Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body - Meaning, Origin and Usage

This post unpacks the origin, meaning, and use of the idiomatic phrase, "pain is weakness leaving the body."


Pain is weakness leaving the body is becoming a clique phrase used in the fitness industry. The term's first use comes from the military, but it spread into fitness culture to become the subject of many thousands of memes.

When people talk about the "pain" in the phrase, they refer to the pain caused by extreme physical exertion during hard workouts. They are not referring to neurological pain or pain that might cause incapacitation of an individual.

Therefore, when they are saying "pain" in weakness, they state that by working out hard, you are making yourself stronger. That is technically true since workouts are difficult, and you improve on your previous activity, provided that you push your performance to the limit.

Example Usage

"You can do it, Tom, get that extra rep; pain is just weakness leaving the body."

"Pain is just weakness leaving the body – Remember that when you think you have nothing left."

Franco: "I feel so stiff after yesterday's workout."

Arnold: "Don't be a loser; pain is weakness leaving the body."


The origin story behind "pain is weakness leaving the body" goes to the US Marine Corps. The phrase started appearing in recruiting program propaganda issued by the US Marines, encouraging young people to enter the US Armed Forces.

The phrase's purpose is to tell people that the pain experienced in training with the marines toughens you up in life. It gives you discipline, focus, direction, drive, and a clearer mental state to achieve your goals and make good decisions under pressure.

SEAL training is notoriously hard, and the BUDs course sees many people drop out from the program before completing "Hell Week." So, the phrase, pain is weakness leaving the body refers to you overcoming the physical barriers in your life to achieve your goal.

In 2006, the YouTuber "McBrideOKC" uploaded his video of the US Marines' Delayed Entry Program high school speech. The video title is "Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body," with hundreds of thousands of views.

While the proverb has a military origin, it also went on to gain traction in the fitness community. Today, everyone from bodybuilders to cross-fitters and skateboarders will use this idiomatic expression during their training and competition.

Phrases Similar to Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body

  • No pain, no gain.
  • Pain lets me know I'm alive.

Phrases Opposite to Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body

  • I can't take the pain anymore.
  • I can't do another rep.
  • I can't move after yesterday's workout.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Pain is weakness leaving the body.
  • Pain is just weakness leaving the body.

Ways People May Say Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body Incorrectly

Some people may use "pain is weakness leaving the body” incorrectly. The pain in the idiomatic expression refers to muscular pain induced by an extreme workout. It is not referring to the pain caused by tears, cuts, or severe injuries. Some people might use it to describe emotional pain, but it's not the common use of the idiom.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body

You can say "pain is weakness leaving the body" when referring to situations in life that require tremendous physical exertion. It's a popular phrase in fitness culture, used in everything from bodybuilding to CrossFit circles. The term usually applies to workout-induced stress or pain rather than the pain caused by serious injuries.

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