4 (Not So Obvious) Reasons You’re Not Seeing Results in the Gym

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I’m in a crap-tastic mood today so I apologize in advance if this post comes across as me being a cantankerous old-man or something.

I don’t know if it’s due to seasonal affective disorder, lack of caffeine, or the fact I just re-watched one of the most depressing movies in the history of depressing movies – Dancer in the Dark – but I’m really trying to fight off the urge to kidney punch a dolphin right now. Dolphins have kidneys right?  

Sometimes I think people need a dose of tough love every now and then. Life isn’t always about butterfly kisses and rainbows and teddy bear hugs. Case in point:  the movie I mentioned above.  I’m not kidding when I say that it’s arguably one of the most depressing movies ever made.  It makes Schindler’s List come across as a romantic comedy.

My girlfriend is often perplexed why it is I tend to gravitate towards “darker” movies and television shows. I was watching an episode of The Walking Dead not too long ago and I think Lisa’s exact words to me when she caught me cheering a zombie decapitation was, “I think I love you less for watching this crap.”

Don’t worry, though:  I made it up to her by watching an episode of Downton Abbey. One cancels out the other.

I can’t pinpoint the reason myself, but I think part of the appeal of shows like Breaking Bad or movies like Prisoners is that I tend to find those bit more realistic and believable than the typical feel good, lets-all-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya fanfare.  I’m sorry but Ross doesn’t always end up with Rachel.  Lassie doesn’t always find her way home.  And dammit, Roy Hobbs doesn’t always hit a walk-off home run.

But giving credit where it’s due: That scene still gives me chills. I can’t tell you how many times I watched that scene when I was growing up, reenacting it in my living room.

Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s cloudy with a chance of rain.  And Ross gets hit by a bus crossing the street.

HA – now THAT would have been an ending.

Don’t get me wrong:  I like happy endings (get your mind out of the gutter) and I won’t lie and deny that I don’t enjoy the simpler things in life. For example, I’m pumped every time I find a quarter on the street.  In fact, I usually end up doing one of these:

I high-five myself every time I wake up a minute before my alarm goes off.  My heart melts every time Lisa smiles at me (or cooks me a steak). Who doesn’t fist pump when they make it through a yellow light? I know I do.   And, my cat is sitting here next to me sleeping by my arm as I type this post.  OMG she is just the cutest thing……EVER!

See I’m not just some cold-hearted Scrooge.

But seriously, though, in real life Ross would NEVER have landed a fox like Rachel.  Come on!!!!!!!!!

I also wouldn’t do what I do for a living if I didn’t enjoy helping people and if I didn’t get some sense of fulfillment from it.


I mean, for starters I get to wear sweatpants to work every day if I want.  What’s not to love?  But more to the point, on an almost daily basis, I get to coach people and be there as they shatter personal records, achieve things they never thought possible, and otherwise help them increase their general level of awesomeness.

98.5694% (give or take a few percentage points) of the stuff I write is positive.  I wouldn’t write this blog if I didn’t want to help people and do my part in making them better.

But sometimes, on a day like today, I have a hard time playing cheerleader and I just need to tell it like it is.

A friend of mine, Chad Landers, a guy with over 20 years of training experience and someone whom I respect a ton, wrote an awesome article earlier this year that went viral titled Top 5 Reasons You’re Not Seeing Results in the Gym.

I thought the article was boss. I agreed 100% with everything he said and even went out of my way to highlight it here on this blog (as part of an installment of Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work) as well as on my social media outlets.

I felt it was a message that everyone needed to hear and I loved the positive reinforcement he provided.

As I mentioned above I tend to re-watch movies all the time (that’s a pic of my kick-ass movie collection below:  Star Wars? Check.  Lord of the Rings?  Check.  GoodFellas?  Check.  Love Actually?  I plead the 5th.), and in the same vein I also tend to re-read articles that I like.

I happened to come across Chad’s article again yesterday, again nodding my head in complete agreement, but then a thought to myself, “what else do people need to hear?”

And this is what I came up with.  Again, sorry:  I’m really not this much of a prick in real life.

I think Chad hit the nail on the head with regards to all the obvious explanations as to why most people aren’t seeing results in the gym.  You know, things like not using progressive overload, program hopping, a raging case of explosive diarrhea (<—-I added that one).

