Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common side effect of exercise, especially with unfamiliar, vigorous, high-intensity training. Many athletes consider DOMS to be a valid indicator of training quality and effectiveness.
DOMS is probably caused by inflammation resulting from micro-tears in muscle and connective tissue that occur during exercise. Usually, soreness begins about 6-8 hours after exercise, and can last 2-3 days. There is no significant documentation supporting a gender-related difference in DOMS.
Since we know that these micro-tears are the stimulus for muscle growth — provided adequate time for rest, recovery, and regeneration — there is probably some theoretical basis to support such damage resulting in subsequent muscle growth.
Although postexercise soreness (stiffness) may be a valid indicator of — and stimulus for — muscle growth, it is important to differentiate between DOMS and Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage (EIMD). Sharp muscle and/or joint pain may be an indicator of a more serious problem, especially if it is accompanied by considerable edema and swelling, and persists for more than a few days.
Challenge yourself in the weight room (court, field, track, etc.), but your workout should be gradually (and realistically) progressive. Keep your increases in intensity incremental, consistent, and steady.
Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!