Having trouble making progress in the gym?
You’re not alone.
Many guys struggle in the weight room despite their best efforts.
The following are five reasons why you may be having a hard time trying to change your body:
You don’t understand progressive overload
In order to get bigger and stronger you have to lift heavier weights over time. It baffles me how many guys don’t understand this.
If you lift the same weights day in, day out you can’t expect your body to grow. Period.
This principle of lifting heavier weights over time is called progressive overload and it is the most important concept to understand in bodybuilding.
If you’re training haphazardly with no regard to how much your lifting or the number of sets and reps you’re doing then don’t be surprised by the lackluster results.
And most importantly, track your progress in a journal.
You’re not keeping a journal or a training log
“That which is measured, improves.” Pearson’s Law
How do you know if you’re making progress in the gym if you’re not keeping track of your workouts?
The answer is that you don’t really know unless you’re keeping a training journal.
In fact, a training journal or a log book is an absolute necessity if you are serious about making progress in the gym.
The purpose of a training journal is to track your workouts so you know exactly where you are and what you need to do in order to improve.
I would even go so far as to say that “beat the log book!” should become one of your mantras in the gym.
Now, will you always make progress in the weight room from session to session? Of course not, but that’s not the point. The idea is to get you in the habit of tracking your numbers so that you program your mind to be constantly thinking of pushing forward and setting PRs (personal records). In this sense a journal becomes not only a way to keep you accountable but also a great motivational tool.
Your diet sucks
If you’re not tracking your food intake you’re not much better off than the guy who doesn’t track his workouts in a journal. Remember, that which is measured, improves.
To put it simply, if you want to gain muscle you need to eat more calories than you burn and if you want to lose fat you have eat to less calories than you burn. This is referred to as the energy balance equation and it is shocking how many guys don’t understand this.
Tracking your food intake is not a very complicated process. If you eat similar foods day in, day out, you may only need to track your calories for the first few weeks. After that you’ll have a good idea of how much you’re eating day to day and you can adjust accordingly to your goals.
Another good idea is to download one of a myriad of fitness/calorie counting apps. Personally, I use MyFitnessPal to track my intake. It’s super easy to use and a convenient way to track your intake.
Lastly, a lot of guys get caught up in the minutiae of different dieting strategies. Should I eat paleo or low carb? What about intermittent fasting? Is keto the best way to go? Etc.
If you’re still lost, be sure to check out my five step plan on how to overhaul your diet.
You’re training to failure too often
Do you know the best way to increase your risk for injury and burnout in the gym?
Train to failure on a regular basis.
In fact, training to failure too often can actually hinder your progress by not only increasing your risk of injury but also making you more susceptible to plateauing.
You have to remember that strength is like any other skill and requires practice in order to develop. When you’re strength training you are actually training your nervous system to be more efficient. This is accomplished most effectively when you train enough but not too much to impair recovery.
A good training program takes into account this balance between accumulation/intensification and recovery/restoration.
A good example is the classic 5×5 program which typically splits the week’s training between a volume (accumulation/intensification) day, a light (recovery/restoration) day, and a PR (personal record) day.
While all this seems very scientific and complicated it’s not. You just have to listen to your body. Personally, a good rule of thumb that I have always followed is to keep 1-2 reps in the tank. In other words, when you are performing an exercise you should terminate the set when you believe you can only do 1 or 2 more reps with good form. This keeps you away from “training on the nerve” but still provides enough stimulus to promote growth and progress.
“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” Anthony Trollope
A lack of consistency is a major problem that holds many guys back from making progress in the gym. Even if you do everything right (i.e. follow a quality training program, eat a good diet, track your numbers etc.) it’s all for nothing if you’re not consistent.
In fact, consistency is so important that even if you had a crappy training program and a poor diet you’d likely still make more progress than the guy who was completely dialed in provided that you were more consistent than him.
Take a look at guys in prison for example. Many of them are in phenomenal shape despite a lack of access to quality food and training equipment. In fact, many prisons don’t even allow their inmates to lift weights.
While steroids certainly play a role in prisons, it’s mainly an inmate’s dedication, consistency, and hard work that pays off.
The bottom line is that in order to make progress in the gym and improve your physique, fitness has to become a part of your lifestyle (and ultimately a part of who you are). It can’t be something that you only do when you “feel like it” otherwise you’ll always be spinning your wheels.
If you are struggling to make progress in the gym ask yourself if you have adequately addressed the five factors I’ve described above.
If you can get a handle on these (and it’s really not that hard to do), I can assure you that reaching your goals in the weight room will be much, much easier.
Here’s to staying fit!