Why you’re not seeing results from your strength training
Plenty of people come to the gym without really putting in a big effort, but while genuinely believing that they are doing all they can to be better than before they came in
Wondering where them gains are at? We’re all guilty of getting a little impatient when it comes to seeing results from our workouts. Aquanation and Aquahub personal trainer, Jake Williams, is here to set the record straight on when to expect results.
Working hard or hardly working?
One of the biggest misconceptions around training and results is understanding how intense hard work is. “Plenty of people come to the gym without really putting in a big effort, but while genuinely believing that they are doing all they can to be better than before they came in.” Williams says.
He reckons spending two hours at the gym isn’t time well spent if you’re not putting in two hours of maximum effort. The personal trainer recommends learning a little something from bodybuilders. No, he’s not suggesting a struggle to get through doorways due to your bulging muscles is the only indication of hard work. What Williams is referring to is the effort bodybuilders put into their time at the gym.
“Bodybuilders do everything they can to make everything hard for themselves. They get the most out of the time they spend at the gym, whether that’s going slow on the way down or the amount of rest they take,” explains Williams.
To figure out if you are in fact working hard enough, Williams says it’s pretty simple. “If you’re not getting to the point where it feels hard, you’re unlikely to be getting everything you can out of the workout so you really could be doing more.”
Find the magic muscle number
To get results and increase your muscle size, Williams recommends making your program a priority. “To increase muscle size we need to provide that muscle with a stimulus at least twice a week, just training it weekly means you’re likely to lose your gains before you train them again,” explains Williams.
The personal trainer recommends hitting the full body at least twice a week to get results and warns against completely changing your workout too frequently. Essentially, if you have a goal, stay focussed and be patient.
“According to the research, we get neurological or neuromuscular adaptations during the first five weeks of training, which basically means our body gets better at using the muscle we already have,” advises Williams.
After these five weeks is when hypertrophy (and you start to see those gains) starts, so Williams suggests tweaking your tempo or sets but keeping your program consistent, to keep growing your muscles.
Scales don’t measure success
Remember that old saying: don’t believe everything you read? Williams is a big believer of this when it comes to hopping on the scales.
“Weight on scales is not always the best indicator of performance, and not the be all and end all of success,” advises Williams.
The personal trainer adds, “The misconception that numbers on scales are only an indication of body fat can be really detrimental to a gym newbie.” Williams reminds us that it’s important to consider that scales show both muscle mass and body fat. Muscle mass can increase your weight scale reading - meaning you are actually getting fitter and stronger.
He recommends utilising the InBody at Aquanation and Aquahub to really understand what goals you’re achieving. “These scales measure body fat and muscle mass, along with a whole host of other helpful things. With one free InBody scan per month available to members as part of their membership, it’s an easy option.”
Alternatively, Williams suggests using a measuring tape to measure circumferences. “For men, measure your chest and abdomen, women measure your hips and abdomen,” the personal trainer advises. For example, “if you’ve lost 3cms off your waist in a week and the scales stay the same, you’ve actually put on muscle and dropped body fat rather than nothing happening at all.”
Lifting doesn’t equal bulk
Sorry (not sorry) to burst your bubble but lifting weights will not automatically make you huge. Williams says this misconception, particularly amongst women, is still surprisingly prominent. “Women simply do not put on muscle at the same rate as men, so if you want the body that lifting weights gives you (curvy and shapely), lift weights!”
The personal trainer gives lifting weights for older women in particular, the big tick. More specifically, he recommends including a combination of impact activity and weight lifting to maintain bone density.
Additionally, weights can be an effective way to drop body fat (high-five to that if you hate cardio) and Williams suggests getting a good coach and visiting a dietitian to get the best results.
What to expect at 1 month vs 3 months vs 6 months
Your first month of training is all about neurological changes. Williams explains you get a boost of stronger muscles “due to neurological adaptions where your body gets better at using the muscle it already has.”
When you head towards the three-month marker, your muscle has gotten better at that range of motion and you can expect to start spotting some gains and hypertrophy kicks in, the personal trainer outlines.
By three to four months, Williams explains you might notice your progress slowing. Essentially, “this is because our body always wants to be in a state of homeostasis where it wants to be constant, so any stimulus or lack thereof, results in a shift of homeostasis or the base point of where our body is.”
The personal trainer reckons this is to be expected because if you’re doing a specific program for six months straight, “your body will adapt and overtime that training program stops being a stimulus and starts being the norm for your body.”
To get results in the six month period, Williams suggests either changing what you’re doing slightly or adding more volume to your workout.
Results look and feel different on everybody
For Williams, results come down to what your goals are. “If your goals are to go to the gym three times a week and you’re going three times a week that’s fine, and your goals are to get fitter, stronger, have more energy, be healthier, then you are probably achieving more than you realise.”
If your goals are numbers off the scale or muscle mass and you’re not seeing results, Williams has some tips for staying motivated and achieving your goals.
“According to research, self-monitoring paired with goal setting is the number one method for maintaining motivation and I’ve found that has worked really well for me.”
Williams recommends doing something you enjoy, setting goals and making yourself accountable to maintain your motivation.
Jake Williams is a personal trainer at Aquanation with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sorts Science and is currently studying a Masters in Exercise Physiology at ACU. Learn more.