The Top 10 Ways to Tell Your Workouts Aren’t Working

Workouts suck? Find out and fix them with these tips...

Do your workouts suck? Find out and fix them with these tips...

So I like to maintain a pretty regular schedule when I workout.  I try to hit the gym the same time, everyday.  Being a creature of habit, I come across a lot of the same people doing the same thing.  Being the obsessive-compulsive fitness person that I am, I can’t help but take notice of what they’re doing.  I like to see who’s looking better, who’s looking the same, and who clearly is there soley because their “loving” significant other bought them a gym membership for their birthday.

This day-in, day-out routine however has afforded me the opportunity for a little real-life pseudo case study.  I’ve been watching the habits of people who are making progress and those who aren’t.  I’m seeing their workouts and what they’re doing and it’s clear some of it just isn’t working.  Before you start thinking I’ve got a creepy stalker vibe going on, let me say, I’ve been going to the same gym and seeing the same people for almost 4 years now…it’s hard not to take notice after all that time what the regulars are doing…and how they’re looking.

1.  You’re Not Getting Stronger.  Maybe this one is a little obvious, but it’s amazing how many people chug along doing the same weights, reps, etc. for YEARS on end.  If you’re maxing out after 10 pull ups and you’ve been working out regularly for years, it might be time to admit your workouts aren’t up to snuff.  Adding variation, different type of lift formats, using different exercises, even getting a spotter can do wonders for your strenght gains.

2.  You Decide What You’re Doing When You Walk Into The Gym.  If you don’t have a plan before you’re in the gym, you’re already fighting an uphill battle.  Studies have shown those who have a thought out and well-designed plan and schedule will make more progress.  Your workouts need to be scheduled; this is how you avoid overtraining, ignoring certain aspects of your fitness, and wasting your time.  If you need a plan created, we’ll be happy to do it for you.  If you feel comfortable doing it yourself, I suggest you go ahead and do that.  A extremely cliche, but true statement nontheless; failing to plan is planning to fail.  Stop planning to fail.

3.  You’ve Got the Fear.  That’s right, you’ve got the fear.  You’re afraid to try new exercises because A) They’re too hard. B) You don’t know how to do them. C) You feel embarassed.  A) Exercise is supposed to be hard.  Always doing easy things doesn’t result in much progress. B) Come on over to and we’ll demo any exercise under the sun and put you in contact with a fitness professional to further explain if that isn’t enough.  No excuses.  C) No one cares – no one is looking at you.  This one is in your head and it’s all on you to break this made up feeling that everyone is judging you.

4.  You’ve Settled.  Maybe you are stronger than most, maybe you have less body fat than most, maybe you look better than most every one else in your gym.  But you know what?  You’re still not at your full potential.  You’ve settled for pretty good.  If pretty good is enough for you, then keep doing what you’re doing.  If you want to realize your full potential and step it up to the NEXT level, it’s time to examine what you’re doing and find ways to improve upon it.

5.  You’re Workouts Coincide with a Clock.  I see this all the time, people get into the gym at 3pm and they’re heading for the door as soon as the clock strikes 4.  You shouldn’t put yourself on a time schedule; sometimes workouts need to go longer, sometimes shorter if you’re going extra intense.  By limiting how long you can workout, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage and will never realize your full potential.  Finish your workout when you’ve completely exhausted yourself, not when a pre-determined amount of time is up.

6.  You Don’t Supplement Your Workouts Properly.  Even an awesome workout plan is going to take a hit if your nutrition isn’t on point.  Whey protein after every workout, ample protein sources, don’t completely avoid carbs (healthy ones!), eat an abundance of fresh veggies and to a lesser degree, fruit.  If you don’t put fuel in the Ferrari, the Ferrai isn’t moving, despite what’s under the hood.  You’ll never know if your workouts are awesome or awful if you don’t give yourself a chance to make gains and perform at a high level….which is accomplished by having a good, clean diet.

7.  You Forget You Have a Lower Body. Sooo many people seem to simply forget about their lower bodies in the gym (mostly men).  They work their upper body and beach muscles, but ignore their lower half.  This is a bad idea for two reasons; first, you look ridiculous with a defined upper body and chicken legs and two, lifting with your legs will help you make faster gains everywhere else.  How’s that work?  Well, your legs are the biggest muscle group in your body, and when you work this massive muscle group, hormones are released that promote muscle gain, fat loss, and an overall lean, athletic physique.  By lifting with your legs you’ll be doing a big favor to all of the other areas of your body you want to improve.

8.  Your Workouts Don’t Change.  It seems most people cycle through 3-4 different workouts…endlessly.  Gains become less frequent, less noticeable, and you end up wasting your time.  Every 4-6 weeks, it’s time to completely revamp what you’re doing.  Looking for ideas on how to do this?  Try using different exercises, heavier weights, lower weights/higher reps, drop sets, pyramid sets, increased total time under tension, german volume training, varied HIIT intervals, short rest between sets, 5×5 sets, incorporate yoga/pilates or other group fitness classes, start super setting….as you can see, there are MANY ways to mix up a workout plan…you’ve just got to do it.

9.  You’re Working Out For the Wrong Reasons. Are you working out to get stronger, burn fat, improve your physique, better your health, or a combination of all of the above?  Or are you working out because you think you should be, you feel bad about yourself if your not at the gym, and simply going throught he motions makes you feel less guilty?  When you’re at the gym for the wrong reasons, you’re just wasting your time.  Being in the gym jogging on the treadmill for an hour may make you feel like you’ve done something, but in reality, you’re not doing a whole lot of good.  You need to set a reachable goal, work towards it, achieve it, then set another higher, but still reachable goal.  Without a goal, you’re simply at the gym because you think you should be…and no one gets a good workout when they’re just going throught he motions.

10.  You Don’t Keep a Journal.  This one is a pain in the ass, I’m not going to lie.  I literally have to force myself to do it, and if I’m being totally honest, there are days or even weeks at a time where I don’t keep up my journal.  Keeping a journal allows you to see your progress, which is a great indicator if you’re not making progress, i.e. your workouts suck.  Without that cold, hard info in front of you, you simply may not realize you’ve only been able to manage a max of 8 pull ups since 2008.  If you aren’t charting gains, it’s time to explore other ways to break through your plateau and get you back on the progress train.

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One thought on “The Top 10 Ways to Tell Your Workouts Aren’t Working”

  1. I love that you put things so bluntly. I have friends who complain about not losing weight or getting in shape, etc, and they just don’t want to hear the truth of the matter most of the time. It’s sad. And as someone who dropped a lot of weight only after consistently working out hard for 60+ mins most days and watching what I ate did the weight ever decide to shed. (it’s like it took my metabolism that long to really get its act together), it’s hard for me to be sympathetic when people aren’t willing to exert the effort necessary to make changes. So thank you for pointing these things out.

    That said, #5 and #10 are two things I definitely could work on. I usually only have my lunch hour to crank out a workout (thankfully I can go a little long if I need to) these days, so I really have to make the most of it if I want to be efficient. I keep a pretty generic log on my calendar of what I’ve done every day, but never any specifics to weights, levels, reps, etc. I’m sure I could see a lot more strides if I took the extra time to document.

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