Why Am I Not Getting Stronger? 13 Possible Reasons
For many women, strength training is an incredibly empowering pursuit and their top choice when it comes to training styles. To start as a beginner, then see your strength increase and discover you are capable of so much more than you ever thought possible - what an amazing feeling that is! Often, that newfound sense of confidence, empowerment and self-discovery also starts to spill over into other areas of your life.
But one thing that can put a real dampener on your strength training journey is feeling like you simply aren’t getting stronger. It’s a common experience that can happen during any stage of your fitness journey and can lead to frustration, deflation or even giving up.
Whether you’ve been training for a few weeks or a few years, it helps to know what could be getting in your way. Here are 13 reasons why - pop them in your back pocket to keep you building your strength, inside AND out.
You’re not being patient or consistent enough
Before we dig into elements of your training routine that could be halting your strength gains, remember that patience and consistency are the bedrock of seeing results from any workout program. Increasing your strength and muscle mass is a gradual process that can take months or even years, so if you’ve just started a new program and are wondering why you’re not seeing any change, move your goalposts forward a few months.
Progress and results require regular effort and consistency, week in and week out. You’re not going to see noticeable strength gains if you’re only doing one workout per week, nor if you constantly dip in and out of a program.
Stick to it, keep showing up and be patient. That’s where a lot of the magic lies.
You don’t have realistic or specific goals
Setting yourself up for success goes hand in hand with setting clear goals for yourself. Sure, you want to get stronger, but what does that actually mean and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
SMART goals are a great way to clearly define what it is you’re working towards, by making your vision Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. Perhaps you want to be able to perform 20 consecutive pushups on your toes in three months’ time, complete one unassisted pull-up in six months, or back squat 50 kg by the end of the year.
Creating a vision of what getting “stronger” truly means to you can give you helpful indicators of when you’re making progress, when to celebrate, and when it’s time to set new goals!
You’re not lifting heavy enough
If you want to be able to lift heavier, you have to lift heavier. It’s as simple as that. Your strength training needs to put enough stress on your muscles to cause micro-tears in the fibres - a natural process where your muscles then repair and grow stronger.
You might be consistently smashing four workouts every week, but if your weights are too light or you don’t feel challenged, making progress is unlikely. Sweat programs like BUILD and Strength & Sculpt are designed using training principles like progressive overload to continually stimulate your body and elicit those strength gains.
Progressive overload means elements of your workouts are regularly changing as your body adapts and what was once hard becomes easy. Not sure how much you should be lifting? Katie Martin has got you covered.
You’re not following a proper strength training program
Although forms of exercise like cycling, hiking and yoga can help to strengthen your muscles, if you’re looking for more significant gains, your best bet is to follow a proper program designed to build strength and muscle.
Walking into your workout space or the gym and doing a bunch of random strength exercises also can be fun, but a structured program is where it’s at if you have strength goals in mind.
Sweat’s strength programs aren’t just designed to look nice on a screen - a huge amount of thought and planning goes into each program and workout to maximise your results, from the exercises and number of workouts per week to the structure of reps, sets and rest periods.
You’re lifting too heavy
Finding the sweet spot with your weight selection is key so you can complete the specified number of reps with the correct form and be close to failure on your final rep.
If you’re lifting too heavy, you may start to compromise on your form, engage the wrong muscles during the movement, be unable to complete the full number of reps, or increase your risk of injury. Definitely challenge yourself with your weight selection, but try to leave your ego at the door.
You’re not eating enough
As well as stimulating your muscles in the gym, you need to refuel and support your recovery with good nutrition. Aim to include a source of lean protein in every meal and enjoy high-protein snacks, as this macronutrient is essential for muscle recovery and repair.
Carbohydrates are important for energy and recovery, and healthy fats support hormone regulation and energy, too. Aside from eating a balanced, nutritious diet with all three macronutrients, don’t forget to eat enough food and calories in general. Performing well during your workouts and gaining muscle can be a real challenge if your body isn’t properly fuelled!
You’re not prioritising rest and recovery
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - your muscles recover and grow during your rest time, not your workout time. If you’re doing full-body workouts, you should have at least one rest day between each workout, or you can opt for body split workouts where you alternate between different muscle groups each day.
You’re working out too much
Just because you’re spending a lot of time training doesn’t mean your training is effective. Always prioritise quality over quantity when planning your workout schedule.
You’re exercising with an injury
No matter how determined you might be to achieve your goals or get back to your usual workout schedule, exercising with an injury is a bad idea. The obvious risk is it can exacerbate your injury and set you back even further, but you might also start to perform exercises incorrectly to compensate for the sore or weak area.
Having sore muscles (aka DOMS) is one thing, but you should always seek and follow the advice of a healthcare professional when it comes to strains, sprains and issues with bones or joints.
You’re rushing through your workouts
Getting the most out of each movement often means moving with control and at a tempo that engages and challenges your muscles. For a more effective back squat for example, you want to bend into the squat with control, pause at the bottom of the movement and then power up with a big squeeze of your glutes.
Performing squats this way will take longer than if you were aiming to get them done as quickly as possible, but the strength gains will be much greater! There’s power in slowing down.
You have poor form or mobility
Let’s continue with the squat example. If you’ve set yourself a goal to build your lower-body strength and squats are a key part of your training program, the first thing is to make sure you’re performing them correctly. Proper form is essential if you want to see improvements in your strength.
With a squat, you might be robbing yourself of results by only doing a quarter or half squat, or engaging your quads more than your glutes to power each rep.
Filming yourself can be a quick way to check if your form is correct, or you can ask a staff member to help you if you’re in a gym. If your form or mobility needs work, that’s ok and is worth dedicating time to. Getting stronger is a long game, and nailing the foundations will only help you in years to come.
There’s not enough variety in your training
Can we keep the squat example going one more time? We sure can! Squats are an amazing way to build lower-body and core strength, but you would be limiting your strength gains if they were the only exercise you ever did.
Variety is the spice of life and the spice of your workout routine, so it’s best to include a range of different exercises in your routine, as well as throwing in some variety when it comes to your workout structure. The good news? Most Sweat programs do this for you! Changing up the weights, reps, sets, rest periods, exercise order or lifting tempo can keep your body continually challenged.
You’re focusing on your low days
Are you really not getting stronger? Or are you just getting hung up about your bad days?
Even the fittest, strongest person doesn’t perform at their best every single day, due to factors such as tiredness, stress, nutrition, hydration and different stages of your menstrual cycle. Giving yourself grace is a must.
Remember that progress isn’t linear
Finally, know that plateaus are a normal part of everybody’s fitness journey. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, just like it doesn’t always happen in a steady linear fashion. If you’re putting in the work, getting your rest and fuelling your body, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger you.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.