If you’re someone that’s been putting the hours in at the gym then chances are you want to see some results from all your hard work and effort.
But a lack of results tends to be one of the biggest hurdles that guys face in the early stages of their training careers. This can often lead to them throwing in the towel completely, without ever gaining so much as a kilo of muscle.
It’s only natural that your progress might slow down over time, particularly as you’re likely to put on more size in the first year of your training than you likely will over the proceeding three. But if you’ve been training consistently hard for more than 3 months and have barely noticed any progress, there may be several factors that you haven’t paid attention to.
- YOU’RE NOT EATING ENOUGH
One of the main causes of not being able to build muscle is simply not eating enough food. When it comes to increasing muscle mass, if you’ve found that you’re not making progress, it’s very likely that you just aren’t eating appropriately to achieve your goal.
Unfortunately, there is one-size-fits-all approach to knowing how much food you need to eat and in what proportions. You can’t just do an online search to find that magic number for the right amount of calories and macros you should consume, despite how much I’d love to be able to tell you otherwise. Individual diets should be based on the individual.
Most people know the importance of consuming enough protein, but carbs and fats are just as important when it comes to growing muscle. The number of calories and macronutrients you should be consuming are dependent on many different variables. How much you normally eat, your metabolism, your genetic ability to lose or gain weight and your activity levels throughout the day will all play a role in helping you find that sweet spot for growth to occur.
But while eating adequate calories and macronutrients is important to promote growth, you also need to be careful not to over consume so that you gain excess body fat. This makes it vital to strike the right balance of eating in a slight caloric surplus relative to how much energy your body will expend, while being sufficient enough to allow the body to adapt and grow.
- YOU’RE NOT ACTIVATING THE TARGET MUSCLES
You haven’t taken the time to master the correct technique and to think about which muscles that you’re actually trying to train. If you’ve been so eager to start throwing heavy iron around before actually taking the time to master the perfect repetition of each exercise, you will be on a hiding to nothing.
It’s like trying to run before you can walk. Trying to lift too heavy, too soon can therefore lead to you recruiting the wrong areas of your body to execute certain movements, not to mention increase your risk of getting injured which will in turn rob you of all your gains.
Before promoting yourself to the big boy rack too early, take the time to master the mind-muscle connection. For every exercise that you do, ask yourself why it is you’re doing it and what precise muscles are you trying to target during that movement. Really get a feel for performing exercises correctly to achieve the perfect execution of every repetition.
Make Every Rep a Masterpiece.
- YOU’RE NOT TRACKING YOUR WORKOUTS
Keeping track of your training is just as important as the program you are following. How are you supposed to know how much weight to lift today or what you did last week without keeping track of it?
To maximize muscle gain, keep track of every workout you hit with precise detail. The weight used, amount of repetitions completed, the tempo of the exercise, and your rest periods in between sets are just a few examples. Keeping a training log will also allow you to monitor how you are feeling during each workout, how difficult you perceived it to be and also to make a note of your energy levels that day.
If you’re not tracking your workouts, the likelihood is that you’re leaving everything to guesswork and won’t achieve the progressive overload that is needed to continue forcing the body to create adaptations.
You can keep it old school with a notebook and pencil, download a basic app or even commit to a custom coaching program like KIS Fitness. But whatever you do, keep track.
- THERE’S NO VARIETY TO YOUR PROGRAM
You’ve probably been shown a few key exercises by a friend, found yourself a free program online or worse still are just making things up as you go along. You’re doing the same old exercises with the same old rep ranges and wondering why the weight is barely shifting.
But there are a lot more things to consider than just sets and reps. Exercise selection, exercise variety, tempo, rest, intensity, frequency and training volume are all things that must also be considered.
Advanced techniques such as drop sets, super sets, giant sets and pyramid sets are all things you can add to your repertoire to help prevent any plateaus.
Hitting 3 sets of 10 for every exercise might have been enough to achieve some newbie gains, but if your growth has slowed to a sharp halt, then chances are you might need to shake things up a little.
- YOU’RE NOT PRIORITISING RECOVERY
You think the more you train, the quicker you’ll grow. But this isn’t always the case.
Never underestimate the importance of recovery in your training. During your workouts is when the damage is done and muscle breaks down, when you rest and take time to recover is when the muscles get to repair and grow back stronger. Rather than asking what more you should be doing in order to try and grow, ask yourself what more you can be doing to aid your recovery.
Another element of recovery that often gets overlooked is sleep. In order to give your body the best chance to recover, you should aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night, to optimise this further you can aim for up to 9.
A good rule is to listen to your body. If you feel like you need to rest more, then take a day off and let those muscles grow.
Serious gains don’t happen by accident. They require a well thought out training plan and serious attention to detail.
Focus on these often-overlooked aspects of building muscle and you will be well on your way to achieving the growth you’ve been working so hard for. It’s time to train smarter and take your results to the next level.