Lactic acid soreness – “one of the classic mistakes in the history of science"

A quote from this NYT article, Lactic Acid Is Not Muscles' Foe, It's Fuel:

“’The notion that lactic acid was bad took hold more than a century ago’ … It stuck because it seemed to make so much sense.

‘It's one of the classic mistakes in the history of science.’ ”

The article goes on to say that the idea that lactic acid causes muscle soreness never made sense, because lactic acid is gone from your muscles within an hour of exercise,  The soreness stays.

With strength training certain things are observable:

  • 1. Muscle soreness after strength training can last for days.
  • 2. Given enough time after strength training muscles adapt by becoming stronger.
  • 3. The time needed for recovery varies from person to person.


Since we don’t know the precise amount of time needed to recover from strength training why not error on the side of more rest rather than less rest? The advantages:

  • 1. Less likely that exercise sessions will become drudgery.
  • 2. Less chance of a repetitive-use injury.
  • 3. You are more likely to stick to it.
  • 4. Less likely to have a compromised immune system from overtraining.
  • 5. You will be more likely to receive the full benefit of your efforts.


Regarding number five, when there is insufficient time between workouts you will ruin two workouts - you will not be fully recovered from your first workout, and you will not be up to speed for the second one. You will not improve, and you will have wasted valuable time and effort. To get thehighest marginal return on exercise it is essential to have adequaterecovery time,and lactic acid does not come into the mix. You might find thatless frequent exercise can have a profoundly positive effect.

It is often difficult to get a handle on recovery and how often to train.  At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we can help you with that.