The Top 5 Reasons Your Workout Isn’t Working (And What To Do About It)

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Guest Post By Katie Prendergast

For years, I wasted my time in the gym without seeing much progress. I see many gym-goers and training clients frustrated by the same workout mistakes. They feel like they’re putting in hard work, but the scale just won’t budge. Their gut spills over their belt. They’re not seeing results in the mirror. It’s frustrating as hell!

There are five common problems that cause this frustration. Here’s how the overcome each problem to get the results you deserve from all of your hard work in the gym.

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1. You’re Not Getting to the Gym Consistently

Consistency is key. Not having a regular workout routine is like taking one step forward, two steps back. You go one day, crush it for an hour, feel pleased with yourself… then lose momentum. But it’s okay, you’ll be back on Monday, right?

The Monday mindset is destroying your potential progress.

Lack of consistency is why 99% of people never hit their fitness goals.

It’s far better to show up three or four days each week for a manageable amount of time (say, 20-30 minutes) than it is to get one killer hour of gym time and “fall off the wagon” the next day.

If you miss a day, no big deal; get back into the gym at your very first opportunity. Make it a daily or every-other-day habit to just show up.

That’s half the battle. The rest lies in what you do inside and outside of the gym.

2. You’re Being TOO Consistent

Don’t do the exact same thing every workout.

Most gym-goers burn out from boredom, and it’s easy to see why. Many of them arrive at the gym and hit the treadmill or elliptical for 30-45 minutes, then go home.

Not even the most entertaining Netflix show will keep those 45 minutes feeling “fun” day after day.

If you’re part of the enlightened crowd who recognizes that gyms have weights in addition to cardio equipment, good on ya. The trap here is that many people use the same machines or lift the same exact weights for the same sets and reps each time. You’ll never progress that way.

You must apply the principle of “progressive overload,” which states that your body adapts to the increasing demands you impose on it at the gym. In simpler terms, you have to do MORE each workout in order to make progress. Continually adding an extra rep, and extra set, or more weight to each exercise is the only way to drive progress and get to your goals.

3. You’re Not Training the Right Way For Your Goals

Ditch your old high school lifting plan!

Look, it may have worked back then, but I’m willing to bet that’s because you were sixteen and literally any training plan would have worked. You had youth in your favor. But in your twenties, thirties, and beyond, that just ain’t gonna cut it.

Not to mention, your goals back then were probably different. These days, you probably just want to look and feel good with as little time and effort investment as possible.

Exercise science has come a long way from your high school days of 3×10 squats, 3×10 bench, and sit-ups until the cows come home. Expand your horizons. Vary your rep schemes, learn new exercises, and increase your intensity through supersets and metabolic circuits.

For fat loss, stick to major movement patterns (hip hinge, squat, lunge, upper body push and pull) so that you work multiple muscles at once. Incorporate moderate strength work in the 8-12 rep range. Getting strong helps you maintain your muscle while dieting for fat loss. Add metabolic circuits or HIIT after your strength work to fire up your metabolism and burn fat.

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For muscle gain, still train major movement patterns at the beginning of your workout. This allows you to lift heavier loads than isolation exercises, and heavier weights stimulate muscle growth. Then add high volume (sets/reps) of accessory exercises to target specific muscles. Work with moderate weights in the 12-15+ rep range and use a controlled tempo.

Time under tension is key for muscle growth. Controlling each rep, especially on the lowering portion of the exercise, will create enough stress to build your muscles.

4. You’re Not Eating Right For Your Goals

When they want to tone up, lose weight, or generally get back in shape, where do people first turn? The gym, of course. We think that we have to endure a grueling exercise routine in order to see the results we desire.That’s partially true.

But whether you want to lean out, add muscle, or just feel healthier, you’ll also have to focus on your diet. Calories are king. Regardless of your goal (fat loss/muscle gain) you will need to control your calorie intake.

For fat loss, you must create a calorie deficit by eating slightly less than your body requires to maintain your weight. For muscle gain, you must be in a calorie surplus so that your body has enough fuel to build bigger muscles.

After calorie considerations, protein is the most important factor. Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily; mostly from whole foods like meat, fish, and eggs. Supplement with protein powder if necessary.

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Basing your diet around lean protein and all-you-can-eat vegetables is a sure-fire way to lean out quickly. That strategy doesn’t hurt for adding muscle mass, either. You’ll just have to eat more food overall to create a calorie surplus. You can do so by increasing your carbs and fats.

“What gets measured, gets managed,” as the saying goes. The only way to lean out or put on muscle is to manage your diet. Track the food you eat with the MyFitnessPal app to make sure you’re hitting your calorie and protein targets. If you can consistently hit your macros, you are guaranteed to make progress toward the body you desire.

5. You’re Sabotaging Your Workouts With Bad Habits Outside The Gym

Even if you spend an hour training each day, that leaves twenty-three hours to sabotage your results. This can be frustrating as hell because you feel like you’re putting in the work! But you’re not seeing the fruits of your labors in the mirror.

Bad habits are sneaky saboteurs to your good intentions. They include:

  • sitting all day
  • staying up too late to get a full night of sleep
  • dehydration from not drinking water throughout the day
  • thinking your workout “earns” you a donut
  • going out on the weekends and drinking too much alcohol

But you can avoid these sneaky saboteurs with simple habit changes. Start with ONE (and only one) habit. Pick the big, obvious one that’s holding you back and attack it!

Let’s say you only get five hours of sleep each night, and you know that seven to eight hours is ideal. Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier this week. Next week, go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Keep building up in 15-minute increments until you are getting a full night’s sleep.

Yes, this will take time (8-12 weeks, for those not doing the math). But that is how healthy habits are formed: over time, not overnight. Have patience. Once you’ve “fixed” your sleep, or whatever habit is holding you back, you can move on to the next habit.

These are the five building blocks of a healthy, energized body and sexy physique:

  • Consistency
  • Progressive overload
  • The right training plan for your goals
  • The right nutrition plan for your goals
  • Fostering healthy habits outside of the gym

And it just so happens they’re also the five things missing from most people’s training.

If you need help figuring out how to get consistent, eat and train the right way for your goals, and eliminate the bad habits holding you back, download the Work Hard, Play Hard Results Guide. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know about building a body that looks as good as it performs so that you’re ready to tackle anything life throws your way.

About The Author

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Katie Prendergast is a strength and nutrition coach based in Denver.

She specializes in helping adventure athletes recover from injuries and get stronger to tackle black diamonds, climb 14’ers, and send 5.10+ routes. She loves snowboarding, deadlifts, and craft beer.

Check out her website.

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