Not Gaining Strength In The Gym? (12 Simple Fixes)

What’s up, guys? Sean Nalewanyj on –,
and in this video today I’m gonna give you 12 quick tips you can apply if your strength
gains in the gym have stagnated. Gaining strength is a fundamental aspect of
building muscle. On the training side of things it’s the most
important baseline factor to pay attention to, and if your performance in the gym is
plateaued you can be pretty much certain that something in your program is off and that
your muscle gains will have plateaued along with it as well. So let’s just get into it, I’m just gonna
go over each point briefly and more of a rapid style fashion. I’m not gonna go super in-depth on each one,
so you can treat this as more like a checklist, just to give you some ideas of where you might
be going wrong. So tip number one, first and foremost, is
to be patient and maintain a realistic outlook on things. A lot of people might think they’ve had a
strength plateau when in reality they’re actually still gaining strength at a perfectly reasonable
pace. Remember that strength gains and muscle gains
are both a very gradual process, they also slowed down the longer you’ve been training,
and even just performing one extra rep with the same weight on a given lift from week
to week it’s still very good progress and will add up quite a bit when you start stacking
it up over the long term. So don’t expect your strength to go up by
leaps and bounds every time you go into the gym. This is a marathon, it’s a grind and it’s
about the long term accumulation of very small improvements. Tip number two is, to be very detailed and
diligent when it comes to tracking your workout performance. Because those strength increases happen so
slowly and they’re often measured in terms of individual reps, you need to maintain a
written record of each session if you want to progress as efficiently as possible, otherwise
it’s very easy to just end up running in circles. So write down the exercises you did, the weight
you used on the reps you performed, and then aim to gradually build on those numbers over
time. Don’t just try to keep it all in your head. Having objective workout logs is gonna hold
you accountable so that every time you go into the gym you know exactly what you did
last time and exactly what you need to do this time in order to improve. This is such an important point and on its
own will have a huge impact on how effectively you’re able to progress over the long term. So be precise with your tracking. Tip number three, on the nutritional side,
if your strength gains have stagnated then one very simple thing you might need to do
is to just bump your calories up slightly. Remember that as you’re lifting more and more
weight, gaining more and more muscle, your body needs additional calories not only to
maintain what you’ve built but also to make further increases. So if your strength is plateaued, your body
weight on the scale hasn’t changed at all over the past week or two, sometimes a small
increase of 100 to 150 calories per day is all you’re gonna need in order to get things
moving again. Tip number four, is to make sure you’re incorporating
at least some lower rep work in your plan. Now, you can build muscle effectively training
in almost any rep range as long as you’re applying progressive overload, but if you’re
primarily concentrating all of your training up in those higher rep ranges, so around 10
to 12 per set, go ahead and mix in some lower rep work as well if you can, so somewhere
down toward the 5 to 7 range, because that range is not only going to be effective for
stimulating hypertrophy but you’re gonna make faster strength increases at those lower ranges
as well. Tip number 5, is to increase your rest time
in between sets. If your goal is to maximize muscle size and
strength gains then you don’t want to be taking any individual set lightly and you want to
be putting forth the very best performance that you can on each one. And rushing into your next set before you’ve
had a chance to fully recover from the previous one is going to be directly counterproductive
to that. Smaller isolation lifts, you can usually get
away with resting a bit shorter if you want, but 60 to 90 seconds on a bigger compound
lift is usually not enough, and I’d recommend at least 2 minutes up to 3 or 4 minutes depending
on the movement if you want to get the very best results. There’s no exact time frame to abide by on
every set but just listen to your body and rest as long as you need to, so that you feel
physically and mentally ready to train at your full capacity on that upcoming set. Tip number six, is to perform a proper pre-workout
warm-up. This is not only going to help you prevent
injuries but it can also have a direct positive effect on your strength levels as well. And the specific component of the warm-up
that’s going to be most important in that regard are weight acclamation sets, which
I recommend doing before each major compound exercise in your workout. So that means starting off with very light
weight for higher reps and gradually increasing to heavier weight for lower reps until you
get up to your maximum working weight. This is going to fire up your nervous system,
get you accustomed to the movement, help you establish a mind-muscle connection, and if
you do this properly then you should be a bit stronger on the exercise in comparison
to just jumping straight into things. And a basic template you can use for this
is to perform 50% of your working weight for about 7 to 8 reps, 75% for 3 reps, and then
100% for a single rep and then perform your first working set after that. Tip number seven, is to make sure you aren’t
