Ever feel like you’ve reached a plateau and that no matter what you do, you just don’t seem to be getting stronger?
Yeah, we’ve all been there.
In fact, that’s one of the biggest downsides about bodyweight training—it can be harder to measure your progress, since so many of the movements are all or nothing. This means that unlike weight training, where you can up the weight five pounds every week or so, with bodyweight training you’ll be doing the same thing… over and over.
So it can definitely be kind of discouraging when you feel like you’ve been working at something forever and you still can’t do it.
Here are 5 reasons why you might not be getting stronger:
1. You’re not working hard enough
It may sound obvious, but the only way you’re really going to get stronger is to push as hard as you possibly can in your workouts.
Yes, that means going fast and not taking unnecessary breaks, but it also means doing the hardest possible version of the exercise you can do until you fatigue—then immediately going to the next easiest modified version of the exercise.
So, if you can do a few full triceps push ups, you’ll start out doing those, then when you can no longer do a single one, drop to your knees and continue working. The same thing goes for dips, pull ups, or any other exercise—you’ll want to start with the hardest version of the exercise you can do, then switch to an easier version when you can no longer do the full thing.
Pushing your body like this is what’s really going to keep giving you strength gains. But don’t hold back!
2. You’re not keeping track of your progress
When you train bodyweight exercises like pull ups and pistols, it’s sometimes really difficult to tell if you’re making progress. The reality of these types of exercises is that you’re never going to just be able to add a rep or two every week—it may take weeks, months, even a full year before you see get that first (or next) rep.
But that doesn’t actually mean that you’re not actually making progress. In fact, much of the progress you’ll be making when doing calisthenics is going to be small successes—successes that are easy to miss unless you’re paying close attention.
The best way to do this? Keep a fitness journal.
Writing down your workouts, the reps you do, how you feel after each workout, how many breaks you had to take, etc. will allow you to look back at where you’ve come from—and see whether you’ve actually made more progress than you thought, or whether you really have reached a plateau. It’s one of the best things you can do to keep motivated and pushing hard during your workouts.
3. You don’t have a clear goal
One of the biggest things I recommend when starting a fitness habit is to have a clear goal in mind—whether it’s to do your first push up, compete in a race, hold a handstand for 10 seconds, or something else entirely.
Creating goals to work towards throughout your training career is an incredibly important step to gain strength and avoid plateaus, since it’s a thousand times more motivating to push yourself if you have a very clear goal to focus on. Without one, it’s all too easy to let yourself slip up not push yourself hard enough, which ultimately leads to plateaus.
4. You’re cheating yourself
If you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer or coach, you probably remember how much harder pretty much every exercise felt compared to doing those same exercises on your own. And there’s a good reason for this: it’s human nature to push ourselves harder when there’s someone else watching.
But since most of you guys reading this probably work out alone, you need to learn how to push yourself as hard as you would with a trainer right next to you, even when no one is watching. Because whether you’re letting your form slip up during your workouts, you aren’t doing the hardest version of the exercise you can do, or you’re giving up before you’re actually fatigued, you’re ultimately cheating yourself out of all the strength gains you could—and should—be making.
So next time you catch yourself half-assing a workout, pretend like I’m there cheering you on and don’t hold back!
5. You’re not in it enough mentally
If you’re feeling like it’s been a while since you’ve made any tangible strength gains, it might be time to reassess your attitude.
Do you want it bad enough? Are you willing to do what it takes, or are you fine just half-assing your workouts for the rest of your life?
There’s no doubt about it: these workouts are tough. Whether you’re pushing through the 100 burpee challenge, or you’re huffing and puffing your way through wall balls, you really have to be able to push past your own mental blocks to keep making gains.
You can be as strong as you put your mind to… but you have to want it bad enough.
Don’t give up
Getting stronger takes time, and nothing is going to happen overnight.
But although everyone has a few physical limitations (for instance, I will never be a professional gymnast—I’m too tall, and about 10 years too old!), everyone can do amazing things if they put their mind to it.
“You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them.” – Author unknown