It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or do both. If your exercise routine is failing, it may be due to one or more of the following reasons.
- Your routine is not balanced.
Many people think that if you want to lose weight, you should put most of your focus on cardio. While it’s true that cardio burns fat, it is not true that you should put all your eggs in the cardio basket.
Weight training leads to muscle gain, and muscle increases your body’s metabolic rate. This causes you to burn more calories even while resting. Also, one 30 minute intense weight training session will burn more overall calories than a 60 minute moderately intense cardio session.
It’s not necessary to spend equal amounts of time doing cardio and weight training. Just don’t focus on one activity while ignoring the other.
- You’re not working out hard enough.
It is not necessary to exercise to complete exhaustion to see results from your routine, but you do need to push yourself. You need to reach a point of physical discomfort to see real results. If your body stubbornly holds on to body fat, you definitely cannot afford to give a weak effort.
Use a subjective scale of 1-5 (5 being very intense) to measure your workout intensity. The low end of the scale means your workout was very easy, and the middle means your workout was good but you were capable of doing more. You reach the high end if you were totally exhausted.
Aim to get up to at least a 3.5 or 4 on the intensity scale. If you do that most of the time, you’re going to see good results.
- You’re not consistent enough.
You can’t exercise for three straight days and then miss three straight if you want to see measurable results. Exercise has a cumulative effect. Each day builds upon the last.
Your minimum goal should be to exercise four days a week, but five or six would be best.
- You’re spending too much time in the gym.
While some people are not consistent enough, there are some that spend too much time exercising. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that more is better, so some people stay in the gym for two hours or more at a time.
If you’re staying in the gym for that long, you’re likely doing one of three things:
- You’re overtraining. There is a point of diminishing returns, so exercising for too long is counterproductive. One hour is enough for anyone to get in a good workout (unless they’re training for an event or sport).
- You’re socializing too much. You could be spending too much time talking to your gym buddies. This too is counterproductive.
- You’re lingering too much. Resting for five minutes between exercises is not the ideal thing to do. Generally, you should not be resting for longer than two minutes between sets and exercises.
- You’re too stressed.
Having to face stressful situations is perfectly natural. But if you’re constantly dealing with excessive amounts of stress, getting fit can be an uphill battle.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and excessive amounts of stress elevates cortisol levels within the body. Among other harmful effects, too much cortisol causes fat storage — which is exactly what you want to avoid if you’re trying to change your body.
If you find yourself frequently stressed for whatever reason, find ways to effectively minimize stress. Yoga, meditation, and taking deep breaths can all be very effective.
Although specific techniques can be effective, it is in your best interest to try to avoid situations and people that stress you out. If you cannot avoid certain situations, try to handle them in the best possible ways.
- You’re using too many machines.
Using resistance training machines is not the optimal way to train your body. Machines guide you along a fixed plane of motion, but we don’t move that way in real life. Most things that we push, pull, or lift aren’t attached to a machine.
It’s okay to use machines sometimes, but free weights like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells should be used most often.
- Your technique is off.
Your routine may be failing because you use poor technique when lifting weights. You’re not going to get great results if you don’t use proper form and technique.
If you’re not absolutely sure that you know what you’re doing, hire a trainer to help guide you. Or, take the time to learn how to lift properly. The Internet has an abundance of free and paid resources for learning how to lift weights.
- You’re not eating right.
Last but definitely not least, take a close look at your nutrition habits.
It is often estimated that changing your body is 80% nutrition. While it is virtually impossible to put an exact percentage on it, being able to lose weight or gain muscle largely depends on what you put in your mouth.
Even if you have a near perfect exercise routine, poor nutrition can kill your results.
Here are some general rules to follow:
- Drink lots of water every day
- Avoid foods made with white flour
- Avoid sweet snacks and sodas
- Choose cuts of meat that are low in saturated fat
- Never skip breakfast
- Eat at least four times per day
- Eat protein with every meal
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
In many cases, great nutrition can make up for a super exercise routine.