Are You Sabotaging Your Muscle Gains With These 7 Mistakes?
You’ve been running yourself ragged. You spend more time at the gym than at home. You push yourself so hard you’re pretty sure you’ll bust a vein if you do one more rep. And despite all this, you still aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for.
Something is obviously wrong somewhere. Don’t worry, though, because the problem isn’t you. No matter how skinny you are, or how fast your metabolism is, you can still gain muscle.
If you aren’t building muscle like you had hoped, you might be making certain mistakes that are sabotaging your progress. You have to remember that every aspect of your life–from your social life to your workout–will influence your ability to build muscle. So, let’s look at some of the most common mistakes when it comes to building muscle.
Mistake #1: You Don’t Eat Enough
Eating insufficient calories is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you’re looking to build muscle and gain mass. No matter how much time you spend on designing the best workout or how hard you work in the gym, if you’re not eating enough, you aren’t going to see any gains.You need to have a positive calorie balance, meaning that you need to eat more than you burn. This will ensure your muscles have enough fuel to repair themselves and grow.
Ideally, if you are of average size, you should aim for an extra 300 calories per day over your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and if you are underweight, then you need about 500 calories per day. Note that these are only suggested starting points because it will vary from one person to the next. You can start with an extra 300 calories and if you still aren’t seeing results, then add some more. However, try not to increase your caloric intake by more than 300 calories at a time or you run the risk of gaining fat along with muscle.
Also, make sure that those extra calories come from lean proteins like beef and chicken, good fats like avocadoes and olive oil, and from healthy carbohydrates like brown rice and sweet potatoes. A clean, healthy diet will promote quality mass gains, which is what you want. If you feel your lifestyle does not allow you to plan your meals properly then you will most likely need a whey protein supplement.
Mistake #2: You’re Overdoing the Cardio
When it comes to building muscle, doing too much cardio can hinder your efforts. As we’ve already established, your body needs a surplus of calories so it can build muscle. However, if you’re running, cycling, rowing or doing any other type of cardio on a regular basis, you are burning up calories that could have gone towards building muscle.
While cardio will not stop you gaining muscle completely–unless you’re not eating enough in which case your muscles will begin to cannibalize themselves to provide your body with fuel–it will slow your progress significantly. So, if you haven’t seen any muscle growth and have been doing a lot of cardio, you need to cut back. You don’t have to cut it out completely, but try not to exceed three twenty-minute sessions per week.However, if you’ve always had trouble putting weight on and are relatively skinny, then you need to cut out the cardio for at least two months. During this time, focus on gaining mass. You can then incorporate a few cardio sessions per week to keep you lean.
If you’re overweight, then you might be focusing on the wrong thing. While you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, it’s relatively inefficient. To lose fat, you need a calorie deficit, while to gain muscle you need a surplus of calories. So, if you have a lot of extra fat to get rid of, focus on fat loss first, which means creating a calorie deficit through diet and cardio. Once you’ve dropped some weight, you can switch gears and adopt a diet that will help you bulk up.
Mistake #3: You’re Overtraining
You’re probably irritated that you aren’t seeing the gains you want. You leaf through bodybuilding magazines and want to look just like them, and you can’t understand why you’re not getting the same results. So, you add more sets, increase the duration of your workout and train more frequently, hoping to see better results. Unfortunately, the exact opposite will happen. Not only will overtraining lead to injury, which could keep you out of the game for weeks, but it will also stifle your gains. Resting is just as important as working out. , because that’s when the body repairs the muscle fibers you’ve torn during your workout. In other words, that’s when your muscles grow. If you don’t rest you aren’t giving your body the chance to gain mass.
And when it comes to the professionals, remember that many of them have excellent genetics, use steroids, growth hormones and various drug cocktails, and there’s also a good chance they don’t have a regular job they need to go to every day. All this means that they can train a lot more than regular people without any negative impact. On the other hand, a normal person who has average genetics, doesn’t take drugs, and has a job will simply be unable to achieve the same results, regardless of what they do.
