10 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Results in the Gym

It’s the third week of January (or at least it was when I first wrote this post 😉 )

Congratulations! You’ve been sticking to your new year’s goal of exercising regularly and cleaning up your diet. Three to 4 quality workouts a week and lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein and healthy fats.

Yet why, when you look in the mirror, do you see the very same body that you saw before Christmas staring back at you?

not getting results in the gym

Why are you not getting results in the gym?

1. You haven’t been on your program long enough. It’s simply too soon. You’ve only been working on a new program for 2 or 3 weeks. While you’re probably feeling stronger and most likely lifting heavier weights, you have yet to see that muscle definition you crave and the scale hasn’t budged.

Relax and stay the course. Don’t expect to see bigger guns, tighter glutes or a smaller belly until you’ve been consistently and progressively training for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

2. You’ve been on your program too long. Although this is unlikely to be true for those of you just getting going (see point number 1), if you’ve been exercising regularly for awhile and haven’t changed your routine in a couple of months, you’ve probably stopped seeing results and may even be losing ground.

To continue to make progress, your body needs a change. New exercises, a new ordering of the old exercises, a different body part split, or at the very least, making the old program more challenging. Bodies are inherently efficient (or lazy, as it were), doing as little as they can in an attempt to protect and minimize energy expended.

3. You’re on the wrong program. Enrolling in a zumba class won’t help you build upper body strength. Single joint exercises performed with light weights won’t significantly contribute to weight loss. Matching the program to your individual fitness goals is key to getting the results you want in a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t know where to start? Hire a personal trainer to create a program specifically designed for YOU.

4. You’re not lifting heavy enough. If you want to build a stronger, leaner body, you must lift heavy. Not HEAVY, heavy, but HEAVIER than you think. The only way to stimulate muscle growth (and a leaner physique) is to work with loads that are heavier than your body is used to. Hint, if your handbag weighs 10 pounds, bicep curling with 5’s isn’t gonna build muscle.

5. You’re not lifting often enough. You need to train each body part at least once per week to see results. Any less and you’ll be hard pressed to increase the weight on any particular exercise. Weight training is based on the principle of progressive resistance; you need to keep making things more challenging to see changes in your physique. Most beginning lifters find that 3-4 days of strength training per week is ideal.

6. You’re lifting too often. Beware, when it comes to weight training, there IS too much of a good thing. Muscle fibres need time to rest and repair between workouts. That’s when growth occurs. Train too often and you risk injury, fatigue, failure to progress and sometimes even losing ground in the weight room. Overtraining is to be avoided.

7. You’re not eating the right food. Food is fuel, and as such, not all fuels are created equal. You’ve all heard the phrase ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’. It’s true. Your body needs lean protein, healthy fats, lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre and a bit of starchy carbohydrate to function well while you’re training as well as to translate that training into physical change.

8. You’re eating too much food. Even if your diet is ‘clean’, you may still be eating too much. Excess calories are stored as fat, regardless of whether they come from chicken breasts or donuts. Pay attention to portion control and resist the urge to use exercise to rationalize overeating.

9. You’re not eating enough food. It may sound counter-intuitive, but eating too little can be just as detrimental to your fitness goals as eating too much. Your body requires a certain number of calories each day just to carry out it’s basic functions. For most women, this number will be in the 1200-1400 calorie range. Eat less than this, for too long and your body will do everything it can to hold onto those energy stores. Starvation mode is to be avoided.

10. You’re paying attention to the wrong metrics. While the bathroom scale can give you a general indication of your health and fitness level, it is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to measuring progress in the gym. Why? Body weight can fluctuate by up to 5 pounds within a day, depending on when and what you’ve eaten, as well as how hydrated you are and what day of your cycle it is (why do we all jump on the scales first thing in the morning? It’s when we weigh the least!).

Better indicators of progress towards your goals include circumference measurements (abdomen, hips, thighs), body fat estimates, the fit of your clothes (use your favourite skinny jeans!), the weight you’re lifting in the gym, how many good form pushups you can do and how long you can go on the elliptical.

not getting results in the gym

Have you stopped getting results in the gym?

Do any of the items on my list sound like they could be the culprit?

Never fear. Those who add themselves to my e-newsletter list make better progress in the gym than those who don’t! (Actually, there’s no scientific data to back up this claim, but better to be safe than sorry… 😉 )



  1. I need to mix things up a little bit more. More HIIT or something.
    runinboise recently posted…Shizits Getting SeriousMy Profile

    • HIIT is a GREAT way to shake things up! You’ll be amazed at how quickly your body will change without adding another long workout to the week!

  2. Switch it up! I think that’s one of the biggest things that people fail to do. Paying attention to there points is a sure way to get what you deserve and keep away from that demotivated slump!

    Great article, and thanks again!

    P.s. How long have you been lifting?
    Nick Goodall recently posted…My 3 Worst Pieces Of Advice On How To Be HealthyMy Profile

    • Hey Nick,
      Thanks so much for stopping by!
      I’ve been lifting weights in group fitness class for about 20 years now, but just moved over to the gym side of things (and heavier, more structured strength training) about 5 years ago. LOVE IT!

