Here’s 9 reasons you may not be getting stronger

From working out too much to not eating enough food.

Woman squatting
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether it’s wanting stronger quads or biceps, to being able to do push-ups consecutively, getting stronger is a popular fitness goal nowadays. So, when you find you still aren’t noticing any gains in your strength, despite going to the gym consistently (or working out at home) and hitting your protein intake, it can be pretty disheartening. But we’ve found nine things which may possibly be preventing your progress — so listen up.

When it comes to wanting to know how to get stronger, strength training is your go-to. Weight training in particular is best for this, where you use heavy weights (like the best dumbbell or best barbells), perform low reps and have longer rest periods between each exercise. Performing compound exercises — such as the squat, deadlift and bench press — are also great for this too as they work multiple muscle groups. Whereas those looking to grow muscle would do what’s known as ‘hypertrophy’ training, which is basically what bodybuilders do, where you do high reps, use a medium weight and have shorter rest periods.

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If you’ve been doing the above, but are still struggling to hit a new personal best each week, it could be one of these things below that may be holding you back. 

1. You’re not eating enough 

Food is your fuel. Imagine trying to drive a car with little to no oil in it, it wouldn’t get very far would it? The same applies to your body and your performance when working out, even more so if you’re looking to get stronger. Ensure you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein and good carbohydrates.

2. You’re working out too much and not prioritising recovery 

When we want to get stronger, many of us have the mindset that doing more will equate to a better reward. While you do need to work out at the very minimum two times a week, working out every day won’t benefit you in any way, it will just hinder your progress. Fatiguing your muscles is important when it comes to getting stronger, but allowing your body to recover and be ready to go again the following week is key, otherwise your form will go and it will be a slippery slope from there on.

3. You’re exercising with an injury

If you’re not able to perform an exercise efficiently, then you’re not going to get the most from it — period. Plus, you're most likely just going to make, whatever it is that's injured, 10 times worse. You’re best taking time out and going again once you’ve recovered.

4. You’re rushing your workouts

We’re all guilty of this for whatever reason, but by constantly rushing, again, you’re not going to be performing your exercises to the best of your ability, which will limit your results. Having longer rest periods (three to five minutes long) in between sets is particularly important when it comes to strength training, to ensure you get the most out of every single set/exercise.

5. Your form is poor

Ok, so perfect form can go slightly out the window with strength training, especially when it comes to sports like powerlifting, when you’re just trying to move the heaviest weight possible. But, overall it shouldn’t be shocking, otherwise you could badly injure yourself.

6.  You’re not being patient/consistent enough 

You didn’t wake up looking like the Hulk? Oh, sorry. Realism, patience and consistency are what you need when it comes to any type of training. You can’t expect to see results overnight and, when it comes to getting stronger, it can take weeks to months, depending what point you're at on your strength journey.

7. You don’t have realistic (or any) goals 

As we previously mentioned, you’ve got to be realistic and patient when it comes to getting stronger, but if you have no set goals, tracking your progress can be even harder. Without specific goals you won’t know what you’re working towards, so how would you notice any chances? Make sure you have some.

8. You may not be lifting enough

If you want to build strength the key is heavy weights, low reps. If you’re able to complete your three to five reps easily with steam still left in the tank, you’re probably not lifting heavy enough. You need to continue gradually stressing the muscles in order to progress them. 

9. You're not following a set strength programme

Maybe you're doing a few squats here, a deadlift there, then a load of bicep curls, then switch it up the next week. Firstly, if it's strength you want to increase, make sure you're following the correct rep and weight range and not one that's designed for bodybuilder training. If you're new to strength training, then getting someone to do a plan for you, or finding one online, will be beneficial. Not only will you be doing the correct exercises to help build up your strength, but it's a great way to track progress, see what your body responds well to and hold yourself accountable.

If you're just starting out on your strength training journey, then check out our beginner strength training guide which walks you through everything, including nutrition advice, to the best exercises you need to reach your goals.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.