5 Reasons You’re Not Building Muscle
Too often I see people putting in their sweat equity with little to no return.
While I do love working out, I love working out to get results. People ask me all the time why they aren’t building muscle and it takes a deep look into 5 main reasons why people don’t gain muscle.
Most people don’t train enough AND train too much…at the same time, resulting in a major lack of progress.
Most studies have determined that total weekly volume is the determining factor in building muscle. Hitting each muscle group 2 times a week allows for optimal weekly volume. That means instead of only doing legs and chest one time a week, ideally you should be doing it two times a week.
Most people who train each muscle group one time a week try and pack 15 sets on one day on one muscle group and that is just too much damage for your body to optimally build muscle mass.
Damage does not equal growth. Volume indicates growth.
If more damage was better, then why not do 30+ sets on every muscle group? It is just too much and delays the time it takes for your body to recover in order to build muscle mass.
By hitting each muscle group twice a week, you can get more volume and less damage per day. Compare damage and volume: 15 sets on one day or 10 sets on two days. It makes more sense to spread your volume out.
Try accumulating 15-20 sets per week per muscle group so the you can optimally build muscle.
How many days a week should you go to the gym to build muscle?
There is no one right answer. But there is a wrong answer.
Going to the gym one to two times a week will not illicit notable gains in muscle. It just isn’t enough volume. Even three days a week can be problematic when trying to build muscle. I’d really like people going to the gym 4-5 times a week.
Going to the gym more frequently allows you to get enough volume and rest to optimally build muscle without killing yourself in one day. Now, given that volume matters most in terms of building muscle, is there a difference between doing 4 sets on chest 3 times a week vs doing 6 sets on chest 2x a week? No, not really. As long as you can get to your weekly volume goals, I don’t care if you hit chest twice or three times a week.
Changing Reps Progressively
Cliche but true—change requires change. The body is amazing at adapting to a repeated stimulus or stressor like exercise. When people say things like “I’ve been doing the same thing for years, I don’t need help” it is usually accompanied by years of lackluster and/or stagnate results.
It is not about what works— that is the wrong question to ask. It is about what works optimally relative to your goal.
Yes there is a set of “rules” out there that states what rep ranges are good for what goal (strength, size, power etc.) but building muscle is not so black and white. You need to provide your body with new stimuli so that it will be forced to change.
Progressive overload is a big component of building muscle (and strength) and is often though as just adding more weight but that is one of the many ways to progressively overload muscles. You can also change the rep set scheme and progress through more intensity like higher reps, less rest, lower reps, faster reps and even different exercises.
Changing the rep set scheme allows you to control intensity and provide a new stimulus.
Some people like to give it a fancy term like “shocking the muscle” or “muscle confusion”, but I promise you the muscles aren’t confused. They are just attempting to adapt to the new stimulus, providing you with continued growth.
Be sure to throw in some different rep/set schemes throughout the week and month and changing the intensity relative to the rep/set scheme (you can’t lift the same weight for 15 reps that you can for 5 reps)
Here are my favorite Rep schemes that I incorporate throughout the week or month depending on my training cycle:
|Workout 1 Week 1: 5×8||Workout 2 Week 1: 4×10|
|Workout 1 Week 2: 5×6||Workout 2 Week 2: 3×12|
|Workout 1 Week 3: 6×3||Workout 2 Week 3: 2×15|
|Workout 1 Week 4: 5×5||Workout 2 Week 4: 2x sets until failure|
Trying to build muscle without eating the right things or without eating enough food at all will likely leave you with no results and make the gym seem like a waste of time.
You need enough gas to drive a car to get to your destination just as you need enough food to build muscle. When you workout, you are breaking down muscle fibers that need to be repaired in order to grow. Without the necessary nutrients, you will not recover optimally let alone grow.
The most common goal I hear among clients is “I want to build muscle and lose all my fat” and what people don’t understand is, while it is possible to do both at once, it is not optimal.
You simply cannot build muscle optimally in a calorie deficit just as you cannot optimally lose body fat in a calorie surplus.
People wrongfully diet for years, stressing their body and wonder why they aren’t building muscles even though they do crossfit 8x a week. You need to eat enough to build muscle mass optimally. Undoubtedly, you can still build some muscle lifting in a calorie deficit but no where near as much as you can on maintenance calories or even in a calorie surplus.
Try upping your caloric limit a bit if you really want to build muscle. At minimum, eat your body weight in grams of protein a day.
You are not building muscle when you are squatting or bench pressing. You are just causing micro-trauma within the muscle fibers. Yea, lifting weights in the gym doesn’t directly cause muscle gain— rest does.
In order to grow, your muscles need time to synthesize proteins to repair and build muscle tissue. Rest is usually the most ignored aspect of building muscle and stops a majority of bicep-seeking bros and “every day is leg day” ladies from building an awesome physique.
More is not always better in terms of building muscle mass.
But didn’t I mention more volume is important in building muscle mass? Yes, but not at the expense of minimizing recovery! Good programing equates volume throughout the week without infringing on recovery periods.
It can take upwards of 72 hours for a muscle to fully recover. By continuing to train a damaged muscle, you lengthen the recovery time, in turn, lengthening the time it takes to grow the muscle.
Think about muscle groups involved in exercises and try to avoid hitting them back to back. Here is a sample, 7-day set up I love to do when I’m focusing on growth.
- Chest Shoulder Triceps
- Legs Abs
- Back Biceps
- Lower body
- Upper Body
Have you been on the same program for too long? Is it time for a change? Are you eating enough? Are you training enough? or too much? Reevaluate your current program and make sure you are maximizing your ability to build muscle and not sabotaging yourself with less than optimal training habits.
Muscles don’t grow on their own— it requires work. And not just “throw weights around, sweat and drink a protein shake” work.
Work smarter not harder. Your program will help you or hurt you. Message me if you are ready to get on a serious program that produces serious results! Taking 10 clients for august so get in while you can (click here for more info)! Thanks for reading. I’m working on a few other articles related to diabetes as well as articles on supplements and other training protocols. Stay tuned!