11 Reasons You’re Not Adding Muscle
Not a week goes by where I don’t end up in a conversation with folks that have been spending 6 months at the gym, 4 or 5 times a week and very little to show for it.
Yes, they are fitter and a bit stronger than before, but the muscle mass they were hoping for has remained a dream.
Over the years, I have found 11 main reasons that people fail to build more muscle. It only takes a couple of these to apply to you, and you’ll simply never get to the goals you’ve set.
1 – You’re Eating Nowhere Near Enough
If you’re heading into a bulking phase, then you need to be eating a lot more food. If you saw the daily menu of a professional bodybuilder, then you’d realize that they spend several hours a day eating.
The important thing is that on your heavy lifting days, you really load up on food. And on the less intense and rest days, you still need a calorie surplus.
The best way to approach this is to use one of the many online calculators to determine what your daily calorie intake should be based on your gender, age, and physical activity. Then add 15% to 20% more calories to that amount.
Just make sure that the extra food is healthy and balanced; this is not an excuse to plan an extra trip to Dunkin Donuts.
2 – Your Protein Intake Is Low
To produce new muscle fibers, your body needs a lot of amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins, and you will need to plan for a lot of them in your food and supplements.
But how much is enough?
A good guideline to use is 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Professional bodybuilders can often take 2 or 3 times that amount, but that’s something that should be carefully planned with the help of a dietitian.
Basically, make sure you eat more eggs and chicken and get an extra scoop of protein powder into that post-workout shake.
3 – You’re Doing Too Many Reps
I see this all the time at the gym. If you want to build muscle, then you should be struggling with 5 to 7 reps max in each set.
The first 2 should be touch enough, and 3, 4, and 5 should be causing a burning sensation.
If you’re not getting the burn until you’re into 10 or 12 reps, then you won’t be maximizing muscle building processes in your body. You’ll lose some unwanted fat, but not much will happen to you muscle size.
4 – You’re Not Doing Enough Compound Exercises
Isolation exercises are great to shape very precise areas of your body. Professionals do these a lot because they have already bulked up to a very large extent.
However, they didn’t get there through isolation exercises. Instead, you should be doing routines that target multiple muscle groups. This will result in more testosterone and growth hormone production to speed up the muscle building.
5 – You Haven’t Added Enough Variety
I sometimes look at the training plans of friends and question how they came up with them. Yes, it’s a good idea to bundle certain areas into specific days. For some, it’s “chest day is best day” while others prefer leg days and abs.
The important thing is that within each routine, there has to be variety, and you should avoid doing the exact same routine more than once. Change the order and exercises on a regular basis and see the results for yourself.
6 – You’re Doing Too Much Cardio
You absolutely need to do some cardio to warm up and cool down. And a lower intensity day is also helpful. But if you’re planning to bulk up, then cardio should be kept to an absolute minimum.
It helps to build some fitness, but it will do nothing for your muscle mass. It’s just wasted time that you could spend on the weight rack.
7 – You Use Too Many Machines
My advice is stick to the weights as much as possible. The problem with machines is that in most cases, they don’t offer compound exercises. You also don’t get the real picture of what your lifting, pushing or pulling.
Stick with dumbbells, bars, and different racks; there is no shortage of exercise that you can do with these simple tools.
8 – You’re Cheating On Reps
This is most common with beginners, where they don’t go for the full range of motion. For example, while doing bench presses, the bar will go down and stop almost a foot above their chest.
If you can’t go for the full range of motion, then pick a lighter weight. Quality is more important than quantity.
9 – You Haven’t Implemented Drop Sets
I remember seeing an interview with Arnold from back in the 70s or 80s where he spoke about using drop sets. Basically, you do a set of 5 or 6 reps with say a 20 lbs dumbbell. Then, you do an immediate set with a 10 lbs dumbbell doing reps to failure.
Repeat the reps to failure a second time before you move onto the next set. This maximizes pumps and will trigger a process in your muscles that increases muscle building during your recovery period.
10 – You’re Not Taking Advantage Of Supplements
So many people only take post-workout protein shakes and completely ignore all the other options out there. You don’t have to go for performance-enhancing steroids, but adding a mass gainer and pre-workout supplement will go a long way.
It’ll make your diet planning that much easier, and you can get so much more out of your training time. If you can improve your performance by just 5%, that works out as a significant amount of muscle over the weeks and months.
11 – You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Yes, your recovery phase is as important as your training regime. If you’re not getting 7 to 8 hours of good and solid sleep every night, then you’re not giving your muscles the time and rest they need in order to synthesize protein.
It’s something I struggled with for a long time, as my job and family life were very demanding as well. I tried to get by on 5 to 6 hours of sleep.
The result was a lower performance level the next day at the gym, and I just wasn’t getting anywhere fast.
If you have found that you’re simply not getting to your goals as fast as you thought you would, then make sure you honestly assess yourself for the above. If any of these apply to you, then it’s time to make some immediate changes.
Taking actions quickly can improve your results in a matter of weeks.