We’ve all been there – hours spent in the gym, lifting heavy and eating right, only to see zero progress in the mirror. Turns out all that energy might be better spent elsewhere, after all, it’s more effective to work smarter rather than harder. If you want to stop making fitness mistakes in the gym and starting gaining some actual progress, it’s worth investing in the mental side of the equation. If you aren’t seeing the results you want in the gym, here are five things you are definitely doing wrong.
1. Expecting Too Much Too Soon
Most people overestimate what they can do in the short term and underestimate what they can do in the long term. Rather than seeing your fitness journey as seasonal or constantly bouncing around programs or fads, commit to something longer term.
This is what separates the best from the average. Their ability to show up even when things don’t seem like they’re going anywhere because they understand marginal gains made consistently long term will create significant improvements in performance and aesthetics.
2. Not Warming Up Correctly
A well-structured and effective warm-up should include multiple elements. It should serve to increase your heart rate and blood flow around the body. This can be done with some light cardio on a machine or run or bodyweight exercises like burpees.
Range of motion or flexibility for the movements you’re going to perform that day. For example, if you have squatted on the menu, some form of hip mobility, glute activation, and unweighted squats would be perfect to prime the body for what’s to come. Practice the skill or exercise. This will pay dividends for your future progress with these lifts. Perform an unweighted or lightweight version of what you’re doing that day trying to be as perfect as possible. Perfect practice makes perfect!
3. Not Choosing Your Reps Wisely
Depending on your training goals different sets and reps are scientifically proven to get better results. If your goal is to build raw strength aim for between 1-5 reps for each exercise. This is a powerlifting style rep range and being low in total volume, more weight can be lifted, which builds strength.
To build size and muscle mass 8-12 reps is best. This is the rep range most bodybuilders stick to when building muscle groups. Enough repetitions to cause micro-tears in the muscles and still allowing a heavy enough weight to elicit strength gains. When Arnie talks about “The Pump” in his classic movie Pumping Iron, he refers to the feeling after doing a set of 8-12 reps.
For muscle endurance/strength endurance 15-20 reps are best. The weight here will be significantly less than that of the powerlifting rep range. This is great for athletes in various sports or even those new to the gym to build a solid foundation and technique for new movements.
4. Not Changing Your Routine as Fitness/Strength Improves
If you’re seeking adaptation and change in your physique or performance your training needs to increase in difficulty or skill as you get fitter and stronger. What worked for you when you were starting out will not make you fitter and stronger forever.
Our bodies will only adapt to the stimulus we provide it. If you get comfortable and find your workouts aren’t pushing you, here are a few variables you can tweak to start seeing some results.
- Find a training partner or PT/Coach. Accountability is a great motivator.
- Add accessory exercises to the major lifts. For me, I’d always add lunges or split squats as a little finisher to my squat days to target the glutes more as this was the weakest part of my squat. 3-5 sets of 10 on each leg was enough to do the trick!
- Increase your time under tension using tempos in your lifts/exercises. Rather than being in a rush to finish your sets and reps time each rep. For a squat: Lower down for 3 seconds hold the bottom for 3 seconds, explode up really quickly from the bottom and pause for 3 seconds, then perform the next rep.
- Increase the intensity of your sessions. You can tweak many variables to make this happen but the main ones are time, load, and volume. Time could be reducing rest breaks or performing each movement in a set time and moving on, load simply means increasing the weight and volume refers to total weight lifted over the whole workout or within a time frame.
5. Not Resting and Recovering Between Sessions
Training is putting controlled stress on the body to create some form of adaptation. If you aren’t getting adequate rest and recovery between sessions or training days then your body will not solidify these changes and properly recover.
Recovery is becoming a multibillion-dollar a year industry and is being led by sports stars like Lebron James who reportedly spends 1 million dollars per year with his gadgets including saunas, cryo chambers, and bodywork. If your budget isn’t quite as large as Lebrons the best place you can start is getting 7-8 hours sleep per night as this is the body’s time to release growth hormone and repair muscles and tissues and also solidify things like movement patterns to longer-term memory.