Few are the people who have been gifted top-notch genetics and experience non-stop progress at the gym. Even fewer are the ones who never doubt themselves, push beyond their bodies’ limits and keep going no matter what. However, for the majority of people building muscle is a slow and difficult process, mistakes are constantly made and self-doubt is a guaranteed part of that process.
Chances are that by now you have felt that no matter what you do at the gym, no matter how strictly you follow the rules, after some initial success, the process stalls, and muscles no longer seem to grow. If that’s the case, likely, you’re still doing some things wrong. As with any other thing, you first have to check the basics. For example, you might be over-training, which you might think would be the logical thing to do, when it’s quite counterproductive.
That’s exactly what this article is for, to help you find out if there’s something you might be doing wrong. That way you will save yourself a lot of time and effort, correct your present mistakes, and prevent that you continue to do other mistakes in the future.
You’re constantly training in the same rep-range
There’s a lot of debate in the fitness and bodybuilding community about what the optimal rep-range is to build muscle and some kind of a consensus has been reached that 6-12 reps are optimal. However, even though sticking to the same rep-range will yield results initially, it is not the right way to keep progressing, especially after you’ve passed the beginner’s phase. That’s why you should stick to three different rep-ranges: low, medium and high. Start with the low rep-range, and spend 2-4 weeks training on each.
Low rep-range (1-5 reps): Training in this range will enable you to lift heavier weight. This will create a foundation of strength and you’ll be able to also lift heavier weight in the other two rep-ranges.
Medium rep-range (6-12 reps): This range is what the majority of bodybuilders use and has been proven to be the most optimal when it comes to muscular hypertrophy.
High rep-range (12+ reps): Training in this range will help increase your endurance.
Here is a complete guide on rep ranges for strength, growth and endurance.
This is a mistake that a lot of bodybuilders make, especially beginners. The logic they’re using goes something like this: the more I train, the more muscle I’ll build, so I should train as much as possible. However, this type of thinking will quickly burn you out and ultimately derail your progress in the gym.
When your primary goal is to build muscle, you have to give your body ample time to rest and recover, because that’s when muscle growth happens, not in the gym. When you train in the gym you give your body the necessary stimulus to grow, and only afterward can growth occur, provided that you also supply your body with all the necessary nutrients. Everyone has different recovery levels so as you get more experienced you will know more accurately when to take a little time off and recover. This is how to recognize the overtraining symptoms and start your recovery.
You’re not eating right
Considering this is the age of the Internet and everyone can get quick info on almost anything the majority of people already know that if you want to build a shredded muscular body the most important thing you need to consume is protein and a lot of it. And it’s true. Protein is the main building block of muscle tissue, and they’re made up of chains of amino acids which in turn are the building blocks of life. However, there are two other very important macro-nutrients that most people don’t know about. They are carbohydrates and fats.
Carbohydrates provide the body with energy which is required to lift the heavy weights that stimulate the muscles to grow, while fats play a key role in testosterone production and other growth-related hormones. When you have increased levels of these hormones in your body an optimal environment is created for muscle building.
So, besides getting enough rest, you should also take care of your diet and choose carefully the foods that you eat. You should get ample amounts of protein, carbs and fat and figure out how many calories you need to consume daily to build muscle and lose fat.
You’re not eating enough
When building quality muscle mass is your primary goal, you can’t expect to achieve it by eating small amounts of food. Ingesting a lot of food will provide your body with the energy to lift heavy weights which in turn will stimulate muscle growth. Eating your standard 3 meals a day may not be enough. That’s why it is generally recommended that you eat at least 4 meals a day to reach the necessary daily caloric intake.
You’re afraid to lift heavy
The human body has evolved in such a way that it conserves energy whenever it has the chance to so that we don’t starve to death. It may sound funny but your body does not care whether you like its look. Its main goal is not to be as muscular as possible. Its main goal is to survive.
That’s why weight training is a useful tool in forcing your body into building muscle. Regardless of the rep-range, you’re using, the weight should be just heavy enough so that you would barely be able to complete the necessary number of reps, or getting yourself to near failure. This type of training should be enough to stimulate protein synthesis, and in turn, build new muscle tissue.
You are not using dumbbells and barbells
Many people have been led to believe that using those fancy machines in the gym will help them build their dream physiques, but nothing could be further from the truth. The actual truth is that using free weights such as barbells and dumbbells is far superior because they stimulate more muscle fibers at the same time while strengthening the smaller stabilizer muscles which will enable you to handle heavier weights in the long term.
If you want to use the machines, you should put them at the end of your workout session. It’s also worth noting that you should avoid exercises where you put the weight behind the head, especially when it’s a pretty heavy weight. This type of training targets the same muscle that would be targeted if the weight was lifted in front of the head, so there’s no need for it. Lifting the weight behind your head puts the shoulder in a very vulnerable and unnatural position, which increases the chances of injuring yourself.
You are inconsistent
To build a great looking physique the most important thing is to be consistent. Consistent in your training, your nutrition, and your recovery. If you’re not, you’re just spinning your wheels and waste your efforts. When you’re inconsistent all the progress you have made by training will be minimized or lost instead of adding up, which should be your primary goal.