Instead of rushing things, employ a bit of patience and you will achieve your goals, even if it takes longer. If you overtrain, all you’re going to do is hurt yourself and slow your progress. So, don’t train more than four days per week, and don’t train more than two days in a row, with sessions lasting up to 75 minutes.
Mistake #4: You’re Using Weights That Are Too Light
Muscles grow when enough tension is placed on the muscle fibers to stretch them and cause tiny tears. Cells in your muscle fibers then repair the tears, but also make the fibers bigger and the nerves that activate them stronger so that the next time your muscles are exposed to the same level of tension they are better able to handle it. When the fibers get bigger, so do your muscles. However, for your fibers to keep growing, they need to be exposed to an increasing amount of tension or your growth will stagnate.
So, if you’re not seeing any gains, there’s a good chance that you aren’t lifting heavy enough. If you are able to complete a set easily, then your weights are too light and you aren’t placing enough tension on your muscle fibers. They’ve already adapted to handle the weight you’re using, so no tearing is taking place. No tearing means that there’s no need for your cells to increase the size and strength of your muscles.Ideally, you should be using weights that are heavy enough to cause muscle failure after 8 to 12 repetitions per set. If you don’t have a partner to help you continue lifting with good form, then rest for a few seconds and continue lifting to finish the set. This approach will offer you better results than using weights that will let you finish a set easily.
Mistake #5: You’re Using Too Many Minor Isolation Exercises
If you study what most successful bodybuilders do in terms of training, you will find that most of them use a small range of basic exercises that are all concentrated around big lifts. If you want to build a muscular body, you’re going to have to forget about minor isolation exercises and start focusing on the big, compound movements.
Your body is limited in the amount of energy it can expend on recovery and growth, so it doesn’t make sense to waste that energy on exercises that offer limited returns. Instead, focus on basic lifts because they will offer better returns, allowing you to grow faster. Once you’ve gotten so strong that these lifts aren’t cutting it anymore, you can add more complex exercises, but while you’re still trying to grow, stick to a few big basic movements as they’ll offer you the best gains.
Mistake #6: You Aren’t Using Proper Form
Lifting heavy isn’t enough. You have to make sure that you are using proper form in all your exercises. The weight you’re using is important as it places tension on the muscle. However, the way you do the exercises determines whether the correct muscle is being targeted.
If you’re not using the proper form, you won’t be able to lift as much weight, you are exposing yourself to injury, and you might even be targeting the wrong muscles. Thus, learning proper form is essential. And no, throwing weights up and down is not proper form. If this is what you do, you’re only deluding yourself in terms of your actual strength because you’re using momentum and not your muscles. Instead, perform exercises slowly and with controlled movements, both when contracting and extending your muscles.Also, don’t make the mistake of using weights that are too heavy because you won’t be able to use good form, which will negate the benefits of heavier weights.
Mistake #7: You Aren’t Training Hard Enough
Anyone who wants to see massive gains needs to train really hard. However, most people don’t train that hard. They think they do, but the fact is that very few people put in the amount of work required to change their bodies. What’s worse is that the more advanced you become, the more work you will need to put in.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that training hard means doing more reps or more sets. Doing more of the same thing poorly isn’t going to get you the results you want. Training hard means training with as much intensity as you can. It means working out with complete focus and increasing the weight you lift regularly. It means training to failure on every set, and giving it everything you’ve got in each session.
If you’re training for an hour or more and are barely winded after each session, then you aren’t training hard enough. So, remember, if you want to see massive gains, you’re going to have to increase the intensity. It’s really a matter of quality over quantity. If your workout is intense enough, you don’t need to spend more than an hour in the gym, but you will see incredible results.
The Groom+Style team has put together a terrific article on how to increase your lifts by 30% – might be worth a read!