The Question

What's the dumbest motivational saying used in fitness?

Eric Cressey – Strength and Sports Performance Coach

No Pain No Gain

This line was invented by guys who couldn't tell the difference between pain and discomfort. High-rep squats are uncomfortable. Dragging the sled is, too. That awful, burning, wet-towel-tearing, searing sensation in your Achilles each time you land on a box jump? That's pain. And it's telling you about a massive Achilles tendinopathy that's eventually going to become a rupture.

Push through discomfort regularly and you'll get bigger, stronger, and tougher. Push through pain regularly and you'll usually wind up waking up miserable in the middle in the night, and eventually, find yourself on an operating table. After that, you'll be a burden for months on all the family members and co-workers that have to pick up the slack for your idiocy. And you definitely won't wind up bigger or stronger.

As an aside, many years ago, we had a client who was long overdue for a hip replacement. He'd kicked the can down the road because he didn't want to take time off from golfing or training. The hip hurt all the time no matter what he did; it was wildly arthritic. His personality matched his hip, too. He seemed grumpy all the time and rarely made eye contact.

Finally, he decided to have it replaced. I saw him three weeks after the operation and he was like a new person. He was charismatic and looked me square in the eye. I saw him smile for the first time, and he raved glowingly about how great things were going – from his kids' performance in school, to his business, to his actual hip symptoms (or lack thereof). He had lived in pain for so long that he'd actually forgotten what it was like to feel good, and that carried over to the rest of his life.

Chances are that pushing through that unbearable shoulder pain while you overhead press isn't just chewing up your rotator cuff. It's probably also making you a miserable SOB in a social setting. – Eric Cressey

Chris Shugart – T Nation CCO

Inspire People

That corny phrase has been popping up everywhere, from hashtags to memes to tacky T shirts. "I just want someone to look at me..." is the telling bit here. This just exposes a person's overblown sense of self-importance and a deep need for validation.

Even if it's posted innocently, it smacks of self-centeredness or delusions of grandeur. People who say this are often folks trying desperately to justify their own specialness because, deep down, they don't feel very special at all.

Women seem to fall for this crock most often. The worst offenders will post something about how they "just want to inspire other women" along with a photo of their butts perked into the air, or the old "showing my abs and also (oops!) my under-boob."

The only thing you're inspiring is blood flow to lonely penises and "send nudes" direct messages. I just don't think many women are inspired to work out or eat better because you took a progress photo of your crotch. Just admit that you need the attention. Psychologically, that's healthier than pretending you're someone's "inspiration."

Be honest. Like this: "I'm really proud of my body! I worked hard and I want to show off my results. Moreover, I want YOU to notice my body and comment on it! Ideally, I want my ex to see it too. (You'll never get to see me naked again, Stanley!) But mainly, I just want other people to tell me I'm sexy, strong, or awesome."

The snowflakes must have their unique and beautiful status confirmed by external sources. Otherwise they'd have to do something actually worthy of admiration rather than just being pretty and going to the gym.

People who accomplish great things aren't doing it to inspire others. They're doing it for themselves. They're internally driven to do what they do, and that's why they succeed.

There are, of course, plenty of people in the gym who ARE inspiring. That 75 year old guy overhead pressing? Inspiring. That woman with her arm in a sling finding a way to do squats? Inspiring. That guy kicking as much ass as possible in the gym and getting a chemo treatment that afternoon? Inspiring.

And none of these actually-inspiring people would ever think to post a meme about how they want to inspire people. They're just doing what needs to be done, like self-actualized adults.

But the guy or gal who's managed to build a slightly better than average body with the "Aspire to Inspire!" shirt on? Now that's just sad.

Listen, any inspiration you may give others is incidental. It's not a good goal, but rather a nice side effect when you get it. It's cool. It feels good. But you shouldn't need it to drive you. – Chris Shugart

Christian Thibaudeau – Strength Coach and Performance Expert

“The exercise you hate the most is probably the one you need the most.”

On the surface it makes sense, as does "Do What You Hate." Normally we hate things we're not good at, so improving what we're NOT good at is bound to make us better. Sounds logical, but it's a bunch of crap.

There are two keys to progress: training hard and fixing your weaknesses. If you hate doing something – be it an exercise or a style of training – and you force yourself to do it, you won't just hate that workout, you won't have the same motivation or focus. You can pretend to like it, to look hardcore, but you don't. And if you don't enjoy a workout, in the long run it'll negatively impact your efforts.

This is not a license to only do easy exercises or neglect important body parts (legs for example, bruh). You do need to fix your weaknesses and make sure that everything gets worked properly. But there are always options. To make progress you need to work hard, and the more motivated you are, the harder you'll work. But the more you hate something, the harder it'll be to stay motivated and put in the effort.

My advice? Find the type of training that fits your own personal preferences (low reps, high reps, heavy or pump, explosive or constant tension, etc.) then select exercises that are the best to target each muscle, but stay away from stuff you absolutely hate. It's possible you hate it for a good reason: you don't feel it properly, it hurts, or something like that.