going overboard on cardio. And not just regular gym cardio but any physically
demanding exercises that you’re performing outside of the gym in general. Remember that your time off from the gym is
when your body is resting and recovering, and performing too much additional activity
can produce more muscle damage that your body then has to recover from. It uses up more of your recovery resources
and that’s going to make it more difficult to gain strength and build muscle optimally
if you’re doing too much. So two to three cardio sessions per week is
where I’d cap things if your goal is to gain strength as effectively as possible,
never do your cardio pre-workout because that will interfere with your weight training performance,
and also take into account other physically demanding activities like sports, or outdoor
hobbies, or things like that, because those technically can count as cardio sessions as
well. Tip number eight, if you have your activity
level outside of the gym under control and you’re not overtraining in that area, another
step you can try is to reduce your actual weight training volume. You don’t need to be performing super high-volume
workouts in order to gain strength and build muscle effectively, and if you go too far
overboard then you can easily push your body beyond its ability to recover optimally, especially
if your nutrition and other aspects of your program aren’t quite on point. So if your strength gains have come to a halt
and you can’t seem to improve, you can try lessening the overall weight training workload
to see if that helps. So that could mean going from five workouts
per week down to four, or four down to three, or reducing the actual volume per session. And as a general guideline, I’d say 8 to 15
sets for large muscle groups per week in total and four to eight sets for small muscle groups
is usually enough as long as you’re training hard and going about one to two reps short
of failure on the majority of your sets. Tip number nine, is to take a one-week deload. So this would mean either continuing to train
but reducing the weight on all of your lifts by 50%, or just take an entire week off altogether. I’d recommend doing a deload once for every
6 to 12 weeks of consistent training, because it’s a good way to give your central nervous
system, your joints, and your muscles a chance to fully recover from all the previous weeks
of hard training that you’ve put in. And this can help to prevent sticking points
and actually allow you to gain more strength over the long term. Tip number 10, is to dial in your sleep. Sleep is very important for optimizing your
performance in the gym. Short-term sleep deprivation might not be
a huge issue but if it’s something that’s happening on a longer-term basis it definitely
can be a factor when it comes to strength plateaus, especially as you’re getting into
heavier and heavier weights. So make sure you’re getting an amount of sleep
each night that leaves you feeling sufficiently rested. The amount is gonna vary from person to person
but usually somewhere around seven to eight hours, give or take, will be appropriate for
most people. And also take active steps to improve the
actual quality of your sleep as well, that’s just as important. And I’ll link a previous post that I did on
that in the description box below to give you some ideas. Tip number eleven, is to try rotating your
exercises. So if you’ve followed all of the previous
tips and your strength is still stuck on a certain lift or a certain set of lifts, one
thing you can do is to move on to a different exercise for a period of time to mix things
up. So that could mean replacing, let’s say a
pull-up with a pull down, or a barbell press with a dumbbell press, or a dumbbell curl
with a cable curl, just a similar movement pattern but using a different training tool
or a different angle. And then work on progressing at that movement
for as long as you can before coming back to the previous lift or switching to a different
movement again. And then tip number 12, and this is more of
just a bonus tip, it’s not something to rely on for strength increases alone, but in addition
to all of the previous tips incorporating a basic pre-workout can also give you an extra
edge to push through those strength barriers and spark some new growth. You don’t need anything crazy or over-the-top
in this area. Most commercial pre-workout blends out there
are not well formulated and are mainly just based around hype and BS, I’d recommend checking
out PureForm, which is a straightforward science-based blend of four research backed ingredients
to improve mental focus, strength and endurance during your training sessions. You can click up at the top of the screen
or use the link in the description. I’ve had awesome feedback on this product
so far and it’s a combination I’ve personally been using for quite a while in my own training,
so definitely check that out if you are interested. So, those are the 12 tips. Thanks for watching, guys. Following this advice should solve the majority
of strength plateaus out there. I hope you found this helpful. If you do want to learn all the details behind
mapping out a complete training program from A to Z in order to fully maximize your size
and strength gains including step-by-step routines for beginners, intermediates, and
more advanced lifters, then you can check out my Body Transformation Blueprint by clicking
up here or visiting And if you did enjoy the video make sure to
hit that like button, leave a comment, and subscribe below if you haven’t already, in
order to stay up to date on future videos. Thanks for watching, guys. And I’ll see you in the next one.

