10 Signs Your Workout Isn't Actually Working

It’s all well and good to go to the gym and train, but how do you know if your workout is actually working? If you’ve been training for a while and your results have plateaued, or never changed at all, it’s time to figure out whether it’s your food plan or your training plan that’s dampening your results. So let’s take a look at your training plan, and go through the signs that your exercise program just isn’t what it should be.

1. You’re Never Sore
It should be a given that when starting new training program, or making some big switch-ups in your current training program that you’ll be a little sore. Your fast-twitch muscle fibres (the ones that you’re going to be using for any rigorous activity like sprints, weight lifting, boxing, etc) take time to recover, and while they’re repairing you may have a little pain that comes along with it, the more your body gets used to a training program, the less post-workout soreness you’ll have. If you’re not feeling any soreness at all 1-2 days after your workouts, then you are probably not actually training as hard as you could (and should) be. A training program should be designed to push you a little to ensure that you’re getting fitter, stronger, or closer to your physical goal.

2. Your Reps or Weights Haven’t Changed
As you make your way through your training program over a few months, the amount of weight you are lifting, and/or the number of reps you are doing should change to ensure that there is progression in your workout. For example, the Get Lean training program has a section dedicated to teaching you progress your reps and weights in a way that is safe and sustainable. If you’re not changing what you’re doing, you’re not moving forward.

3. You Always Have An Injury
Are you doing the workouts correctly? Poor form can lead to poor results, and injury. For example, squatting one way will build your quads, but squatting with slightly different form will focus more on your hamstrings and glutes. Little changes can make a world of difference to your time in the gym. And if you’re not focused on how to do an exercise correctly, or you have no recovery routine (stretch/foam roll/physio/chiro/etc) a common sign is regular injury. If your recovery routine has no need for adjustment, then it’s time to start looking at your form during your workouts.

4. You’re Fatigued, A Lot
Over-training is also a thing! If your training program is poorly designed (e.g. rest days vs training days, or even the order of your training days) you may begin to get fatigued. This can also happen if you take on too much, too soon. If you’re new to training you should build up your resistance, starting with 2-3 days a week, and over the course of 6 months work your way up to 4-5 days a week. At first it may seem exciting and new, and you might want to exercise every day to get results faster, but it will all come crashing down like a pile of bricks if you’re unable to keep up with the schedule for a prolonged period of time. Slow it down, and figure out a training program that not only suits your lifestyle, but also your fitness level.

5. You Can Converse During Your Workout
Having a good ‘ol chat at the gym with your buddy and not feeling out of breath once? Maybe it’s time to step it up a notch. You’ll know you’ve had a good workout when you’re sweating, and when it’s hard to talk afterwards. It’s usually a little easier to get a word in during your breaks if you’re doing weight lifting sets, but if you’re doing cardio you’ll know you’re working hard enough when you just don’t want anybody to speak to you in the fear that you cannot speak back.

6. Your Workout Is The Same Every Day
The problem that I see with a lot of people following YouTube demonstration videos as their only workouts (don’t get me wrong, this is a good way to start) is that the exercises don’t change. The same thing with those who do the same kind of workout every day. If your workout is not changing then you are not changing. As you become fitter, lighter, stronger or gain muscle (whatever you’re working towards) your program needs to be adapted to make sure that you can keep going further. 

7. You’re Not Noticing Changes
You’re not noticing any changes, and in fact you might even be going backwards from where you started! Not every training program is designed the same. Some programs focus more on weight loss, some on muscle and weight gain, some on just general fitness. Make sure that you have a fitness program that’s designed for your body and your goals, not just a generic one-size-fits-all.

8. You’re Not Tired At Night
If you’ve worked hard during the day you should feel it at night. Now, naturally some people are slightly more nocturnal than others, but if you’re able to get a good workout in during your day, you will start to feel tired earlier at night than your usual bed-time hour. 

9. Your Heart Rate Isn’t High Enough
During your workout you should actually be able to feel that you’re training hard enough, sometimes you might even feel a little bit sick from the lactic acid build up. If your heart rate isn’t high enough, you will never feel this. During exercise you should be between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate (maximum hear rate is 220 - your age). Example: 25 year old heart rate zone during exercise: 97 bpm - 165 bpm. To record your heart rate, either measure your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6, or invest in a heart rate monitor that will accurately monitor your heart rate throughout your entire workout.

10. You Can Complete All Your Reps
If you’re having no problems completing all the reps listed for your in your workout, then you have a problem (your workout is too easy)! You should be starting to struggle with your reps toward the last 2-3, particularly on the last few sets of your workout. 

If you’ve gone through this list and it seems like your workout might actually be difficult enough for you, but you’re still not getting the results you’re after if may be time to look at the other factors: food, alcohol, and the rest of your lifestyle.

If, on the other hand, you’ve decided your workout is too easy for you, make sure you check out our Get Lean Guides here. They’re dictated by your body type, are 6 month training programs, and are designed to progress with you.