel your muscles.

Oxygen is the key ingredient that helps create new ATP to replenish the burned up ATP in your muscles. While efficient, your aerobic energy system is a slow process that kicks in several minutes after your workout begins.

Rest Between Sets

Resting for a minute or two helps restore some, but not all, of the ATP stores in your muscle. This physiological process is referred to as your body's phosphagen system. What happens here is your muscle tissue converts stored creatine into new ATP to power your muscles.

While your muscles may still feel tired between sets, some muscle energy will get restored. This is why you are able to lift a load on your next set, although it may be a lower resistance. ACE Fitness suggests performing a shorter intra-set rest period. This method is best used by people focusing on strength and power development.

Exercise Fatigue Symptoms

As muscle fatigue sets in during exercise and your ATP stores are fast diminishing, your muscles begin to produce an acidic environment known as acidosis according to Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico.

This is why your muscles burn during an intense bout of exercise. The release of lactate helps neutralize this burning effect and as your body naturally removes this lactate can actually help regenerate energy.

By increasing your training volume and intensity, you can make this entire process in your body more efficient over time. Your muscles become more efficient at using lactate to reduce acidosis and converting lactate waste to energy.

More Muscle Means Less Fatigue

Your muscles will fatigue less often and for shorter durations if you increase your lean muscle mass. More muscle fibers means your body can handle bigger loads and for a longer duration and you won't get really tired during a workout.

The optimal recipe for muscle growth includes exercising a muscle group with 12 to 20 total sets per workout, six to 12 reps per set, train to failure, eat 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and sleep about eight hours per night.

Don't exercise the same muscle group two days in a row; this could lead to overtraining which won't help your goal.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.