These muscle building mistakes will have you feeling less like Superman and more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man! Make sure you’re not guilty of any of these mistakes and your gains will rapidly accelerate.
1. You don’t consume enough calories – In order to build lean tissue you need to be in a caloric surplus. That is an anabolic or regenerative state. To be in a surplus you should be consuming slightly more than your total daily energy expenditure.
2. You train with too much volume – We all know that guy that smashes out 50 sets for one muscle group and hasn’t gained an inch in years right? This is simply too much volume for your recovery capacity. The aim of your workouts should be to stimulate tissue into growth, not annihilate them.
3. You consume too many calories – Believe it or not, more is not better. A caloric surplus of 200-400kcal is sufficient. Eating in excess of the 1000kcal’s (I’ve met many people that do this!) doesn’t mean you’ll automatically build more mass. It does mean you’ll gain fat, lower testosterone and ruin your muscle building potential.
4. You train with too little volume – A couple of sets isn’t going to get the job done either. The amount of volume you should be using is dependant on a variety of factors. These include the muscle group in question, recovery capacity, training frequency, training history and exercise selection.
5. You don’t get enough sleep each night – 8-9 hours per night should be what you’re aiming for. Missing that goal not only means a slower recovery, but also mediocre performances at the gym, at work and in life! Poor sleep can also negatively effect important muscle building hormones including testosterone, growth hormone, insulin and cortisol. If you really do struggle with sleep, an afternoon nap to make up the difference is also a potential option.
6. You don’t make foam rolling part of your muscle building quest – Whilst jumping down on a foam roller and ironing out those tight tissues won’t directly help you build muscle, it can help in a couple of ways. It can help speed up recovery, which means you can get back into the gym and do it all again quicker. It can also help release the fascia, giving your muscles “more room” to grow.
7. You really don’t consume enough calories – Yes, this is such an important factor and that common it deserves to be mentioned twice! If you know you struggle getting enough calories into your diet consider things like a high calorie protein/weight gain shake.
8. You don’t place the muscles under sufficient time under tension – Despite what bro-science says at your gym, loading up with as much weight as possible and moving it from A to B isn’t the most effective way to stimulate hypertrophy. For maximum gains each set should last between 20-70 seconds. This is where manipulating your rep ranges and tempos comes in handy. For example, a good combo might be 12 reps with a 3010 tempo. Each set would last for 48 seconds – perfect time under tension. A rubbish example might be 4 reps with a 2010 tempo. Each set would only last for 12 seconds. This just isn’t long enough.
9. You sweat the small stuff – Stress is the enemy. Worrying about everything and anything going on in your life will chronically elevate cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress. It will halt muscle building and could encourage fat gain. Before you start stressing over a situation, I find the best thing to do is to ask yourself this “will this bother me in a years time?” If the answer is no, don’t worry about it. It’s also always worth building some down time into your week. This could include things such as a massage, a spa day, family time or a walk outside.
10. You don’t apply progressive overload – Your body is a clever, efficient machine. It never wants to do more work than it has to. That includes building mass. If you really want to grow, it has to be forced. Each week you should be striving to progress your workouts. Progression comes in many forms, it could be more weight, more reps, less rest or different tempos etc.