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8 Steps to Crushing Your First Gym Session

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11 Key Reasons Why You Can't Get in Shape (and How to Fix It!)

Updated: May 11, 2022

If you've been trying to get in shape for the past while now, and it feels like nothing has worked, don't worry, many people feel this way.

Many people feel like they're working hard everyday, but aren't able to get the results that they want to see.

Whether they tried their first fitness program they saw on TikTok, or they tried to create their own and didn't do it properly, people can fail to get in shape and reach their goals in fitness for one reason or another.

If that sounds like you, and you're serious about getting in shape, read on for a list we've created of the 11 most common mistakes that trainees make, that cost them HUGE amounts of gains!

Man lying down on beach after workout wondering why he's not getting in shape

Here's What You Might Be Doing Wrong...

NOTE: These tips will be primarily focused on goals that involve strength training such as lifting weights and calisthenics.

However, many of them can be applied to other goals as well such as doing cardio for fat loss or training as a competitive athlete.

In fact, many fitness goals can utilize lifting weights and strength training to help you reach them quicker. if you're trying to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, you can click below to read more after you're done with this article!

Learn more:

Alright, now we can get into the reasons why you might be struggling to see the progress you're wanting to see.

You're Not Training Hard Enough

Fit and muscular man doing barbell bicep curls

One of, if not the most important reason why you're not getting in shape is simply that you're just not training hard enough.

Many people, especially when they first start out think that they're getting into the gym, staying there for upwards of an hour and therefore are working hard towards their goals.

However, this simply isn't how that works. You can't just show up to the gym, go through the motions and think that you're working hard.

Sure, it's better than nothing, but you absolutely have to be working hard to get to where you want to be in terms of your fitness goals.

If you're lifting weights in the gym, you need to be taking the majority (preferably all of them) of your working sets close to failure. By that, we mean taking them to within 3 reps of hitting failure.

Doing this is going to ensure that you're properly stimulating muscle growth without compromising your ability to perform in future or subsequent sets/sessions.

If you're doing cardio or something else in the gym, you need to make sure that you're working hard as well.

You don't have to go all out every single day as this is going to lead to burnout and negative returns in the long run, but you do have to make sure that you're properly giving yourself a challenge.

Simply put, your body is going to adapt to the physical stress that you put it through. Whether you're running 5 miles or lifting weights, your body is going to get stronger and fitter so that the next time you do that exercise at that intensity, it's not going to be as hard.

However if you're not really working hard, you're not giving your body a good reason to grow and get stronger. And if this is the case for you, you're not going to get anywhere with your fitness goals.

By the end of each session (unless it's a recovery session), you should be able to reflect back and tell yourself that you really put in a good effort. And don't lie to yourself at all.

Be brutally honest about how hard you're working.

A good way to test your own honesty and accountability is to take your exercise to absolute failure one day.

For example, if you're barbell curling, take a set with a comfortable weight to absolute failure. Have an experienced person in the gym watch you and encourage you to squeeze in one final rep.

Or if you're a runner, experiment with one session where you go absolutely all out. Pace yourself, but make sure that by the end of the session, you have got absolutely nothing left. You should feel so tired that you have to lie on the ground or sit down to catch your breath.

Learn what it feels like to properly reach failure. If you learn this feeling, and you fully understand it, you're going to be able to judge how hard you're really working in the future and stay honest with yourself.

We can't describe it for you (no one can), and the only person that's ever going to know how hard you're really working is going to be YOU.

Remember, if you're not working hard and not giving your body a reason to grow, it's not going to grow and you won't get to where you want to be.

You're Making Excuses

How many times have you told yourself that you couldn't get into the gym because you didn't sleep well the night before, or that you had work and were feeling a little tired?

If you find yourself constantly making excuses not to get into the gym, or constantly making excuses as to why you're not performing as well, this is a key reason why you feel that you're unable to get in shape.

You have to hold yourself accountable for what you do.

So what if you didn't sleep well the night before?

Your potential gains aren't going to care.

You have to know that the only person you're limiting and affecting by making excuses is yourself. Making excuses and skipping that workout might feel good now, but it's going to come back to bite you later on when you realize you've missed out on A LOT of training.

You have to hold yourself accountable and be responsible for your own progress. No one else can do it for you.

Find a way to work around your challenges!

