Why Isn’t My Exercise Program Working?

If you’re like many, then you’ve asked yourself the above question at some stage. Or perhaps, at many stages. In truth, sometimes the program is the problem and sometimes, the problem is us. If you are, or have been, frustrated with your exercise results, then here are three important and potentially-transformational questions to ask.

1. Is My Exercise Program Progressive?

The physiological purpose of exercise is to stimulate adaptation. In most cases, anyway. That is, to give your body a reason to change. To get smaller. Or bigger. Or leaner. Or lighter. Faster. Stronger. More powerful. More agile. More flexible. Healthier. And so on. When a body is constantly stimulated the same way (as many are – same exercises, same format, same intensity, same program, same equipment), there comes a point in time when the body in question doesn’t need to change and therefore, it won’t. Like many other aspects of our reality, some of us are creatures of habit, even when it comes to the way we exercise. That is, we tend to do the same thing (or very similar) day in and day out, all the while hoping for a different outcome. In order for a body to keep changing via exercise, it needs two key things: variety and progression. Variety, in terms of exercises done, program design, activities, equipment and training environment, and progression, in terms of training intensity. Training intensity can be manipulated by changing things like recovery time between sets, weight used, speed (running, rowing, swimming, riding, etc.), incline, training surface (sand vs. concrete, for e.g.) revs, reps, range of movement, overall training volume, training heart rate and much more.

2. Am I Following the Best Program for Me?

One of my pet hates is lazy fitness professionals (and I use the term ‘professional’ loosely) who prescribe programs that can only be described as generic. With the net result of their laziness, lack of professionalism and lack of care being a collection of people with different genetics, training backgrounds, fitness levels, medical conditions and exercise goals all following the same (or a very similar) program. And yes, this happens all the time. When it comes to quality exercise prescription (the thing you should receive at your gym), sadly, some personal trainers prescribe more towards the ‘impersonal’ end of the scale. In order to maximise your time, energy and genetic potential, your program should be designed specific to your age (both chronological and biological), exercise background, medical history, current fitness level, body type and exercise goals. You’ll never explore your potential or create optimal results when you’re following someone else’s program.

3. Does my Diet Complement my Program?

Some people (okay, many people) undo their great work at the gym (pool, running track, park, etc.), with their anything-but-great diet. Nine-out-of-ten exercise habits attached to three-out-of-ten eating habits will provide you with a six-out-of-ten overall result. Well, that’s not exactly how it works but you get my point. If you’re in the “I want to be leaner” group (and what a large group it is) then don’t delude yourself about what you’re putting in your gob. Optimal training plus optimal diet equals optimal results. But you know that.