In all the time I've been training, I've noticed one clear dividing factor, which separates the people who reach their goals from those who don't:
Why It Matters
Our bodies get fitter as a result of a training stimulus. You lift some weights, and your muscles adapt accordingly to be slightly more prepared for the next session.
However, fitness can also 'decay', or drop-off. If you've ever had a layoff from the gym of more than a week or two, you'll notice that your usual training weights feel a lot heavier than usual. This is because your body regressed in its fitness. Why? Because maintaining muscle is expensive for your body's energy resources.
Unless you're consistently reminding your body that keeping that muscle on is necessary, it's going to drop it. Every time you miss a workout, you dig a little hole for yourself that you will have to fill with a catch-up workout. Essentially, inconsistent training sends mixed messages to your muscles.
I'm of the opinion that almost all of us can carve out at least 3 hours of time for training if we really want to. I know this because the average person spends 4 hours every night watching TV or something on a device. That's at least 28 hours every week. You're telling me you can't cut that to 25 for the sake of your goals? For your health? Even if you're super busy, just doing 1 session for the week will allow you to at least maintain your gains, so that you won't face an uphill battle when you return to training.
You don't get this 'aesthetic' without a lot of frequent and very strong reminders to your muscles that they need to keep getting bigger and stronger.
Stick to the Plan! Many of my fellow coaches probably think that I oversimplify things. I don't show a shiny new exercise every day, or tell you that you need to be switching up your 'routine' every other week to see progress. I do that on purpose, and the reason why is because that stuff is the exact opposite of what newbies need. To be honest, even most experienced trainees change things too often in my opinion.
If you want real results, the workout itself also needs to stay consistent. Programme- hopping is a destroyer of gains. Don't piss away years of progress by falling into this trap (note: like I did).
If you stick with any reasonably intelligent programme consistently, you will see results. My advice to most people who come to me looking for advice is that they should just:
(1) Pick any reputable strength programme (Starting Strength, 5/3/1, Juggernaut Method, etc.). I have my opinions about which is best but it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. In fact, what probably matters a whole lot more is which one you personally believe will work the best, and you will enjoy the most.
These programmes have stood the test of time. Follow them, and there's no reason why you can't get strong as hell.
(2) STICK with it to the BITTER END. That means you drain that programme for every pound of strength you can get from it before you change anything. This will force you to figure out how to break plateaus; not by chopping and changing your training, but by living like more of an athlete. That means better sleep, food, and more emphasis on your technique and overall execution of the training plan.
Once you have established a proven track record of sticking to a plan, and you have made some good progress, then you can begin questioning how to optimise things.
As a beginner, try to avoid overcomplicating things with questions of how to activate your glutes more or what sort of milk you should be drinking. All of those things are laughably minuscule compared to the champion-building habit of consistency.
If you keep changing exercises, sets, reps, then your body will not get good at anything. The jack of all trades is the master of none. Keep showing up, and stick with a programme until you master it.