If you've got work, you could look to go to bed earlier at night and try to fit in a gym session before your shift starts. Or, you could try and fit in a training session after work and before dinner.

If you don't get good sleep one night, simply accept it and get on with your day. You shouldn't let one bad night's sleep affect your entire day and stop you from doing the things that you love or working towards your goals.

There are plenty of ways that you can work around problems and issues, and sometimes, you just have to be a little creative or sacrifice something else in order to achieve what you want instead of making pointless excuses.

We'll end this section off with one of our favorite fitness and workout quotes.

"Be stronger than your excuses."

You're Not Recovering Properly

Another major reason why you may be struggling to see progress or think that you're unable to get in shape could be that you're not giving your body enough time to rest up and recover from all the hard work you're putting it through.

By recovering properly, we're referring to several different parts of your routine.

We'll go over them below.

Resting Between Sets

Female athlete resting during workout and preparing to go hard in another set

Making sure that you get enough rest in between your sets is crucial to allowing yourself to perform at your best and really drive the most optimal gains that you're looking for.

If you're not resting long enough in between your working sets, you're only going to limit you total workout volume and cause a negative impact on your ability to build strength and muscle.

Taking shorter rest periods might 'feel' better and have you feeling like you're training more intensely or working harder, but it's actually not the most optimal way to train if you're wanting to build muscle and get stronger.

For isolation exercises you should be looking to get at least 2 minutes of rest in between sets, and at least 3 minutes in between sets for your compound exercises.


It's also important that you give your body the sleep it needs to not only recuperate the energy you use up throughout the day, but also to repair the damage that you do to it through your physical exercising.

When we exercise, our bodies suffer microtrauma and damage that needs to be repaired through adequate recovery. If we don't give our bodies the rest and sleep that they need to repair this, we're going to feel fatigued in the gym and not be able to perform as well.

A study conducted by Yanbo Chen concluded that: "maintaining a sleep duration of 7-8 hours may be preferable for muscle strength", and that: "Reduced sleep quality and sleep duration might be potential risk factors for muscle strength."

Some other sources do say that getting up to 9 hours may be even more preferable, so it's important that you experiment with everything and find the ideal number of hours for you to be sleeping each night.

Post-Workout Routines

Many people skip this part, but it's actually pretty important. If you're not doing a proper post-workout routine, even just for 5-10 minutes, you could be severely limiting your performance in subsequent sessions, and your gains in the long run.

By doing your post-workout routines such as static stretching, foam rolling and warm downs, you're helping your body speed up its recovery and helping yourself feel fresher for the session tomorrow, or the next day.

Remember, even just 5-10 minutes after your workout can come to play a huge role in determining how you feel going into your workout the day afterwards. Plus, it'll help prevent injuries and help you become more flexible, which is always a bonus as an athlete.

Rest Days

Lastly for this section, you need to be taking your rest days seriously, and taking them frequently enough.

If you're in the gym 7 days a week, this is too much. You're not giving your body to recover from your workouts at all and you're severely limiting your performance by doing so.

When we feel tired and sore, our performance is bound to drop. If you're working out absolutely every day and not giving your body a chance to rest, you're either heading into your workouts in a state of fatigue or simply not working hard enough.

If you're getting in the gym every day of the week but aren't feeling ridiculously tired, chances are you're not working hard enough in your sessions.

You're not pushing your body close enough to failure, and not stimulating any proper growth/gains.

You need at least 1 rest day each week, and likely more depending on your own ability to recover and your training experience level.

The point is, you have to be taking rest days and you need to take them seriously. Recovery is extremely important for making progress towards your goals and you're the only person that's responsible for providing your body with that.

Trying to Do Too Much

While some people don't do enough work and don't train hard enough, some do the complete opposite and either do too much or train too hard, too often.

You see, training hard and pushing your body to its limits everyday might sound good, but it really isn't if you're trying to maximize your performance and your gains in the long run.

When you try to lift too much weight or you do too much volume, these things can actually start to be counterproductive in terms of making gains.

Lifting too much weight is going to cause form breakdown and a lower quality of reps. You won't build as much muscle if you're not engaging and stimulating them properly.

Doing too much volume is going to cause your recovery costs after the workout to skyrocket, which can lead to decreased performance in the next few sessions. Even if you take a rest day, you might not be feeling too good heading into your session.