It can be frustrating when you put in hours each week at the gym or with your home workout, yet you see minimal or no gain. Here are some of the more common mistakes that could be preventing you from building muscle and what you can try instead.
Don’t Skip Leg Day
Let’s start with the most common mistake. Focusing wholly on your upper body may cause you to end up out of proportion, but more likely than not, this won’t be the case – you won’t be able to build the upper body muscle to begin with. Having strong legs allows you to support a bulkier upper body, making it easier to build muscle. Many compound leg exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, are also better at increasing testosterone, which helps when developing muscles elsewhere.
A study by the University of Texas found that “performing squats synthesizes more testosterone and growth hormone than a similar session on the leg press.” Although the test subjects lifted more weight on the leg press, their exhaustion was 42 percent higher after doing squats.
Avoid Sugar Spiking
Consuming too many sugary energy drinks, chocolate milkshakes or even some protein bars, could be taking away your ability to gain muscle. While they may give you the energy and protein necessary to build muscle mass, the excess sugar, in turn, could be inhibiting your ability to take in muscle-building amino acids. Look out for low-sugar drinks and snacks that will still give you the protein and energy. Keep in mind, men should consume no more than 38 grams a day and women 25 grams a day of added sugar.
Consuming the Wrong Kind of Calories
When trying to build muscle, you do need to consume additional calories. However, it’s important to eat the right kind of calories. Fast food, ice cream and pizza will more likely cause you to pile on fat. Increase your calories in more healthy ways by eating more fish, chicken, rice, potatoes and vegetables.
Some people can go overboard on supplements like creatine and fish oil, using these instead of taking up a healthy diet or taking too many causing nutritional problems. There are then those who take the wrong kind of supplements (i.e. performance enhancing drugs like steroids). Steroids are notoriously common amongst some gym-goers but as most know, they can run all kinds of other health risks. You’ll bulk up faster, sure, but you also damage your body in the process, causing severe long-term health problems.
Avoid Too Much Cardio
Cardiovascular exercise, is very beneficial, but, should be reserved to a minimum when trying to bulk up. This is because it steals the calories needed for repairing muscle tissue, converting the calories instead into fuel for aerobic exercise. Try limiting your cardio to twenty minutes, three times a week and see if this has any impact. A few short, HIIT sessions could also work well.
Ignore Weight Training Technique
There are specific techniques to follow for each strength training exercise. For example, proper deadlift form, requires keeping your legs about hip-width apart, not arching (flexing) your back, tucking your chin etc. These will all help build muscle more effectively in addition to protecting your spine and hips in the process. Make sure that you’re using the right technique with each exercise, otherwise you could be preventing yourself from building muscle.
Shaner, A.A., Vingren, J.L., Hatfield, D.L. et al. The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2014, 28, 4, 1032–1040.