Good morning, folks. Today’s awesome post is offered up by Primal Health Coach Chris Redig.
Are you struggling to see results at the gym? Has your strength training hit a dead end? Maybe you’ve noticed that lifting heavy things doesn’t automatically build muscle. It doesn’t automatically get results.
There’s nothing worse than putting in the work but seeing no benefits. Carving time out of a busy schedule to lift heavy things is already a Herculean effort. That time needs to be productive. So, if you’re struggling to get results, here are the ten most likely reasons.
Building a lean muscular physique takes considerable work. There’s nothing quick or easy about it. To maintain your motivation, it helps to remember the benefits.
Not only is it fantastic for your health and a great longevity strategy, but it’s arguably the best form of exercise to lose fat.
A lean, muscular physique is useful, visually appealing, and built for adventure. Whether you’re climbing trees with your kids, portaging a boat or carrying someone away from danger, muscles help get jobs done.
Strength training checks all the boxes, and it’s hard to imagine a better use of your time at the gym. But it’s not always easy to make consistent progress. If you’re struggling to get results, your training may lack progressive overload.
How do you build muscle? The answer lies in the concept known as progressive overload. When you lift heavy things, you create a significant challenge for your muscles. In response to that challenge, they grow bigger.
So far so good.
But as they grow bigger, the heavy things stop being heavy enough. It may feel heavy enough. You probably don’t enjoy lifting it. But for your muscles, it has stopped being a reason to get bigger.
Consequently, to maintain growth you must strive to increase the challenge. The two best ways to do this are by either increasing the amount of weight you are lifting or increasing the number of reps you are performing.
In other words, if you lift the same weight for the same number of reps week after week and month after month, you are not building muscle. Progressive overload is central to success. To get bigger, focus on lifting heavier.
If you’re not sure how to maintain progressive overload, you’re probably not logging your sessions.
But how do you know how many reps to aim for? How do you know how much weight to lift? Initially, the answers will depend on the program you’re following. But once you get started, the answers will be determined by your last session.
So, you need a log book.
First, a log book tracks your progress. It will record how many reps you performed and how much weight you lifted. This is how you know what to do at the gym at your next session. And this is how you know if you’re building muscle.
Second, having a log book will keep you honest. It will force you to train hard. You’ll know the numbers you need to beat. It will prevent you from putting down the bar and thinking, “Well, that was easy.”
Third, it will give you a record of achievement. It takes months to see significant results. That can seem daunting and discouraging. A log book brings those future results into the present. It’s a regular reminder that you’re getting stronger.
Finally, if you start keeping a log book, you may notice that you train inconsistently.
Habits first. Muscles second. Nothing short of time and consistency is going to get results. A single hard session at the gym isn’t going to cut it.
Therefore, it’s crucial to build some habits. Going to the gym should be on autopilot. First, this requires a different mindset and a shift in focus. The desire to get results should become an obsession to become consistent.
Second, a fitness journey needs to be sustainable. To be fit requires consistent work. If the work stops, the fitness slips away. Ask yourself, how many times per week do I want to go to the gym 18 months from now? Make gym time sustainable. Become consistent.
But with consistent training comes the risk of training too hard.
As you progress and strive to beat your last session, you will start failing reps. Failing a rep is exactly what it sounds like. You hit a point where you simply cannot finish another rep without taking a break.
It’s easiest to experience with pullups. After a certain number of pullups, you hit a wall. You can’t get over the bar again without taking a rest. The purpose of strength training is to push that point of failure back further and further.
But you can train too hard. It’s probably not a good idea to constantly fail reps. The goal isn’t to feel wrecked the next day. And if you can’t do another rep, resist the temptation to cheat. Progress shouldn’t come at the expense of good form or range of motion. You don’t want to get sloppy to show fake progress. Your last pullup shouldn’t look significantly different than your first pullup.
Instead, always leave a couple reps in the bank. Stop one to three reps before failure. It’s okay to occasionally hit failure. But don’t spend a day at the gym training to total failure or getting sloppy.
If you’re training too hard, you might also be too focused on fatigue.
You’re at the gym lifting heavy things. You’re pouring sweat, out of breath and about five minutes from total collapse.
