Is the Expression "No Pain, No Gain" True?

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Editor's Note: We've all heard the saying: No pain, no gain. Many of us even judge our workouts by how delightfully sore we feel afterwards. But is this right? Does no pain really mean nothing has been accomplished? Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment tackles the question. -- AVF

In the past, the Gym Buddies and I have defined soreness as either “good”, meaning it was just enough to feel like we really worked our muscles, and “bad”, meaning that we were so sore we couldn’t function and might possibly be injured. And believe me, we’ve had plenty experience with both. In fact, we’ve been so enamored of “good sore” that we will often judge the efficacy of our workouts by our level of soreness the next day. As in, “Whooeee, that kettlebell workout was awesome – I couldn’t sit on the toilet for days and had to switch to adult diapers which are more fun than you’d think and made me sympathize just a little with that crazy astronaut lady!” Kidding. None of us have ever used adult diapers. We just fall the last six inches to the toilet seat and cry which is totally not like a toddler at all.

Photo by adifans. (Flickr)

But a recent comment on my T-Tapp Diva Derriere post (a.k.a. the butt-slapping workout) made me re-evaluate this standard. Laurel of Fun and Fiber wrote: “I checked out the workout. Yes, it creates pain, but does that equal strength/toning or benefit? I have asked many people if DOMS is related to muscle gain, and from the research we have now, it does not. I’m saying this to put this workout down, I just wonder if we are pursuing the wrong things. I am doing the NROL4W, and am lifting heavier weight than I ever thought possible, yet am seldom sore the next day.”

Me being generally ignorant of the physiology behind weight training (my degree’s in computer information systems, remember?), I decided to see what the research actually says.

Read what Charlotte found at The Great Fitness Experiment here.

Read more from Muscle Soreness: Busting the “No Pain No Gain” Myth at The Great Fitness Experiment