5 Common Reasons why you might not be Gaining at the Rate You Want To
1. What is Your Routine?
Although having a routine is an extremely important ingredient to achieving a goal, a routine can also be one of your biggest enemies. A general rule of thumb is to adjust your training every 4-6 weeks in order to avoid a plateau. This general rule of thumb is also one of the most misunderstood training principles. Try to keep the same routine (exercises, exercise order, sets, repetitions, rest periods) for approximately 4-6 weeks at a time. Adjusting your training following this phase could be as simple as adding in supersets or compound sets, changing the repetition ranges and/or the tempos of the working and relaxation phases of the lift. There are many variables that you can change to alter your workout enough to keep your body guessing and stimulate new adaptations. Here is the best example I can think of to help you understand how your body responds to exercise. Think about a child learning to walk. The child takes a step and falls to his knees, realizing that he fell forward, the child stands up, tries to take another step but falls on his bum. Now realizing he has fallen back, the child stands up, takes a step and stumbles to the left, only to fall on his bum again. The child then stands up, stumbles to the right, catches himself and then takes another step forward. What the child did through this process was learn from his mistakes! Your body does the same thing. As you exercise, your body is being broken down and forced to rebuild. If you continuously challenge the body with the same workouts, it will learn how to avoid breaking down and will not be forced to rebuild, hence why you hit a plateau. Changing your routine every 4-6 weeks can prevent this!
2. Are You Training for a Goal?
Probably one of the biggest mistakes that is made in training is that people do not train for a goal. Typically when we teach ourselves how to exercise we learn from those around us who “look” like they know what they are doing. What I encourage you to remember; what works for someone else will likely not work for you. You are very unique and different than almost every human being in this world. Do not fall into the trap of following a workout you see in a magazine or online. Yes, that workout might provide you what you need to make some gains, BUT you will be limited because a generic workout is not designed for your unique needs. In this case, you have two options, 1) seek the help of a professional or 2) educate yourself and learn about exercise prescription. Do not follow 90% of the gym population and let the weight determine how many repetitions and sets you do. Your training goal should determine the weight you lift. That is one piece of advice that is consistent for everyone!
3. How do you layout your week and your workout?
Most people (including me some weeks) take part in international chest day, which occurs on Monday of every week. Do not follow the same routine as everyone else. Design your weeks to train the largest muscle groups earlier in the week (Legs and Back) and then as the week goes on work towards the smaller muscle groups (Chest, Shoulders, Arms). Your workouts should be designed in the same fashion. Perform your most difficult lifts (Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Bent Over Rows, Pull-Ups, Overhead Presses, Bench Presses) earlier in your workouts and then the less complex movements (Leg Curls/Extensions, Chest Flys, Lateral and Front Shoulder Raises, Biceps Curls, Triceps Extensions) later in the workouts. This will allow you to focus on having more energy for your larger muscle groups and better technique while performing your more difficult movements at the start of the week and the beginning of the workout. You do not have to train one muscle group a day, be creative! You can group muscle areas together on one day or have full body days. In my experience I always like to start the week with Chest and Back, followed by Legs and Shoulders and then Core and Arms and then I cycle through this again in a 7-day period. Keep in mind that this is a very advanced week for an advanced lifter but it allows them to meet the guidelines for an advanced program. They are able to hit each muscle area 2-3 times in a 7-day cycle, it allows them 48-72 hours of rest before the same muscle group is exercised again and it allows for one rest day in the 7-day cycle. Again, I cannot stress enough that everyone is unique. Principles of training need to be adapted for every unique individual!
4. Are you performing the Exercises with Proper Technique?
One of my biggest pet peeves in any fitness facility is seeing people exercising just because they know it is the healthy thing to do. Not performing exercise with proper technique can be equally as dangerous in some cases as not exercising at all! You need to become a student of exercise, as there is a proper technique to all exercises. Some general reminders when performing all exercises are, 1) Keep the core tight. Pull your belly button in towards your spine. 2) Keep your chest up and make sure your shoulders are pulled down and back (emphasizing proper posture). 3) Work through a full range of motion and control the weight. You control the resistance; do not let the resistance control you. 4) Always try to avoid exercising with a flexed spine. Performing exercise with a flexed spine can be dangerous. 5) Breathe. Exhale on the working phase of the exercise and inhale on the relaxation phase. Lastly, ALWAYS remember that what you do to one side of your body, you must do to the other side of your body. Just because you cannot see your back, does not mean it should not be trained. Train all muscles of the body, not just the ones you see in the mirror. In fact, with the back muscles being some of the largest in the body, I recommend spending more time training your back muscles than most other muscles because they require a larger stimulus to grow and adapt.
5. Did you Consider All of The Dimensions of Fitness
Lastly, but not least, there are multiple dimensions of fitness. Resistance training is only one of them. The dimensions of fitness are strength, speed, agility, endurance and flexibility. Many people tend to ignore the heart and only spend time moving resistance however the heart is more important than the rest of the body because it is the main muscle that will feed the rest of your muscles. If your heart is not strong enough, the rest of your body will suffer. The other most underappreciated dimension of fitness is flexibility. Poor flexibility could be the reason you suffer from low back pain, headaches, sore neck and shoulders, sore knees or even sore feet. All of these things are directly related to your flexibility. Three days of your week should be spent working on your flexibility as it has a large impact on your quality of life. But remember; never stretch a cold muscle, as a cold muscle is susceptible to injury. Always warm-up and work through a comfortable range of motion. Yoga is an excellent method of improving your flexibility. If you are stretching on your own, to increase the length of a muscle, you generally need to hold a stretch for 30 seconds.
I know there is a lot to remember and a lot to learn. When I started out in health and fitness I felt the same way. Take things in stride. Do not look for overnight quick fixes. Make the commitment to a lifelong lifestyle change and you will not be disappointed. And lastly, never hesitate to ask questions. There are people like myself who have dedicated their life to helping others so please ask questions.Add me to Facebook – Nick Petrella Follow me on Twitter @nickjpetrella or @corefusion1 Email me at email@example.com Subscribe to my Youtube Channel at Core Fusion Check out my website at http://www.mohawkcollege.ca/corefusion.
I am here to help and I love meeting new people.
Remember – “If you do not make time for exercise now, be prepared to make time for illness later” ~ Jim Rohn