‘No Pain No Gain’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 4, 2023

Have you heard someone say, ‘No pain, no gain’? Are you wondering what this means? Below, we’ll take a look at the definition and origin of the phrase, and you’ll see some examples of how to use the phrase correctly in a sentence.

In short:

  • ‘No pain, no gain’ is a phrase people often use in reference to exercise, implying that if you don’t feel any pain, you won’t lose any weight (or gain muscle).

Essentially, it’s an expression that means in order for you to see some results, you might have to suffer a little at first.

What Does ‘No Pain No Gain’ Mean?

‘No pain no gain’ is a common idiomatic expression used in the English language to mean that suffering is necessary in order to achieve something. It used to refer only to exercise, but people use it in other contexts now.

You might hear someone say it at work when:

  • They’re struggling through a particularly tough project.
  • Someone might say it when they’re struggling to study for an exam.

In the original Space Jam movie made in 1996, when the Looney Tunes are preparing to go up against the MonStars (who are really aliens from outer space trying to steal the talent from the most talented NBA players), they’re all working out.

They’re watching an exercise video trying to get in shape, and Porky Pig says:

‘No pain, no gain, guys.’

In season 2, episode 6 of The Goldbergs, the gym teacher utters the same words:

‘No pain, no gain!’

You might also hear this phrase used sarcastically when someone doesn’t want to work out. They might be stuffing their face with food as they do it.

Where Does ‘No Pain No Gain’ Come From?

The phrase ‘no pain no gain’ is an:

  • Old English proverb that dates back to the second century.

One of the oldest records of the proverb is from the poet Robert Herrick, in “Hesperides,” which was published in 1650.

It read:

No pains, No gains.

If little labour, little are our gains:

Man’s fate is according to his pains.

In 1670, John Rays also included the phrase in his Collection of English proverbs in which he wrote:

Without pains, no gains.

Another instance of this phrase throughout history was in 1758 when Benjamin Franklin wrote the proverb as:

There are no gains without pains.

Much later, in the 1980s, it was spun into a famous catchphrase by Jane Fonda in her aerobics videos.

In those videos, she’d shout that phrase along with phrases like:

‘Feel the burn!’

These days, the phrase is pretty common and usually associated with exercise in some way, shape, or form.

Examples of ‘No Pain No Gain’ Sentences

How would you use ‘no pain no gain’ in a sentence?

Let’s look at some examples:

  • There was a new trainer at my gym, and all she kept yelling at me was, ‘No pain no gain!’ I wanted to ask her to stop a few times throughout the session, but I knew she was just trying to motivate me.
  • I’m so grateful I don’t have to work with Janis anymore. Every time we came up against something tough, she’d say, ‘No pain no gain!’ And then she’d giggle. She thought she was pretty funny.
  • I was watching an old exercise tape in my garage the other day, trying to see if I should keep it. The instructor kept yelling, ‘No pain no gain!’ to keep her students going. I should probably throw this tape and my old VCR away, right?
  • Whenever my mom is trying to motivate us to clean the house, she always runs around yelling, ‘No pain no gain!’ in a funny way that makes us laugh. We’ve been doing that since we were little, and it never gets old somehow.
  • In our gym class, our teacher thinks it’s funny to yell, ‘No pain, no gain!’ while we’re climbing the infamous rope. No one can seem to do it, no matter how much she tries to motivate us.
  • During weight training, our trainer always tells us, ‘No pain no gain!’ to get us to lift more. He also uses it to get us to eat more when we’re already full so we can bulk up.
  • I’ve been staring at this computer screen for so long working on this project I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my face. But no pain, no gain, right?
  • Over time, I’ll eventually reach my goals, but it won’t be easy. But no pain, no gain, right?

Other Ways to Say ‘No Pain No Gain’

What are some other words or phrases that convey the same meaning as ‘no pain no gain’?

Let’s see some examples:

  • It’s necessary to work hard to reap the benefits
  • You must suffer if you want to see success
  • In order to improve or progress, you have to go through difficult or painful training
  • If you don’t work hard, you won’t achieve anything
  • Nothing truly succeeds without pain
  • Nothing succeeds without toil
  • There is no success without hard work
  • Without labor, nothing prospers well
  • No effort, no result
  • Suffering is needed to succeed
  • Fortune favors the brave
  • No guts, no glory
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  • Cheek brings success
  • Courage leads to great achievements
  • Courageous action is often rewarded
  • Do something risk
  • Flirt with danger
  • Fortune favors the strong
  • No bees, no honey, no work no money

Final Thoughts on ‘No Pain No Gain’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘No pain, no gain’ is a phrase people often use in reference to exercise, implying that if you don’t feel any pain, you won’t lose any weight (or gain muscle).

Remember, it’s an expression that means that before you see any results, you’ll likely have to suffer in the beginning.

If you ever get stuck on usage or meaning, feel free to come back here to review what you learned. We’ve also got a ton of other content on idioms you might find useful as you’re learning the English language. Go check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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