How you keep progressing in the gym

When we talk about not seeing enough or any progress in the gym, we have to look at 4 main pillars of fitness: workout intensity, workout programming, nutrition and rest/recovery. These 4 main pillars have the most significant impact on your fitness and how much progress you will see in the gym.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog on why you’re not getting stronger past a certain point (you can check it out here), this is a follow up on that. This will show you how we can break those barriers down and avoid slowed progress.

Workout intensity

Intensity is measured differently depending on what style of working out you get into. Two examples, for weightlifting your intensity gets measured by percentages of your max lifts, for running, your intensity gets measured by your heart rate or paces of certain split times (like your 1-mile time for example). Two completely different types of fitness which means intensity is measured differently. In weight lifting your percentages are linked to a certain number of reps you should be able to do with that weight. A general rule of thumb here is: Take your 1 rep max for a lift, for every 5% you go down you should be able to add about 1 more rep. The further we go away from our 1RM (rep max) the blurrier that rule becomes. Past 80% this rule tends to breakdown; most people will be able to lift 70% of their max for about 10+ reps. The same goes for running, if you’re training for a marathon, you won’t base your race speed on the 1-mile trial you did 3 months ago. However, you will probably have to use your 1-mile time to pick your speed/intensity for interval-based training sessions.

Back to our focus point. This shows you what intensity you should be lifting, running etc. at. If the intensity is not high enough your body won’t have to adapt itself to the stimulus it is getting. Adaptability of your muscles is the main reason you progress (or not).


If you could build a pyramid of all the things that are important to fitness and progress you should ALWAYS put nutrition at the bottom. Remember pyramids are built from the ground up, that makes nutrition it’s most foundational/important piece.

Sure, you build muscle while eating shitty food, if you have good genetics. Can you lose weight while eating shitty food? Possibly. If you’re lucky. Can you build any of these things while feeling good about yourself, while enjoying good energy levels throughout the day, while being happy with the physique you see in the mirror, while building up better health so you can live longer? No, not if your nutrition looks like crap. Yes, you can give me the example of that one Instragram model you follow online, but how about the millions of other people that can’t? That one person out of a million is an exception not the rule.

You have to figure out what your goals are and support those by eating the right way. For example, if you want to build muscle mass but you’re barely getting 50 grams of protein in a day, I am sorry but that is not going to happen. Another example, if you want to lose fat but get over 100 grams of sugar in per day, I am sorry but that is not going to happen either.

Figure out your goal and support it by eating right.

Rest & recovery

This is by far the most overlooked aspect of your fitness. When we’re not seeing progress in the gym 90% of the people will blame their workout program or trainer. Those are (arguably) the least influential aspects of your fitness. Rest and recovery are truly where your growth takes place. Part of your recovery is re-fueling the body (see how nutrition is supporting this aspect as well) because your body needs fuel to go through its recovery process. Your muscles need protein to heal and adapt themselves (more on this in a second), your glycogen storage (carbohydrate storage) took a hit because that is the fuel source you were using during your workout.

Your body needs time to recovery from intense workouts. If you don’t give yourself that time your muscles will keep breaking down, that way your progress will only decline, never incline. This is what we call the super-compensation and overload model. Take a look down below.


Workout program

First off, let’s link this back to our first point, you could have the ”best” training program in the world but without intensity nothing significant will happen.

The main point I want to touch on here is the variance of your workouts. We talked about the ability to adapt earlier on. Your body is incredibly capable of adapting to different situations, for example, when your body gets hot you will start to sweat in order to cool down. It’s the same thing with the stimulus it gets from our workouts. When you work out, you’re simply ”damaging” your muscles, your body doesn’t like to be in that ”weakened state so it starts to make itself stronger. That way it will be better prepared for the next time. That’s why you have to keep your sessions varied, eventually your body is fully adapted to a stimulus and there is no more time to grow.


I hope you see that none of these 4 aspects can live without the other. In every single one of my explanations, I was forced to pull in at least one of the other 4. If just one of these pillars is lacking you might be able to sustain some progress but nowhere near as great as if all four are take care of equally.

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