The Five Reasons You’re Not Succeeding

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What’s the most important reason you hit the gym? Is it to get stronger? To shed some unwanted bodyfat? Or is it simply to look and feel great?

Regardless of what your goals are, the worst thing is when you don’t see any progress. After all, the top reasons people completely stop going to the gym is because they either aren’t getting results or they aren’t getting results quickly enough!


Seeing results is always motivation to continue.

I’ve worked with a ton of females, and here are five of the biggest reasons you may not be enjoying the kind of success you’d expect in the gym.

Reason #1) You Haven’t Defined “Progress”

The cardinal sin of going to the gym is going just so you can “work out.”

You know these people. You see them in the gym, day after day, week after week, year after year, and they always look the same. They show up and “work out.” If you aspire to be better tomorrow than you are today, you’ve got to commit yourself to training. In order to train, you need to have a goal.

I can’t tell you how many new clients come to me with completely general goals. “I want to lose some weight.” “I want to tone up a bit.” “I think I want to use that machine.” You know these people. Maybe you even used to be one!

To really start on the path to success, you need to make your goals S.M.A.R.T.

A general goal would be, “I want to lose some weight,” but a SMART goal would look more like this:

This goal is specific because you’ve stated clearly what it is that you want — to lose 10 pounds of bodyfat in two months. “I want to lose some weight” has no specificity whatsoever. What’s “some weight?” That inch you can pinch? Everything you’ve gained since college? Who knows?


Having a specific goal lets you know when you get there.

This goal is measurable because at the end of two months, you’ve either you’ve lost 10 pounds of bodyfat… or you haven’t! Again, “some weight” could be 8% of your current bodyfat or it could be 12 pounds of water weight, depending upon where you’re starting from. It’s unclear.

Assuming you aren’t already shredded to the bone, your goal should be both attainable and realistic. These factors are very important. If you shoot too low, you won’t challenge yourself and there’s really no sense in setting that goal in the first place. “Lose 7 pounds before we colonize Mars,” isn’t really much of a challenge.

If you’re unrealistic and overestimate your goals, saying that you want to lose 20 pounds of bodyfat in 10 days, you’ll lose motivation because there’s no chance in hell you’re going to pull that off safely. Making sure that your goals are realistic and attainable is integral to the entire goal-setting process.

Finally, a timely goal is one with a deadline. “I want to lose some weight” has no timeline and no sense of urgency. It’s open-ended so you can take your sweet time until “some weight” finally drops off. By putting that concrete date of two months on the calendar, you’re immediately “on the clock” and you’re forced to come up with a game plan to help you achieve your goal.

No one understands this concept better than a figure competitor. Could you imagine glancing at a calendar and knowing that in 10 weeks, you’re stepping on stage, under a spotlight, in a skimpy bikini?

Well, I can’t (being an uber-tough guy and all), but hopefully you can. These people understand that a deadline is a great motivator to achieving your goals!



If you haven’t done this already, take a moment and think about what your current goals actually are. Once you’ve taken some time and concentrated on it, come up with at least one goal and put it into the SMART format. If you’d like, put your goal up in this Article Discussion thread, so that others can help keep you on track!

Reason #2) You Suffer from Training A.D.D.

Believe it or not, the only thing that might be worse than not having a goal, is having too many goals! One of my all-time favorite clients is a lady I used to work with here in Indianapolis. When I first started working with her, her list of goals looked something like this:

Be in great shape to walk half-marathons. Train in Pilates twice per week. Take a spinning class once per week. Become a better golfer. Lose 5% bodyfat. Get back to pre-baby weight. Rehab a few minor injuries. Get stronger in the basic lifts.

As you can imagine, this lead to some serious training overload! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being a jack-of-all-trades. However, if you’re really serious about one goal, you need to make that your priority. There’s always one thing that’s more important than all the others, even if it’s only temporarily.


Focus on one goal at a time, for better progress.

A lot of the women I work with are primarily interested in getting stronger while losing bodyfat. While that may sound simple enough (and some people can achieve both at the same time), when you get to a certain level, it pays off to spend time focusing more on one goal while maintaining the other fitness properties.

For example, if you want to get stronger and lose bodyfat, you might spend the first month or two focusing on the big, basic lifts to bring your strength up, while you maintain your current level of bodyfat. After those two months, you’d switch the programming to help maintain that new found strength while shedding some bodyfat.

If you tried to achieve both goals at the same time, you’d see sub-par results in both categories, and you’d end up overtrained, frustrated, or possibly injured. As Chris Shugart has said before, “When you try chasing two rabbits, both will escape.”