85 Replies to “Not Gaining Strength In The Gym? (12 Simple Fixes)”

  1. Hey Sean,

    Iโ€™m running a full body 3×5 program 3x a week. Iโ€™m cutting at the moment. And Iโ€™ve lost 10lbs in the past month, but my strength has BARELY increased. I only added 5lbs to my bench, 10lbs to my squat and 5lbs to my standing overhead press in the past month. Does this mean that my muscle gains are diminishing?

    To give you some context, I am 6โ€™1, 258lbs (i was at 268 on January 8th) and around 32% body fat

    My current stats are:
    Bench: 205lbs x 5
    Squats: 240lbs x 5
    Deadlift: 295 x 5
    Standing overhead press: 150 x5
    Close Grip Bench:185×8
    Bicep dumbbell curls: 50×8.

    Iโ€™ve been lifting consistently since August 2018, but I was lifting just to lift, I did not start actually caring about nutrition until last month and now iโ€™m afraid im gonna lose a lot of muscle.

  2. That sounds great . Iโ€™ve always wanted to write down my workouts , I just never did . I go in the gym to have fun . Rest sets is something I never do I constantly go for burn . I will try what u say and I will let you know thx .

  3. That resting time tip is actually something i never thought about and makes a lot of sense. When i started all videos drilled it in that โ€œ60-90 seconds is enough. Any longer is powerlifting territoryโ€ which is really stupid now that i think about it

  4. 5:12 unfortunately some of us have physically demanding jobs. Reducing volume is definitely a necessity in that situation.

  5. Sean honest question. I hear so much hype abput training each muscle group twice per week, for example doing a PPL split; wouldnt this cause overreaching and eventually overtraining with constant stress being put on your CNS 6 days a week? Thats why although you can hypothetically build more muscle with training the big muscles twice a week. It doesnt take into account the beating your CNS takes over time. Could you provide some info please?

  6. You are always straight to the point Sean no bullshit lots of love from India learned alot from you and now strated my own youtube channt to educate others

  7. Can someone help me?
    My pecs are stronger than my back. Should i stop training my pecs and just focus on my back?
    I Think i have rounded shoulders
    Or should i still train my pecs but focus more on my back ?
    (I know that i need to focus on my reardelts and do face pulls)

  8. Solid advice as always Sean. Man it blows my mind your channel doesnโ€™t have over a million subscribers by now.. โœŒ๏ธ

  9. Hey Sean. How many days do you
    Workout? I currently do 6 days a week hitting each muscle group twice a week . I'm thinking of switching to upper lower split hitting each muscle twice a week, 4 days a week.

  10. Been following Sean for several years and still one of the top most informative Fitness Channels out there! Thanks for the advice on this video Sean!

  11. Hey Sean,

    Thank you I appreciate your tips on optimizing strength and efficiency. All your tips are great ๐Ÿ™‚ none of that weird BS that other youtubers spew at mass audiences

  12. Consistently producing excellent content Sean.

    I highly recommend buying his "Body Transformation Blueprint" guys.

    You are the best at giving scientifically backed advice without trying to sound too smart for the viewers.

    I salute you Sean Nalewanyj ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ

  13. Yo Sean. Thx for the tips. Do you maybe have some tips for a lagging chest? Iโ€™ve been training for consistently 4 years now. But my chest is now where near the level of my other muscle groups. I train a p/p/l split, usually 6 days a week. I usually do 3 exercises for my chest on a push day, starting which bench press.

  14. I didn't see this listed in the vid, but there are studies that show that you can negatively impact your workout by stretching before it, that the increased range of motion and flexibility can inhibit your control of the weight and impact progressive overload.

