Building muscle isn’t easy, it takes hard work and a lot of time. What’s worse is spending hours in the gym and having nothing to show for it. If you’re frustrated about plateauing or haven’t gained any weight at all, avoid these five common mistakes, and start packing on the muscle.
1) You’re Not Eating Enough
This one is simple. If you’re eating fewer calories than your body burns in a day, then you will never gain muscle. To find out if you’re eating enough you’ll have to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE for short. There is a bunch of math involved with this, so instead I will link you to a website: https://tdeecalculator.net/ Just type your info into the boxes and the website will calculate your TDEE for you.
Start by adding 250 calories to your TDEE. For example, if your TDEE is 2500, you add 250 to that number and your total daily calorie intake will be 2750. This will make you gain weight slower than the usual recommendation of adding 500 calories, but the weight gained will be mostly muscle rather than a 50/50 split of muscle and fat. This is called lean bulking. With this style of bulking you won’t have to cut down quite as much to lean out.
2) You’re Not Resting or Sleeping Enough
Muscle is built when your body is resting and recovering, it is not built not in the gym. If you find yourself in the gym for 3-4 hours a day, not resting enough between training days, and getting insufficient sleep every night, then you’ll soon find yourself burned out or even injured.
Your muscles cannot and should not be trained every single day. If you are doing chest on Monday, you should not be doing chest on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This will NOT make you gain more muscle, if anything it will break down more muscle than it builds.
Your body NEEDS to rest. It isn’t built like a machine, it can’t keep running (or lifting for that matter) for days and days. It needs to relax and recover, and it needs to do this DAILY. Only a very small percentage of the population, about 1%, can get away with sleeping less than 7-8 hours a day, and chances are that you are not one of them… so go to sleep!
3) You’re Inconsistent with Your Training
Consistency is key in life. If you want to become successful in your career, you need to be consistent. You cannot show up to work randomly and expect to be a millionaire by the time you retire. The same goes for building muscle and becoming fit. You simply cannot show up to the gym whenever you feel motivated or guilty for eating a burger. You need to create a solid program that works for your lifestyle, and then stick with it for several months if not years.
There are hundreds of exercise programs on the web, but the only program that will work is the one that fits in with your schedule and lifestyle. If you’re in school and have tons of free time you can try a Push-Pull-Legs split six times a week and have massive success. But if you have a full-time job you should instead stick with a Full-Body split three times a week. Pick a program that works for you and stick with it!
4) You’re Not Training for Size
I just mentioned how there are hundreds of exercise programs. But if you’re really looking to maximize your muscle gains, and do it in the most efficient manner. Then the number of good programs drops quite dramatically.
Training for size (or hypertrophy) is very different from training for strength, power, or even general fitness. If you are performing 15-25 reps of some complex bicep routine with light weights, then you are NOT training for size. If you are performing 1-5 reps of heavy deadlifts, then you are also NOT training for size.
To train for hypertrophy you ideally want to stay within the 8-12 rep range for most exercises. The 8-12 rep range allows for optimal volume and minimizes your risk for injuries. There is research suggesting that lower rep ranges promote hypertrophy just as well as the 8-12 rep range AND increase strength gains. I personally suggest sticking with the 8-12 rep range if size is your only goal, simply because of minimized risk for injury.
5) You Don’t Have a Mind-Muscle Connection
The final reason you’re not building muscle is that you aren’t training with a Mind-Muscle connection. A Mind-Muscle connection simply means that you’re 100% focused on using the correct muscle group to perform an exercise. You will recruit more muscle fibers, and therefore maximize hypertrophy, by intensely focusing your attention not only on the concentric, but also the eccentric contraction of the muscle. In other words, don’t just drop the weights after you perform the exercise.
Training the Mind-Muscle Connection is one of the first and most important things you need to do when you start training for hypertrophy. Without it you’re just going through the motions and wasting time in the gym. The best way to learn to use the Mind-Muscle connection is by lowering the weights you’re using and making a conscious effort to contract the correct muscle group for the exercise. For example, when you are doing a bicep curl, try to keep your arm straight down beside you while only moving at the elbow joint. At the top of the movement you should also supinate your arm to maximize bicep involvement. Do this for every single exercise in your program and it will become like second nature to you
Follow my advice on how to fix these 5 mistakes and you will be throwing up new personal records monthly!
If you’re still running into trouble packing on muscle after fixing these common issues, please let me know in the comments and I will happily work with you!