By Nicole
Are you hitting the wall with your training and not seeing any progress? You haven’t skipped workouts and your nutrition and recovery are both on point, so what are you doing wrong?

It might be the workouts themselves, or the way you’re working out. Here are four factors that could be holding you back from reaching your goals.

Always doing the same workout. The human body is amazing at adapting to outside stimuli. That’s the basis of working out. Lifting weights coaxes your muscles to get stronger and grow bigger. But if you do the same workout with the same exercises, weights, sets, and reps, the body gets used to the stimulus and stops adapting (changing).

Change your workouts periodically. I know we all have favorite exercises and workouts but even these will stop being effective if you do them all the time. Try different exercises, change the order of you do them, use a different set/rep scheme, pair up different body parts, train on different days, etc. The possibilities are endless (there are new workouts all the time at!). Doing something different also keeps you mentally fresh. You can always come back to your favorites later on. In fact, it gives you something to look forward to.

Overdoing cardio (longer duration, frequency) because fat loss has slowed down. Cardio is the go-to fitness protocol for shedding body fat (remember it’s only effective if you follow a healthy meal plan), so it’s natural to see people spending a lot of their gym time on the various cardio machines. It’s also great for your heart and cardiovascular system. However, overdoing cardio in an effort to burn fat quickly can actually have the opposite effect. Your cortisol levels go up, putting your body into a catabolic state, which means you’ll start to lose muscle. This lowers your metabolic rate. Your body stubbornly holds on to fat, making it harder to get lean. Not to mention joint pain from the constant pounding.

Back off. If you start seeing a lack of progress no matter how much cardio you do (provided your nutrition is on point), and your energy levels and enthusiasm are waning, you’re sleeping less and not feeling refreshed when you do sleep, it’s time to back off. Take a couple of days or more to recharge. When you get back, don’t fall into the trap of more is better. Just like your weight training workouts, add variety your cardio workouts. Do HIIT one day, steady-state the next, or maybe throw in a Tabata workout, or do an outdoor activity and count that as your cardio session.

The weight is too heavy for you to use proper form. Unless you’re a powerlifter or doing a strength program, the goal in your weight training sessions should always be to feel the muscle working. And you can’t do that if you use a weight that is so heavy that you can’t use proper form (in fact, strength athletes emphasize proper lifting technique for putting up big numbers and to avoid injury). I see this problem more with guys than girls, but it is something to always keep in mind at the gym.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of having a great workout. You don’t have to use the same weight (or more) as anybody else in the gym. If you start to fatigue halfway through a workout and have trouble getting your target reps, then lighten the weight. If you’re supposed to do dumbbell rows with static holds but can’t quite maintain the peak contracted position, grab a lighter dumbbell.

The weight you use is so light that you finish your sets able to do a lot more than you’re target rep range. The flip side to those who train too heavy are those who use a weight that is way too easy for them. If you set a goal for 10 reps and reach it with no problem, then you’re not training heavy enough – and you’re not placing enough overload on the muscle.

Use a weight that is heavy enough that the last few reps of your target number are hard to complete – but always with good form. Remember, you’re there to challenge yourself. Workouts are not supposed to be easy.


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One of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Nicole Wilkins is a world-record holding four-time Figure Olympia Champion and 2012 IFPA Personal Trainer of the Year. Nicole earned her BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention at Oakland University. The owner and founder of nPower Nutrition, Nicole has helped thousands of people start living a healthier lifestyle and reach their fitness goals.

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