| 5 Minute Read

3 Reasons You Are Not Progressing In Your Training

by Ben Thompson

After many years in the strength and conditioning industry, there are some  common trends that arise when people are not progressing in their training. While there could be an exorbitant number of reasons why, I will focus on three general topics to help create more awareness about what is actually required to create progress. 

It is easy to fall victim to the latest marketing campaign that may have convinced you that you need to be more 'functional' or that this 'new style of training' is the answer to all of your problems. But in this day and age, there is nothing new in strength and conditioning and if you are jumping on a new bandwagon, it often lacks a greater understanding of training and how the body works.

The good thing is, there are more and more training facilities emerging in the market that actually 'get it'. They use strength and conditioning principles to design and formulate their training programs. They focus on mastering a few exercises, rather than keeping you entertained with many. 

Read more below to understand the top reasons why you may not be progressing with your training.

1. You are doing the wrong exercises

Regardless of your goal, be it to increase strength, add muscles mass, decrease body fat or improve posture, we believe you should be performing strength training. While we could list the many benefits of it, that is not the point of this article.

The point is, if your goal is to get stronger, you must look at what tool is the best for developing strength. While there are many options with the latest craze of TRX, KBs, and body weight training systems, there is a problem. You often reach a point where you cannot add enough external load to keep progressing.

Let’s use the example of using kettlebells to develop leg strength. If you only use kettlebells there will be a limit to how much weight you can add because of the way you have to hold the kettlebell. If the heaviest kettlebell you have is 32kg, once you can goblet squat this weight for reps, how do you keep progressing? Do you just do more reps? Do you just do it faster?

By all means this will help develop strength in a beginner who is new to the gym but after a few months, progress will start to slow because no more external load can be added to the exercise.

The barbell has always been a fantastic tool for strength training as it can be loaded somewhat indefinitely. Although the barbell isn’t the latest craze, it will always form the basis of strength training. The only issue with the barbell is that the technical demands are so high, and without guidance and direction injury risk
is increased. My advice is to learn how to barbell strength train. Master the squat, bench press and deadlift and apply progressive overload.

2. You are doing the right exercises, with the wrong technique

Another common problem I see is people attempting the right exercises but with poor technique. Exercise technique is something you will have to continually refine the stronger you get.

Let me explain this by using an example below:

Your bench press 1RM is currently 100kg. You have been required to have a certain level of technique to have achieved this. Your goal is to bench press 140kg.  You must acknowledge that you will have to continue to improve your technique if you want to continue to lift more.

The key to getting stronger is not just training hard, you must ensure you use perfect technique because it will allow for much greater progress.

To become stronger, you must improve technically. 

Why is technique important?

1. Correct technique allows you to lift the greatest load possible

2. Correct technique allows you to lift in the safest way possible

My take home point on this topic is as follows: 

"Accept that your technique is good enough for you to be where you are now but not good enough for where you want to be. Understand the road to mastery never ends, you must continue to refine, adapt and evolve."

3. Your training does not progress.  

Once you understand the correct exercises and the correct technique, you must focus on planning and developing structure in your training.

I think of it like this; once you know the ingredients you must follow the correct recipe to get the end result.

Training for performance and training for 'fun' are different things. While you may have fun in the process, training for performance is designed around doing exactly what you need to do to get better.

"You must acknowledge there is a difference between exercising and training."

A common problem I see with traditional group training gym setups is the exercise prescription is not specific to the individual. There is no understanding of relative intensity which a) increases the risk of injury and b) limits progress

So what is the key to getting stronger? Progressive overload.

“Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.”

Lets have a look at an example of applying this concept below. First with our periodisation overview then with two scenarios.   

Here is a 12-week plan that your squat, bench and deadlift could follow.

PHASE ONE (⇧ Reps each week @ same %)
Week 1: 5x3 @ 42X0 (60-70%)
Week 2: 5x4 @ 42X0 (60-70%)
Week 3: 5x5 @ 42X0 (60-70%)
Week 4: 5x6 @ 42X0 (60-70%)

PHASE TWO (⇧ Intensity each week)
Week 5: 5x4 @ 22X0 (Ramp to 75%)
Week 6: 5x4 @ 22X0 (75%)  
Week 7: 5x3 @ 22X0 (Ramp to 80%)
Week 8: 5x3 @ 22X0 (80%)

PHASE THREE (⇧ Intensity each week)
Week 9: 5x3 @ 22X0 (85%)
Week 10: 5x3 @ 22X0 (90%)  
Week 11: 5x2 @ 22X0 (95%)
Week 12: 5x2  @ 22X0 (95-100%)

Now let's apply that to a real life situation so you can see the difference.

Example One

1 Rep Max = 70kg

The weights over a week program would be as follows:

Week 1: 42-49kg
Week 2: 42-49kg
Week 3: 42-49kg
Week 4: 42-49kg
Week 5: 49-52.5kg
Week 6: 52.5kg
Week 7: 52.5kg-56kg
Week 8: 56kg
Week 9: 59.5kg
Week 10: 63kg
Week 11: 66.5kg
Week 12: 70kg

Example Two

1 Rep Max = 180kg

The weights over a week program would be as follows:

Week 1: 108-126kg
Week 2: 108-126kg
Week 3: 108-126kg
Week 4: 108-126kg
Week 5: 126kg-135kg
Week 6: 135kg
Week 7: 135-144kg
Week 8: 144kg
Week 9: 153kg
Week 10: 162kg
Week 11: 171kg
Week 12: 180kg

As you can see, there is a clear difference in weight selection which is programed to individual levels.


Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson is the Founder of Movement Enhanced. After first starting in the industry back in 2011, he has many years of experience in strength and conditioning. Ben is uniquely qualified as a soft tissue therapist and exercise scientist. He has traveled around the world to learn from the best in the industry and continues to develop his craft and skillset.

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