But one major calling card that I feel wasn’t hit on – and something that tend to be the elephant in the room is this:

1. You’re Just Not Working as Hard as You Think You Are

No, really.  You’re not!  I hate to be Johnny Raincloud and rain on your parade, but this is a tough pill to swallow for most people.

Just because you “show up,” and the clock says you were at the gym for an hour 0r two doesn’t really mean anything. Likewise, it doesn’t make your “workout” any more effective just because you posted it up as a status update on your Facebook page.

As a coach it’s in my nature to observe and watch people.  This is absurdly true whenever I happen to train at a commercial gym.  I can’t help but watch people train.  Sure, there are a few people who get after it and are doing some work, but the vast majority of people are just floating around more concerned with watching updates on SportsCenter or checking their text messages than actually breaking a sweat.

It’s funny, because this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because research as repeatedly shown  – especially in nutrition circles – that people tend to UNDER repot how much they really eat, and OVER report how much they exercise.

It’s human nature to “fudge” the facts a bit – yes, I do it too – and it’s uncanny how much we tend to “forget” those five Oreos we had right before bed the other night or that your actual bench press max is 200 lbs and not the 405 (for reps) that the internet says it is.

Just own up to it!  You’re not working as hard as you think you are.  It’s as simple as that.

2. No Plan, or Purpose

Pigging back on one of the points above:  how many of you reading can honestly raise your hand and say, “I’m training for X,Y, or Z? That I have a plan or goal or PURPOSE in my training?”

Better yet, a more germane question to ask would be:  “am I actually tracking anything?”

Are you just showing up 0r are you showing up with a plan of attack? Do you show up to the gym and just “wing it,” or do you show up with a purpose?

Another buddy of mine, Bryan Krahn (who’s actually my editor over at T-Nation) had a great quote not too long ago that he posted on Twitter:

Crossfit “works” because it’s competitive. You can do the same with your own training by competing against your training log. 

There’s no need to get fancy or get into the mindset that we have to be following some advanced training protocol.  I’d much rather see people do the boring stuff (squat, deadlift, chin-ups, bench press, not eat like an asshole) – and do them WITH PASSION and CONSISTENCY – than just throw caution to the wind and haphazardly “do stuff,”

Whether your goal is to get bigger, leaner, stronger, look good for your 20-year class reunion, stop trying to short-change the system.  Have a plan, do the boring stuff – eat well, train hard, repeat – that actually works.

3. You’re Not Comfortable With Getting Uncomfortable

When I was in college I would spend my holiday breaks and summers training at my local gym in my hometown.  There was one guy who trained there who, I swear to god, did the exact same workout, in the exact same order, with the exact same weights, for four straight freakin years.

He never changed a damn thing, and it’s no surprise that he looked EXACLY the same on day one as he did on day 1,460 (that’s how many days are in four years BTW).

Now I’m not insinuating that people need to be changing up their programs every week or two. Just because you read an article by Jim Wendler or Dave Tate where they discuss the merits of switching up movements every so often doesn’t mean you have to.

Here’s a quick quiz (guys):

1.  Can you deadlift at least 2x bodyweight?

2.  Can you perform a set of TEN strict, sternum to bar, bodyweight chin-ups?

3.  Do you own a pair of chains, yet can’t squat your own bodyweight for ten reps?

If you answered no to any of the questions above, trust me, you have no business worrying about whether or not you should switch from deficit deadlifts with chains in week one to deadstart Anderson front squats to week two.

As I stated earlier:  there’s nothing wrong with doing the boring stuff and getting REALLY good at doing them.

Conversely, it stands to reason that if you haven’t changed up your workout routine since Pepsi Clear was considered relevant (was that ever considered relevant???) than it’s probably a fair assumption that you need to change things up a bit.

I get it:  it’s human nature to do what’s comfortable and what we’re good at.  But the body does a pretty damn good job at adapting to whatever stress we place upon it, and it’s bodes in your favor to challenge yourself in different ways from time to time.

Get comfortable with getting UNcomfortable.

4. Frankly, Your Gym is Sucking the Life Out of You

How anyone can train with the likes of John Mayer or Katy Perry reverberating through the speakers is beyond me.

Moreover, if your gym routinely posts notices like this – and then rewards you by providing you with a “pizza day” every week – than your lack of results is on you.

Just sayin……

UPDATE:  I’m feeling better now.  After having written that and gotten a little off my chest in concert with watching a few LOLCat videos, I’m good.

Who wants a hug!?!?!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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