Then train as hard as you can, because ultimately it's this element that accounts for most of your results. – Christian Thibaudeau

Dani Shugart – T Nation Editor

Train Insane

There's an entire population of people who believe statements are true and profound if they contain rhyming words or alliteration. But the problem with this one should be obvious.

Results don't come from insanity, they come from calculated progression and consistency. And your body most certainly won't "remain the same" if your workouts are well planned and adequately challenging. But those words don't rhyme so they weren't used in this idiotic inspirational quote.

There are two types of people who say this:

  1. Average exercisers who think what they do is insane. They might say this to get themselves revved up about exercise, but they mostly just do run-of-the-mill stuff. There's nothing terribly wild and crazy about burpees or kettlebell swings with bad form.
  2. Strong people who really are a bit insane. There are those who do truly crazy things (stunts basically) just to see if they can. Sometimes they get away with it, and sometimes they go to the hospital. Mastery in the gym can make you feel invincible. This is dangerous. Doing not-very-smart things with your body and heavy weight usually has more drawbacks than benefits. I'll admit, it's fun to watch, but please don't die trying to entertain me.

Even if you're NOT a member of the "train insane" brigade, you might still have a problem with this mentality. If you have a voice in your head constantly telling you that what you're doing isn't good enough and you should add more volume, go faster, go heavier, push harder... then beware. You may be what Christian Thibaudeau calls a "stimulus addict."

And you'll need to learn how to harness it. Consider self-restraint a part of your training. This psychological need to feel like every workout was a little over-the-top can be counterproductive. Even if you finish many of these sessions feeling like a champ, accumulating stress from workout to workout without allowing yourself to fully recover can mess you up on the inside and lead to autoimmunity issues, deficiencies, and other hormonal problems. And what for? To feel above average? To do what normal people would consider impressive? It's juvenile.

It's good to be driven, but if you're into this whole fitness thing, restraint is your lifeline. – Dani Shugart

TC Luoma – T Nation Editor

Nothing Tastes As Good As Looking Good Feels

When I was 5 years old, I found the following "riddle" written on a scrap of paper in my older brother's nightstand drawer:

"What can even a blind man feel?"

Answer: A rosebush!

My 5-year-old brain was flummoxed. I didn't know any blind men, but still, it didn't make sense to me that some sort of additional sensory problem accompanied their blindness. Trying to figure it out made my head hurt. Clearly, my brother was trying to interfere with the normal development of my brain.

Anyhow, the slogan, "Nothing tastes as good as looking good feels" has the same brain-freezing effect on me. I think nutritionist Keith Klein coined it back the mid-nineties (and Tony Robbins popularized it later), but his thinking was likely impaired that day, probably because of a riboflavin deficiency or something.

I mean I get it, sort of. Apparently, you get shimmy-shimmy good feelings all up and down your spine when you look at your fat free, buff self in the mirror, you conceited bastard, and the degree of that shimmy shimmy is better than the shimmy shimmy you get from eating something tasty.

But as ex-English teacher, a literalist, someone who occasionally wears a jacket with leather patches, it's nonsensical; it's grammatical synesthesia, where two different sensory systems are being conflated. What if I said, "Nothing smells as bad as getting stabbed in the kidney feels"? You'd think that it had the smell of crazy about it, or should I say, "Nothing smells as crazy as a horse's testicles feel"?

Besides, if you throw grammatical logic to the winds and accept the current usage of the "nothing tastes as good as looking good feels," the premise is still questionable because, really, cheesecake is pretty good; cheesecake probably tastes better "than looking good feels," especially if you have some really good coffee with it.

Regardless, I wish the expression would die. And by the way, while we're at it, WTF is it with YOLO, or "you only live once?" You don't only live once, you live only once! It should be YLOO, which, said out loud, in a shrill tone, has the added bonus of doubling as dolphin speech! And hey! You muscular kids doing farmer's walks, get off my lawn! – TC Luoma

Mark Dugdale – IFBB Pro Bodybuilder

Go Big Or Go Home

I see this phrase used in relation to weight lifting and even social media pics of some massive junk food meal. The assumption in both instances is that you have to lift big weight and consume big calories to get big muscles, all of which is not necessarily true, besides the fact that "big" is relative to the individual.

More often than not it leads to injury in the gym. And in regards to food consumption, it leads to injury to internal health. So yeah, "go big or go home" works if you want to blow out a joint or tear a muscle en route to being a lard ass with metabolic syndrome. – Mark Dugdale

Amit Sapir – IFBB Pro, World Record Holder Powerlifter

70 Percent Diet

This is all over the internet and it's just stupid. First of all, these numbers are arbitrary. Who determined these percentages and how did they figure them out? Proclaiming that there's a fixed percentage for the work that goes into body composition makes no sense because there are so many intricate biological factors involved, and it'll always depend on the individual.

The key word here really is "individual" because everything impacts your body comp and leanness, including genetics, insulin sensitivity, body type, previous eating patterns, years of training, muscle mass... I could go on.

