If you train long enough, chances are there will come a point in time where your training isn’t going well.
And while there are a lot of things that may be more important in life than our workouts, at the same time, it really sucks when it feels like you’re spinning your wheels in the gym!
In this article, I want to give you five of the biggest issues I see when a client or athlete of mine isn’t having success.
Now if you’re a trainer or coach and you’re crushing it in the gym, maybe this doesn’t apply to you – and that’s cool.
Bookmark it and save it for another day.
But chances are whether it’s you or someone you train, this article can benefit someone you know – right now, today.
So let’s jump in and talk about five reasons your workouts aren’t working!
#1 – You Don’t HAVE a Workout
Let’s start with one of the simplest reasons you aren’t seeing the results you want in the gym:
You don’t have a workout.
Or to be more clear, you don’t have a program.
There’s a lot more to seeing success in the gym than just showing up (although that is key – but more on that in a minute).
You need to have a focused plan of attack, a goal, for each and every training session you go through.
Maybe it’s using exercises to help you shed body fat.
Maybe it’s increasing your strength on the squat.
Or maybe it’s improving your speed and agility.
The fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter what you’re training for, but it needs to be clear that you’re training for something in particular!
Once you’ve decided what you’re training for, the next step is to find a progressive way to build on that same theme going forward.
Maybe it’s lifting heavier weights.
Maybe it’s decreasing the rest between sets.
Maybe it’s layering in more complex moves or advanced techniques.
Make it a goal to have a focused plan of attack not just for the session at hand, but where you want to go in the weeks and months to come.
It’s a blend of art and science, but as the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
#2 – You’re Not Consistent
As much as I love giving my podcast away to you, selfishly, I learn a ton from them as well.
In a recent episode with Steve Calarco, he talked about an acronym he often uses with his clients and athletes – ACE.
- A – Accountability
- C – Consistency
- E – Effort
While there’s a little bit more to it than just showing up and “putting in the work,” a big part of long-term success is simply showing up and putting in the work!
Consistency and work ethic are two of the great equalizers in the world.
There will always be people who are smarter, better looking, or have better hair (as evidenced by Jim Ferris and Mark Fisher).
But consistency and work ethic are two things you can control each and every time you step into the gym.
If consistency is a struggle, one of my favorite methods to generate accountability is to use the “Chain Link” effect. Jerry Seinfeld is someone that used this method to get him in the habit of writing jokes every day, but you can use it for any habit or goal you want to achieve.
Let’s say your goal is to workout at the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Now using either a regular old-school calendar or one of those big “Year at a Glance” you put on the wall, start putting a big fat “X” on any day you take action.
The goal is to make a chain link either vertically (in the case of a goal that repeats on certain days), or horizontally (for a goal that repeats daily).
And while I’ve used this habit myself to give myself a visual reminder to stay on task, we also use it at at IFAST to keep our Instagram account lit.
(If you like this method, be sure to check out James Clear’s book Atomic Habits for more great info on building better habits.)
#3 – You Keep Changing the Goal
Dan John is one of my favorite authors of all-time for many reasons.
First, he’s a strong mofo who has always walked the walk.
Second, he’s one of the best story tellers I’ve ever seen or heard.
And last but not least, he does an amazing job of keeping things simple and to the point.
So with all that being said, here’s one of my favorite Dan John quotes:
“The goal is to keep the goal, the goal.”
How many times have you been guilty of program jumping?
It’s okay to raise your hand – I’ve been guilty of it myself.
One month I want to improve my movement quality.
The next month, I’m tired of the extra 5-10 pounds I’m carrying around, so it’s time to lean out.
And the month after that, I’m tired of being soft and weak – it’s time to get in the gym and get STRONG like bull!
Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s impossible to see any sort of measurable growth if you’re constantly changing the metric by which you measure growth.
Stop and read that last sentence one more time – and then stop moving the goal posts.
Coming back to another podcast, Ryan Patrick talks about the concept of using 90-day sprints with his clients and athletes.
They sit down on Day 1 and hash out a specific and measurable goal the client wants to achieve.
They formulate a plan.
And for the next three months, they dial in their focus, crank up the intensity, and get to work!
If you’re not seeing the success you want, ask yourself if you’re constantly jumping from goal to goal.
And if so, find one thing you can focus on for the next 90 days, and then commit to it with everything you’ve got.
Chances are you’ll not only achieve that goal, but be even more motivated to continue this trend going forward.
#4 – You NEVER Change the Program
Let’s be honest: Change is hard.
From 2000-2005, I competed in competitive powerlifting, averaging two meets per year.
And from 2002-2005, I had a very set lifting schedule – it looked something like this:
- Tuesday – Squat Day
- Thursday – Bench Day
- Friday/Saturday – Deadlift Day
- Sunday – Accessory Bench Day
Even after I stopped powerlifting, that was still my routine for at least the next 5 years.
And that in and of itself isn’t the problem – having a routine is definitely a good thing.
My issue was that there was so little variety in my programming it eventually started to beat me up.
I’m a big believer that one of the best things you can do for your body is find ways to constantly change your exercises.
While the big rocks can always stay (i.e. squat day is still squat day), find different ways to get that same stimulus.
Front squat for a couple of months.
Swap in a safety bar a couple of times per year.
If the low back is feeling beat up, go with a belt squat instead.
Like Dan John said, the goal is to keep the goal the goal – so if you want to build a big squat, that’s awesome!
But if you haven’t rotate your exercise selection since George W. was in office, it may be time to freshen things up a bit!
#5 – You Can’t Stay Healthy
This final point goes along well with my previous one.
Many of the people that I coach both online and offline have struggled with injuries at some point in their career.
Sometimes it’s a freak accident.
Sometimes it’s an alignment or positional issue that’s driving things.
And sometimes, it’s just poor training and coaching that they’ve received in the past!
One of my biggest selling points to my clients and athletes is that my programs will get you to where you want to go in the safest and most effective way I know how.
Could I get faster gains if I threw caution to the wind?
Hells to the yeah!
But I also know that nothing slows your roll in the gym (or in life) worse than getting injured.
This is something I feel truly separates the pros from the wannabes in our field.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but getting stronger, building muscle, or shedding body fat in the short-term is easy.
The real question becomes, can you do this for an extended period of time without someone getting injured?
I’m a big believer that the biggest, fastest and strongest humans achieved these feats by training consistently for an extended period of time with little (or no interruption).
So if you want to get the most out of your training sessions going forward, dedicate yourself to getting healthy once and for all.
Your body will thank you!
So there you have it – 5 reasons your workouts aren’t working.
What else would you add?
Or is there anything specific I can do to help you get back on track?
If so, leave me a note in the “Comments” section below. I ‘d love to hear from you!
All the best,
BTW – Having a qualified coach is one of the surest ways to help you get (and stay) on track.
If you’d like to work together, just head up to the top right corner and fill out the “Work with Mike” form. I’d love to learn more about you, and see if we’d be a good fit for each other!