The process of getting stronger doesn't have to be complicated—really, it's about sticking with what works. Keep reading for the three main reasons you're not reaching your gains goals, plus how to hack your routine to get there.
1. You're mixing too many different modalities
To see measurable results in any fitness routine, you'll want to stick with one primary training modality. If you're only strength training one day a week (and spending your other sessions doing cardio), it's going to be challenging to build muscle. The reason? Your muscle fibers won't be exposed to the level of stress they need to grow. Muscle stress is imperative to building strength because it causes micro-tears of your muscle fibers, and when your body repairs these tears, they come back stronger. Generally speaking, beginners should start with one to two total-body strength sessions per week. If you're more advanced, three to four total-body sessions will suffice.
If your goal is to build muscle and get stronger, resistance training is your best bet. If you're a beginner, working with your body weight is a great place to start, and as you begin to build strength, you can add more resistance with weights. And to help maximize your results and save time, your workouts should consist of compound exercises, like squats and deadlifts, that target multiple areas at once and force you to exert more energy than the isolated movements, like tricep dips, that target a single area.
2. Not sticking to a workout plan
Doing the same activities over and over can feel mundane, but it's necessary if you want to put on muscle and increase your strength—which is why it's essential to develop a workout plan. For example, let's say your goal is to strengthen your legs. Doing four sets of 12 deadlifts once isn't going to make much difference—you'll be sore at most—but doing that same workout for four to six weeks and progressively increasing the weight will.
If you're training four times a week, I recommend repeating those same four workouts for four to six weeks, making sure that you're working in a repetition range that's conducive to muscle growth and lifting weights that will help increase your strength. And if you're someone who needs to mix things up, schedule an active recovery day or a "free" day where you can do other modalities like Pilates, cycling, or running.
3. Not focusing on your recovery and nutrition
Lifestyle variables—like nutrition, recovery, and sleep—also impact your ability to get stronger. You'll want to make sure you're eating enough to support your energy needs when you're training and in your everyday life, which according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for females. Your caloric needs will vary based on your lifestyle and goals, so you may want to work with a primary care physician or a registered dietitian to help create an individualized nutrition plan for you.
In addition to your nutrition, you'll need to focus on your recovery. Properly warming up and cooling down will better prepare you for your training sessions, and help you prevent injury and burnout. Adding mobility work into your routine can also help maximize your performance as you train, improve your overall movement, and reduce and prevent pain and injury.
Another factor to focus on is getting quality sleep; it's recommended adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night. A good night's rest will not only prep you to go all out on the mat, but it's also essential for muscle repair and growth. As you sleep, your body secretes a muscle growth hormone, which works to repair the micro-tears that occur from strength training and make your muscles stronger.
Because training is nuanced and individualized, use these tips as a starting point. If you have the access and means, consider working with a certified personal trainer who can provide you with more specific tips and tools to help you reach your fitness goals.
Get stronger glutes with this equipment-free workout:
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