  3. Changing up the food/exercise is key with me…I know my mind gets bored so I am sure my body/muscles do too. Sometimes I find less is more too???? A good 30 minute burst (like you say and do) is truly better for me than a 45-60 minute cycle class of some …ok a lot of chatting…and also biking. 😉

    Kathy recently posted…Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

    • Yes! Less is definitely more. Especially if shorter workouts are more intense…
      I find that breaking people out of the 60 minute workout mentality is challenging; it doesn’t help that most group fitness classes and personal training sessions run for an hour…

  4. I did every single one of those when I started, too!!
    I worked out until I shed the muscle and maintained the fat.

    Miz recently posted…MAKE the time (guest post)My Profile

  5. All good stuff. At the end of the day, I like to think in these terms:

    The body loves variety in exercise.

    The body NEEDS consistency in eating.

    Merge those two ideals, give it 3 months, and… Move. Mountains.
    Emergefit recently posted…Never mind. Always mind…My Profile

    • Yes, yes and yes! I do well with the first, but still struggle with the second. Always a work in progress…

  6. Being on the same program or doing the same exercises for too long is probably my big downfall (tho’ I am trying to mix it up more). That and numbers 7-9. Yeah, need to work on the nutrition side! But you know what else? When I stopped obsessing about things, I started seeing results. I honestly haven’t been paying as close attention or been following a strict program but I’ve probably see more definition than I have before. Odd, right?
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Friday Round-Up: TGIFMy Profile

    • Ah yes, we can get too fixated on doing everything just right! I don’t food journal because of my obsessive tendencies…
      Glad that you’ve figured out what works for you Christine!

  7. I know for me it is some of my food choices (and amounts). Sadly, I’m pretty much OK with things as they are!!!
    Kim recently posted…Lovin’ Friday!My Profile

    • At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we practice self compassion and self acceptance. Do what you need to do to be healthy and feel well!

  8. Yes, yes, yes to all of these reasons! Love this post! I talk to people all the time who do not get the results they want & wonder why, all of these are key factors. I linked to your post in mine today, such awesome information. Happy Friday!
    Katie @ KatieEnPursuit recently posted…Eff it, it’s Friday!My Profile

    • Thanks for the support and link love Katie! Heading over to check out your post shortly!

      • Pankaj Paul says:

        I go to gym regularly from 1year,but I can’t lose my body fat,after much abs exercices…why???

        • To be succinct; diet. All of the exercise in the world won’t do a whole lot to reduce your body fat if you’re not supporting your gym efforts in the kitchen. Are you tracking your food? Paying attention to calories from sugar? Eating enough protein? It’s cliche, but the saying ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’ is true!

  9. Super list, done concisely! This post goes into the “inst-classic” category for sure! One of my fave sayings is “Keep the Mind Clear and the Body Confused” so as to continue to make progress. Which, oops, by the way is my main downfall. Ahh, the ole-comfort zone.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Does Coffee Make You Happy?My Profile

  10. I am definitely not working out much lately – being ill combined with dental work – but will be getting back to it soon, hopefully. Really good tips here , thanks!

    • Elle, you’ve had a tough month. I know that you’ll be back on track very soon and I can’t wait to see what you get up to!

  11. This is such great advice. So many things that can derail progress and I’m sure many people don’t realize some. Thanks for sharing it and giving people a little nudge at the end of January!
    misszippy recently posted…I did sign on for thisMy Profile

    • You’re welcome! Hoping to help avoid that end of January drop off at the gym and in my group fitness classes. I’ve been pointing these things out loudly all week! LOL

  12. I jumped back on the wagon in the past several weeks and my scale isn’t budging. Some of these may very well be the culprit but I’ve identified a few others as well:

    1. Not enough restful sleep. We finally got around to buying a new bed so hopefully that’ll help with my sleep habits.
    2. Obsessing about calorie counting. Obsessing = stress. Stress = no weight loss.
    3. Not enough exercise. I still haven’t reached a point where I am consistent but that’s changing, albeit slowly.

    It’s a work in progress, I know, but I’m tired of seeing that scale not move south. It’s been within the same 2-4 pounds for several months. Hopefully that’ll be changing soon.
    Kim @ Who Took My Donut? recently posted…FitFluential DietBet: I’m In!My Profile

  13. Great post, Tamara! Changing it up is the area I need to work on the most, and probably portion control, too. 🙂 Thanks for this reminder!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Mapping out the Spring Race CalendarMy Profile

    • You’re so very welcome Laura! Portion control, my two least favourite words in the whole wide world…

  14. Looking at the wrong metrics has been my downfall lately. I’m so motivated to see numbers on the scale change, I have lost sight of the *other* numbers. Luckily, I have this great trainer who keeps me on track (wink wink)! (though I will admit, there is still a little part of me that’d like to see the scale hit that “magic” number . . .)
    Sarah @ Semi-Sweet recently posted…A Loss (and Leftover Turkey Soup with Lemon, Barley & Kale)My Profile

    • Ha! It’s soooo hard to ditch the scale! I think it’s because we’ve been looking at it our whole lives. Starting with annual visits to the doctor’s office as children. I think we need to teach OUR children not to give the scale so much power…

  15. OH YOU KNOW I LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have worked thru so many of these to find what is right for me & I still keep listening & making changes no matter how old I get. It is a must as we change, our bodies change & life changes… My workouts & food have changed all thru the years. As you have been reading, I do what I feel is right for me BUT I know it is not right for others.. 🙂
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Emotional Eating & Other Stuff…My Profile

    • Thanks Jody for your shares on FB and Twitter today! I know that you totally get all of this and have figured out how to keep making gains in the gym by trial and error!

