Soreness vs. Pain
There's a difference between muscle soreness and pain.
The former is OK. The latter, however, is an indication that the workout or exercise was too advanced for one's current abilities or that something structurally wrong may have occurred and damaged the body.
However, just like some people sweat profusely during exercise and others don't, the amount or degree of soreness people experience can vary. More or consistent soreness doesn't necessarily equate to better results. Likewise, no soreness or dulled soreness doesn't necessarily equate to a waste of time.
Finding a Balance
DOMS is a normal physiological response by the body that happens when you challenge it to perform something it's not accustomed to doing.
The degree of soreness experienced from one person to another can be highly individual. Soreness (or lack thereof) should rarely be the measure used to determine the effectiveness of a workout.
Generally speaking, as one grows more proficient and comfortable with a routine or exercise, the degree of DOMS will decrease; which is why it's important to stay cognizant of progressive overload. In other words, don't do the same exercises or use the same load or set/rep scheme(s) for an extended amount of time.
If you never get sore, there's a good chance you're not challenging yourself enough. Maybe you're not using heavy enough loads to elicit an adaptive response, or maybe you're not adding enough variety to your workouts.
It's not ideal to be sore all the time, either. Are you in pain? If so, seek out a reputable health professional. Moreover, ample recovery—via calories, hydration, sleep and rest—is just as important as other factors, if not more so, to overall success in the gym.
As with most things in life, seek a balance between the two, as this is often the result of a successful workout program.
- 17 Proven Ways to Speed Muscle Recovery
- What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?
- Your Guide to Post-Workout Recovery