Top 5 reasons you aren't seeing progress with your workouts (and what to do about it!)
Help! I go to the gym 5-6 days per week and I'm still not seeing the results that I want. What am I doing wrong?
First off, take a minute to pat yourself on the back! You've nailed the most important (and often most difficult) part of a healthy exercise regime, consistency. Showing up to workout 5-6 days per week should get you awesome results. So, if you aren't seeing the progress you want, what's going wrong? Its most often one of these five things...
1. You've haven't been at it long enough.
Has it been less than 6 weeks since you started?
If so, then keep up the good work! It can take up to 12-16 weeks before you see really noticeable results. This is especially true if you're a total beginner (you've never worked out at all.) It takes 4-6 weeks just to build the brain to muscle connection to get the correct muscles firing. If you're looking for results on the scale, you may see no change initially as your body works behind the scenes (internally) building dense muscle fibers and shedding fat. Hang in there and stay consistent, results are on the way!
Not a beginner? Been working out for 4-6 months (or maybe years!) and still not seeing great results? Read on...
2. Your diet is not dialed in.
You need to fuel your workouts (and your life) with the right amounts of the best foods. We all know the energy balance equation, calories in must equal calories out for our body to stay at the same weight. It would follow that to lose weight calories in needs to be less than calories out; we need to eat fewer calories than our body burns.
It matters where those calories come from. Remember the nutrition professor who went on the Twinkie diet? He ate mostly twinkies and other random junk food for two months and ended up losing 10% of his body fat (27lbs.) This proves the calorie equation does work whether you eat "healthy" food or not. But I don't remember hearing how he felt during his diet. Was he working out? I'd guess that eating highly processed carbs for two months would leave someone feeling pretty drained and cause intense sugar cravings. The reverse of this diet is true as well. Even if you eat only "healthy" food you will still gain weight if you eat too much. Check out the calorie content on those healthy almonds that you love to snack on.
Your diet needs variety and volume, plenty of fruits and vegetable with lots of fiber with fill you up with a relatively small calorie impact. Your body needs all three macro nutrients, carbs, protein and fat, to keep you feeling great and allow you to push through your workouts.
3. Your workout program has no focus, no progression and no way to measure results.
You love to workout but don't want to be bored so you do something different every single workout.
You enjoy group exercise classes at the gym so you only do classes.
You are nervous to hit the weight section of the gym so you always get on a treadmill (stairstepper, elliptical, bike, rower etc...)
You go to a boot camp class to do all your weight work and love it because they are always changing the exercises you do.
You know what you like so you've been following the same program for years.
If you want to see results, what you do for a workout matters. This is especially true if you are looking to build muscle. More muscle will work wonders for your metabolism as it burns more calories both at rest and while exercising. But, if you spend all your workout time on the cardio machines, in spin classes, or outside running, you will not build muscle. Cardio is excellent for your heart and general conditioning but if you want to see massive improvements, you really need to add weightlifting.
Already hitting the weights? That's great! How do you track your progress? Are you able to add weight, sets, or reps to your lifts over time? How frequently are you switching your exercises? You need to spend time (6-12 weeks) on your specific exercises to see progress. Changing your workouts too frequently will prevent you from tracking progress accurately.
4. Your workout has no intensity (or too much intensity.)
You like to walk, do you powerwalk or do you stroll? You go to boxing class, do you tap the bag or do you punch a hole in it? Could you add weight to the bar but instead you lift your usual for 10 reps and then set it down until the next set? Your workouts need some intensity. Your heart rate should be elevated (yes, even when lifting!) No intensity, no results!
On the other hand, some people suffer from too much intensity. Every workout must be a killer, sweat drenching, heart pumping, festival of pain or else there is no point, right? H.I.I.T. - high intensity interval training, classes are all the rage. Who wouldn't love a class that can leave you feeling destroyed quickly so you can get on with the rest of your day? Only problem is you're super tired for the rest of your day and all you want to do is go home and nap. Your workouts are leaving you exhausted. Instead of feeling recharged, you feel drained. You constantly have some ache (sore back, tight chest etc...) and are on the path to injury. Maybe you're having trouble sleeping too (isn't exercise supposed to help you sleep?) Welcome to the world of overtraining.
Intensity is like a prescription drug for your workout, you need the correct dosage for it to work.
5. Poor workout technique.
Having near perfect form while working out will not only prevent injury, it will ensure that you're working the correct muscles. Have you been working on your glutes for the past year with no noticeable difference? You've tried every glute exercise that you've found on youtube and instagram. What if I told you that a slight change in the tilt of your pelvis will take all the work out of your glutes and put it into your quads?
TIny postural changes can make all the difference to the exercises that you are doing. Your head positioning can affect how your abdominal muscles fire (or not fire!) Your foot and toe position can change your squat mechanics and support glute development (or hinder it!)