A top personal trainer just revealed the 7 tell-tale signs of a good workout you likely don't know about

Consider this your complete guide.

Three women high fiving after reading up on the signs of a good workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Want to know the signs of a good workout? You’re in the right place. It’s no secret that we’re all busier than ever right now, but if you are making the time to move your body among the chaos (go you), you want to be sure that you're getting as much bang for your buck as you can, right?

While all movement is good, it is true that not all workouts are created equal, both in terms of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. We know that simply
turning up to a class and putting minimal effort in isn’t going to win us any
awards. That said, there is also such a thing as overdoing it and, in turn, injuring yourself so that you can't workout, in turn hindering your progress further.

So, what are the signs of a good workout and what's the best way to gauge that you've done a "good" workout? Below, we've asked top PTs for their take on the signs of a good workout. Whether you're into strength training, Pilates, running or more, consider this everything you need to know. Don't miss our guides to home workouts for beginners, the difference between home vs gym workouts, and how to build physical fitness from home, while you're here. Plus, don't skip the opportunity to find out how one of our Health Writers plans her workout splits, plus check out our guide to the best summer workouts, here.

7 signs of a good workout, according to top PTs

What are the signs of a good workout?

To some extent, this will vary from person to person, and depending on what you are looking to achieve from your regime. Some of us love a sweat-drenched cardio session, while others can’t get enough of slower, strength-based workouts – and it’s important to remember that a ‘good’ workout will always be one you enjoy and want to do again.

“What makes a good workout is really specific to each individual both in terms of their fitness levels and goals,” agrees personal trainer Emma Bord. “You might want to achieve a certain running distance, to complete a specific number of sets with a specific weight, or perhaps to achieve a certain heart rate. For other people, it could be as simple as completing a 10-minute walk, or even just allowing yourself the opportunity for some time out to feel better both mentally and physically.”

We all know that some movement is always better than none - that said, let’s dig into some specific benefits in turn.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it's important to remember that some movement is always better than nothing - and you're not going to have a great workout every time you lace up your trainers and head out, but that doesn't mean that it's not valuable - all workouts, good or not-so-good, help to build strength, endurance and flexibility.

1. It'll make you feel great

Even if you've never experienced the endorphin rush of an intense and rewarding workout (and trust us, those feel-good vibes can be elusive - but they're so worth it!) any exercise you do should leave you feeling more positive and generally better about yourself.

The mental health benefits of moving our bodies are well-established, with studies (such as this one, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) showing that exercise can contribute to improving symptoms of anxiety, depression and psychological distress.

And the experts are unanimous that the most important sign of a 'good' workout is that you finish feeling better than you did when you started.

"Mentally, a good workout should leave you feeling more positive and accomplished than when you began," says personal trainer Mandy Wong Outram. "This might be because you’ve completed your workout despite initial reluctance or you’ve achieved new personal bests in terms of reps, duration, or weight - or maybe something else, but you should feel good."


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2. It's challenging but achieveable

This is a delicate balance, and one that will shift as your fitness levels increase, but the aim of any workout is to challenge you without defeating you.

"A good workout in my opinion will push you a little outside of your comfort zone - be that physically or mentally," says personal trainer Kirsten Whitehouse. "It should feel hard but also enjoyable. Stepping outside your comfort zone is massively empowering and brings with it important mindset growth. Plus, as you gain fitness, upping the intensity of your workouts via progressive overload is crucial to maintain progress."

3. You're noticing progress

Repeat after us, progress not perfection. It's unrealistic to expect to smash your workout goals out of the park every single time you turn up, but know this: over time, commitment and consistency pay off.

Whether it's that you're not as puffed running up the stairs at work, or you're able to lift heavier weights in the gym, you should notice (and celebrate!) progress.

"In our workouts, we should be striving to see some kind of improvement over time," acknowledges Bord. "It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but just a degree of progress so you are aware that your body is getting fitter and stronger. That could mean being able to workout for longer (showing improved endurance) or to lift heavier or complete more reps, demonstrating how you are getting stronger."

4. You're sleeping better

Turns out your mum was right - going for a walk (or run/cycle/insert exercise of choice) really will help you sleep. According to this research published in the Cureus Journal of Physical Science, physical activity can improve the quality and quantity of sleep, so if you're noticing you're falling asleep more easily than usual, congratulations - consider your workouts, well, working.



5. You've got more energy

It might seem counter-intuitive, but all our PTs agreed that a good workout should leave you feeling energised rather than depleted.

"Physically, signs of a good workout can include increased heart rate, sweating, and muscle fatigue," explains personal trainer Paige Davis. "However, it's essential to pay attention to how your body feels post-workout. Feeling energised, accomplished, and experiencing improved mood are all positive indicators. Mentally, a good workout can leave you feeling more focused, confident, and motivated to continue your fitness journey. It will also release your feel good endorphins."

Feeling drained? You've probably overdone it.

6. You're not too sore

Gone are the days when DOMS alone signified a good workout. While some muscle soreness is normal, especially for beginners, it's not always the sign of a good workout.

"Contrary to popular belief, experiencing DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) does not necessarily indicate how hard you have worked," cautions personal trainer Tej Patel. "DOMs occur when tiny tears develop in your muscles as a result of physical activity. These tears are then repaired, leading to muscle growth. However, as muscles become larger and stronger, they are less prone to tearing, making beginners more likely to experience DOMs."

Also, if you're experiencing any kind of pain when working out, it's important to stop and consult with a professional - no pain, no gain is a myth.

7. You're enjoying yourself

Last but by no means least, enjoyment is high up on all our PT's lists.

"Enjoyment is a factor often overlooked when talking about exercise," says Whitehouse. "But if you enjoy your workout, you are much more likely to keep doing it and therefore results will follow. Life can be challenging enough without a dreaded workout adding to that stress! As a rule of thumb, if you finish your training session tired but happy you can assume that you have worked well."

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Anna Bartter
Health Writer

Anna Bartter is a freelance journalist who writes about health, fitness and women's lifestyle for publications including Stylist, Metro and Psychologies, among others. 

She's always on a quest to find a variety of fun and functional workouts that give you the most bang for your workout buck and she's passionate about championing movement for everyone's mental and physical wellbeing.