T Nation

Does Pain Equal Gain?

Does pain equate to gain when it comes to gaining muscle? In recent issue’s contributing authors have championed beliefs that this is indeed the case (though the programs they have provided have differed markedly), and certainly they have built impressive physiques by practicing what they preach. Yet are gains synonymous with pain? Or is that too simplistic? And in order to achieve our hypertrophy potential must we instead worship at the alter of individualism?
One fundamental truth of the passion for iron that all on this forum share, is that such answers need not be ethereal, but rather can be quantified. The training log and the tape measure do not lie. If a program “puts the runs on the board” as we say here in Australia (A phrase which has its origins in the game of cricket, a game the Americans I encounter always view with incredulity, at which point I am forced to remind them with a smile that each country has its quirks, and that it is they who are responsible for inflicting Michael Jackson on the world, something which is always very effective.), then it is easy to see.
My own personal experience’s have been mixed. Certainly there have been times during a workout, where I have felt the burning pain, and muscle growth, and strength gains have followed. But there have been many more times when that burning pain has been absent, or only the ghost of a sensation, yet DOMS has followed, as have size and strength gains.
There have been muscles in which I have never felt any appreciable pain whatsoever such as my shoulders. Yet this has not stopped hypertrophic/strength growth.
And there have been muscles such as my calves which give me that burning muscular pain with every workout, whatever the set/rep/intensity scheme, again with accompanying size/strength gains.
So what has been your experience?
Lets see how true the maxim of pain for optimal gain really is, when it comes to packing on muscle.
I want this thread to be for steroid free trainees only. Collating results acquired naturally, with those on juice would deny this survey of any appreciable meaning, (and do not let that last passage inspire you to banal, pedantic dialogue as to what constitutes “natural”. If this is your desire start a thread of your own.) Naturally if you juice there is no way I can prevent you from contributing. It comes down to personal honour. We each have the right to choose, and while I will never agree with, much less understand the decision you have made, it is yours to make. However if you fall into this category I ask (again) that you start your own thread. A reasonable request by any standard.
So with that out of the way, what have you found in your training?
The bell has sounded and both pain for gain and individualism have come out swinging. Lets see who wins the somatic battle.

I’ve found that some of my best gains come from when I don’t have “pain” per se, rather a warm sensation throughout the day. That’s especially true for my arms. I never feel pain in my calves outside of 2 or 3 mins after a heavy set to failure. However, like you skindog, it’s often a mixture, since I’ve had appreciable gains in other body parts with a fair amount of pain (esp. quads, hams and glutes).

Personally I’ve found that a better indications of gains to come is how tired I feel 2 or 3 hrs post-workout. If I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed for 2 or 3 workouts on the same body part (ie. 2 or 3 weeks) I don’t expect the tape measure to tell me spectacular news.

Interesting topic, skins - I was pondering the same thought myself during my quad workout not 10 minutes ago. So while I sip my surge, let me elaborate.

Last week I had done a pretty crazy leg workout. Just one of those times where I didn’t feel like doing a set workout and just felt like doing my own thing. By the end, I could barely walk, my thighs hurt and I was smoked. Two days later the DOMS was intense.

Today I had done my first quad routine from the Mechanical Advantage workout written by our good friend Marc M. While I was hurting at the end of the first giant set, my legs weren’t nearly as wobbly as the previous week.

Some things to consider however - I have increased my calories considerably for this 4 week bulk while doing Mechanical Advantage and have been able to sleep much more with a considerably smaller amount of stress. Could these be contributing factors? Perhaps. Could I have increased the weight on my lifts today? Perhaps.

Amongst life’s certainties of death and taxes therein lies a third undeniable truth: the tape.