How Come I Cannot Lift Heavy Weights In The Gym?

May 8th 2019

You want to be the strongest you can be but you are unable to lift heavy weights in the gym. Are you stuck at the same weights for a long time now? You see if your gym mate progressing every week. Hell, you even see another gym newbie beasting through his PRs. But for you, all you seem to do is struggle with the same weights for weeks and months. So, what gives? Let us discuss why you cannot seem to lift heavy at the gym!

Why can’t I lift heavy?

One or a combination of the following reasons is preventing you from lifting heavier weights:


  • Poor mindset
  • Diet is out of whack
  • You hate the process
  • You are always getting injured
  • Frequent comparisons to others
  • More slow twitch fibers than fast twitch fibers
  • Frequent comparison to others
  • You are afraid of asking for help
  • You are ego lifting


Poor mindset

If you have a self-defeating mindset, that will not help you lift heavier and heavier weights. Let us face it - strength training, resistance training, all weight training activities in the gym are tough. As we continue to add more pounds to the bar, that places a tremendous amount of stress on our bodies. With a negative mindset, we will not have the confidence and courage to even break our old PRs.


There are several different approaches lifters can take when trying to overcome a poor mindset. You can have a gym circle that motivates and encourages you to keep on getting stronger. This is one of the more common ways of creating a support system to help benefit you whenever you are at the gym.

Using positive imagery is another tactic some lifters can use. I have personally used it myself and it does decrease the number of butterflies in my stomach whenever I go to squat relatively high volume. Prior to your next workout, think about how great it would feel that you have finished the exercise you fear. Think about every single step and how easy it would be. Replay that scene over and over again for multiple times a day. Smile. It is hard to think about negative thoughts when you are smiling.

A third option I have noticed is that people will use motivational videos in order to peak their confidence. If that works for you, go for it. You should do whatever it takes in order to keep on growing stronger.

Diet is out of whack

This is another error that many lifters can commit without even knowing it. They say that they eat until they are full or that they do not track any of their calories. However, when you actually go into details about what they eat, it turns out that they have not been eating as much as you thought. Either that or that they have been eating not enough protein throughout the day.


You need to make sure you eat 1g of protein for per every 1lb or 1kg of your bodyweight. This has been a standard formula used by all lifters who set foot in the gym. If you are not eating enough protein, get your protein numbers up.

Another thing you need to make sure is that you are eating enough food. If you are serious about gaining some strength, you will want to consider going on a caloric surplus for a little while. This is one of the easiest ways in order to boost your strength. If you are eating only 2000 calories and you are not gaining weight, consider eating 100-200 calories more. Obviously, you can drastically increase your calories but if you do not want to deal with a lot of excess fat gain, using a slower approach is more suited.

You hate the process

It has been 3 weeks and you cannot increase your bench press. Is it suppose to take that long? It depends on your experience level, but it does take some time. How much time? As long as it needs to take for your body to adapt to the stimulus. But you hate waiting and you do not enjoy this delayed gratification of getting results. You want everything now while putting in minimal effort.


The exciting thing about lifting weights is that you can put in just a tiny bit of effort while getting results. Your results may just be small.

Resistance training is a marathon. You may get some results in a few weeks or months. But the bulk of your learning will come from enduring the process. Constant years of hard work in and out of the gym. There are no shortcuts in life. If there was any, you wouldn’t see so many obese and overweight people in the US today. The easy access of food coupled with many of modern perks has allowed us to become soft and weak.

Strength training, itself, does not mean anything unless you can grow stronger. And this does not even have to be in physical strength too. Emotional strength, spiritual strength, mental strength, and the list can go on and on.

What do you need to do? Stop complaining and pick a program. If you are a beginner, Starting Strength and Greyskull LP are good choices. If you are more experienced, you should be able to make your own program or have the knowledge to research about it.

You are always getting injured

Nagging shoulders and elbows from bench press? Back sore from squats and deadlifts? If you want to continue on this path, you must understand that injuries will always be a part of the sport. However, this does not mean you have to become injured. It does put things in perspective and humbles you about the little things that you did not appreciate. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of your performance.



