5 Reasons You're Not Getting Stronger


Despite spending a lot of time at the gym, despite trying out a number of different programs, and no matter how hard you push yourself to the limits, it still feels like you are not progressing. Does this sound familiar? There could be a few specific reasons why you're not getting stronger.

When you're dedicating significant time to staying fit, hitting this kind of plateau can be very frustrating, to say the least. But you are not alone in this. Many athletes have had this kind of experience, and it's because there's more to getting stronger than simply lifting weights. 

Proper diet, sleeping habits, recovery time, the environment you train in, your programming, and the actual weight you are lifting all play significant roles in getting stronger.

man swinging kettlebell

What happens inside the gym is one of many factors that determines muscle growth. But believe us when we say it will not take the mind of a nuclear physicist to make sense of it all.

Of course, there is no shortcut solution, but oftentimes, just a bit of tweaking will do.

In this blog, we will dissect the most common reasons athletes just like you are not getting stronger.

5 Reasons You Aren't Getting Stronger

1. You Have the Wrong Nutrition

As an athlete, it’s safe to assume you already know what kinds of foods should be on your plate, right? Possibly, but maybe not.

Maybe this is one reason why you’re not gaining from all your hard work. Understanding how to eat for your goals is one huge factor in getting stronger.

chicken, rice, and broccoli

The first thing you have to do to counter this problem is to reassess the amount and kind of calories you are consuming. Since your goal is to gain muscle mass, you have to aim for protein-rich nutrition with sufficient carbs and healthy fats. 

Why so much protein? Simply because it is the most important nutrient for muscle formation and development. Long story short, more protein, more muscle mass!

So, how much protein do you really need? While this number varies by person, for an active individual focusing on getting stronger, the general rule of thumb is one gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim to consume about 150 grams of protein a day.

Don't forget carbs, which a lot of people mistakenly believe are evil. On the contrary, your body takes glycogen (sugar) from your muscles to fuel it during training, meaning after training, your muscles are depleted. Consuming enough healthy carbs is essential to rebuilding and growing your muscles.

Remember, your muscle cells experience a lot of stress and damage during strenuous exercise. Nourishing them properly is the way to a stronger body.

2. You're Not Getting Adequate Sleep

woman napping on couch

Both physical and mental performance of athletes may be directly affected by lack of sleep, according to some researchWhat does this mean? It means reaching your goal of getting stronger can be slowed or even stopped completely if you don't get enough quality sleep.

For instance, the Sleep Foundation says a lack of sleep can drain you of energy and fluids, reduce your ability to concentrate, and even contribute to muscle breakdown. It might also increase your body's production of cortisol, the stress hormone. 

Never forget: sleep and muscle gain go hand in hand every time.

3. You Don't Spend Enough Time Recovering

Aside from the right amount of sleep and proper nutrition, proper recovery time also plays a significant role in getting stronger.

Not allowing your muscle cells to fully recover after your previous workout limits their ability to grow bigger and stronger. And just like a lack of rest does, inadequate recovery time ultimately leads to fatigue, weakness, and a myriad of counterproductive consequences.

woman doing yoga

It happens because like we talked about earlier, every time you do strenuous exercise, like weightlifting, your muscles’ glycogen reserve — carbohydrates stored in muscle cells — is depleted significantly. It’s true your muscles need protein to build up. But during strength training, your muscles use carbohydrates for fuel because it is the most efficient energy source during workouts.

Not including recovery in your strength training program negates all your hard work.

So, every time you feel the urge to hit the gym and start pumping iron even harder than before, ask yourself this question: “Did I give my muscles enough time to recover already?”

Remember, rest doesn't have to mean sitting on the couch. You could opt for active recovery, which means doing very low-intensity activities like yoga or walking.

4. Your Programming is Off

This one important strength training factor is frequently overlooked by athletes. Do you have what it takes to put together a proper training regimen for yourself? Do you have the knowledge, experience, expertise?

coach working with athlete

If you answered yes, then great job! Otherwise, you need to reconsider.

More often than not, we think of ourselves as able beings capable of doing things on our own. But this is not always the case, especially when it comes to catering our training to the specific goal of getting stronger.

Faced with this scenario, it's best if you have a fitness professional or a more experienced individual looking after you during your strength training. 

You may think you already know the ins and outs of getting stronger, but don’t forget that as humans, we always tend to think we've got it all figured out.

By having a coach or trainer, you're in a safer environment with a trustworthy eye on you. They can point out problems in your training you won't see and also help you achieve your goals.

5. You're Not Lifting Heavy Enough

How long have you been lifting the same weights over and over again? You be the judge.

If you’ve been lifting the same weight since time immemorial, your muscles have likely adapted to that weight enough that they are no longer stressed by it. The stimulus is old, and your body isn't being challenged. 

The good news is this means you're getting stronger! Now, it's time to go up in weight. You can do it. 


In a Nutshell

Getting stronger is a complex process. It takes careful planning when it comes to your diet and lifestyle choices, sleeping, recovery, and programming. You must also be willing to go through a little trial and error because most of us don't "figure it out" on the first try — but that's okay! Eat healthy, sleep well, lift heavy, and you'll see progress.

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