10 Reasons Why You Are Not Making Progress

by Rhaea Stinn

by Alyssa Smith

Working with clients and working on myself has taught me many valuable lessons. One of those lessons being that there will come a time where your progress will eventually diminish or stall- this can lead to an extreme loss of motivation and can be extremely frustrating. We’ve all been there before and I can tell you I’ve made almost every single one of these mistakes.

Here are 10 reasons why you may not be making progress:

1) You’re Impatient (Easy Cowboy)

You want results and you want them now.

With the amount of work you put into the weight room you expect to see instantaneous results. Whether it be you want to compete in your first competition next month but you just started training, you want to put 50lbs on your squat by the end of the month and 100lbs on your deadlift next week. The fact of the matter is, it’s highly unlikely, if not impossible and you should probably re-evaluate your goals.

You’re impatient, you fail to realize that results take time and there’s a process involved. You tend to expect a lot from yourself in a short period of time and when you don’t meet your expectations it feeds your frustrations. When extreme frustrations arise your patience is limited and you usually move on to another goal and give up all together.

We’ve all done it before, I know I have. It’s important to realize that the majority of the time what you set out to do takes time, effort, blood, sweat and tears. It won’t happen overnight and you need to keep plugging away at what you’re trying to accomplish in order to get there.

Remember, giving up won’t get you any closer.

Female Powerlifter Competing

2) You Deviate From The Plan (Follow the Process)

You don’t listen.

Let’s say you’re following a program that calls for 3 sets of 5 reps @ 315lbs on the back squat and you’re feeling ambitious so you decide to either increase the weight or the sets. Though this may seem productive at the time, depending on the situation you could be hurting yourself more in the long run.

Overtime the volume or intensity may become too high and you will either run yourself down or become injured.

On the other spectrum, maybe you were busy one week and missed a few workouts and decided to cram everything into one day. Again, this may seem like a good idea at the time but will likely do more harm than good- it’s flat out death waiting to happen.

Eventually, you will become injured, discouraged and/or feel defeated and want to try something different for the sole reason, you didn’t trust the process. You allowed your ego to get in the way before you could even give the program a chance and see what progress could have been made.

Essentially, you become a program hopper, which will never allow you to make any sort of "real" progress.

Always trust the process and follow the plan, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with consistency and effort. 

3) Eating Too Much (Usually Junk)

You tend to reward yourself far more often than you should because you feel that you deserve it (guilty as charged right here ha-ha). Let’s be real though, just because you made it to the gym four times in a week doesn’t mean that you deserve a bag of cookies or an entire pizza.

“But I was so good all week, I deserved a little cheat. I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight” is a classic and I hear it on a weekly basis. You’re making positive changes, don’t sabotage them by consuming 2000 calories in cookies and pizza (and I don’t care if it’s paleo or gluten free, it’s still junk). When you actually start making recognizable progress then perhaps you can look into having a reasonable “cheat meal”.

Until then, keep training and stop rewarding yourself with food, you’re not a dog.    

Female Powerlifter - Lifting

4) Eating Too Little (Please Eat)

Not eating enough is equally as bad as eating too much. Don’t ignore the fact that you’re hungry to convince yourself you’re melting away fat, because you’re not, you’re doing the exact opposite. When you ignore this feeling you’re starving yourself and the next thing you put into your body will be stored as fat.

Your body needs calories to function optimally and for any progress to be made. If you're not providing yourself with an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, then your body will find ways to get them even if it’s at the cost of your health. Leptin, the hormone responsible for regulating body fat and weight, will sky rocket, and any kind of fat loss or strength gain will be non-existent.

Do your body a favor and eat good quality foods frequently and the results will follow.

5) You’re Stressed (Deep Breaths)

No matter the circumstance, stress is a dangerous thing. Whether it is relationship problems, work stress, over training, family stress, any stress will raise your cortisol levels and will make it nearly impossible to stay on track and make progress.

