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Pain, No Gain

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

"Train through the Pain"

"Push through the Pain"

"No Pain no Gain"

"Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body"

"If you do not Test the System you Will not get Stronger"

You might have heard coaches, trainers or therapists say phrases like these or see "motivational" memes floating around on social media. STOP AND THINK

Training or rehabilitating through pain breaks down your body and causes damage to tissues. It is counterproductive and can slow, or even reverse progress.

Pain is weakness entering the body

This graph is an awesome visual of what happens when someone overtrains or overreaches or trains through the pain. The body is broken down repeatedly and health and performance eventually decrease as a result.

In this article you will learn about:

  1. Context - What is pain and some misconceptions surrounding it

  2. Compare - How to differentiate pain from soreness and lactic acid burn

  3. Train out Pain - How to progressively build up your body without ANY pain


Before we go any further let's look at what pain actually is in the context of training, rehab and exercise.

Pain is a neurological response your brain sends when your body is in a compromising situation, position or movement. It is an uncomfortable sensation designed to make you avoid tissue or structural damage to your body.

There are other reasons and factors humans experience pain such as

  • Every individual will experience pain differently

  • Pain thresholds vary from one individual to another

  • Chronic Pain

  • Hormones or Nutrition

  • Neurological Factors

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on pain in the context of training and rehab.

Compare - Pain vs Muscle Soreness vs Lactic Acid Burn


Pain is a neurological response our body feels in response to a compromising movement or position. It is a signal warning us that tissues and structures are being compromised. The tissues are too weak or broken down to handle what they are being asked to do. AVOID IT.

What does it feel like?

A sudden sharp feeling of pain. It can be experienced in muscles or in and around joints. Weakness in certain positions or movements is also often accompanied by pain.

Muscle Soreness

What is it?

Micro tears in the muscle belly as a result of physical exercise. This is normal to experience post-competition or training. The body will build itself back up stronger to be able to better handle the activity next time. THIS IS GOOD (within reason, stay tuned for a future blog post on this topic)

What does it feel like?

Dull soreness and stiffness in the muscle belly. The range of motion may be slightly restricted but will return through mobilization exercises or rest.

Lactic Acid Burn

What is it?

Build up of lactic acid in your muscles during short bouts of strenuous anaerobic and anaerobic lactic activity such as sprinting, playing sports or training.

What does it feel like?

Burning sensation in muscles. Will subside quickly with rest. This is the "pain" many trainers or therapists are talking about when they say to train through pain. Language is important as many people do not understand the difference! BURN IS GOOD!

Train out Pain - Progressively Build up your Body without any Pain!

It is important to note that while I am advising you to avoid pain during exercise, this does not mean you should simply rest or treat your pain using remedies. This will not fix the problem or eliminate pain, especially if you intend to return to activity.

For example:

An athlete who experiences knee pain during activity and is advised to simply rest, ice and take anti-inflammatories. The pain subsides after some time but returns as soon as the athlete returns to sport. Often the pain can be worse than before!

Train out Pain...

When training for athleticism, general health, pre or rehabbing keep these points in mind.

  1. Mobilize through strengthening. Strength through Length! This will improve the strength of your muscles in greater ranges of motion allowing for better protection from injury and improved performance.

  2. Increase blood flow. Exercises that increase blood flow will help speed up recovery better than massage, ice or heat. This will lead to healthier, thicker tendons and stronger joints.

  3. Progressive overload. Focus on avoiding pain first, then as your mobility and strength improve slowly progress to higher reps or intensity. AVOID PAIN.

Final Thought

One thing I have noticed in the fitness community is that most people associate working out or training with pain and suffering. Its seen as a "good workout" if your body is sore as hell and broken down the following day. Often you can see people on social media saying things like "spin class f*cked me up" or "I could barely walk the next day" or "I am really lacking the motivation to work out".

I believe a better approach is to "Shink the Motivational Mountain" read more about it on our post.


The information above is not a substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it is always better to see your doctor before starting any type of rehabilitation to ensure you are properly diagnosed.

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