Four Reasons Why You’re Not Gaining Muscle
You train hard every day, but the scale is barely budging.
And you still don’t look nearly as strong as you (think) you are.
That’s okay, most of us have been there. Below are four reasons why you might not be making the progress you wish to see.
1. You’re not eating enough.
In order to see your much coveted muscle gains, you need to be eating more calories than your body burns on a daily basis. If your training is in check but you’re not seeing the gains you want, chances are you are not eating enough for your goals.
On top of being in a caloric surplus, you must be getting an adequate amount of protein (the building block of muscles) and carbohydrates, which will help fuel your workouts and promote protein synthesis.
Not sure how much you should be eating? A quick rule of thumb is to multiply your own bodyweight (in pounds) by 16 to 18.
So, for example, a 130 lb female would have to eat between 2,080 to 2,340 calories to start seeing some muscle growth. The taller you are, the more calories you will need (and vice versa).
You should expect to see about 0.5 lb in muscle gain every two weeks (females) and 0.5 lb gain for males every week. If progress is too slow, try adding another 200-300 calories daily for a few weeks, and adjust according to results.
Note that, if you are weight training with the purpose of putting on muscle mass but you’re also doing a lot of cardio, you might be shooting yourself in the foot by expending energy that should be used for muscle building. Pick a goal, and prioritize it. If you want to build muscle, you will have to train and eat for muscle-building, specifically.
2. You’re under-training.
If you are not consistently challenging yourself in the gym, you are not providing your body the new stimulus it needs to grow.
Think of it this way: every time you introduce your body to a new weight load, it must work hard during recovery to make you stronger and/or to build the muscle you need to support this new weight load. This is called the principle of adaptation, and is one of the main components of training theory.
So, in order to continuously make progress, you must keep introducing new, more challenging stimuli for your body to overcome.
The problem is, everyone is scared of working too hard these days. There is this fear-mongering about training too hard, and, of course, there is a valid basis for that.
Overtraining is a real thing, caused by training too hard for too long without adequate recovery, and is typically experienced by high-intensity athletes such as bodybuilders and long-distance runners.
But the reality is, most of us are not training nearly hard enough to achieve the level of “overtraining’ that is experience by athletes at the elite level.
If you’ve been pushing the same weight at the gym for weeks, it’s time to up the intensity and challenge yourself either with a more complex exercise, a heavier weight load, or a higher number of sets and reps.
3. You’re not recovering well enough.
When we talk about recovery, we’re also referring to the overall nutrition that supports our muscle growth. An adequate diet keeps us from injuries- if you’ve been training hard and heavy for long but not eating enough, eventually your body will no longer be able to sustain the loads you are placing on it.
Aside from nutrition, factors such as sleep and stress levels must be kept in check in order to prioritize bodily functions. If you are too stressed, your cortisol levels are higher than normal, which disrupts the muscle-building process and makes it that much harder to pack on the mass.
The same applies to sleep; ideally, you should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night to ensure your hormones are being regulated and functioning properly.
4. Your training program is flawed and inconsistent.
Picture this: it’s Monday, you step in the gym and start setting up for barbell squats. You warm up to a working load of one plate per side, and perform 5 sets of 10 reps. By the end of it, you’re exhausted, but you feel you had a really good workout.
Next week, you show up again and perform the same number of sets and reps… with the same weight. Still challenging, so you must be doing something right… right?
From my experience of training both males and females, I’d have to say the number one mistake I see is that people are not training smart enough. You can train hard all you want, but if you don’t have a logical plan to back it up… all your efforts are most likely going to waste.
By training smart, I mean using the principles of progressive overload, and allowing the body to adapt but also to be challenged by new stimulus on a consistent basis.
Train with the same weight and number of reps for too long, and you won’t make any progress. Change it up too often and without a structured plan, and you run the risk of injury or overtraining.
The solution? Learn about the basics of program writing, and make sure you are challenging yourself every week. That can be done by varying the intensity (load used), number of reps, sets, or by shortening rest times.
Did what you just read help you in any way? Let me know in the comments.
If you’d like more information regarding muscle-building, program writing, or anything strength-training related… shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To your success,