Cortisol is a hormone released into your body when you’re stressed. Though, stress is essential to stay alive, when cortisol levels rise too high it can be detrimental to your progress and more importantly your health.

Stress is hard to overcome. Always make sure you’re taking the steps to create a less stressful environment; sleep more, meditate, whatever it is that keeps you less stressed do it. You’ll feel better physically, mentally and emotionally and you’ll have a better chance at moving forward and making progress.

Male Powerlifter - Benchpress

6) You’re Not Sleeping (Go to Bed)

Sleeping is one of the most under-undervalued aspects for continuous progress. With lack of sleep (anything under 7-8 hours) the body doesn’t have time to repair and grow muscle cells. Your recovery will suffer and hinder any sort of progression because it’s under too much stress. It will affect your mood, increase injury rate, performance and mental capacity. Lack of sleep will make it challenging to do anything.

Sleep and sleep quality will allow your body to heal, rest, repair and grow. Ensure you have adequate sleep and behave in a way that will allow you to sleep soundly and efficiently to allow for continuous progression.    

7) You’re in Pain (Take a Step Back)

You’re in pain all the time. I’m not talking about muscle soreness; I’m talking about real pain the kind that doesn’t simply disappear after a few days, the pain that you constantly ignore in hopes that it will eventually dissipate and fix itself overtime.

You give it 110% when you’re in the weight room, but you neglect to take care of your body when it needs it most. You forget to warm-up, stretch, so on and so forth that your body becomes so tight and restricted that it becomes hard to perform optimally on a regular basis and your risk for injury is increased substantially.

Sometimes it’s important to step back and take care of your issues because they will only get worse if you keep ignoring them.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Powerlifter - Benchpress

8) You’re Stubborn (You’re Not Invincible)

You’re too stubborn for your own good. You ignore pain, grind through reps and sets and no progress is being made but you’re convinced what you’re doing will work.

The reality is it won’t. Being in constant agony, grinding through reps and sets in training everyday all day will not necessarily lead you in the direction you’re hoping it will; if anything it will set you back more than your think leaving you feeling burnout out or worse injured.

Sometimes it’s important to realize you’re not invincible, check your ego and assess what’s working and what’s not and move forward from there.

9) You Ask For Advice That You Don’t Apply (THE WORST)

You ask for advice on how to progress faster and somehow use the word “but”. If you’re asking for advice, it usually means you’re unhappy with some aspect in your training and are seeking ways to become better but for some reason you always find excuses not to apply the advice.

If you’re asking an experienced lifter, trainer or coach remember they are taking time to respond and give you appropriate advice so you can apply it to your training. Instead of saying things like “but that sounds complicated” or “but that takes too much time” or whatever other excuse you come up with, listen and apply.

If you’re going to ask for advice, really want it and be prepared to apply it. If you don’t and the lifter you’re seeking advice from hears you make an excuse or notices you applied absolutely nothing to your training it becomes offensive to them, it shows you lack commitment, you’re not willing to make a change and moreover you’re wasting that person’s time.

Don’t argue with advice that you sought out, it’s just not cool.

Female Powerlifter Competing

10) You’re Not Doing It Right (Ate a Poutine, Trying to Lose 10lbs)

A lot of the time you do all the wrong things when trying to achieve a specific outcome.

If you’re a powerlifter, train like one and stop doing countless hours of cardio. If you’re trying to lose 10lbs, stop smashing those donuts. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, stop restricting your calories and eat more.

Although these seem very obvious to most, it’s far too often you’re guilty of behaving in a way that’s being counterproductive to achieving a specific outcome.

Always be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish and ensure you’re doing the right things to get you there.

All in all, at some point you’ll stop progressing, you’ll have to evaluate some of the reasons as to why and make the necessary changes in order to strive towards your goals. If you’re doing the same thing and your progress has stalled why would you expect a different outcome? We all make mistakes but it’s what we learn from these mistakes that allow us to move forward and continue making progress.

“Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey”.