You’re frustrated. It’s been months now and the pictures don’t lie – your muscle gains have come to a halt and you’ve hit a brick wall. Nothing seems to be working anymore.
We’ve all been there at some point. The journey of a dedicated gym rat is a long one and at times our patience is pushed to the limit. Building muscle takes time and dedication – but it also takes smart, hard work.
Pushing through a plateau takes some out-of-the-box thinking at times. Looking for some answers? Here are 5 things you aren’t doing to build muscle
MISTAKE #1: Not Training Body Parts Frequently Enough
Training a body part once per week is slowly losing popularity. More and more studies are showing that training muscle groups more frequently is superior to the old once-every-seven days split. One of the main factors supporting this theory is protein synthesis.
Following a training session, protein synthesis for the body part trained remains elevated for 48 hours before returning to normal levels. This means that if you wait seven days to train that muscle group again, you’re basically missing out on five days of creating an anabolic (muscle-building) signal for that muscle group.
MISTAKE #2: Always Training To Failure
Intensity is a word that gets thrown around all over the place today. Hashtags like #killedmyworkout and #beastmode flood our social media platforms. The only problem with pushing ourselves to failure 24/7/365 is that we will tax the heck out of our Central Nervous System (CNS). When our CNS isn’t properly firing due to being overworked, our muscles don’t engage properly and our gains will be put on hold.
The solution? Stop most sets 1-2 reps shy of failure. I suggest using failure sparingly as a tool to boost intensity. Try it for yourself and I guarantee you’ll feel much stronger and more energized.
MISTAKE #3: Not Tracking Your Food Intake
We love to dial in our nutrition when it comes to losing fat, but most of us neglect our diet strategy when we are building muscle. We tend to just eat and eat and eat. Unfortunately, there are two things that happen when we do this. Either we don’t eat enough and our progress goes nowhere, or we overeat by a lot and we pack on a ton of fat (and very little muscle). I suggest at least learning portion sizes and a ballpark estimate of what your intake needs to look like to build muscle. A small caloric surplus is a good place to start before making adjustments.
MISTAKE #4: Not Switching Up Your Training Style
I see a ton of young guys in the gym doing the typical 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps like most bodybuilders preach to their fans. Here’s the problem: those bodybuilders have built a TON of muscle already and are just fine-tuning the details. It’s important to keep building strength (low reps) as well as working on intensity (higher reps). It’s important to keep the 8-12 rep range with moderate to heavy weight a part of your training as well, but don’t neglect the other rep ranges. Building strength is a crucial piece to the muscle-gaining puzzle. Higher reps help build muscle too! Keep them in your training.
MISTAKE #5: Eating Too Much Protein
For years people have been eating way too much protein every day. The body can only process and utilize about .7g per lb. of bodyweight per day. This number could be slightly higher for advanced trainers, but it’s nowhere near the old school 1.5g to 2g per pound of bodyweight that used to be popular.
So how does this help? Well it gives you more room for carbohydrates and fats in your diet which both play a huge role in building muscle. A well-known trainer in California named Sal DiStefano recently advised lifters to cycle not just your carbs and fat, but your protein as well. Try lowering your protein significantly a few times per month and watch how anabolic your body becomes when you go back to normal protein consumption. This keeps the body sensitized to protein and primed to utilize it effectively.
Remember- building muscle is a long-term affair. Gains tend to come in bunches before slowing down. Don’t get discouraged. Stick to what works and try out new things! Give your body what it needs and keep training hard – and smart!