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No pain no gain?

December 23, 2014 - By Nautilus Plus

Temps de lecture 2 minutes

Are you familiar with the saying “No pain, no gain?” In the field of training, many consider this motto as a great truth. But is it always so?

Origin of this motto

Rumour has it that Benjamin Franklin was the first to coin the saying: “There are no gains without pains”. It is very unlikely that Mr. Franklin was referring to his squat. The maxim was brought back to life as we know it today in 1982, thanks to Jane Fonda’s exercise videos. What was intended as a simple word of encouragement to her customers became an overarching motto in the fitness world.

An appealing expression

No pain no gain has some appeal to it. We love this kind of motto. They seem to say a lot of things in few words. Their main advantage is their positive twist: we will succeed with our mission as long as we accept the associated collateral damage. It sounds right and fair!

There is some truth to it….

Someone who strives to apply this formula to a training context has reasonable prospects for success. In reality, when we force our body to get out of the comfort zone, it will inevitably compensate during the subsequent rest period, which allows us to improve our physical condition.

…. but also some wrong.

What is too often forgotten is that it is not necessary to reach extreme discomfort for the body to overcompensate following a workout.

The problem with associating this expression to exercise is that it can be very hard, especially for beginners or casual fitness enthusiasts, to accept going into a zone where the discomfort is just too great. If exercising is associated with pain, they may give up or never even start at all.


First, you should understand that pain is subjective. Everyone’s tolerance threshold is different. For those who are oversensitive to pain, I recommend you try venturing a little further into discomfort than what you usually do, if only to test your “real” limit.

Otherwise, generally speaking pain is unnecessary to progress, but being able to tolerate some level of discomfort during effort is necessary. An important reminder: you are not at the movies or the beach.

Here are some statistical examples that will help you better gauge the effort you put into your next session according to your level of fitness:

tableau effort_eng

Par Xavier Jutras

No pain no gain? is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
Copyright © Nautilus Plus 2014

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