If you’ve got 25 goals on your list, all of which are in various states of “accomplishment,” pick the one or two that are most important to you right now. The ones that, if you got achieved them tomorrow, would have the biggest effect on you. Once you’ve chosen, plan them out using the SMART formula, and get to work.

Reason #3) Your Program Sucks

I hate to tell you this, but a lot of the training programs out there are flat-out terrible. Far too often, people will pick up the latest “training bible”-of-the-month at the newsstand, and not knowing any better, they’ll follow that training program to the letter.

Never mind the fact that most people have zero desire to look like a professional bodybuilder, or the fact that most of the people featured in today’s training magazines are on enough “supplements” to kill a rhinoceros.

The bottom line is this: If you’re training hard, recovering well, and eating a proper and nutritious diet that’s in line with your goals, and you’re still not seeing results, you need to re-examine your training program.


Strength coach Dan John has often said of training programs, “Everything works. But nothing works forever.” It’s a simple statement, but it’s damn true. The training plan that takes you from 20% bodyfat to 17% may not take you from 17% to 14%. Unfortunately, improving our strength or physique is almost never a linear process.

While it would be impossible for me to write a training program for every imaginable goal, understand that there is no Holy Grail, and, the rule we learned in kindergarten still applies to training… everyone is a little bit different, and that’s okay. Whatever your goal may be, make sure you seek out someone who designs programs geared towards your goals.


Once your goals have been determined (using the SMART formula), seek out an authority who’s designed programs for this specific goal. Follow that program for at least one month, and then determine if it’s working for you or not.

And in case you forgot, already has a whole heap of programs for different goals you can refer to.

Reason #4) You’re Not Lifting Heavy Things

I may catch some flack for this, but it’s unfortunately still true. Too often, women don’t lift heavy enough weights. They tend to avoid it because, like, you know, lifting heavy things is guaranteed to blow you up bigger than the Michelin man, and it makes your thighs rival those of Serena Williams.


That’s alright, but can we get her arms and athletic ability too? Thanks.

I’m not telling you to become “powerlifter strong”… unless, of course, that’s your goal. What I am telling you is that, generally, women would gladly trade volume (doing more reps) for more intensity (using more weight).

All I ask is that you push yourself when it comes to the weights that you choose. Even if you’re in a fat-burning phase and you’re performing 8 reps in a set, 8 reps with 30 pounds will get you to your goal faster than 20 pounds will.

Really try to push yourself from week to week. If you hit a personal record (PR) on a lift one week, that’s great! But don’t be afraid to continue pushing it. Far too often, our progress is limited by our minds, not by our bodies.


When you’re in the gym this week, try to add weight to every single exercise you perform. I don’t care if it’s just one pound or ten. Focus on adding some new weight to the bar. Big changes aren’t seen all at once. They’re the result of many smaller victories along the way.

Reason #5) You Don’t Have a Great Support System

The final reason you may not be seeing rapid progress is the people you have around you. I don’t care if your life’s goal is to get shredded for the beach, to become a concert pianist, or to make a million dollars. If you have a poor support system, your chances of achieving that your goals aren’t good at all.

I’ve seen this happen in both good and bad situations. Guys who are already strong have traveled to Westside Barbell (arguably the best powerlifting gym in the world), and their strength excels to superhuman levels. They’re constantly surrounded by supportive and like-minded individuals. The support system and atmosphere is incredible, and they have no choice but to succeed.

power lifting

Westside takes their lifting pretty seriously… and that’s why it’s one of the best.

In contrast, I see people that have all the tools to succeed — great genetics, an expert’s training program, and a work-ethic that would make Michael Jordan cringe. The problem is that they’re surrounded by bums. People that are going to bring them down, simply because they themselves are unhappy.

It’s really easy to be average. There’s a certain comfort in being mediocre. And the sad truth is that sometimes, the people closest to us like for us to be average; it makes them feel better about themselves.


It’s been said that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. At the risk of sounding like an armchair psychologist, I ask you to take a good, hard look at the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Are they supportive of you, your lifestyle, and your overall goals?

If not, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your relationship with each person. If they aren’t concerned with your well-being, goals, and desires, then maybe they don’t deserve to be a part of your life. I can guarantee it won’t be easy to do this. But in the long run, it will be worth it.

Enough Excuses, Now Change It

Now you know the top five reasons you aren’t seeing the progress you’d hoped for, and more importantly, you know how to fix each of them. So, what are your goals? What are the reasons you aren’t achieving ultimate success?

Sometimes taking a step back, to re-evaluate our training and our lives, can allow us to make some giant steps forward. Good luck!


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