You've been making an effort to train regularly and eat healthy foods, but no matter what you do, it seems you just can't gain the muscle mass you're looking for. Though it may be frustrating, remember that muscle does take time to grow. Plus, you must always have a balanced viewpoint on what results to expect (no comparing yourself to photoshopped Instagram images or that gym goer who has been training for ten years longer than you!). If you feel like you've been patient and you have realistic goals in mind, then look to the top reasons why you may not be getting the size you're after!
1. You're not eating enough
What does 'eating enough' mean? It is different for everyone. Depending on your metabolism, you may need more than the average person to get decent muscle gains. Have you ever heard of the 'hard gainer'? Someone who, no matter how much they eat, seemingly can't put on any weight. If you resonate with this type, then you may be eating less than what you think. A mass gainer in this case could be your saving grace if you feel like you're shovelling down food and seeing no results on the scale.
Aside from simply eating enough calories, prioritise whole foods that will help take your strength to the next level. Focus on quality protein, with plenty of super greens and carbohydrates to fuel your every session. Don't skimp out on the fats, too - they're excellent for your metabolic health!
- Protein is critical for helping you repair and thus build muscle
- Carbohydrates fill the stores of your glycogen, give you an excellent energy boost for the gym and also help with recovery.
- Fats in your diet is crucial for healthy hormones and also make a delicious, dense energy source!
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2. You're not resting enough
If you're always doing tons of cardio, not resting much between sets or driving yourself to the gym even when you're super sore, you may be cutting your gains short.
If you're trying to get stronger and build muscle, you need adequate amounts of rest between sets, exercises, and even exercise days. For example, when considering heavy lifts, the average wait time between sets can be 2-5 minutes. If you rush into a 3 repetition back squat, not only will you not be able to lift as heavy, but you may even injure yourself (setting you back even further!).
Muscle growth happens after you train, when you've torn those muscle fibres, and of course, while you sleep. As such, don't use sleep as a side note. Make it one of your biggest priorities in order to fully recover and let your deserved gains appear.
3. You're not changing your program (or changing too often)
Are you focusing on progressive overload?
Here are some that you can work on:
- Lifting more weight (intensity)
- Higher amount of reps, sets or exercises for a muscle group (volume)
- Training a muscle group more frequently (training frequency)
- You can lift the same but with lest rest (decreased rest)
- Decreasing the tempo of a lift (Increased tension)
If you're doing the same old program, your results will begin to diminish due to your body's adaptation mechanisms. On the flip side, if you're changing programs too often, then there's no way to measure whether you're getting stronger.
4. Your technique is off
Subpar technique = subpar results. If you want to stack on lean mass, you need to make sure you're working those target muscles in the right way.Points to consider
- Posture: not only is it an instant confidence boost, great posture will keep you injury-free and help you get stronger.
- Learn and re-learn technique: You can never be to experienced to go back to basics. Learning proper movement patterns is a skill that can be done for life!
- Using accessory lifts: These can make you stronger in your compound lifts (like the bench press), plus help you to target lagging body parts.
- Use the same technique: Standardise your technique so that you are doing the same life the same way every time - that way, you'll know if you're truly getting stronger.
5. Your will isn't strong enough
No one wants to hear that they're unmotivated. In fact, you may feel like you're super motivated - you head to the gym, you generally eat healthily and you're here, reading this article. Unfortunately, gaining decent amounts of muscle mass takes time - a long time - which requires a great deal of dedication and patience. If you're expecting to see stellar results in only a few weeks of training, you may feel disappointed. Lifters often spend years perfecting their routines in the gym, and are constantly watching what they eat, making sure they have enough protein, carbs and fats to grow.
If you're willing to dedicate to the lifestyle, then understand that there may be some drawbacks. Social events can become more challenging if you're always thinking about meals and recovering from your tough workouts. Sometimes you'll have setbacks like illness or injury, and sometimes you simply won't feel motivated - it happens to the best of us! If you can ride the storms and have a long-term view, then you're more likely to see great results that stay with you for years to come. Get organised with your training and meals so you don't have to spend your whole life at the gym, avoid these common pitfalls and most importantly - enjoy the journey!