Why The “No Pain, No Gain” Mentality Is Stupid

Yup, I said it… no pain, no gain… it’s stupid.

You see, last week I shared this video on Instagram:

It was the first time I had stepped up to a squat wrack in what seemed ages. Because of my hiatus I started off light… I started off smart. 

But that felt good (easy), so I added a few more pounds. Again, it felt easy enough so after a set of 10 reps, I changed the plates up for a third time.

It was heavy, but not the heaviest I had ever done so I decided to keep the weight there, and pumped out 5 sets of 5 reps with a somewhat short rest period. 

I felt my legs burning and inside my head I was thinking about the soreness I would feel the next day. For a second, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should slow down and call it a day. 

I kept going. No pain, no gain, right? Or what’s the other saying… “Sore today, strong tomorrow!”

Yup… I even have the shirt! And that shirt inspired the workout! 

Moving on…

Once the sets where completed, I smiled at my accomplishment, put the plates back in their rightful place and headed over to an open space to finish off my leg workout with some weighted lunge walks.

Something happened at that point that has never happened before…

In the middle of my first rep my legs gave out. I don’t mean they felt weak, I mean they literally gave out. I fell, not so gracefully, to the side and sat there for a second with a look of absolute confusion. 

Luckily there was no one around but boy did I feel stupid.

I took that as my cue, grabbed my water bottle and hobbled out. 

For the next 4 days, I had a hard time walking, sitting, and I don’t even want to talk about going down stairs.

The 15 steps from my front door to the driveway seemed more like this…

It was insane and it was ridiculously stupid on my part. 

As a trainer, I know better. I know the importance of progressing and of recognizing that just because I was able to do 100 pounds easily a few months ago, doesn’t mean I can now. 

But it got me to thinking about the mentality that so many of us hold in respect to our workouts… 

this whole no pain, no gain attitude that we bring to the gym. 

It’s stupid. There I said it. 

No Pain, No Gain…
Or No Pain, No Improvement? 

Sore Muscles After Exercise

I love feeling a workout the day after. I love knowing that my muscles actually had to work and that I challenged my body in a way that will lead to improvements. 

What I don’t love is putting myself (or my clients) on the sidelines. Like I did last week.

What does it prove? What does it prove that I did 50 squats with 95 pounds if I can’t walk for 4 days after? 


Does it do your body good? 

NO! It puts your body in a huge stress zone. 

If you fell running and scrapped up your knees so bad that you could barely bend them, would you go run the next day? Of course not! Because you not only feel the damage, but you can see it. 

Seeing is believing. 

Bloody Knees Are Like Tough Workouts

But get this…

What you’re doing to your body when you workout too hard too fast, is the same thing!

There are just no physical bruises or scrapes to tell you to chill out. So you keep going, you keep pushing ahead and feeling the pain.


But what you’re really doing is denying your body the time it needs to recover. Results come during recovery, not during a workout. 

On the other side of the spectrum,what happens if you do give yourself time to rest? 

I worked my legs so hard, that it wasn’t until Sunday (that’s 4 days) when I could walk without feeling my legs muscles burn. 

That’s 4 days of workouts that had to suffer. What would have happened if I had gradually gotten back into barbell squats? 

I would have felt better after just 48 hours and would have been able to get another workout in, a workout that my body would have appreciated! 

Pain Is Pride


Now, before I move ahead let me stress something. If you haven’t worked out in years, then chances are no matter how slow you try to go you will wake up in pain the next day. I see it all the time. 

But my point with today’s post is this… 

Is the no pain, no gain rule about pride? 

Because it surely isn’t about helping the body get results or to get stronger. 

Someone once told me that exercise is suppose to help improve day to day life. And if you’re not moving better, if you’re in more pain than you’re not, then maybe you’re not doing it right. 

Makes sense. Living a fit lifestyle isn’t about trying to handicap yourself with each strength training session but to help you to avoid that handicap sticker when you get older. 

Lesson learned. 

Instead, I am changing the saying to: 

“Tender today, stronger tomorrow!”

Do you ever push farther than you know you should because you hear the “no pain, no gain” mantra in your head? 

When I am racing this is said over and over again to get me to the finish line. I consider a race of big event the exception to the rule!


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This