Why am I not getting stronger? 7 possible reasons why

A man is unloading a barbell. He's not stronger than he was a month ago and he has to remove the extra weight he added

We all have periods where it seems that whatever we do, we just can’t seem to get stronger. We grow frustrated and think, “Why am I not getting stronger? Is there something wrong with me?”.

Often, it’s not because there’s something wrong with us. More likely, however, is it that we’re doing something wrong, something that slows us down or maybe even destroys our progress.

Below are 7 of the most common mistakes and reasons why we suddenly can’t seem to get stronger.

1. You’re not eating enough

When we’re not experiencing progress in the gym, we tend to look at our workouts to find out why. However, one of the most common reasons gym-goers suddenly can’t seem to get stronger is their diet.

When we just started strength training, it seemed like we could eat whatever or be in a calorie deficit and still get stronger. However, as we move past the stage of newbie gains, it becomes more difficult.

If your goal is to lose weight, you might have to accept not getting stronger while in a calorie deficit.

How to fix this

Before you can determine whether or not you’re eating enough, you have to have an idea of how much you should be eating. While there are many ways to do this, the easiest might be to use a BMR calculator.

Once you know how many calories you need, you can begin to track them. If it turns out that you are eating in a deficit, you can try to eat more. You can do this by eating bigger portions, adding an extra meal, or drinking a protein shake.

If you want to maximize your strength gains, being in a calorie surplus alone isn’t enough. You have to eat the right things too. To do this, I recommend doing the same process as above. Calculate your macro ratios, track them, and see how you’re doing.

Once you know how much and what to eat, you can stop tracking your meals.

2. You’re not following a program

Some people prefer not to follow a workout program. Instead, they like to show up and train or do whatever they feel like in the moment. While this might seem like a good approach, it creates two problems that can slow down your progress.

We all have some muscle groups we prefer to hit in the gym. If you don’t have a plan before you arrive, you’ll most likely train what’s easiest for you, your favorite muscle group. Over time, your body will be unproportioned, and the risk of injury will increase.

When we are free to choose the easier option at the beginning of something hard, we’re more likely to keep choosing the easier option all the way through.

When you show up to the gym without a plan, it’s not just the muscle groups you have to decide. There are also exercises, sets, and reps. When we take this approach, we’re more likely to stick with the easier exercises in our preferred rep ranges. Furthermore, we won’t push ourselves as much during the sets as we could with a program.

Related: Dumbbell workouts

How to fix this

To fix this, you simply have to find a decent program. You can search the internet and find one you like or use our 4-day-a-week workout routine.

3. You’re using incorrect form

We all slack on our form from time to time. Maybe you move your body during the last rep of a set of curls or use momentum to force out the last rep of bench press. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem arrives when it’s not just the last (couple of) reps that aren’t looking too good but the whole set.

When training with an incorrect form, we aren’t necessarily working the intended muscles. Over time, it can lead to imbalances, undertrained muscles, and an increased risk of injuries. As this happens, you’ll struggle to get stronger.

How to fix this

If your lifting technique is wrong, you won’t experience the long-term results you want from the gym. To fix this issue, you have to be okay with lifting lighter weights than you’re used to. If you’re in doubt about how to perform the exercises, consult a personal trainer, experienced friend, or use Youtube.

Pick a weight light enough that you can perform your reps slow and controlled. Get comfortable with the form, and slowly begin to add more weight from there.

Filming yourself is another great way to fix your form. Film your sets and go through the technique in your breaks. Spot your mistakes and try to correct them in your next set. It will help you be more aware of how your body moves and how small changes affect that.

4. You don’t sleep enough

Getting enough sleep can improve reaction time and speed, accuracy, and performance in general. It’s even an important part of muscle recovery and growth. On the other hand, if we don’t sleep enough, both our performance in the gym and our recovery will suffer.

The recommended amount of sleep for athletes is between 7 and 9 hours every night. However, getting closer to 9 hours seems to be optimal. If you get under 7 hours, that might be the reason why you’re not getting stronger.

How to fix this

There can be many possible causes and solutions for this issue. To find out why you’re not sleeping enough, you have to take a look at your life and habits.

