My trademark attorney just e-mailed me and said he was going to the gym for the first time in 18 months. I quickly e-mailed back and told him to take it easy.

As anyone who has started a new exercise program knows, his muscles are going to be sore. But why is that? And why does it take a day or two for it to happen?

Researchers asked the same questions, and published their findings in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy. Sixteen sedentary young men did an advanced resistance-training workout, doing three sets of seven exercises at 80 percent of their one-repetition maximum.

By the way, this is not the type of workout I’d give a beginner, because it is sure to lead to extreme muscle soreness. But, of course, that was the point of the study – and I’m sure the subjects knew what they were getting into.

This workout significantly increased their white blood cell counts (a marker of inflammation), as well as an enzyme called creatine kinase (a marker of muscle damage). As a result, the subjects experienced “delayed onset muscle soreness” – the tenderness we all experience 24-48 hours after a new workout. (In fact, I’m writing this on a Thursday night and the soreness from my Wednesday morning leg workout has just reached its peak.)

The best treatment is prevention. Just don’t do too much when you are getting back into working out or starting a new program. Do only one set of each exercise for the first two sessions. Choose a weight that you can do 15 times, but do only 10-12 repetitions. Don’t go to failure (the point where you can’t complete a repetition with good form).

[Ed. Note: Don’t let fear of muscle soreness prevent you from working out. With fitness expert Craig Ballantyne’s suggestions, you can ease into a routine. And once you start exercising, you’ll get stronger and leaner. For an exercise program that can help you burn fat and build muscle, check out Craig’s Turbulence Training program.]

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at

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