It’s a tricky situation. You want to put on muscle, you make a workout plan, you go to the gym, you workout, you watch what you eat, and yet you’re still asking yourself ‘why am I not building muscle’?
Well, the honest answer is, there are some questions you need to be asking yourself, some of which are tough, some potentially obvious. Our rundown asks these very questions and shows exactly why not gaining muscle is more common than you might think.
- Are you eating enough? While for many people building muscle is part of their slimming down and toning routine, the simple fact is you want to build more muscle, you need to do it with a surplus calorie intake. However, this is not to suggest that you should start eating everything and anything on a constant quest for calories. You’ll want to keep it a 500 calorie surplus and make sure it is done by consuming carbs, extra proteins, and healthy fats. Once you have this surplus, it’s time to get down to business.
- How much cardio do you do? Of course, cardio exercises are great for you on the whole, but if you are looking to build muscle, they can have the potential to hinder the process. If you feel like this may be the case for your workout, you’ll need to switch your focus to resistance training, with exercises such as this. Once your body has got used to these new exercises, and you’re able to easily recover from a resistance session, add in a light cardio session. But if your fitness goals are purely muscle gain, resistance training should be your go-to.
- Are you working out regularly enough? If you are really serious about muscle gain, you have to put in the hours. This doesn’t necessarily mean never eating poorly ever again, but it does mean not skipping workout sessions, and also during those sessions giving 100% (if not a 110%). Alternatively, you could spend way too much time at the gym, but not enough quality time actually working out. Multiple hour-long sessions without the proper training and proper breaks can end up with weak results. Make your time count. Fortunately, with muscle-building having such visual indicators of improvement, you’ll know if you’re giving the right levels of commitment.
- Are you using the correct form in your workouts? It sometimes seems pedantic to hear, but whether lifting weights or doing squats, there is no room for error when it comes to your form. Not doing so could result in a poor training routine, or even worse an injury. If you’re feeling unsure about your form with weight-based training, talk to a professional, they’ll be able to set you in the right direction and you’ll start feeling the benefits immediately.
- How hard are you training? For true muscular development and gains, compound training is the way forward. This works for multiple muscle groups at once, involves a routine of deadlifts, overhead press, weighted chins, and a flat bench press. It can also include a combination of exercises, for example, a bicep curl with a squat. Whilst remaining safe during your training, it’s vital to push yourself as hard as possible with these workouts to push your body to its limits. You’ll know it's time to stop when you cannot do another rep with the correct form.
- How are you supplementing? Don’t underestimate the role nutrition plays in your routine. After a long workout, your body will be short of nutrients such as protein, creatine, and glycogen, which can slow down the rate at which your muscles repair and develop. A simple and effective way to deal with this issue is by making a protein shake. Although there are many popular brands you can drink off the shelf, you can also make your own protein shake to suit your taste and needs. A great example of an easy to make shake is orange juice, greek yogurt, bananas, ginger, blueberries, chia seeds, and of course your chosen protein powder.
- Are you training in the right way? This may sound like an obvious statement, but to be building muscle gains you not only need to be lifting weights, but you need to be progressively adding further weights onto your routine. This, in turn, will push your body to work harder and muscle development will start to show. Although it’s not always possible, you should be looking to be adding to your weight load each week, or at least every other week.
- Getting enough sleep? This is a question you should be asking yourself regarding your overall health, but especially for muscle development. An integral part of this process is associated with the human muscle growth hormone, which is at its most active when we sleep. To see the real benefits of this at work, and allow your body to rest and repair your muscles post-workout, you should be looking at 7-9 sleep per night. With busy, stressful lives, this is sometimes easier said than done, but if you are really serious about muscle gain, do what you can to make it happen, and your results will start paying dividends.
- Are you keeping your workout fresh? However committed you are, progress can hit the buffers if there is not enough variety within your workout. From switching the type of weights you lift, to changing where you exercise, even the smallest of alterations to your routine can be of great benefit to both your mind and body, meaning you’ll be back to progressing in no time.
- Are you logging your progress? With any sort of fitness goals, it can be hard to feel like you’re making progress if you don’t know when you’re at. By tracking your changes via a logbook, whether that be reps, rest time, type of exercises, or anything else you notice, you'll be able to see what you need to improve and in turn be able to start actioning them going forward.