Why Am I So Weak When Weightlifting? 12 Tips To Get Stronger
If you’ve ever stepped into the weight room feeling overwhelmed by machines and weights, you’re not alone. Many of us enter the gym with a vision to build muscle and a determination to lift heavy but leave feeling weak and confused. Don’t worry – this is more common than you think!
Weightlifting can be intimidating, especially if it’s new for you, but that doesn’t mean that it has to stay daunting forever. With some simple tips and tricks, anyone can make tremendous progress in their strength training journey.
Today we’ll explain why you may feel so weak when weightlifting, outline what areas need focus, discuss how nutrition plays an important role in building muscle mass and give advice on how to create a plan of attack so that your time spent in the gym feels both effective and rewarding.
Why Am I So Weak When Weightlifting?
There are many reasons why you may feel so weak when weightlifting. Age, experience, testosterone levels and body composition can all play a part in how much weight you are able to lift. If you’re new to exercise or have recently started lifting weights after a long period of inactivity, your muscles will likely take some time to adjust and get used to the increased stress they are receiving. Similarly, if you are over the age of 50, your body may not be able to handle quite as much weight or intensity as it did before due to natural hormone changes. Your form also plays a massive part in your ability (or lack thereof) to lift heavy weights effectively and safely. If you don’t have the right technique, you could be putting your muscles and joints at risk of injury. Additionally, diet and metabolism can affect how much weight you are able to lift. Eating the right types of foods that provide a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats will give your body the energy it needs to complete difficult workouts. Similarly, if you’re struggling with any respiratory problems, this will affect how much air your lungs can take in, thus impacting your endurance. Finally, the mental aspect of weightlifting is often underestimated. Exercise requires both physical and mental fortitude; to make any progress in strength training, you must be patient and maintain a positive attitude throughout the journey. Make sure you stay motivated and focused so that you can reach your goals.
There are so many factors which can be making you feel weak when weightlifting, so let’s get right to it…
1. Age, experience and testosterone
Ok, so let’s begin by talking about age, experience and testosterone. Age is an obvious one – as we get older, our bodies naturally produce less testosterone, which has a direct impact on how much weight we can lift. If you are on the younger side, however, you should still pay attention to how your body responds to exercise. Too much intensity too quickly can lead to injury or burnout.
Experience also plays a role in weightlifting strength. If you are new to the gym and have only just started lifting weights, it is likely that your strength levels will not be on par with those who have been lifting weights for many years. That’s ok! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the key here is to listen to your body and take it one step at a time.
Finally, testosterone levels also play a crucial part in how much weight you can lift. Testosterone is responsible for increasing muscle mass and strength, so if your levels are low, you may struggle to lift heavier weights. Fortunately, there are now many ways to naturally increase testosterone, such as eating certain foods and taking supplements (always consult with your doctor before doing this).
2. Form and technique
Next, let’s talk about your form and technique. It’s very important to learn the correct form for each exercise before attempting it with heavier weights; if you don’t have the right technique, you could be putting yourself at risk of injury, which is the last thing we want! Poor form can also make it difficult to achieve the results you are aiming for, so if you think your technique needs work, don’t hesitate to ask a personal trainer or experienced gym buddy for advice.
It can be frustrating when you see others lifting what you consider to be a reasonable weight when you are nowhere near being able to do so yourself, but you must master the correct form first and foremost. Ego lifting is a common thing at gyms and this is where people attempt to lift weights beyond their abilities in order to impress others. This is not a good idea and can lead to injury, so if you are ever tempted to do this – don’t!
Weightlifting is a long-term pursuit, so don’t worry if you feel weak initially. Once you have perfected the form and technique of each exercise, then you can gradually increase the weight over time.
3. You don’t have direction
If you are turning up to the gym and not having any real direction about what you should be doing in that session, then this could be part of the problem. Whenever you enter the gym it’s always worth knowing exactly what you are going to be doing; this way you can focus on the task at hand, rather than wasting time wondering what exercise to do next. Having a plan will also help you stay consistent and motivated.
