We’ve all been at a point where we feel like we’re really making some good progress in the gym, then when it comes to hopping on the scales or taking that progress picture you get that crushing feeling of not seeing what you wanted to see. It can be really disheartening, especially when you feel like you’ve been putting in a lot of effort.
The problem is, even though you feel like you’re ticking all the boxes and you’re doing everything correctly, sometimes we just don’t always get the essentials right.
I’ve trained countless people over the years, people of different abilities, with different goals and of different shapes and sizes. When a new client comes to me for help, it’s usually because they’ve not been seeing the results they want. After talking to them about what they’ve previously done in the gym I can usually figure out quite quickly where they’ve been going wrong.
Like yourself, these clients usually have the very best of intentions and want to see good results, but there are a few things holding them back. In this article, I will cover some of the most common problems I’ve encountered. Take a look and if you think any of these apply to you, go and fix them!
1. You’re not progressing your workouts
Let me give you one big golden rule. If you want your body to change then you have to give it a reason to. It’s a basic principle of how your body works.
First of all, let’s imagine your goal is to build muscle. You’re probably hitting the weights regularly, but can you honestly say you are regularly increasing your weights?
In order for your muscles to grow, they need to be constantly challenged. So the first time you bench pressed that 40kg barbell, your chest probably really felt it, and maybe again a second time. But after a while of pressing that same 40kg bar your muscles have grown and
adapted enough to deal with the demand of lifting that weight. The 40kg barbell becomes easy to lift and your muscles have no reason to grow and adapt anymore.
Let’s look at the same principle for fat loss. First of all, weights are a great way to lose fat, but I’m going to give you a cardio based example. Let’s say you sprint 5 kilometres in 30 minutes. You might have really felt it the first time you did it, maybe a little less the second time, but by the fifth or sixth time guess what? It’s a piece of cake! Your body has adapted to running 5k in 30 minutes and it no longer needs to change to be able to do that.
So what I’m getting at is in every single session, something should change. This doesn’t always have to be the weight. You could increase your reps, run an extra kilometre, reduce the time it took to cycle 10k, hold your plank a little longer, even improve your form –
anything that means your body is being challenged each and every time you train. And each time you change something in your workout, you should be tracking and recording it so you know where to start from next time.
Which brings me onto point number 2…
2. You aren’t tracking your sessions
The amount of times I’ve trained with someone and asked them what weight they are using for a certain exercise only to be given a vague answer. ‘Erm about 20kg I think’ or even worse… ‘I just go with whatever feels right’
If you are serious about seeing results, you need to keep an accurate log of the weights and reps you are doing in every session. Or, for example, a record of how far you row and in what time.
Seeing results means you need to be organised in your approach.
You could consider using an app which allows you to view, log, track and record every single workout, so that you can see exactly how you are progressing. Alternatively, use the notes in your phone or even good old-fashioned pen and paper.
It really doesn’t matter how you record your sessions, but if you want to see results then you need to be organised.
3. You’re not getting your nutrition right
I will keep saying this until the day I die: You can not out-train a bad diet.
Good nutrition is key to getting results. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring but too many people see the gym as their number one resource for getting the body they want. When people start switching their mindset to thinking of the gym as something that compliments
a good diet, things can start to fall into place. This applies to any goal, so please get your nutrition right.
Find an approach you can maintain long term, something that fits in with your day to day life but still gets you to your goals.
For any goal there is one basic rule that will always apply, whether you are new to the gym or a seasoned gym goer. It’s the simple principle of energy in versus energy out.
If your goal is to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. In other words, you need to eat less calories than you burn, every day.
If your goal is to gain weight, you need to be in a calorie surplus. i.e. you need to eat more calories than you burn every day.
Work your calories out using a calorie calculator, then track everything for at least one full week to get an idea of where you currently stand.After that, aim to track 2 or 3 days a week to make sure you are keeping yourself on track.
4. You’re not training in the correct way
If you’re quite new to the gym, a natural reaction is to just hop on the treadmill and spend your whole 45 minute gym session doing a brisk walk with a slight incline. It’s safe, easy and comfortable. You can’t really go wrong with it so you leave the gym feeling happy and like
you’ve achieved something. That’s all great, but the problem is it’s probably not going to get you to where you want to be.
Every goal requires a different approach, whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, general fitness or something else. Before you start in the gym, find out how you need to train to reach your goal. There are lots of free resources out there. If you find this overwhelming, ask someone in
the know. For example, don’t be afraid to ask an instructor in your gym for some advice
5.You’re not being patient
I’d say this is probably one of the most important points. In pursuit of any health and fitness goal, you need to be willing to give it time.
It often concerns me when a new client comes to me and says they are going to really smash it for the next 3 months, because they already have an end date in their mind.
Firstly, you need to accept that no matter what your goal is, you probably won’t see results straightaway.
Secondly, you will most likely experience some ups and downs, where you’ll see less progress at some times and more progress at others.
The best piece of advice I can give you, is to try not to think of this as a short term fix.
Embrace this journey as part of your everyday life. Work that little bit harder and don’t stop.
Try not to be one of those people who constantly stops and starts and never really gets to where they want to be.
6. You’re training too little or too much
Training frequency plays a big role in the results we see and getting it right is important. With that said, it’s not too difficult to find the right balance on this one. If you go to the gym once a week, let’s be honest, you’re not going to get the results you want to see. Even twice a week isn’t going to make a major difference.
For me the magic number has and always will be three or more sessions a week, between 45 minutes to an hour. Those three sessions make up less than 2% of your week, so there really is no excuse. On the flip side, training too often can have a negative impact on the results you see. We call this over-training and whilst it’s normally something associated with weight training, it can hit anybody regardless of how or what they train. It occurs when the amount of rest and recovery we are getting is simply not enough to deal with the volume of training that is taking place.
Keep in mind our rest time is when our body changes and grows stronger, so if we don’t give it time to do that, over-training can happen and the results will stop showing.
Because everyone is different, it is hard to say how much is too much. But listen to your body, and know when things don’t feel right. If you constantly feel tired, sore and aren’t making much progress, there is a strong chance you could be over-training.
7. You’re not maximising your time in the gym
Hear me out on this one as I know it may sound too obvious. But think about your last workout and what you actually did. Maybe you did spend a whole hour in the gym, but how much of that time was genuinely spent doing a solid workout?
Once you had got changed, had a chat with your mate in the locker room, untangled your headphones, picked a playlist to listen to, filled up your water, chatted to someone else, checked Instagram and refilled your water bottle again, how much time did you actually spend working out?
And if you can honestly say you spent the full hour in the gym working out, then ask yourself this question too: ‘Did you really push yourself?’
So many people go to the gym and lift the same weights for the same amount of reps time and time again. It’s not challenging them and it’s certainly not helping them make progress.
But what people tend to do is get into a mentality where by purely going to the gym in enough for them to justify to themselves that they are doing enough and are still making progress, even when these workouts are actually doing very little. Do not become complacent – train with purpose.