Good Hurt, Bad Hurt

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I had a good conversation with a friend the other day that led to this article. We were discussing post workout soreness and what’s good soreness and how it differs from bad soreness. Now we didn’t get into the science behind muscle fiber tears and lactic acid and all that jive, sometimes I hate getting all sciency with it. During our conversation we literally went down the body and talk about about different joint and the muscles around those joints feel after a good workout and how they they feel when you’re torn or just done something wrong during your workout. So let’s play “good hurt, bad hurt”.


We’re going to go big joint by big joint and discuss why its surrounding muscles get sore and if it’s a good hurt or a bad hurt.



Good Hurt: You’ve performed deadlifts, various shrug movements or specific neck exercises. You feel discomfort and tightness along the side of your neck. It’s uncomfortable to raise your shoulders to your ears but your fine when trying to rotate your neck

Bad Hurt: Rotating your chin towards your arm pit or turning your neck like you would if you were backing out of your driveway causes stiffness. What did you do? You more then likely strained your traps with your shrugs. What can you do? If it’s intense pain then you need to see a qualified specialist, if not then heat the area and use more arnica oil to reduce inflammation and muscle swelling.




This has been the topic of various articles and I could write a whole manual on shoulder pain but we’ll sum it up.

Good Hurt: You’re tight and sore when you move your arms but you don’t have pain when you raise your arms up or try to tuck your shirt in your pants behind your back. You can go to the gym today and bench press or do curls.

Bad Hurt: You have a dull ache that doesn’t feel muscular. As a matter of fact, it feels like a deep pain. Reaching up to get something off of the top shelf hurts and if you act like you’re screwing a light bulb in you increase pain. What did you do? More than likely you inflamed your rotator cuff. Regardless of what some would like you to believe, overhead pressing  won’t kill you. What to do? Unless you heard a snap, you didn’t tear anything. Don’t directly train your shoulders or do any pressing movements for a few days. Up your omega-3 intake, double whatever you’re taking and drink more green tea as it’s a natural cox-2 inhibitor.



Good Hurt: There’s not much along the lines of a “good hurt” that can happen at your elbow. The elbow, like the knee, is “dumb” joint that does what the joints above and below it tells it to do.

Bad Hurt: If you have elbow pain it’s more than likely a result of heavy deadlifting, reverse curling or grip work and it isn’t the joint itself but the muscles acting on it. Personally I’ve found that wrist stretching works very well for the elbow since elbow pain is traditionally muscular. It could also be a triceps issue from overtraining that muscle. Typically, its triceps tightness so make sure to stretch that area.



Good Hurt: Even wrist curls don’t work the wrist, they work the forearm. So you shouldn’t have any “hurt” in the wrist.

Bad Hurt: If you fell on it somehow then it will hurt. Maybe you’ve done some pushups or its variations and hurt your wrists. Perform some wrist stretching and stay away from movements that put too much stress on them.



There’s a lot here but we’ll focus on the general issues.

Good Hurt: You won’t really feel any hip joint pain but you will feel soreness high into the hip with quad stiffness and that’s ok. If you’re sore in the hip, perform a stretching circuit and things will clean up.

Bad Hurt: You feel a deep, dull tightness that limits you when you swing your legs up and back or turn them out. Usually this is a result of muscle overuse that doesn’t happen from one workout. There’s some scar tissue or muscle adhesion that happens with overuse over time. What can you do? Make sure you stretch and perform certain foam rolling movements on a daily basis to try to break that area up.



Good Hurt: A  “dumb” joint that relies on the hips and ankles for its movement. Most people will hurt around the knee post leg workout due to quad soreness. If the pain isn’t directly on the knee but slightly above it then you have nothing to worry about.

Bad Hurt: If the pain is dull and sharp directly on the knee cap, underneath it or directly on the side then you may have agitated some ligaments in the knee. This isn’t a big deal right now, due to our posture this happens from time to time. Focus on doing some glute work and stretching your inner thighs and things should even out.



Good Hurt: You really won’t feel anything around the ankle joint. Most people are familiar with  calf tightness from working the muscle so that’s what you’ll feel more than likely.

Bad Hurt: You may have tweaked your ankle or foot doing some squats or lunges. The best thing that you can do is ice the area and perform some tib anterior work where you raise your toes toward your knee, the opposite of of a calf raise. Foam rolling your calves would help tremendously.

Low Back


I left the best for last…

Good Hurt: The only good hurt that you’ll ever have on your low back is after performing deadlifts or reverse hypers. If it doesn’t hurt to move or bend over or lean back then you’re ok.

Bad Hurt: This could be a lot but if you deadlift or do reverse hypers then feel pain the next day you haveperformed them wrong. Low back pain is also a result of tight hip flexors so if you trained your legs the day perform and didn’t stretch it could be a issue. What to do? Arnica oil and a ton of hip flexor stretching.

Thanks for playing “Good Hurt. Bad Hurt”

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. Pasi
    9 years ago

    Excellent article!

  2. Musclesin pain
    8 years ago

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been doing some heavy lifting due to a move this week. Haven’t felt this sore in a while. Thanks to your article, I can rest assured nothing is medically wrong.

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