You need to take better care of your body before it betrays you. Often times, your body does not suffer from a sudden injury. Rather, it is a slow, painful symptom that just worsens over time. However, you did not bother taking care of your body as soon as you noticed the symptoms.

Light prehab exercises, stretches, myofascial releases and massages can all be used in order to prevent your body from suffering an injury. It is always better to do self-care before actually suffering from an injury. It will save you a lot of time and mental energy.

More slow twitch fibers than fast twitch fibers

If you do a tiny bit of research, you will come across many articles and infographics about how fast twitch muscle fibers are the best for strength training. If you have slow twitch muscle fibers, your gains will be limited. This is one reason why an endurance athlete does not compete in strength sports and vise versa.


But how true are these claims? Let me share this thought experiment with you - if your entire life was on the line on whether or not you can squat 1000lbs, you only have one year to train. From whatever you are at in training, you will need to squat 1000lbs or else you die. How hard would you train in order to save your life?

Understand fast and slow twitch muscle fibers may be helpful in theory but when you deal with practical situations, it may not reveal the entire story. Lifters can train for other sports as well. Some may not be good as others but they can still make progress. To deter any lifter from achieving a goal they desire is inhumane. It may be realistic but reality does not have to be true for life. It is not set in stone. Humans have an interesting way of reshaping their future. So, why set any limits to it at all?

Frequent comparisons to others

We see the gym bro benching 365lbs in the gym. You see a 5 plate squat at your school. You go on Instagram or Youtube and you see a 700lbs deadlift go up by multiple athletes. What about you? You can’t help but feel a bit weak compared to these lifters. After all, you are practically in the same weight class. So, why can’t you lift heavy weights as well?


Stop comparing yourself to others. What you see in a 30-second video may have taken that lifter 10 or 20 years of pure hard work and grind. They put in the work day in and day out and they are reaping their rewards.

You do not have any idea about other people’s life circumstances. It is impossible to judge how long someone has been training for unless you personally get to know them. Other than that, why make the comparison? It serves you no purpose and can even intimidate you from continuing to try. Remember that this is your journey, not their journey. You are here to break your own barriers and struggles. Everyone has their own unique stack of issues that they must resolve in order to become the strongest version of themselves. What may be difficult for me is a piece of cake for you. You have different strengths than me and that is good for society.

You are afraid of asking for help

You know you are doing something wrong. You just started lifting weights but you cannot seem to get anything right. Something always feels off. But you read somewhere that you should just be consistent and focus on training.


At first, training should never run you into the ground. They should be easy enough so that you can establish a solid base to build from.

If you are having a difficult time learning, you have one of two options - hire a coach or do extensive research. When you hire a coach, they may come at a direct cost but it is a clear way to get you back on the right track. Make it known that your number one priority is to work on whatever you have trouble at. The coach should be able to adapt his/her instructions in order to best satisfy your needs.

You are ego lifting

When you ego lift, you are not properly building your body up in order to handle heavy weights. Under very heavy attempts, your body will go into a fight or flight response - it will do what it needs to do in order to not get killed. As a result, form goes out the window almost 100% of the time since this is one of the most primal instincts that kept us alive for millions of years.


You need to handle more submaximal weight. This is why you do not see lifters messing around with their max effort attempts very often. Max effort attempts, high-intensity sets, or PRs are usually intelligently programmed in or are saved for meet day. As a result, lifters will spend over 90% of their time training in a strength training interval range, if your goal is to lift heavier. This percentage is usually 70-85% of your 1 RM.

There is a saying that people need to focus on their form over weight. For all experienced lifters, this is a verse that is commonly recited. Do not worry about how heavy you can lift. That will come. What you need to make sure that you nail down is that you can lift moderate amounts of weight with perfect form. This is how lifters teach their bodies how to handle heavier stresses. Through thousands of repetitions, you slowly ingrained habits for your body to follow. Over time, these habits will be the natural and default position your body will fall back on when performing a specific exercise.


There are many reasons why you can’t lift heavy; I have listed the common reasons why you may not be gaining any strength. Fortunately, for every problem, there is always at least one solution. So, frame it in a different way. Be glad you are able to go to the gym and pump some iron. There are many people in the world who can only dream of being in a situation you are in.

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