  16. Great tips! I’ve had lots of problems in the past with not seeing results. I’ll have to bookmark this list to reference every now and then to make sure I’m not getting stuck!
    Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian recently posted…A Bootcamp Butt-KickingMy Profile

    • Thanks Lisa! Happy to help and I know how important it is to have explanations and tips at your fingertips!

  17. Definitely some AMAZINGGGGGGGG advice for those who feel down and out about what’s not working for them!!!! 🙂 Everyone needs a speed check every so often to figure out what’s working and what’s not!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted…Worth The Brain FreezeMy Profile

  18. I have to constantly remind myself to regularly switch my workouts up as I tend to get too comfortable… Portion control is another big one for me. While I eat pretty healthy, I still sometimes eat too much if I’m not mindful.

    • I totally agree. It’s so easy to fall into the mindset of ‘it’s healthy, I can eat more’. That is definitely my biggest challenge 🙂

  19. #10 is so important! I never look at my weight more frequently than once a week, and make sure to use other measurements as well (like measuring inches).
    Barry Wright, III recently posted…HiccupsMy Profile

    • Yes! After I’m finished with the DietBet I’m hosting, I’m putting my bathroom scales back in the cupboard!

  20. Just wanted to tell you my instructor tried to adjust my bike today and still had knee pain– next week def. doing arc trainer! It’ll be good to shake things up!
    Blond duck recently posted…A Room of My OwnMy Profile

    • Darn. I was so hoping that that was the problem…Maybe take a couple of week’s off? And do some knee strengthening exercises…

  21. This is definitely a great list. I especially love that you encourage heavy lifting. Many people (especially women) think that they will look like Ronnie Coleman if they lift heavy. So they go light in an effort to “only get toned”. Then they end up seeing no results and determining that lifting weights is useless.
    Khaleef @ Fat Guy, Skinny Wallet recently posted…Plumbing And The Family Tree: The Roots Run DeepMy Profile

  22. So basically anything then. Not very good reasons.

    • Hmmm. In my experience, most people who are plateauing can blame 1-3 of the above reasons. My job is to point out possibilities. Their (and YOUR) job is to take a good hard look at what they’re doing and be the detective. Those who are willing to be honest with themselves and do the work will never fail to make progress!

  23. Hi well i have this question i really need to clear it out. Actually is started going to the gym for 3months and im ttaking this protein mass gainer . Im very skinny my weighg is 50kg . This 3 months ive been going im just geyting ripped and not getting that big. Does it take time to get big enough.

  24. Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent, let alone the content!
    gold s gym cost recently posted…gold s gym costMy Profile

  25. Alessio Ventura says:

    So, hiw do you get to the happy middle, where you are not training too little or too much, and not eating too little or too much?

    • Really good question Alessio. In my opinion, it all comes down to tracking your habits and recording the outcome. Start with a moderate approach. Stick with it for a month or so. See what happens. Does your weight go up or down? Are you lifting progressively heavier? Any injuries? Sleeping well? Then tweak your program and nutrition to move you in the direction you want. A lack of movement (in either direction) tells me you’ve plateaued and need to make a small change or two.

  26. I am in search of a really clean and good soy isolate protein. do you have a brand you recommend?

  27. Im glad I saw this because I was starting to get a little discouraged from going to the gym

  28. I have been doing Orange Theory Fitness for almost 10 months. Twice a week and walk other days. Before that I did Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and walked frequently several times a week 3-5 miles. I am in good shape however I just turned 51 and I feel like no matter what I do my body doesn’t look better. I am not overweight and eat a mostly healthy diet but I do have my fun foods too just have belly fat where it never used to be, cellulite on my thighs when I never used to have any. No matter what I do it never goes away. Is this just the way it is for women over 50?

    • Hi Haley,

      I hear your frustration. And the answer is sort of… Certainly our bodies change as we age. Hormones change, skin elasticity changes and the general tendency to lose muscle and gain fat is fairly common. I’m not familiar with Orange Theory fitness, although I’m guess that it’s got a strength training component to it.

      In my experience, my over 50 female clients do best by combining strength training (heavier weights, lower reps), with HIIT-style cardio, daily walks (to reduce cortisol), proper sleep routines and diets very low in processed carbs, with lots of veggies and protein. And cellulite? 95% of women have it, even young women. I’ve found it best to not obsess about that one; there’s not a lot to be done about it, regardless of what the ‘wrap’ people and late night commercials tell you 🙂


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