Some people can eat cheeseburgers at every meal, kill their workouts, do a little cardio, and walk around with a six pack. There are athletes that can literally get away with almost any food intake including beer and cookies and be ripped. And after 20 years of training and bodybuilding I have such a high metabolism that I can get away with most things diet wise and maintain 6-8 percent body fat as long as I'm putting in the work.

Training is just as important as diet, if not more. I'm not trying to talk you out of eating clean, but the idea of not having to train hard because you're eating well isn't going to cut it if you want actual progress. – Amit Sapir

Joel Seedman, PhD – Strength Coach and Performance Expert

Go Deep Or Go Home

After a decade and a half of my training experience, catchphrases like, "ass to grass or it doesn't count" and "squat deep or go home" have been both a blessing and a curse.

It's been a curse in that it literally destroyed my body and joints early in my lifting career, not to mention that of my athletes and clients. But it's been a blessing in disguise not only because it forced me to think outside the box and learn what a proper squat was, but because it's actually allowed me to make quite a substantial living educating people on how to squat properly using 90 degree mechanics.

I routinely work with people who've been squatting with ass to grass (ATG) mechanics yet experience incredible joint pain and inflammation throughout their entire body. This is often a byproduct of following "expert" advice.

Ironically, many of the squats I see from these individuals would be considered ideal by many self-proclaimed movement experts. Regardless, advocating the ATG squat has produced more injuries and inflammation and degraded more body mechanics than any movement aberration we know of. Sometimes it just takes years to show up, but trust me, eventually it does.

Yes, I've worked with individuals who squat ATG with no pain or apparent issues. However, once I convince them to adjust their form and change their mechanics to proper squatting technique using parallel body segments and 90-degree joint angles, something else happens.

Not only does their strength, muscle mass, lower body hypertrophy, speed, power, vertical jump, gait mechanics, running form, and stability markedly improve, but they actually gain mobility and flexibility. This is all accomplished without the need to rely on the unnecessary soft tissue modalities they endlessly use day after day to coax their body into using excessive ROM and contorted positions.

So how the heck did they gain greater mobility and flexibility while limiting their ROM? Because using an excessive and exaggerated range of motion produces localized chronic inflammation, which over time is the very thing that limits mobility and range of motion.

Eliminate the cause of the inflammation and your ability to squat deep when needed (such as during Olympic lifting competitions or sitting in a third world squat) is now comfortably available.

So if your goal is decreased strength, increased joint pain, degradations to natural body mechanics, herniated discs, sciatic issues, chronic low back pain, blown-out knees, foot and ankle aberrations, decreased jump performance, degraded gait mechanics, and continual muscle tightness, then keep squatting ATG and pushing the "go deep or go home" mantra.

However, if you're goal is improvements in size, strength, performance, power, body mechanics, and decreased joint issues, then ditch the common ATG catchphrase and replace it with something a bit more scientifically sound. – Joel Seedman, PhD

Dr. John Rusin – Strength Training Specialist and Performance Expert

Dont Stop When It Hurts

Pain is the strongest form of sensory feedback. But people too dumb to realize it end up jacking up their bodies and seriously endangering themselves. Though pain is subjective, its presence (of any level) is an indication that your body is being damaged – it's literally about to break.

There's nothing hardcore about training through pain. Forcing your training to the point of pain is pure ignorance, not a badge of honor. It's damn near impossible to build muscle mass, develop strength, or develop athleticism and skill while your body is fighting itself, defaulting into protection mode every set.

Training without pain doesn't mean you have to become a huge pussy every time you walk through the doors of the gym. It means you place more time, focus, and emphasis on mastering your craft so that you can place yourself in the best position possible for success and goal attainment.

Don't mistake pathological pain like shooting, stabbing, radiating or neurologically involved symptoms with the pump or burn of crushing metabolic stress. The goal should be to hammer the muscles, spare the joints, and do so in the most brutally awesome way possible.

So the next time you're limping your sorry ass around the gym all hunched over and grimacing with every step you take, talking about how amazing yesterday's squat session was, save your breath. Remember, self-inflicted pain and injury in the gym is the equivalent of wearing a dunce hat. – Dr. John Rusin

Jim Wendler – Author of 5/3/1, Strength Coach

All of them.

There's no "dumbest motivational saying" in fitness; most of them are horrible. The one that comes to mind is "the best workout for you is the one you aren't doing." This just reeks of stupidity, but you can lump in "work your weakness" or "the exercise you hate most is the one you should do" in there too.

These are regurgitated turds from cheerleaders. How about we all agree on this: if you are full of clichés, you are full of shit.

One of the things I've noticed the last 10 years or so is the chasm between what real professionals (coaches) are doing and what is being preached by mainstream/social media/current trends is massive. My advice to anyone who's interested in training, either as an athlete or as a coach, is to completely abandon trends and mainstream "workouts" and start looking for answers via real professionals.

You'll have to do some work to get there. Many of them are too busy working/training/learning to post on the internet all the time. But if you're serious about your training and want to separate yourself from the narcissistic drones, you'll find a way. – Jim Wendler

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