If you want to build your mental toughness, work capacity or conditioning, then yes. But if your goal is muscle, then it’s questionable. The body adapts pretty narrowly to the stress you impose.
If you’re too focused on fatigue, your body will primarily get better at preventing fatigue. If you want more muscle, then you need to focus on stressing your muscle through progressive overload.
This means you should catch your breath between sets. You don’t need to jump straight from one set into the next just to keep your heart rate up. Take your time. Be ready mentally and physically to lift the weight. Be ready to give your best and most impressive effort each and every set.
Instead of pushing your endurance, try pushing your comfort zone.
The goal is to feel comfortable all over the gym. Maybe you’ve noticed there are specific areas where all the fit people train. They spend their time by the squat racks and deadlift platforms. There’s a reason they’re over there. Compound lifts work.
They’re time efficient. They improve coordination, movement patterns and flexibility. And they’re useful outside the gym. It’s worth taking the time to learn the challenging lifts. Just take it slow, and do your research.
Owning the difficult lifts will also give your motivation a big boost. Few things are as motivating as stepping outside your comfort zone and mastering a new skill. Stay safe, but don’t stay comfortable.
Weighing yourself can also be very uncomfortable. But is it the right measure?
The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Nothing tells the whole story. Progress is slow and hard to see. A fitness coach might ask for weigh-ins, measurements and pics, and even then progress can be hard to detect, until one day it’s obvious.
If you’re starting out or struggling, then you need to build a foundation of improved habits, health and fitness. This is the hardest and most important part of the journey, but it isn’t easy to measure.
Fortunately, it is easy to measure progress in your strength training. You can judge your training by your log book. If you’re getting stronger, then your gym time is productive. The visual results are coming.
If your progress is still stalled, you’re probably training too little.
When you first start strength training, almost any amount of lifting will produce results. Newbie gains are fantastic. You’re constantly setting new PRs and getting stronger. But over time the progress slows and eventually stops.
You could stop right there. Those initial gains are plenty to look, move and feel great. You could focus on other dimensions of fitness or active leisure. And if you have dialed in your diet and lifestyle, you will look completely beach-ready.
But for those who want more, the answer is often more volume. And at this point your training becomes a balancing act. On the one hand, you need to ask “Can I spend more time lifting? Am I recovering? Am I avoiding injury?” And on the other hand you need to ask “Am I getting stronger? Am I increasing my lifts or reps?” There’s no formula. It’s an N=1 experiment.
If you’re struggling to increase your volume of training, it may be time to look at your recovery strategy.
The central pillar of any recovery strategy is diet and lifestyle. As readers of Mark’s Daily Apple, you already know what you want to be eating. Now the hard part is doing it. If past efforts have been ineffective and you’re struggling, I recommend taking a slow approach.
Better and best are not enemies. Many of the benefits of eating a good diet are dose responsive. This means that small improvements in your diet provide real benefits. Plus, those small improvements become habits and generate momentum.
Eating well is a set of skills. And skills need to be practiced.
My own diet transformation was a multi-year journey. Over time bad habits turned into good habits. The good habits accumulated. And one day, my diet was on autopilot. It takes time. It takes consistency. It’s worth it.
Strength training is a key ingredient of looking, moving and feeling your best. I hope some of these recommendations help you break through to the next level. Thanks for reading.
About the Author:
Chris Redig is a health and fitness coach. He loves helping people move, look and feel their best by optimizing their nutrition, movement and lifestyle. He is a Primal Health Coach, a Henselmans Personal Trainer and a Movnat Master Trainer. He has lived, adventured and traveled in 20 different countries and holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs. In particular, he loves to help adventure-enthusiasts build ready-for-anything minds and bodies. He currently lives in Denmark with his wife and two kids. For online coaching or a free consultation, visit www.chrisredig.com. Or you can follow him on Instagram.
To learn how you can become a certified Primal Health Coach like Chris Redig, click the following link and download the free eBook How to Become a Health Coach: 5 Steps to Embarking on a Career You Love.
Thanks to Chris for stopping by the blog today and sharing his coaching wisdom. And thanks to everyone out there for reading today. Have a question for Chris—or a post idea our Primal Health Coaches can weigh in on? Let us know down below. Have a great end to your week.