It’s usually best to split each session into different muscle groups, so if you have hit chest one day then the following session could target your legs. You can also think about mixing up your exercises to keep things interesting, such as changing between compound and isolation movements.
Having a personally planned fitness program is very helpful when it comes to making progress from a beginner’s perspective. The gym can be overwhelming, so knowing what you are doing right off the bat will save you time and you’ll be able to make the most of your gym sessions.
4. You lack interest
If you aren’t interested in being at the gym or lifting weights in general, then this could be why you are feeling weak. It’s important to get yourself into a routine and find enjoyment in the process. Why do it if you’re not going to enjoy it? Finding a gym buddy or someone with similar goals as you can help make your visits more enjoyable and encourage you along the way.
If you are feeling an obligation to be at the gym, then try to switch up your routine and maybe add some other forms of exercise such as yoga or running. This can help you stay motivated and find something that works for you.
There are also many different methods when it comes to training; if one particular style isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try something new. Why not attend a fitness class or try something completely different like rock climbing or trampolining?
Getting that “gym bug” is all about finding something you are truly passionate about, and this may take some experimentation. Once you find a method that works for you, stick to it and don’t get discouraged.
5. You don’t do compound lifts
Compound movements are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, such as squats and deadlifts. These types of exercises should always be included in your routine if you want to increase overall size and strength.
Compound movements are the most beneficial when it comes to gaining muscle, as they work multiple muscles at once and engage more of your body’s energy systems. They also help increase overall strength and provide a great cardio workout – all while simultaneously working on improving your form. All in all, compound exercises should be considered essential to any strength training program.
You may have just been plodding along using isolation machines and not really thinking about the big picture of your training program. Incorporating compound exercises can help give you that overall body workout and make sure that all muscle groups get worked out evenly.
Related: Are Slow Reps More Effective Than Fast Explosive Reps?
6. Are you consistent?
Consistency is key when it comes to weightlifting…if you are inconsistent with your training then results will be sparse and progress slower. Establishing a routine and sticking to it is essential, so you need to make sure you are turning up for each session with the same determination and enthusiasm.
If your motivation is waning then it may be worth considering changing up your workout plan. Why not try changing up the order of your exercises or adding a few different exercises to your routine? Keeping it fresh is important, as you don’t want things to become mundane and boring.
If you struggle with consistency, try committing to a short-term goal to start with and gradually increase your goals as you go. Having something tangible to work towards can be really motivating, so try setting yourself small achievable goals that will help keep you on track.
7. Diet and metabolism
Something that can have a massive bearing on your strength levels is your diet. Eating the right types of foods can help support your training and give you the energy you need to get through each session.
Making sure you are fuelling your workouts correctly is key. Having a balanced diet that contains enough protein, carbohydrates and fats will help you build muscle, repair tissue and increase strength levels. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and complex carbs can also help to boost your metabolism and give you the energy you need to power through each workout.
It’s also important to make sure you are getting enough fluids. Water is essential for keeping your metabolism in check and maintaining good hydration levels. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will also help to flush out any toxins, allowing your body to perform at its maximum capacity.
Your metabolism also plays an important role in strength development, as it affects how quickly your body is able to process nutrients and build muscle. If your metabolism is on the slow side then this could be causing a lag in results. Why not try increasing your protein intake and adding some higher-intensity activities to your routine – such as HIIT, Tabata or sprints?
Whereas if you have a faster metabolism you may be able to consume more calories without gaining too much fat.
If you want to ensure that your diet and metabolism are supporting your training then it is worth speaking with a nutritionist or dietician who can help devise a plan tailored specifically to your needs.
8. Body composition
The body type you were blessed with can also have an effect on your strength levels. If you are naturally more slender and smaller then gaining muscle mass is going to be tougher for you than someone who has a bigger frame.
Ectomorphs often struggle to pack on the pounds, as they may find their metabolism burns through any surplus of food quickly. This can make it difficult to gain strength and size, as gaining muscle isn’t always just about what you eat but also how much you can retain in the body.
