You’ve been training for some time now. You feel like you’re working hard at the gym. You think you’re doing everything right but you’re still not getting any stronger. Many people find themselves in this situation and there are usually a few common reasons why.
1. You’re Not Lifting Heavy Enough
This sounds very simple but it may be true. Everyone, especially beginners, should be very conscious about their lifting technique and that should continue throughout your training lifetime. Once you’re more comfortable with the lifts we do need to add some weight in order to adapt and grow. When weight is added we see a lot of newer athletes worrying about how much energy they’re exerting or where their heart rate is and while it’s great to be mindful of those things you will need to tax your body a little in order to get stronger. Anxiety sometimes makes people stop too early or take a break at the slightest feeling of discomfort. You may feel a burning sensation in your muscles and think its time to stop but in order to create change and promote muscle growth it is necessary. Many mistake this discomfort to mean that something is wrong but it’s necessary to continue to progress. If you haven’t felt this before you may need to go a little bit heavier next time.
*Experienced lifters, you may be having the same problem but for different reasons. When you first start out lifting it’s easy to get stronger using at little as 40% of your 1RM but as you progress those percentages have to as well. It may take years but that 40% quickly changes to 70%, then to 85% then at some point you’ll need to be working at or above 90% in order to increase strength. Again, this is for experienced lifters only and could take years to get to.
2. You’re Lifting Too Heavy
Is that even possible? Yes! And we see it a lot. After some time lifting and getting a little stronger some people find a confidence they didn’t have before. Being confident is great however with that confidence comes the courage to try to lift heavier and heavier weights. Unfortunately this can lead to a few negatives if you abandon a proper program in order to just keep trying to lift heavier and heavier.
- Sacrificing form in order to make a lift which is very dangerous and will also slow down your growth
- Not being able to continually hit heavier maxes will decrease confidence needed for success in the gym and other areas of life
- You’re forgetting what got you stronger in the first place; an actual progression. While it may seem slow and redundant sometimes it is necessary to truly get stronger
3. You’re Not Taking Time To Recovery
Improving your strength doesn’t mean you have to go at 100% at all times. Your gains don’t actually come when you’re at the gym, adaptations from training happen while you’re resting. When you’re trying to get stronger you will need to get adequate sleep. For most of us that means 7.5 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night.
Another great way to help with recovery is to try to include some structured active recovery into your training. Taking a couple days per week to work on recovery will make you feel better in general and you won’t break down as easy on your heavy lifting days. This might look different for everyone but some things I like to include are:
- 30-60 minute Row/Bike/Swim/Run/Ski at a conversational pace
- 100 Turkish Get Ups at a low weight focusing on form
- Get outside and just go for a walk
- Enjoy playing a sport? Go practice for an hour. Or learn a new sport
If you feel like you’re working hard but still not getting stronger take a step back and examine your training and whether or not you’re making any of the mistakes above. If you’re still having trouble find a coach that can help you with form, programming and even setting goals to get you back on track.
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