Muscle gain, much like weight loss isn’t easy. If you’ve experienced both sides of the coin, then you know that it can often feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Sometimes it can all seem so hopeless—but it’s not. Muscle gain is a constant fight. It’s not about lifting the heaviest weights and wearing the thinnest muscle tanks—there’s more work involved. You probably know that too, but if you’re feeling defeated by your routine, then sometimes everything can feel impossible.
But that’s a lie, and you know it—nothing’s impossible. Pick up your barbells—here are six sure signs that your weightlifting routine is letting you down.
Sign #1: The only thing you’re gaining is fat.
There’s a big different between muscle and fat, the biggest one being that muscle is hard and tight and fat is the absolute opposite. If you’re looking a little heftier than you did a month ago, then you know your routine has failed you. A proper routine should burn calories and build muscle in tandem. If your routine isn’t doing any of that, then it’s time to make a change. You might not need to change your entire routine. Maybe it’s too easy for you or maybe you’ve made the rookie mistake of assuming that leg day could be every day (sorry, guys).
To fix this, eat the right amount and load up on the protein. When hitting the gym, make sure that you are using the right weights and giving all parts of your body equal time in the spotlight. Giving all of your attention to only one part of the body means that it will be that much easier for the rest of your body to fall behind (and generally may end with some unwanted results).
Sign #2: You’ve plateaued.
In both weight loss and muscle gain, everything starts off really well and the losses and gains are incredible. Fat melts away and muscle and tone builds. Just when you’re feeling the most confident, you wake up one morning and nothing happens. The next week, the scale reads the same lousy numbers. It’s hard to stay motivated when there’s no progress.
Plateaus in muscle gain are another sign that you need to dump your routine. Your routine should produce a steady and constant stream of results. To troubleshoot this issue, make sure that your weights are challenging enough. Make sure that your routine pushes you and that your machines are appropriate for the kind of muscle gain that you want.
Sign #3: You don’t even break a sweat.
If you’re not breaking a sweat, then what are you even trying to do? Sweating means that your metabolism is increasing with your core temperature. This is a prime time for weight loss. If you don’t sweat during your workout, then you need to start working toward a more intense workout. Sweat is a great indicator that you haven’t worked hard enough. The best way to fix your routine if you’re not sweating is to just start pushing yourself harder.
Sign #4: All you want to do is sleep.
Fatigue and Sluggishness should not affect weightlifters and other healthy people regularly. Fitness in any capacity invigorates you and gives you energy while helping to regulate your sleep schedule so that you fall asleep at the right time and wake up feeling refreshed. If your body is wrecked from constant workouts, then you might need to change your routine.
You might be working too hard, so try to tone the intensity down a little bit and gauge your alertness for few days. If you feel better, keep going. You can ramp up the intensity again when you’re used to this workout. You should never jump to a drastically higher intensity because you think you can do it. If your body isn’t ready, you can really hurt yourself. Tone it down—you’ll get there.
Sign #5: You never vary intensity.
Similar to our last sign, while it’s good to go slow work up to your goals, it’s also important to gauge when you’re ready to ramp up the intensity. If you stay lifting five pounders by the vending machines the whole workout for months at a time, then you’re going to plateau pretty quickly. You need to feel your workout getting easier and then immediately ramp up your intensity.
If you haven’t varied intensity, try doing so immediately. Remember to start off slow and work up to goals. For example, if you’re the guy who’s lifting the five pound dumbbells by the vending machine, set a goal that in a week or two, you’ll be lifting ten pound weights confidently by the mirror. It’s okay to take it slow, but you have to push yourself!
Sign #6: You’ve called your workout easy
This one’s more about the weight of your…well, weights. If your weights aren’t heavy enough then you need to change up your routine. Weightlifting is one of the few things that should never get easier—it should get more difficult. If you find it easy to keep doing repetitions of the some weight, then you’ll need to make a change.
Repetitions are successful when you feel tired and soreness within 15 reps or less. This is when you’ll actually start making progress. Think quality instead of quantity. More reps don’t improve your workout. They can do absolutely nothing if they are too easy.
Next time you do your routine, try to gauge what the problem is so that you can troubleshoot why you’re not gaining any muscle. Plateauing isn’t normal in a good workout. If your workout is guilty of at least one of these problems, then it’s time to head back to the drawing board. For a great workout, diagnose your biggest mistakes, fix them and constantly set new goals so that you can move forward before your progress becomes stagnant. Think of your weightlifting routine as a mountain. Progress can only be made if you keep working harder and moving further.
Writer’s Bio: Jane Grates is a hockey fan, vegan, record lover, hand letterer and growthhacker. Operating at the junction of minimalism and sustainability to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade.