• Joshua Li

13 Reasons Why You’re Not Building Muscle!

If you're struggling to build muscle or if you’ve hit a plateau in your muscle-building journey, there are certain factors that you may not have considered. There’s nothing more disheartening than putting in months of hard work in the gym and seeing all your efforts go to waste. Rather than expecting so much from doing one part of the job, we need to understand that a product won’t be complete unless all of the different components are assembled correctly to come together and give us our result. A chair doesn’t stand on 3 legs, a car doesn’t drive without fuel, and a plane doesn’t take off without wings. If you want the full package, it's time to get serious.

1. You’re not consuming enough calories:

It is very important when building muscle to be at a caloric surplus and generally within 250 - 500 calories over your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Reduce your caloric intake below your BMR to a deficit and you will lose weight. Understand your goal, and apply what needs to be done. More often than not, beginners are very surprised at how many calories are needed to reach maintenance. Work out your daily caloric requirements and hit your targets!

2. You’re not eating right:

It’s true that if you’re eating what you want, and achieving excess calories as well as going to the gym, you will grow. However, not eating the right foods will very likely limit your potential, cause you to put on excess fat and limit the amount of lean muscle you will build. You need to really aim at getting your macros into a healthy balance of proteins, carbs and fats. Instead of being overly concerned on exact ratios, try split it evenly across all macros, and always prioritise protein into every meal; the number one building block to muscle growth and recovery. If you struggle with hitting your macros, consider adding a protein supplement/shake to your diet plan. Not only is it the cheapest form of protein that you will be digesting, but it’s quick, easy and convenient.

3. Not drinking enough water:

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day and make it a habit to carry around a bottle which you can easily refill and sip on from the moment you wake up. It’s vital that we stay hydrated as signs of dehydration can have us feeling fatigued, cause headaches and loss of appetite.

4. Not having an effective workout routine:

It’s important to choose the right routine that is suitable for your training experience and goals. Your routine should have:

● Adequate rest days between training days

● A well-planned distribution of muscle groups being worked to avoid overtraining

● An order of exercise selection so that major muscle groups can be worked to maximum effect

● A good selection of compound and isolation exercises

● An appropriate warm up and cool down

5. Doing the same workouts all the time:

Muscle building is the process of your body adapting to increased stresses. Your muscles manipulate themselves to be able to deal with those stresses in a specific way, and once they have reached a point where they can easily handle what you are doing to them, they will have no reason to adapt or get stronger. If you want to keep growing, you have to keep pushing harder. There are plenty of ways of manipulating your workout, but the most simple is progressive overload.

6. Not focussing on progression:

If we want our bodies to adapt, we have to challenge it in new ways. You don’t have to overcomplicate your routine but if you're making sure to increase either the weight or reps or reduce rest times for the core exercises, you'll definitely progress. Choose important areas you want to improve on and keep a training log to track your lifts, and improve on them.

7. Exercise technique is bad:

It’s all good and well moving a weight from point A to B, but the real difference comes in understanding what muscles are activated through your lifts and how to make a strong muscle mind connection with the targeted muscle through a specific movement. Keep reps slow and controlled, especially on the negative portion of the lift and avoid using momentum. Use a full range of motion and try avoid locking out joints at the end of movements.

8. Doing the wrong exercises

Normally beginners will do too many isolated exercises and not enough compound lifts. Compound movements incorporate the most muscle fibres and place the most stress on the body. At the end of the day, if you are at least hitting some basic core exercises and making progress in those lifts, you will build muscle in the most important areas. Include these exercises in your routine:

1. Squat

2. Deadlift

3. Bench press

4. Pull-down

5. Shoulder press

6. Cable row

7. Romanian deadlift

8. Incline Press

9. Forgetting to train legs:

Training legs is just as important as training the rest of the body. They comprises half the body and will assist in helping the body produce anabolic hormones to help with your overall performance. Although leg training can be tough, it is necessary to build a well rounded physique.

10. Not getting enough rest:

Muscle building doesn’t happen in the gym but rather when our body is at rest. We go to the gym to damage the muscle and put our bodies into an anabolic state, thus all the repair work happens while resting and sleeping. You need to ensure you have the right nutrition to fuel that recovery so that you can come back to your next workout bigger and stronger. You might think you don’t need any rest days, however it’s essential that you take a day off from the gym. Give your muscles adequate rest before hitting them hard again.

11. Not getting enough sleep:

Sleep is the most important element in making sure you are getting sufficient recovery, not only for the body but for the mind. It’s extremely important to try and get not only enough sleep but a good quality sleep. Aim at around 7 - 8 hours of sleep, and try to find a relaxing ritual before a set bedtime.

12. Your post workout nutrition isn’t cutting it

Your post workout meal/shake is the most important meal of the day, since after you exercise, your body is at its most anabolic state, ready to absorb any nutrients you feed it. Glycogen is depleted and your protein levels are low. A simple protein shake isn’t going to be enough and it’s necessary to get a large amount of calories with possibly a whole meal.

13. You’re not motivated Finally, you just might not be motivated enough

Building a strong body isn’t just about pushing your body but also pushing your mind and building a strong mental fortitude; know how to work yourself through the pain and hold a positive mindset. Find out what motivates you to put 100% into the gym. If you struggle to get into the zone, there are several methods you can use to help maintain focus.

1. Keep a training diary

2. Set small goals, and try and hit milestones

3. Take before and after pictures

4. Get to know other like-minded individuals and surround yourself with others living the lifestyle that would influence you positively.

5. Constantly learn from reading sources and watching YouTube videos

6. Get amped up before your session and give it your all!

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