Building muscle is a goal for most of us interested in health and fitness of some kind, but why do we make it so much harder than it needs to be? Muscle building in itself is a relatively simple concept in theory; we workout, we break down and damage our muscle tissue by subjecting it to stress, our body then adapts to this stress my repairing and growing new muscle tissue.
So why do people still find it so hard to build muscle if it really is that simple?
Below are 5 of the incredibly simple mistakes that people can and do make when in the pursuit of new muscle mass.
You aren’t consuming enough protein.
This might seem like the most obvious one (it is), but its surprising how often people overlook the fact they need enough protein to repair and recover after a workout, let alone build extra muscle mass. Your body needs a certain amount of protein per day for every day function, when you are working out 4–5x a week or more the demand for protein gets even greater. This is to provide the raw materials required to repair your damaged muscles. This demand goes even higher again when your goal is to build muscle.
So how much do I need?
There is still a huge amount of debate as to the “optimal” amount for protein intake and many studies have been done but my average intake will vary somewhere between 1–1.5g of protein per lb of body weight depending on my goals through the year. At a weight of 200lbs this equates to 200–300g of protein daily which is quite a broad range I know but I allow for a lot of flexibility regarding on what I am doing that day.
Don’t get too caught up in what is “optimal” and just focus on regular, quality protein intake to help meet recovery needs.
You aren’t consuming enough calories.
The amount of calories required to put on lean muscle mass will vary from person to person but if you are struggling to get the results you want the first thing you need to look at is if you are consuming enough calories to begin with.
I will come back to this time and time again over various articles and posts but do you know how much you are eating on a daily basis? How are you supposed to make any changes if you don’t know what you are consuming currently? You may think you are eating enough, but until you are tracking your food intake (or atleast aware of it) and can see the numbers in front of you, you can’t start to utilise food as a tool to help you get the results you want.
So how many calories do I need to gain weight?
Again, this will vary from person to person but a starting point needs to be established and you can make changes as you go. There are lots of different approachs to this but the most basic to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories you will burn at complete rest per day and takes into account your age, gender, lifestyle and weight. If you’d like to find this out then follow this link here to get a clearer picture of what you should be consuming.
From here you can either adjust up or down depending on your goals.
You aren’t contracting your muscles.
This is an important one, especially if the main aim is to add muscle.
So just think about this for a moment. When you are going through your exercises in a workout, are you focusing on the intended muscle to move the weight, or are you purely just moving it from point A to point B? It can be seen in the gym every day, people using poor ROM, going through the motions, using weights that are clearly too heavy for them, but what results are they getting?
If you aren’t in control of the weight for the whole of the movement, or if you are going too heavy (most people are guilty of this) the stress will be shifted on to different muscles and away from the target muscle. Everyone should have the aim of getting stronger in the gym but not at the expense of good form and using the intended muscle group.
You are spending WAY too much time in the gym.
This has two points really.
- You really shouldn’t be spending more than 60–90 minutes in the gym workout and if you are, you aren’t training hard enough or at the intensity required for muscle growth. Some people waste time, rest too long, are continuously checking their phone (if you don’t take a gym selfie, theworkout never happened right?) or some don’t come in with a plan at all. These are all recipes for a non-productive workout, and one that won’t get you any closer to your goals. Reduce distractions and come in with a plan, muscle building isn’t an easy task so the training involved should reflect this.
- Are you the one of those people that spend 6–7 days a week in the gym every week? I have been before and my results suffered for it. I used to feel like I was missing out or not “doing enough” by taking a rest day even if I was absolutely exhausted from a 60 hour week and 6 consecutive workouts on little sleep. What was the result? My workouts suffered, and my results came to a stand still.
To recover and make progress you need to REST, and probably more than you think. Ever have a day where you have a workout planned later in the day but you just aren’t feeling it? Sometimes you just have to listen to your body and take the rest it needs, come back in the next day when you are fresh and are more likely to have a productive session.
You repeat the same work out day in, day out and expect the same results.
This is also another overlooked variable to building muscle but also one that people sometimes make too complicated by having different workouts every week and no system for monitoring progress.
If you’ve been working from the same programme for months on end and not seeing the results then it is likely your body has become accustomed to the stimulus you are providing it with. A simple step could be to consider changing the workouts in one of several ways:
- Changing some of your exercises to a higher rep scheme, or move some of them lower.
- Change out exercises for variations and adaptations of that same lift.
- Or change the training altogether.
This really doesn’t have to be complicated, and only small changes are needed to illicit a change in your body’s response to the workout.
Muscle building can be done with the right approach and results can be seen in relatively short spaces of time if approached correctly. This is a relatively broad explanation of mistakes you can make when trying to build muscle but I guarantee there are some of you reading this that have overlooked at least one of these over the last couple of months and that is potentially why you are reading this article.
If you have any specific questions on anything I have covered, or haven’t covered, then feel free to send me any questions you may have.