Should You Feel Your Muscles Burn When in the Gym?

Experiencing burning muscles during a workout is common and no cause for alarm, even if it does create discomfort. Feeling a burning sensation in your body when in the gym is a positive indicator that your body is responding correctly to physical exertion.

Burning muscles are completely normal during workouts. (Image: Hello Lovely/DigitalVision/GettyImages)


The sensation of burning muscles during strenuous exercise should go away soon after the physical activity is stopped.

Burning Muscles During Exercise

Your body should feel burning muscles during exercises such as weight training. This type of burning sensation means the muscles are being challenged by physical activity and signifies that your body is correctly responding to exertion. A burning sensation can serve as a good reference point that your muscles are being challenged by your workout.

The Cleveland Clinic explains that burning muscles are actually a "good" type of discomfort. Your muscles are responding to exertion, and the burning sensation will typically dissipate once the physical activity is stopped. Most muscle discomfort will go away as the intensity level of the exercise is reduced or the activity is stopped.

Effects of Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is commonly thought of as the culprit for burning muscle pain when performing vigorous exercise. The National Academy of Sport Medicine explains it is true that lactic acid accumulation during intense exercise can impede muscle contraction while simultaneously activating pain receptors, leading to the acute burning sensation. However, the burning feeling in the muscles should resolve itself quickly, within 30 to 60 minutes, once the exercise is complete.

The cause of burning muscles begins when lactate accumulates in your muscles and enters the bloodstream more quickly than the body can clear it. During and after your workout, the body can metabolize lactate for energy. Your liver converts lactate into glucose or blood sugar in order to clear it from your bloodstream. Nearly all of the lactate you produce during exercise is rapidly removed following a workout, once the intensity level is reduced significantly and/or the physical activity is completely stopped, which should lead to relief from the sensation of feeling your muscles burn.

Cool Down Muscle Burn

ACE Fitness recommends you end your workout with a cool down period rather than skipping straight to complete rest. Performing a post-workout cool down of light exercise along with stretching can help speed the process of clearing accumulated lactic acid from the body. It may also speed up the delivery of oxygen to the muscles. Staying hydrated and refueling with water during the cool down are also beneficial.

A cool down is an essential way to round out and finish up your workout to maintain healthy muscles and keep injuries at bay. Try a low impact, slow walk and be sure to include static stretches of the muscle groups you just worked, holding them for at least 30 seconds. Finish off with foam rolling or massaging any lingering sore spots on the muscles.

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