NO pain, NO gain


If you’ve been lifting weights for any length of time, certainly you have heard this statement. It is true that you have to work hard to get results. However, this pain gain axiom can be carried to the extreme and is not true in all cases all the time.

As an example, I am going to track a typical beginning weightlifter going through the first 4 years of training. We all know that when you first start working out with weights you can, for example increase your bench press by 5 pounds a week. After the second or third month of training for some reason to increase your bench press now by 5 pounds it takes two or three weeks. After the fourth or fifth month of training no matter what you do or how you train that same increase takes 4 to 5 weeks.

Can you see the pattern here? We all would like to increase 5 pounds per week, but we can’t. Let’s track it now. On the first day of working out you can bench press 150 pounds and for the next 52 weeks  you increased by 5 pounds per week. Doing some simple math 5×52 is a 260 pound increase in the first year. Now, your best bench is  260+150 or 410 pounds. Continuing for another year you would add another 260 pounds for a best bench of 670 pounds. If you add one more year to your tenure you would bench press 740 pounds. And finally, by the end of your 4th you would be able to bench press 1000 pounds. Of course no one can do that. The question is, why? Lots of people train way more than four years in a lifetime.

The answer lies in the fact that our bodies respond to resistance training a lot at first. We are designed to respond quickly to any given physical challenge as a survival mechanism.

So how does the no pain no gain statement come into play? The answer is sort of complicated, but here goes. Let’s say you’re in your fourth month of weight training. Your bench press has not increased in three weeks. What’s the first thing you do? You train harder, right? This is because you have been told to get bigger and stronger you need to work harder. This is where this axiom becomes less valid.

Working to failure and gains in strength and size go together. Yes, that’s true, but it changes as you go through years of training. The more time you put into training in terms of months or years the less often you should work out to the level of failure. This is a very hard concept to understand. It is, however, absolutely true.

The way to continue to increase  strength and size over time is to work to failure less often relative to number of years of training. If you don’t do this you will quickly see that you’re not getting stronger and bigger because you are overtraining. This is often the key determinant of longevity. Most weight trainers get to this point, and can’t process the logic here. Therefore, their gains cease, they give up and stop training.

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Filed under: Body BuildingWeight Training

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