    That is not to say stretching is bad, but it's something that should be done away from your workouts, maybe after, or on off-days.

    Like a fool, I did static stretches before every workout and it wasn't until I stopped doing them, and did warm up sets for compound movements instead that I started gaining strength again. I'm telling you I hit a major plateau and was doing everything else on the list right.

    Consider this number 13. Stretching is good, just not before a workout. Warm up via Sean's suggested method.

  15. Can i use this method as progressive overload

    My method: bench press 50kg for 4 sets 10 reps for the first week, then increase the weight to 55kg for the second week but only on the first set. The second , third and fourth set will stay constant (50kg) , the repetition remains the same. And i repeat to increase the weight on the first set only for the third and fourth week as well.

  16. Awesome content – Ive been a fan of yours for quite a while now but i rarely comment. And while nothing you said here was new to me, I think 1) it's sometimes really good to hear stuff over to ensure that "we are on the right track" 2) it's a great amalgamation of the fundamentals in one video, delivered in a digestable manner. Each tip you mentioned is not only like gold – but there is alot of science/research behind them. And with so much crappy content out there, it's really awesome to have a reliable source. So I'm definitely saving this to be referenced in future and to be shared with clients of mine. Keep up the awesome work yo! I always look forward to your content. Oh side topic – I noticed the boost in instagram content too – LOVING IT. I donno how you find the time to put out your content but – please keep them coming. Really really good stuff! Nuff' respect!

  17. I love your videos and articles, you're doing an amazing job! ๐Ÿ’™ You are my top reference for workouts techniques and nutrition tips! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ˜Š

  18. I always made sure I was sufficiently rested for the next set of exercise, it's not necessary for me to rush through all the exercises in 35-40 minutes. I would rather workout once in the morning & again in the evenings.

  19. Would rather see you working out and doing a voiceover than sitting and talking into camera. But thanks for all of your vids.

  20. Hey guys, just an FYI that I've started posting a ton more on Instagram, so if you liked the video and want more daily no B.S, science-based tips from me, make sure to follow here:


  21. Seany still watching for the Kendo eh! Are u wearing a mounty muscle suit. We want to get jacked doing the fencing workout get on it. Muscle couch therapy is nice but the kendo plant and I are falling asleep! Mush, mush.

  22. Great video. I find that increasing calories makes all the difference! I've made the most gains when I'm just coming off a cut and have started to increase calories. It's a joyful experience.

  23. There is a fitness (strongman really) named Brian Ulsruhe and one of things he does that I like is to video his actual workouts and talks about them… I would really like to see what one week (depending on your splits) looks like for you.ย  What exercises do you personally do?ย  What area are you seeking to improve?ย  What area do you struggle in?

  24. Sean,

    How much, is to much of protein consumption?

    At 140 I eat 160g of protein, 150g of carbs and 35g of fats. Trying to cut the fat from lower belly before bulk. Went from 22 to 12-13 at the moment in 4 months. Still thinking about doing one more month to be 11-12 before clean bulk. The weight is not droping much any more, which is ok being 5 10. During bulk planning to consume 195g of protein, 290 carbs and 70 fats. Worry that my protein is a bit on a higher level.

  25. Sorry if it's a hassle. But I would appreciate if you have the dialog in the description like how you had it in your older vids. Help me understand the video a lot better. I would really appreciate it in the future etc.

  26. I've been lifting for about 2 years now, but for my height and weight, I am not getting in the calories needed for muscle growth. I would like to eat enough to get all those calories in… but my appetite will not allow for it. It would be, and has been, a constant struggle to get anywhere near the amount of calories I am supposed to be getting. Almost like force feeding.

    Now I feel sad, and I'm at a roadblock. Is there any point to weight lifting now? I want to have muscles, I want to have a nice muscular physique, but I just don't have a big enough appetite to eat all those calories. Mind you, I wasn't aiming to get massive.. but I'd like a toned, muscular body.

    Sean, or anyone else… do you have advice? Is it not worth trying anymore if my calories aren't enough?

