1. You’re not working out often enough
If you are new to working out, even 1 session a week will help. In the beginning, any physical activity is an improvement on nothing.
If, however, you’ve been training for more than a month, anything less than 3 hard workouts a week isn’t going to cut it my friend.
3 days is the minimum. 4 days is better.
2. You work out too often
On the flipside – some people go to the gym too often.
There are people who work out 6-7 days a week, and 3-4 months later have made little to no progress.
How can someone hit the gym so often yet not improve?
Well, one potential reason is that what they are doing lacks intensity. Texting or watching animals humping on an Ipad is not training. (True story, I have actually seen a man watching a video of animals humping while on the treadmill.. we live in strange times).
Another problem with working out too often relates to cortisol.
Cortisol is a perfectly normal hormone that we all produce. When we exercise, it increases for a little while and then goes away. However, cortisol is only supposed to be produced for short periods – not hang around our bodies for long amounts of time.
When you train too much, cortisol levels remain elevated for long periods. This is not normal, and can actually cause fat gain and muscle loss.
Yep, working out too often can increase fat gain and muscle loss.
This is not to mention a whole number of other potential health problems, such as cognitive and immune system issues.
Chronic anxiety, stress, and insufficient sleep are other factors that may contribute to high cortisol levels.
When you tell people that working out too often may be detrimental to their goals, they often point to people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, in his prime, trained for 2 hours, twice a day, 6-7 days a week.
What they fail to acknowledge however, is that Arnold was a great athlete who was taking highly potent anabolic steroids.
(There’s no doubt that you can train twice a day, but you must build up to it over a number of years, you also have to be immaculate with your training management, recovery and nutrition.)
3. You do cardio but neglect weights
Weight training increases your body’s resting metabolic rate. The higher your RMR, the more fat you burn, even while resting.
Therefore, one of the aims of training is always to build muscle and burn fat!
4. You only do one type of cardio
I’m referring to long distance slow cardio here.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for long distance cardio. But it’s certainly not every day, nor is it even three times a week.
Long distance cardio works in the beginning because it creates a calorie deficit (more calories out than in). However, after a while, you hit a plateau.
The scale no longer seems to move. So you start going longer and harder. But still no weight loss. Only more joint pain, persistent colds, and frustration.
If you want to see real progress, you need to step it up and throw in some high intensity training – preferably sprints.
Here are some ideas:
- Sprints (superior to any form of high intensity cardio in my opinion)
- Battle ropes
- High rep kettlebell swings.
These types of activities create an intense response in your body known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or the ‘afterburn effect’ in everyday lingo. These activities will help to smash through plateaus.
5. You focus your weight training on small muscle groups (like arms)
Larger muscle groups burn more calories compared to smaller ones.
Compound exercises are those where numerous joints and muscle groups are involved. Isolation exercises only stimulate one muscle at a time.
For example, push-ups train the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs. Tricep kickbacks only work the triceps.
Which one is superior in terms of activating more muscle (and hence burning more fat)?
Easy, the push-ups.
Stick mainly to compound exercises if you want a more powerful fat-burning effect.
Fries – bad.
Apples – good.
Green juices – good.
Doughnuts – bad.
Doner kebabs – bad.
Vegetables – good.
TV dinners – bad.
It’s not rocket science. You know what is and isn’t healthy, it’s your job to clean it up.
There are people who go to the gym merely to avoid a feeling of guilt.. and after going, they binge on junk food because they feel they have earned it.
That 1 hour per day in the gym is used to justify poor eating habits in the other 15 or so waking hours. But it won’t work.
There’s a well known saying that ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet’.
As long as you are eating well 90% of the time, you’re doing well in my opinion.
Once you actually get fit, you can break the rules a bit more as your body will have become a finely-tuned fat-burning machine.
Until then, you have to put in some work!
7. You don’t have an event
Why do you want to lose weight? What’s driving you to want to lose it?
Is there a bigger reason than just wanting to look nice?
Do you want to be more confident, or to increase your chances of attracting a partner? What’s behind wanting to look better?
You need to find your reason. It can be aesthetic, performance related, or health related. A good training plan will achieve all three anyway.
Maybe your family has a history of heart disease and you’re worried about your own risk. I have a client who started training with me because she wanted to improve her health after the death of her sister from heart problems.
That’s a powerful reason, one that keeps her consistent and motivated.
For me, I usually focus on performance goals, building mini goals along the way to gauge my progress.
For example, next month I’ll test my strength in the bench press, box squat, and pull-up, as well as my 100 m sprint time. In 3 months time I’ll repeat the process.
8. Unrealistic goals and expectaions
Get-fit-quick, like-get-rich quick, usually fails. But instead of ending up broke – you end up depressed.
Let’s do something patiently instead of looking for the quick fix and I promise your results will be so much better. Longevity is the name of the game.
The picture below represents one of my clients’ progress over a good 4 months. She herself made some of the same mistakes listed above, such as too much long distance cardio.
Don’t get suckered into false promises from magazines and youtube marketers. None of that is real. Hard work is.