I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had come to me saying, “everything went really well for the first month or so, then nothing happened”, or “yeah I just haven’t been able to get any stronger recently”, or my favorite “nothing I’m doing seems to be working”.  It happens to everybody at some point and I’m going to tell you why.

This is why your workout routine isn’t working

Results and progress rely on two main things outside of your basic exercise principles.

1.  Specificity


Specificity is the biggest fault I see in average gym-goers.  People don’t know how to work specifically on what they want to achieve, or they are unwilling to be patient and focus their efforts to achieve what they want long-term.

What is specificity?

Specificity is not running marathons when you’re trying to bulk up.  Specificity is not doing 300 reps when you want to increase your 1 rep max.  In essence, specificity is putting your eggs into one basket to achieve maximal results.  Why would you do things that are counter-productive to each other?  You wouldn’t.  But the issue here is that a lot of people don’t know what is and isn’t counter-productive in the gym.

Specificity ground rules.

Simplified: train what you want to get better at.  If you want to run long distances, you should probably include running long distances in your training.  If you want to lift heavy ass weights, you should probably include heavy weights in your programming.

Complicated: goals are achieved through long-term, periodized, segments of specificity.  For fat loss, you might lift heavy weight for 2 months, and then work on sprint intervals for 1 month.  Does this mean you threw away all your progress?  No, it means you maximized it.

Let me explain.

Every time you gain proficiency in something, getting back to that same level of proficiency is easier the next time around.  You hear this all the time.  So when you trained those heavy weights for 2 months, and didn’t for the next month, does NOT mean you wasted that 2 months of training.  It means that you increased your body’s ability to adapt to that stress AGAIN.  This is so important over the long-term since one of the biggest problems with adherence to fitness is getting burnt out or bored.  This periodizing means that you don’t get bored because you build a strength, use that strength in another capacity, and then you can return to building it again at a later time.  Most times it builds even more than before.

Which brings me to my next point.

2.  Progressive Overload

The second main reason your workout routine isn’t working.

What is progressive overload?

The holy grail of training.  Progressive overload.  The simple idea that as you adapt to the stress you put on your body, the stress must then be increased or progressed in some way for the body to continue to adapt.  This principle alone, if you understand it and can apply it in it’s many forms, will allow you to accomplish most goals you seek in fitness.


Change isn’t comfortable.  It’s hard.  Like, really hard.  This is why people say “it doesn’t get easier, you only get stronger”.  So going to the gym and only doing what you’ve been doing, and not changing anything to make it more challenging will not change you at all.

The most common example of progressive overload is increasing weights.  Taking your squat from 135 to 145.  Deadlifting 225 instead of 205.  These sorts of things.  If you don’t strategically and intentionally change the stimulus, nothing will happen.  There are others such as

  • Changing tempo
  • Increasing reps
  • Increasing volume
  • Decreasing rest time
  • Increasing time under tension
  • Isometrics
  • Plyometrics

It can all be somewhat confusing, but the principle is that you should be pushing yourself.

Wrap It Up:

If you feel your workout routine isn’t working at all, consider implementing these two principles.  First, remember to channel your efforts to get you to your goal efficiently.  Second, your body is a master of adaptation, so you must keep changing the stimulus to progress you toward your goals.

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