Building muscle is no easy task. When we first start training, it’s easy to gain muscle since our body is not used to this stimulation and is adapting. Once your body gets used to the resistance training, it’s common to plateau. Here are some of the biggest mistakes that may be causing you to plateau, or just not progress as optimally as possible.
If you don’t eat the right food, and most importantly, ENOUGH food in general, expect to waste your efforts in the gym. Muscles need high quality protein and most importantly, calories to grow. The best combination, of course, would be high quality foods that still put you in a caloric surplus. Don’t expect the same gains eating cake versus eating chicken breast. Along with your macronutrient and caloric intake, vitamins and minerals are important for building muscle.
Overtraining is a term that is often overused, but it is real. Whatever you want to call it – overtraining, under-resting, it all leads to the same thing: a regression in progress or a plateau, or simply slowed progress that could be more optimal. Getting enough sleep every night is crucial not only for muscle recovery, but also allows you more time to release growth hormone – which is released in peak amounts while you sleep.
Resting Too Long Between Sets
Resting between sets is fine – as long as you don’t practically quit the workout to talk for 30 minutes with Joe about your new riding lawn mower. Doing so is not only going to hinder your muscle growth, but it’s dangerous. Your body will begin to cool down and your pump will fade, causing a decline in body heat which may lead to easier tearing of muscles if you attempt to go back directly to heavy working sets. Above all else, talking with Joe or BS’ing for too long in between sets will cause you to be distracted and lose intensity for the next set.
Inconsistency / Not Monitoring Progress
Keep a journal to not only track bodyweight, but also lifts. Keep notes about variables such as how much you ate on a certain day, how much you slept the night before, how many carbs/protein/fat or the general makeup of your nutrition, and any other variable that can play into the performance you were able to achieve for a certain day. Keeping a journal of lifts will encourage you to always increase weight/reps, which will overload the muscle more – an absolute necessity for the continuation of muscle growth.
Inadequate Training Intensity
Also known as “training like a b**ch”. Give your muscles a reason to grow. Curling the pink 5 lb dumbbels will only do so much, even if you’re the gym form-nazi and have the best mind-to-muscle connection possible. Try to mimic the intensity of those with a physique you’re trying to obtain. If you’re not extremely uncomfortable and grimacing during your set, then it’s time to turn up the intensity. You’re in the gym to work, so if you drove all the way there and are going to dedicate an hour or more to a workout, make it a workout!
Building muscle isn’t rocket science. Most are looking for a “secret” or some alternative, unknown method to build muscle. Most of the biggest mistakes made to build muscle are those that directly relate to ones work ethic. Also, even the small variables will add up. Did you skip taking a multivitamin for the last few days? Give up two reps short on failure on a few sets? Allowing yourself to achieve less will only, over time, cause you to reach for less and less, and then you’ll be the guy mentioned earlier talking to “Joe” about his lawn mower in between sets for thirty minutes.