  27. Im having a problem feeling my left side when deadlifting, any tips? Glute/upper back activation is better on my right side and i have been trying to do unilateral hipthrusts for glutes but cant seem to fix this

  28. Hi Sean, been checking out your content for a little while, and truly appreciate the no bs quality info you share with the public, and i m also in the vancouver island area.
    I decided i d try your 3 supplements from and wanted to give some feedback. I m feeling great since i started using your lifter multivitamin, and combined with the pre workout i ve been feeling strong and endurant in my workouts. I won't comment on the fish oil because there are plenty out there and i can't really measure the impact this particular one is having.
    I like that the multi is a small size, makes it very easy to take. For the preworkout, I find the taste totally decent ( although frankly i wouldn't care either way), but I find that it is a bit pasty even after a proper mix . The other thing is the serving scoop: the stem is soooo long. When i first opened it i wasted some of the product just by pulling the scoop out of the container. It's so big that i can't keep it in the container. I just wish the stem was shorter. Again, not a deal breaker , but annoying.
    Lastly , I tried sharing your website in a message to a friend on facebook and got this :Your message couldn't be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards. WTF is this about ?

  29. this is the only fitness channel that I like as much as Athlean X, I hope to see this channel grow more ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  30. Hey Sean, Iโ€™m 15 and I want to build strength, have a low body fat, and I wanna be aesthetic, what type of workouts should I be doing? Would lower weight high rep sets be better, or high weight low rep sets

  31. Hi sean! I work out 5x a week. I lift weight in the morning. Im still skinny fat. I gain weight but i can only see fats. Can I work out 2x a day. In morning lift weights, while in the evening i do either threadmill or battle ropes like that. Does it affect
    My gains for muscle?

  32. I was watching an indonesian martial arts movie "The Night Comes for Us" and I thought to myself "man the main character (Ito) looks like someone familiar". You and Joe Taslim look so alike you could be twins.

  33. What are your thoughts on the idea that a positive nitrogen balance is required for muscle growth, not a caloric surplus? So for example, if I need 2,400 calories but am eating 2,200 but my protein intake is sufficient, would that stimulate muscle growth or is caloric surplus uncompromisingly mandatory?

  34. Man! This channel deserves growth. Lots of helpful info for free. I guess life is that unfair. Keep up the good work Sean. The day will come

  35. Some days I have it, some days I don't. I know that it seems as if I am not progressing, then all of sudden one day I am adding to 5lbs plates. If I think day to day, then I will never see gains or even experience losses because some days I have it, some days I don't. Like you mentioned, just adding another rep counts, though you haven't added any extra weight. When I get to 8 good reps, I put on a little more, and that usually drops my reps down to 3-4. So yeah, after a month/month and half or so, I'm up to the next higher weight. Todays heavy will become tomorrows light if you keep at it.

  36. My man, i have a question about deloads. For example, say ive been training solid for 10 or 12 weeks but progress is starting to slow down, im getting tired etc etc, i then decide to take a deload week. I then reduce my volume and intensity and go about the deload. What do i do after the deload week? Do i return to the same weights i was doing before or do i lessen the weights? Change exercises?

  37. I have skinny legs and arm trunk is where I hold it so I work out my trunk area more I weight 180 at 5 foot 9 every other day weights sometimes I can lift 220 and most of the time 140 to 160 my bench is only 140 max

  38. I've been in the 7 to 10 rep range on pull ups for over 6 months now :s I've only improved on form. (And I'm still a noob of 1 year and 2 months). And no, I've only gained like 2kg since then, so that's not it. I see physical changes but no strength gains. I think it's time to focus on only 1 exercise per muscle group in a workout with 5-6 rep range.

  39. Sean, I get a bit confused when it comes to rest times. I keep track of my reps, weight being used and also my rest time. After a long time I finally stopped using my one minute rest time and now use a two minute rest time between sets. Almost immediately my weight being used went up. If I went to 3 minutes on some compound movements Iโ€™m sure I could probably use even more weight. But where I get lost at is, is this actually better, worse or the same in the end ? I mean yes Iโ€™m moving more weight but Iโ€™m also not putting as much intensity on the muscle in a shorter time like I did when I had the one minute rest period. Is there some data on this for the best hypertrophy ? For now I figure mix it up a bit like you said with maybe a heavy day-more rest time every couple workouts and see how that goes.But some hard data would be nice. Thanx

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