No Pain, No Gain?


No pain, no gain was a very prevalent attitude when I began coaching in the late Sixties, surprisingly it continues to persist today in certain circles. I have never been able to figure out the appeal of this approach. Proper training in the weight room or on the field demands that the athlete be pushed to test their limits at various times in training. Some workouts are very difficult and other workouts will almost seem easy. This ebb and flow of hard efforts interspersed with easier efforts is essential allow for proper adaptation. The no pain, no gain approach is a direct outgrowth of the fact that historically Strength & Conditioning was a field driven by football. It was the football strength & conditioning coach who set the tempo for the programs because they were often the head strength coach. The mastodon mentality that pervaded football in the fifties and the sixties served to reinforce the no pain, no gain approach. In those days players were not allowed to take their helmets off during practice and not allowed to drink during practice. The more it hurt, the more pain the better. The whole goal was to make the players tough, so without pain there was no gain! So they thought.

I know this approach does not work; it makes you tired but not better. It is totally Darwinian only the strong survive, and no one thrives. I do not know about you, but I want my players ready on game day. That should be the goal of training.To achieve that, the training load and intensity must vary. A thoroughly conditioned athlete who is supremely confident in his or her physical preparation will be mentally and physically tough. Physically and psychologically an athlete can only go to the well so many times before it will begin to deplete their reserves both physically and psychologically. There is no doubt in my mind that a good sport coach or a strength and conditioning coach can get athletes to train and perform beyond levels that the athletes ever thought possible. To achieve this does not mean you have to inflict pain. Pushing the envelope is uncomfortable. Athletes in training learn over time to get comfortable with a certain level of discomfort through gradual adaptation to stress. Train your athletes to thrive in the competitive arena by training intelligently.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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