No pain, no gain

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No pain, no gain (or "No gain without pain") is an exercise motto that promises greater value rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. Under this conception competitive professionals, such as athletes and artists, are required to endure pain (physical suffering) and stress (mental/emotional suffering) to achieve professional excellence.

Exercise motto[edit]

It came into prominence after 1982 when actress Jane Fonda began to produce a series of aerobics workout videos. In these videos, Fonda would use "No pain, no gain" and "Feel the burn" as catchphrases for the concept of working out past the point of experiencing muscle aches.[1]

It expresses the belief that solid large muscle is the result of training hard. Delayed onset muscle soreness is often used as a measure of the effectiveness of a workout.[2]

In terms of the expression used for development, the discomfort caused may be beneficial in some instances while detrimental in others. Detrimental pain can include joint pain. Beneficial pain usually refers to that resulting from tearing microscopic muscle fibers, which will be rebuilt more densely, making a bigger muscle.

The expression has been adopted in a variety of sports and fitness activities, beginning in the early-80s to present day.

David B. Morris wrote in The Scientist in 2005, "'No pain, no gain' is an American modern mini-narrative: it compresses the story of a protagonist who understands that the road to achievement runs only through hardship."[3] The concept has been described as being a modern form of Puritanism.[4]


A form of this expression is found in the beginning of the second century, written in The Ethics of the Fathers 5:21 (known in Hebrew as Pirkei Avot):

Rabbi Ben Hei Hei says, "According to the pain is the gain."

— Pirkei Avot 5:23[5]

This is interpreted to be a spiritual lesson; without the pain in doing what God commands, there is no spiritual gain.

One of the earliest attestations of the phrase comes from the poet Robert Herrick in his "Hesperides". In the 1650 edition, a two-line poem was added:


If little labour, little are our gains:

Man's fate is according to his pains.

— Hesperides 752.[6]

A version of the phrase was crafted by Benjamin Franklin, in his persona of Poor Richard (1734), to illustrate the axiom "God helps those who help themselves":

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no gains, without pains...

— as reprinted in his The Way to Wealth (1758)[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "No Pain, No Gain". The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. September 22, 2002. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  2. ^
  3. ^ David B. Morris (March 28, 2005). "Belief and Narrative". The Scientist. 19 (Sup. 1).
  4. ^ Kilwein, J. H. (1 January 1989). "No Pain, No Gain: A Puritan Legacy". Health Education & Behavior. 16 (1): 9–12. doi:10.1177/109019818901600103.
  5. ^ Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Five - Texts & Writings
  6. ^ Herrick, Robert (1898). Alfred Pollardi (ed.). The Hesperides & Noble Numbers: Vol. 1 and 2. London: Lawrence & Bullen. Vol. 2, 66 & 320.
  7. ^ Franklin, Terrance (1758). The Way To Wealth.