Most of my clients come to me with improving strength as one of their goals, whether they are training for a specific sport, an older adult trying to remain living independently, or simply want to improve function and quality of life after an illness or injury. There are lots of reasons why people hit plateaus with their strength training programs, especially when they try the “do-it-yourself” method of designing their own programs or following someone elses.
Here are some of the most common reasons why folks are not getting stronger on their current training programs:
You’re doing what you like, not what you need.
This is why it’s critical to do an objective assessment before beginning any training program: in order to get the results that you want, you need to figure out what your current strengths and weaknesses are. Usually the exercises that you dislike the most are the ones you need the most. You are only as strong as your weakest link, so ignoring the weakest link prevents you from making progress. Even worse, it usually leads to compensations in movement patterns, which eventually end up as overuse injuries. This doesn’t mean you have to follow a program you hate – it just means you must address what you actually need in order to achieve your strength training goals.
You’re not doing the exercises correctly.
Poor technique usually results in injury, not improvement in strength. After you recover from your injury, you’ll typically be weaker than when you started because you haven’t been able to do anything for awhile. This is commonly caused by trying to lift a weight heavier than you can manage (have you ever seen the total body bicep curl in the gym where the dude needs to use momentum to swing the weight up because his arm simply isn’t strong enough?), or simply not being trained in proper execution of the lift to begin with. Start light, get it right, and you’ll get where you want to go much faster.
You’re still doing the same routine.
Many people who come to me have been doing the exact. same. routine. for months or even years. Your body becomes very efficient at doing the same movement patterns, so there is no longer any kind of new adaptation that needs to take place. Therefore, your body is perfectly content to stay right where it is. Want to get stronger? You need to do something different: lift heavier, lift lighter with higher reps for a period of time, do more sets, do different exercises that utilize the same muscle groups, etc. Mix it up!
You’re not lifting heavy enough.
This one is most common among women and older adults. Women fear that they will get bulky and muscle bound (nope) and older folks are afraid of getting injured if they challenge themselves in the weight room. While beginners should start with lighter weights for a period of time to learn proper technique and strengthen connective tissues, after a few months it’s usually time to up the ante. If you want to get stronger, choose a weight that is heavy enough that you can only do the lift…. CORRECTLY….. fewer than 10 times. Simply using a light weight and putting it down after 10 reps isn’t going to do anything for you if improving strength is your goal.
You’re not taking cut back periods.
Just as lifting too little doesn’t get you anywhere, lifting heavy all the time leads to overuse injury. Properly timed rest and/or cutback workouts are critical to making long term progress. Note the keywords: “properly timed.”
You’re not using the correct rep/set scheme.
There are entire texts written on this subject, so I can’t address all of it here. Suffice to say that it is highly individual when it comes to a person’s specific goals, motivation, lifting experience, age, and abilities. In general: heavier weights mean fewer reps per set and stimulate muscle hypertrophy; lighter weights and higher reps stimulate metabolic changes in muscle tissue, and the combinations are literally endless. When we work together, we will determine what is most appropriate for you.
You’re inconsistent in your training.
Training only once a week or taking weeks off and then getting back to it won’t work. You need to be training each muscle group consistently a minimum of twice per week (three times is ideal) for any real improvement in strength to take place. There are no short cuts.
You have lousy nutrition habits.
You can’t out-train a crappy diet no matter what your fitness goal is: fat loss, muscle gain, improvement in mood or energy, etc. Proper timing, amount, and quality of nutrients affects endocrine function such as testosterone and human growth hormone as well as metabolism. Avoid endocrine disruptors by eating whole, fresh, organic foods rather than processed crap. I refer my clients to a licensed nutritionist if they want specific details on the best diet for their individual needs.
Do any of these reasons for not getting the results you want sound like you? If so, call me today and schedule an assessment so that you can get started on the best strength training program to achieve your goals!