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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.

This could also tie in with not getting enough recovery time, and so it's important that you really take the time to educate yourself and learn what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Take in everything in this post and then go check out some of our other blog posts to continue educating yourself further!

So train hard, but don't take your body to its limits too often. If you do that you're hurting your ability to perform and drive gains in the following session(s).

Learn more:

Lifting With Improper Form

This one is pretty common too.

Many lifters, especially beginners are quick to jump into exercises and load them up heavily without knowing the proper form and technique of the exercise.

Not only is this incredibly unsafe, but it's not great for your ability to make gains either.

When you lift with incorrect form you're not engaging the right muscles and not stimulating them well, which means you won't tear as many muscle fibers and ultimately won't see that much growth.

You're also putting yourself at increased chances of injury, and this could set you back weeks, months or even for the rest of your life in some serious and extreme cases.

No matter how hard you train, no matter how much weight you're lifting, one bad injury could cause all of your hard work to go to waste and prevent you from training for a very long time. It's not worth it.

Man suffering neck and lower back pain after weight training too hard and not recovering properly

Instead, take the time to learn proper form and technique. Don't be in such a hurry to lift heavy weight.

Consult with a more experienced lifter if you need, and ultimately do whatever you must to ensure that you're able to perform everything correctly and in a safe manner.

Not Tracking Your Diet

The work doesn't just end when you leave the gym after your workout. In fact, it begins before you even set foot in the gym.

Outside of your training hours you need to be tracking your diet and knowing roughly how much you're eating, and making smart choices about what you're putting into your body.

For example, if you're trying to lose weight, the only way to do this is going to be in a caloric deficit. If you're not tracking your diet and aren't actually eating in a caloric deficit, you're not going to see any weight loss at all. Then you'll wonder why you're not able to get in shape.

Person standing on scale and checking bodyweight to see whether any weight has been lost or gained

Or if you're trying to gain weight and build muscle, the most optimal way to go about this is to eat in a caloric surplus. However if you're not tracking your calories and aren't eating in a surplus, then you won't be able to make progress as quickly as you otherwise would.

You also need to be watching what you're eating and making sure that you're getting foods high in the useful macronutrients such as protein, carbs and healthy fats.

You can learn more about all of this in our blog post: the quick 8 step guide to creating your ideal workout meal plan.

The key takeaway is that your diet is also a very important part of your fitness journey, and definitely something that you need to stay on top of.

Again, take the time to educate yourself and learn all about how to optimize your diet for your goals in fitness.

Constantly Changing Your Workouts

Another reason why you might be struggling to see progress could actually be the fact that you're changing your workouts too often.

If you're trying new workout routines and jumping into new programs every week or so, you're doing it wrong.

Don't immediately think that everything you see your favorite influencers doing on TikTok and Instagram are what you should be doing and following.

Person scrolling through phone and seeing fitness influencers doing crazy workouts

What they're doing is what works for them, and even then half the time what they show you is not what they actually do in their regular training programs.

Don't immediately think that you have to copy what they do. Instead, take the time to find an effectively designed program that you enjoy doing, and stick to it for at least 8-10 weeks.

This is going to allow you to really master the movements that you're performing and apply progressive overload over time.

Our bodies are only going to continue to get stronger if we continue to apply more and more challenging stress to it. This is progressive overload, and it can come in the form of anything like increasing weight, adding reps, adding sets, and so on.

By switching up your workout routines too often, you're not giving yourself a chance to get good at what you do and progress. Your body isn't going to have anything to adapt to and you won't see too much long term progress.

Pick something that you enjoy doing, and stay consistent with it for a while! That's going to be the best way for you to see progress and really start to head towards your goals.

You're Not Educating Yourself

Many people do not sit down and take the time to properly learn why they're doing what they're doing, or the most optimal way to go about this.

Most people simple pick the first thing that they see online and immediately assume that it works, or that it's going to give them great results. But the truth is, fitness can be pretty confusing, and there's a lot that you have to know if you want to get far in it.

You'll do a lot of the learning from experience as time goes on, but you definitely can boost your gains and see more growth quicker if you take the time to properly educate yourself.

