You may have embarked on a new muscle building journey, or you may be someone who’s been doing it for some years, without achieving the desired outcomes. Well, it may be down to a number of mistakes that you’ve overlooked.
I have been in this industry for over ten years, I have seen a lot of mistakes and misinterpretations surrounding muscle growth; with that, I’ve come up with these six common stumbling blocks that may have a negative effect on your muscle growth.
You’re not focused on your food
You need to place a major emphasis on your nutrition, whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat or simply maintain your current weight. This factor often gets overlooked and leaves people bewildered when they’ve been working so hard in the gym and then find that they’re not getting the desired results, well this is often a case of being inconsistent with your nutrition.
If you’re not tracking the foods you eat there’s a big chance that you’re not going to eat enough food. If you’re under eating then you can forget about strength and muscle growth. Unless you’re a beginner, if you are, you’ll make progress not matter how much you eat. You can gain muscle mass by under eating and eating shit as long as you train with intensity. But, unfortunately for everybody, the beginner phase is over quickly. The body is fast to adapt to new stimuli and after a couple of weeks and maybe months of beginners gains, the progress in the gym suddenly comes to a halt. So, from there on, if you want to gain muscle mass then it’s important that you take in more (quality) calories.
I recommend tracking your food, and then you’ll know exactly where you stand with your nutrition. The best way to track the amounts of food you eat is to use a tracking journal (physical or electronic). By using a simple online food diary like MyFitnessPal, it’s really easy to keep track of the amounts of food you eat.
At first it’ll seem a bit overwhelming to keep track of all the foods you eat but if you’re disciplined enough, and you’re eating the same foods every day then keeping track of the food intake will take you just a couple of seconds.
You’re spending too much time in the gym
Are you doing too many exercises in a single workout and/or repeating the same workouts week in, week out? Well, when you’re trying to gain muscle mass, try to make your training sessions as short as possible. This means doing a routine that focuses on intensity and not on volume.
You don’t need to spend two hours in the gym; you don’t need to do 15 different kinds of chest exercises. My routines last no longer than 45 minutes, I only do three or four sets (after warm up sets) for each exercise, and it’s enough to stimulate muscle growth. Three routines a week is plenty too, you shouldn’t lift every day, as you need to give your muscles time to regrow bigger. Less is more; just make your routines really intense and exhausting. When trying to gain muscle mass, your body will respond much more effectively when you add in heavy compound movements like the deadlift, squat, overhead press, etc. Don’t be doing endless sets of preacher curls and triceps extensions since you’re not going to get big with these complementary exercises.
You’re not sleeping enough
Your muscle grows when you rest; so, an early night is very important for muscle growth and effective recovery.
Here’s the thing, when you lift heavy weights you make micro tears on your muscle fibres; so if you’re not getting enough sleep your body is unable to repair these micro lesions and this will have a negative response on your muscle building ambitions.
It’s a hormonal thing. When we sleep, it’s divided in cycles, these cycles consist of non-REM and REM phases and it’s during our non-REM deep sleep phase that we get out biggest growth hormone spike. The HGH (human growth hormone) is an anabolic agent; it promotes muscle recovery and muscle growth among other things. So in order to gain muscle mass you want to make sure that you get the biggest possible release of growth hormone, every night.
There is a greater amount of deep sleep earlier in the sleep cycle, so for the best results, I’d advise you to get to bed earlier. During our restorative deep sleep phase, our blood pressure drops and our breathing becomes deeper and slower. With our brain taking a much needed time out from our daily preoccupations, there’s more blood available to flow into our muscles. As well as that, there’s an increased nutrient-rich blood flow (if you have your diet in check) combined with high levels of growth hormone, will drastically improve your ability to gain muscle mass.
Lack of sleep and erratic sleeping schedule, on the other hand, can quickly decrease the amount of growth hormone that your pituitary gland secrets during your deep sleep. Growth hormone deficiency is associated with increased obesity, loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity.
It’s recommended that you get at least 8 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. Sleep less than this and you’re compromising your progress in the gym.
You’re stuck in the ‘comfort zone’
You need to push your limits in the gym, not every day, but you certainly need to be stepping outside your comfort zone to enhance your strength and gain muscle. Of course, when you’re only starting off you should use light weights so you can master the correct form of any given exercise, but once your form is good enough all of your efforts should be focused on moving that weight up; this is what we call progressive overload. Size follows strength.
If you’re not training to almost or to actual muscular failure by focusing on major compound movements like deadlift, squat, overhead press, chin ups, then you’re simply not training hard enough. You’ll know you’re training at the right intensity when you finish your last rep and you know that another rep isn’t possible to be executed with good form.
Drop the ego
Lads, this is a killer, literally. Trying to impress your friends or that girl in the gym by doing heavy compound movements like deadlifts or squats with improper form is a one way ticket to injury town. Going back to my previous points, in order to gain muscle mass your primary focus should be to increase the weight on the compound movements, however, if you focus on doing these with good technique will allow you to lift more weight and as heavier weights will add to more muscle. Focus on strength and the physique will follow.
In my specific case, I was able to quickly increase my deadlift by 40kg after being stuck for months on the same weight. The only change I made to my deadlifting technique was to incorporate a narrower stance, that’s it. Sometimes small changes can really make a big difference.
To help you here, use video to record as much of your workout as you can in order to see your lifting form on all of the big exercises. Compare your videos to other instructional videos on YouTube and you’ll quickly see if your lifting technique needs more work before you move on to heavier weights. Practice this with patience.
Stress – another killer! Unfortunately in today’s society we all stress out far too much, usually about needless shit, and this unhealthy stress can play a major role in your ability to gain muscle mass
From my point of view; with our heads consistently stuck in social media sites, and witnessing all these amazing physiques, along with videos of guys (and girls) lifting really heavy weights, can sometimes cause many people to feel inadequate. With this, it’s becoming all too common for people who are starting out; to set their goals really high and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when people want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (the younger version that is), but realistically, they are not willing to put in an ounce of the effort required to reach that goal. This kind of thinking is the reason why most people get frustrated and quit after a month or two of training.
So, in order to avoid this kind of stress, the thing is to set smart goals so you’re comfortable with the amount of effort you’ll have to put in. If you’re not willing to put the required amount of effort to reach your goals, then you’re not going to gain muscle mass.
Finally, understand, that our ability to gain muscle mass is largely determined by our genes, which we don’t get to choose, obsessing about why other people are more developed than us is useless and highly counterproductive. Focus on you!
There are many more mistakes people make while trying to gain muscle mass, but if you make sure you avoid the ones described above, you’ll be well on your way to some amazing results.