Happy Thursday! I can’t believe that the relay race is upon me… less than 48 hours until I am running down highways in BFE South Carolina at 5:15am.
Can you tell I am excited?
I am! I think it’s going to be quite the experience for sure.
But what I am also excited about is ending my road race streak and turning my focus to getting stronger. Well, let me change that: I’ve been working on strength building for a few weeks now but because of my intense race schedule, I’ve had to take a few taper days to make sure my legs were happy and healthy for race day.
Which of course means I’ve only had 1-2 days per week of really good weight training. I am as giddy as a kid at Christmas to be able to train hard and train heavy again for 3 lifting days/week! Can’t wait.
I thought it would be not only fun but also extremely beneficial if today’s Top 10 was based on improving in the gym.
Have you been working out but feeling as if you’re in a rut and just not improving the way you thought you should? Or maybe strength training in general is new to you and you’re just not sure how to progress?
Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Getting Stronger From Your Workouts
10. You’re doing what you like, not what you need.
I love doing moves like bench press, squats and lunges. Not on my favorite list: deadlifts, pull-ups, and step-ups.
I think it’s because I am good at the first 3, and not so great at the others. But that’s even more of a reason to do them more often.
There are times when I have to be reminded (thanks Dan) when it’s been a while since I’ve done them, but then I take a deep breath and go to work. Why? Because, to get stronger you have to focus on more than just the exercises you like. It will allow you to hit up your muscles in a different way, but most importantly will help you hit your “weak” zones.
We tend to dislikes things we’re not great at, right? And if we’re not doing them then it’s a sign of where are weaknesses lie. Pull-ups… I promise I’ll keep doing you!
9. You are afraid of adding more weight.
Maybe you’re not afraid of weights the way most women are (oh no, they’ll make me bulky!) but in the sense that you are intimidated by grabbing a higher dumbbell out of fear of not being able to complete the goal rep count. Or you have this crazy fear that you’ll drop the barbell on your foot. Where ever your fear stems from it’s important to push it aside and go for it.
If, for example, you performed 10 reps of bench press using just the bar, and 10 was your goal… then slide on some plates! Is it going to be harder? Of course, but it’s the only way to get stronger. Have a spot with you just in case! Or if you need to stop after 6 reps for a second, then place the bar on it’s wrack, count to 10 and finish off the other 4.
You’ll feel a wave of pride, promise.
Haha, watch out for those guns. Trust me, they’re getting better than they were!
8. You’re not doing the right types of workout.
If your goal is to get stronger, then it takes a workout designed with that goal in mind. Grabbing the 5 pounders and doing curls for 2 minutes straight is great for toning up, but for getting stronger, not so much.
You will need a workout that requires heavy lifting and being outside of your comfort zone.
While running on a treadmill will increase your running strength, those miles aren’t going to make your legs stronger to squat more.
Other common workout issues:
-Grab some free weights
-Do compound muscles THEN isolated moves (i.e. do bench presses before doing tricep extensions). You don’t want to tire small muscle groups out so that the exercises that really count are weakened.
7. You’re not working out regularly to a program.
I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Walking into the gym with no plan in mind, and just “going with the flow”. Going with the flow is what hurts your results, I assure you!
Always have a workout in hand, have a goal in mind and remember that it takes more than just 1 workout to see results.
Having a workout designed for strength training will not only make the workout go by faster, but will make it more productive and efficient. It stinks to stand in the middle of the gym floor like a lost little girl trying to determine what exercise would be good for your lower body. Been there, done that… don’t do it!
6. You’ve been doing the same boring exercises and reps.
I can’t tell you how many women send me emails or comments along the lines of:
“Taylor, can you tell me if this is a good workout: I do 10 reps of: squats, bicep curls, lunges and bench press using 10 lb dumbbells. I just haven’t seen results.”
Well, that’s because you’re doing the same thing over and over and over again and your body will never give results.
The body needs to be challenged, which means that every time you workout, the workout should be DIFFERENT. You can have the same exercises (for 3-4 weeks) but progress the workout by either using heavier weight or by adding on a few more reps than the time before.
Plateaus happen because the body adjust quickly to workouts, don’t let that happen.
Which brings me to the next issue:
5. You’re not tracking your progress to move forward.
How will you know how to workout harder if you aren’t keeping track of each workout? Grab a small notebook or use your smartphone to keep track of the following:
-Notes of the workout (how you felt, how long it took, etc).
Bring this with you to each workout so that you know what goals you can realistically set. Again, you’ll only get stronger if you work at getting stronger.
4. You’re expecting too much every time.
Here’s a personal flaw: I love giving a workout 110% and if I don’t, I get upset. If my run feels weak or my barbell squat is just not cutting it, then I often let it affect me.
But it shouldn’t!
Not every workout is going to be fabulous. Sometimes after a really intense workout, it might take longer than 48 hours to recover. That’s okay… take it and listen to your body.
I know that “intuitive eating” is a common topic right now, well… there should also be “intuitive exercise”. Listen to your body, when you need to rest: REST. When you need to hold back on some weight, do it.
You’ll recover better, have more energy for the next workout and avoid injuries!
3. If you want to get stronger with squats, stop just squatting.
I hear people say all the time, I want to bench more, squat more, jump higher, run faster… etc.
Of course it is important to practice the skill you want to improve but it’s more than that. Rotate exercises so that you’re still working like muscle groups but hitting them a little bit differently. This is not only to help avoid overtraining and injuries but to also improve motor skill and the way your muscles and brain communicate.
For example, if you’re trying to bench press more weight, try doing more push-ups and chest flies from time to time. Trying to run faster? Forget about the miles and speed and do some hill work and extra core training.
2. You’re not fueling properly.
My favorite post workout shake:
I can not mention this enough… the importance of proper food for training. No matter how hard you work, if you’re eating crap you’re body will work like crap. Even if you think it doesn’t affect your results, I promise if you go clean for 1 month you’ll see better improvements and most likely surprise yourself.
Avoid high sugar foods, processed foods, fried foods, etc. Basically stick to whole, all natural foods (which I promise can taste amazing!).
1. You’re stuck lifting 10-12 reps.
How many times have you lifted weights for 10-12 reps? Probably a lot! This is the most common range of reps. Sure if you’re changing your weight you can really push yourself to improve in this rep range, but to get stronger it’s better to lift around 85% of your 1 rep max. Meaning, change things up and pick up a weight heavy enough to stick around 6 reps.
This increase in intensity means that you’ll have to rest more between sets but that you’ll also want to lift for more than 3. Just try it, do an exercise for 4-5 sets of 6 reps. And then let me know how you feel! Just make sure to rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
And there you have it! I do want to leave with one more thing… this post is written with the idea that you are comfortable lifting weights. If you are new to strength training please start with body weight moves and work your way up to avoid injuries. Proper progress is essential!
Have a great Thursday!
What’s your #1 fitness goal right now?