For example, many people will pick very, very poor exercises to do that either put them at higher risks of injury, or exercises that literally go against science such as the standing Sven press or a plate pinch press.

Others will not know what the ideal training volume each week is, or how long they're supposed to be resting between sets.

The thing is, there's so much free and great information out there that you really don't have a good reason not to educate yourself.

You can once again check out our blog here at Gympulsive for more high-quality content like this, or check out some other sources such as Barbend, or some YouTube channels such as Jeff Nippard or Jeremy Ethier to learn more.

Even on TikTok, there are great people that post great content, such as CaylePT and JPG Coaching.

All of these sources offer some great content that you can definitely learn a lot from, and it's just up to you to take advantage of it!

Trying to Do Everything on Your Own

Female confused while trying to do everything and get fit on her own without any help

Another huge mistake and key reason why you're not seeing the progress you want to see could simply be that you're trying to do everything on your own.

For example, if you were a complete beginner and tried to create your own workout routine/program, it likely wouldn't turn out to be the best for making gains and progress,

We do have blog posts on how to create your own workout routine and how to create your own workout program, but even then it can be tough for beginners to make their onw. This is completely understandable.

Instead, it might make sense for you to find something that's been created by someone else you can trust.

For example, Stronglifts 5 x 5 is a pretty god workout program, or you can check out some of Jeff Nippard's programs, or check out our very own programs here at Gympulsive!

Expecting Too Much Too Quickly (Unrealistic Goals/Expectations)

Maybe you actually are making progress and are on your way to getting in shape, but are just expecting too much too quickly!

Fitness takes time, as with anything that's worth having in life.

It's going to take months upon months, probably even years for you to get close to reaching your goals in fitness if they're big enough.

Sure, you'll make progress, and you can use that as motivation to keep you going. But know that fitness is a slow process, and it's going to take a LONG time.

Even if you trained the most optimal way possible, even fi you were the most educated person in your gym when it comes to fitness, you're going to see pretty slow progress.

Our bodies have to adapt to the stress that we put them through over time. And the only thing that you can do is stick at it, stay consistent and continue to work hard!

You have to trust the process. Nobody ever got fit overnight.

However, you can once again educate yourself and pick the right training programs/routines to help you make progress as quickly as possible!

You Don't Enjoy the Process

If you're not enjoying what you do in the gym from day to day, there's no doubt that you're not going to see progress as quickly, if any at all.

Like we said above, fitness takes time. A lot of time. And it's going to take up relatively large chunks of your day if you're serious about reaching your goals.

If you're going to be committing so much time into this process, and you don't enjoy it, you're not going to be motivated and you're not going to make gains as quickly.

There's no science behind it, but most would agree that you make progress quicker when you enjoy what you're doing. This isn't just in fitness either.

Whether you're starting your own business, doing your job or something else, you work harder and better when you enjoy what you do.

If you're not currently enjoying what you do in the gym, and would rather be doing lots of other things, then you need to reevaluate what you're doing and whether it's worth it in the first place for you.

Either find a way to change up your exercise program/training to make it more enjoyable for yourself, or have a think about whether this is something that you should be doing in the first place.

It takes a long time for you to get to where you want to be. And then you have to continue to train hard if you want to maintain those gains that you made. They don't last forever.

So fitness, if you're serious about it is likely going to end up being something you do for the rest of your life. You must learn to enjoy the process and like what you're doing.

Wrapping It Up

There could be several reasons why you're not seeing the progress that you want to see, and are feeling like you're not able to get in shape.

However if you take the time to understand these 11 key reasons, and you make real efforts to fix them if they apply to you, you should be well on your way to making gains and progress towards your goals in fitness!

We hope you found this article helpful and enjoyed reading through it! If you did remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more people achieve their goals in fitness!

And if you would like some help removing the guesswork in your fitness, upgrade to Gympulsive Pro for full access to the site and instant, FREE access to all of our training programs!

We'll finish off with another one of our favorite quotes to keep you going!

"Be the best project you ever worked on."


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