If you’re the type who struggles to fall asleep even when going to bed early, there are still a few things you can do. Avoid screens as much as possible after dinner, have a regular bedtime, get some fresh air, and avoid caffeine after noon might help you. Meditation and calming music work wonder for others.

5. You’re not doing a progressive overload

Progressive overload is when we gradually increase the difficulty of our workouts. We do this by increasing the weight, frequency, amount of reps, or reducing the break time in our workout. If we wouldn’t do progressive overload, the muscles would slowly adapt to the stress, and they wouldn’t grow in size or strength.

How to fix this

If you aren’t already doing some kind of progressive overload in your workouts, it’s time to start. Let’s have a look at one of the easiest ways to add it to your workout plan.

Target a specific rep range

One of the easiest ways to ensure progressive overload is to target a rep range instead of an exact amount of reps.

Let’s say that your program tells you to do 4 sets of 8 reps of bench press. You’ll change the 8 reps to 6-8 reps. The target will still be 8 reps, but you’ll accept anything over 6.

Now take a weight that you can perform at least 6 reps in all 4 sets with. When you have worked your way up to perform all 4 sets with 8 reps, you can add weight. Continue like this, and you’re doing progressive overload.

6. You’re doing too much

Just as not working hard enough can be a reason why you’re not getting stronger, doing too much can as well.

When we work out, we create minor tears in our muscles. It isn’t until we rest that the muscles get the time to heal and grow. When we’re doing too much, we don’t allow the body the time it needs to recover. Over time, doing too much increases the risk of injury, fatigue, and stress and can result in lower strength.

Related: Should you do cardio before or after weights?

How to fix this

It’s usually one of the following two reasons that result in the issue mentioned above.

Some believe that the more they do, the better results they’ll see. Some of these people will work out at least once every day. To fix this issue, try to reduce the frequency, volume, or maybe both in your workouts for a month. Chances are, that you’re not only going to feel better but also lift more weight.

Others are just not able to take a day off. They might need to get rid of that extra energy or feel better mentally. However, resting more doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to sit on the couch all day. Try to do some easy cardio and add some stretching or mobility work to your off-days. You’ll do meaningful work that can help your progress while resting the body. That’s a real win-win.

7. Your goals aren’t realistic

Maybe you aren’t doing any of the things mentioned above, are experiencing slow progress but doesn’t feel that you’re getting strong fast enough. That might be due to your goals and expectations.

Realize that what you see on social media isn’t always real. Some use performance-enhanced drugs, they all play with the lighting, and some will even photoshop their pictures to look better. You shouldn’t expect to look like that, especially not straight away.

How to fix this

If you’re setting unattainable or unrealistic goals for yourself, it doesn’t matter how hard or smart you work, you won’t succeed. Instead, set realistic SMART goals for yourself and track the progress.

Building serious muscle mass and strength takes time. Be patient, continue the hard work, track your progress, and slowly, you’ll notice that you, in fact, are getting stronger.

Tips to get stronger faster

Even if you aren’t doing any of the mistakes mentioned above, you might still experience periods where you’re not gaining strength as fast as you’d like. Let’s look at a couple of things you can do to speed up the process.

Switch things up

Building strength is about repetition and patience. If we constantly change our workout plans, it’s hard to utilize progressive overload and grow stronger. However, if we do the same workout for too long, we hit a plateau.

For the best results, you have to follow the same workout plan for at least 8 weeks. It’s okay to make small changes, but the structure should remain the same. After 12-16 weeks of doing the same workout plan, you should change it.

Related: Best workout split for building mass

Use supplements

Supplements aren’t necessary to gain strength but can make the process a bit easier.

Protein supplements, such as whey protein can help you meet your protein goals and make the diet easier.

Pre-workouts can help you stay focused and give you energy and a better pump. They are used to increase your performance in the gym.

Creatine is the best supplement on the market to build strength. It helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercises, such as weight lifting.

Related: Does creatine make you gain weight?

Conclusion

There can be many different reasons why you’re not getting stronger. Sometimes, it’s due to the diet, maybe it’s the workouts that lack something, or maybe, it’s something out of your control.

If you can’t find and fix the issue yourself, be patient. Sometimes, all you need is time.