If this sounds like you then don’t worry – there are still some great ways to increase strength levels. Why not focus more on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once? You could also try increasing your caloric intake and adding powerlifting movements such as the deadlift and squat into your routine.
Endomorphs, on the other hand, are much more likely to gain muscle quickly. But this isn’t always a good thing! It’s important for endomorphs to be mindful of their diet and exercise routine in order to ensure they maintain a healthy balance between strength and size.
Mesomorphs tend to be blessed with an ideal balance of strength and size. Why not use your natural advantage and focus on compound movements such as the bench press, squat, deadlift and overhead press?
9. Rest and recovery
Rest is another essential component of building strength. Without rest, your body won’t be able to adequately recover from each session, meaning that you may struggle to progress with your training. Why not incorporate active rest days into your routine, such as yoga or light cardio?
You might be working out consistently but can’t understand why you’re not seeing improvements. Think about the amount of rest, recovery and sleep you are getting. Look into your sleep patterns, do you get enough quality rest each night? Sleeping for 7-9 hours will help to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, allowing it to grow stronger and more resilient with each session.
Make sure that you are allowing yourself adequate time between sessions too. Allow 1-2 days rest between strength sessions, and 3-4 days for more complex compound lifts. This will help to ensure that your body is getting the time it needs to recover and progress.
So if you’re finding yourself struggling to keep up with your workouts, it could be because you are not getting enough rest.
10. Respiratory problems
If you suffer from respiratory conditions then this could be affecting your performance in the gym. Having an impaired respiratory system can mean that you tire much more quickly and are unable to push yourself as hard as someone without a respiratory condition.
Conditions such as asthma, COPD or chronic bronchitis can all lead to impaired exercise performance. Why not speak to your doctor about possible treatments which might help you better manage your condition and keep on top of your training? Inhaling medication before workouts or using a nebuliser may help to open up the airways and allow for improved breathing during your workouts.
Why not look into breathing exercises such as yoga or qigong? These will help to strengthen your respiratory system and improve overall oxygen intake.
In addition, you might want to reduce the intensity of your workouts slightly or focus more on endurance activities like running or swimming. Reducing the weight used for individual exercises can also help, as this will decrease the amount of breath needed to control them.
Related: Why am I getting weaker at the gym?
11. Mind games
Don’t forget about the mental aspect of strength training. Why not set small achievable goals each week and strive to exceed them? When you reach these goals, reward yourself for the hard work and dedication that has gone into doing so.
Make sure that you are also taking the time to enjoy your workouts and appreciate the progress being made. Why not listen to a podcast or some music while you train? This can help to reduce mental fatigue and keep your focus on each exercise.
Focus on attitude, as well as effort when training. Why not try to have a positive outlook and talk yourself up with each exercise? Practising affirmations or visualisation techniques can help you stay motivated and keep on track.
It’s easy to talk yourself out of putting the effort in because working out is effort and requires time, but focusing on the end goal and understanding why you are doing it can help to keep your mind in a positive state and ensure that you stick with your program.
12. Patience is key
Finally, don’t forget the importance of patience! Building strength takes time, so be sure to remember this when striving for progress. Why not set milestones that are achievable within reasonable timeframes? This can help to keep you motivated and determined to reach your goals.
Recognise that progress happens over months and years, not weeks, so don’t be disheartened if it takes longer than anticipated for results to appear. The problem with lots of people today is that they want instant results and that’s unrealistic. Take your time, stay consistent and enjoy each session.
Make sure you keep an actual record of your progress so that if you begin to feel unmotivated, you can look back at the achievements that you have made and this should inspire you to keep going.
Strength training is a long-term journey and it takes time to see results. Why not focus on all of the above factors when trying to understand why you might be feeling weaker than anticipated? Age, experience, testosterone, diet, metabolism, body composition, rest and recovery and mind games are all important considerations when it comes to strength training.
Why not give yourself the best chance of success by understanding how these might be impacting your performance? Patience is key and make sure to take the time to enjoy each session. Why not keep a record of your progress so that when you’re feeling demotivated, it can help remind you just how far you’ve come? Best of luck.
Do you feel weak when weightlifting and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.