Two simple reasons, both of which are easy to rectify!

1 You aren’t progressing your workouts regularly.

2: You aren’t creating an overload for the body.

3: Or alarm time…it’s both!

Progess and overload, if you progress your workouts properly and regularly you will be creating an overload and therefore you should start to see the body shape changes you want.

Gym success looks something like this:  train rest / recover ⇒ repeat.

But, during your workouts you need to train hard enough to overload the body. No overload no success.

Unfortunately, this is where 90% or women don’t get the results they want from the gym.

Now the good news! You can rectify these problems at your very next workout by making some very simple changes.

In fact, once you address issue 1 and 2 above you will see significant improvements in the areas you want!

The principles are the same for both weight loss and strength gains.  As your fitness levels improve you have to continually work harder or vary your workouts to create the required overload to see continued improvements.

Key Points to Gym Success

1: Your body adapts really quickly and I mean really quickly!
2: You need to constantly challenge your body to reach your goal (s)
3: Failure to do will result in the dreaded plateau which means your gains / goals will stagnate!

Which generally leads to frustration and potentially you giving up

How & When to Progress Your Workout?

There’s no exact science as to when, how much and how often you need to progress your workouts as there are many factors to consider.

However, for you regular gym goers if you have been doing same workout as little as 3-4 times (yes just 3 or 4 times!!) then you probably need to think about changing something very soon.

Do you remember the first time you went to the gym or went for a run? You were aching for days or even the best part of a week, right!

But, remember the second time? The aching was probably halved wasn’t it? The body had adapted so the shock is not as great the next time around.  By workout 3 or 4 probably the aching was minimal.

Now, your body hasn’t suddenly made huge adaptations but you can see that already some degree of adaptation has occurred.  Turn those 3 – 4 workouts in to 3 – 4 weeks or 3 – 4 months and now you see why your progress plateaued.

Exercise Beginners

be very gradual with progressions, the risk of injury is high when you’re new to exercise so you may find doing the same workouts for several  weeks is actually a great starting point.

If you fall in to the beginner group you need to be very gradual and gentle with your progressions.

Moving things on too quickly before your body has had time to adapt usually leads to an annoying over use, repetitive problem – sore knee, sore achillies, sore shoulder etc

Exercise Intermediates (6 months +)

Usually when I speak to women in this category they have formed some great habits, they are attending the gym regularly and enjoying the experience, but often by now  (3 – 4 months) progress in regards to their body shape have stalled.  It was all going so well at the beginning wasn’t it! But fear not, you just need a stimulus change, something fresh and challenging for the body.

How Often Should I Progress / Change My Workout?

Well, as stated in the opening paragraphs above there are no hard and fast rules.

There are lot of factors to take in to account but by workout 3 or 4 of the same or similar type session I would look a changing something.  I’m not talking huge changes to every aspect of your workout but pick one or two elements of your current work out and make something harder.

There lies your first challenge, think “how I can make change or progress my current work out?”

A Simple Squat Workout

Embrace the change and view it as positive step, which it definitely is!

Choose just one or two small aspects of your current workout and increase the difficulty.

Make small, achievable increases in intensity, volume, load duration or difficulty.  An example might be doing a super set (2 back to back exercise without any rest) of your current squat routine.

Do your sets of squats as you normally do and then without any rest perform a set of bosu squats to challenge your stability and core on just one of the sets.

Complete both exercises before resting as normal.

This is a very simple progression that will challenge you further than you may currently have been.

To progress this over the next few weeks, you could (as just one option of many!) increase the weight you’re lifting and reduce the number of reps and then include the super set on the bosu ball on one of those sets.

Here’s an example:

Workout 1. 3 x 12 squats

Workout 2. 3 x 12 squats but on the 3rd set add in the Bosu Ball Squats

Workout 3. 3 x 12 squats, but on the 2nd and 3rd set add in the Bosu Ball Squats

Workout 4. 2 x 12 squats.  2 x 8 Squats.  Here as the reps go down to 8 the weight goes up by say 5 / 10%.  Some of you may choose to do 3 x 12 and then 1 x 8 instead. Notice no Bosu Squats in this workout

Workout 5. Could be the same as workout 4 but you add the Bosu Ball Squats to one of your sets.

Workout 6. Repeat workout 5

Workout 7. A lighter week, similar to workout 1 with lighter loads to give your body time to rest, recover and adapt.

Note: Your rest periods wouldn’t change throughout these workouts

The above is really just an example, it depends on what your goals are as to what you want to change. If you just like to exercise without any specific goals then the above or something similar may be just the ticket!

The plateau is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign that you need a new challenge.  It shows you that your current workout has become too easy and you need a tougher challenge! Congratulate yourself on gains well-made and get ready to face your next challenge!

How Much Should I Progress My Workout?

As mentioned above don’t progress more than 1 or 2 elements at a time.

Small increase win the day! Don’t make your progressions too big, small increments in intensity or load is sufficient – making big jumps will greatly increase your risk of injury.

Now above in the squat routine we progressed slightly at each workout.  Adding in the Bosu Squats will challenge the difficulty of your workout but not hugely the intensity.  Once that Bosu Squats becomes too easy you can progress it again!

However, as we did at Week 5 we added in an extra set AND increased intensity! I know very exciting! Intensity went up due to lifting more weight for 8 reps than you did for 12.

For some of you 2 sets of 8 reps at a higher weight may be too much so just doing one set of 8 reps would have been sufficient.  It depends on the intensity of your 3 sets of 12 really!

You can’t progress at EVERY workout so factor in a de load / easy week to allow your body to rest and adapt.

This could be at 50% intensity of your normal workout (in our example we returned to our Week 1 workout for an easier week). this easier week could have occurred Week 3 or 4 – it’s all dependent on the individuals training schedule. In the example above we put in a de load / easier week at Week 6.

And of course, this was all just with one exercise! You might apply this to another of your exercises in that routine too!  Then suddenly you have really begun to increase things!

Rest weeks are crucial if your training load, intensity, volume is high.

Simple Ways to Progress a Workout

Here are some (there are lots of others) ways to progress your workouts and overload your body.

Change your rest periods! (Try a 30-45 second rest…be strict!)
Increase the number of sets you do.

Change your rep speed (slowing down your rep speed can be really effective in making things harder).  This is also known as emphasising the eccentric part of the rep and this increases your time under tension

Super sets; two exercises back to back with no rest.

Add some instability to your exercise i.e. Bosu or Fitball, challenging your body further.

Increase the weight! In the squat routine above we increased the weight but decreased the number of reps;

Add intervals to your cardio workouts such as 20 – 30 second prints on the bike or 1 – 2 minute intervals on the treadmill.  Intervals are short periods of work (higher work rate then return to your usual intensity) followed be periods of lighter work / rest .  Add in 5-10 during your workout.

What can You do Right Now to Achieve More at the Gym!

Look at your current workout routine.

Are you achieving the gains you want?

When did you last progress anything or change the stimulus?

Have you plateaued or just got bored with same old routine?

Choose a variation above and implemented an aspect in to your workout.

Injury Risk – Please Read!!

Increasing overload increases “the stress” on your body which increases your risk of injury.  Training smart is key, if you are getting injured during your training then you are doing something wrong!

As mentioned above any changes you make should be small, manageable increments allowing your body to adapt to the new overload.


Creating an OVERLOAD relies on you pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone!

Embrace the positive changes, see your next workout as chance to challenge yourself, learn something new and improve your workouts.

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