Hello everyone! The following is a guest post by Joshua Hardwick on building muscle. Enjoy!
We’d all like to be ripped, but very few of us actually take the steps necessary to achieving our goals. Building muscle requires a lot of dedication in terms of both your workout routine and your eating habits. Even those that really ‘go for it’ are often surprised when they see very little in the way of results and often, it can be down to just a couple of factors that they didn’t take into consideration or slightly misunderstood.
Gaining muscle is hard work, both physically and mentally and there is certainly a lot to think about. A lot of people find that initially, their results are great but after a few months, they seem to hit a brick wall and muscle mass gains come to a halt. To help you out, I’ve rounded up 6 of the most common reasons that you might experience this, and that could be preventing you form building muscle.
#1 – You Aren’t Eating Enough
To gain muscle, you need to eat a lot as you can’t gain weight from nothing. Every day, your body will burn a certain amount of calories just to maintain itself (by that, I mean to fuel its normal daily activities) and to build muscle, you need to be eating more calories than whatever this requirement might be. The problem here is that everyone’s daily calorific needs are slightly different, as daily activities vary, as does each individuals metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories).
Calculating the exact amount of calories you should be eating per day is no mean feat, but you can use one of the many online metabolic rate calculators to calculate how many calories your body needs each day just to function (your basal metabolic rate). Following this, you can use the Harris Benedict Equation (here is a calculator that uses this formula) to calculate how many calories you need to consume each day to maintain your current weight. Once you have this number, you need to make sure to consume slightly more calories (with a good percentage from protein) if you want to gain weight.
#2 – You Aren’t Eating Enough Protein
Protein is the building block of muscle tissue and without it, you don’t have a hope of building muscle. If you’re regularly working out and looking to gain muscle, you need to be consuming quite a hefty amount of protein. Again, it’s hard to calculate an exact protein requirement but the general rule of thumb is to consume around 1 gram per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you need to consume around 180 grams of protein per day.
It is important to realize that this is substantially more protein than you would usually consume on a regular diet and doing so is going to take a fair amount of effort. Bearing in mind that a tin of tuna, 100 – 120 grams of chicken breast and one protein shake are all likely to contain around 25 – 30 grams of protein, you can quickly see how much you are going to need to consume.
Protein shakes are a great way to get the extra protein you need but it is important that you get the majority of your protein from high-quality, protein-rich food sources. Consuming them in excess can lead to a number of side effects but in moderation, they are perfectly fine (ideally no more than 2 per day). You should also note that some protein shakes are of a higher quality that others so choosing the right one is extremely important (see my top 10 protein powders).
#3 – You Aren’t Lifting Enough Weight
One of the things that is always subject to much debate is the ‘weight vs reps’ argument. Some argue that you should opt for a slightly lower weight and do more reps, whilst others argue that a heavier weight with less reps is best for muscle hypertrophy. The reality is, there is no right and wrong answer as different combinations will work differently depending on each individual.
Personally, I think aiming for around 8 – 10 reps is best as this is most likely to work for most people. Lifting heavier weights and doing less reps (under 8 reps) is likely to focus too much on strength rather than mass gains whereas anything over 10 reps is likely to be focussed more on endurance. Higher reps can lead to mass gains but the quality of muscle is likely to be low, although as I mentioned, the exact optimum number of reps to build muscle varies from person-to-person.
However, whatever number of reps you do opt for, you need to make sure that you are pushing yourself. If you can get to your desired number of reps on every set without at least a little bit of a struggle, you need to increase the weight; although you need to make sure that you don’t increase the weight so much that you can’t execute the correct form as this is crucial to a successful workout.
#4 – You Aren’t Achieving The Correct Form
Following on from our last point, we reach another common reason that a lot of people aren’t building muscle; correct form. Personally, this is one of my ‘pet hates’ and the number of times I see this on almost a daily basis at the gym is astonishing. Correct form is usually compromised when you try to lift too much and can be compromised during almost any exercise.
One of the most common examples of this tends to occur when people are exercising their biceps. You will see skinny men grabbing the 20kg dumbbells as they believe, the heavier the weight, the more muscle they’re going to build. The truth is that it doesn’t always work like this as without correct form, you aren’t going to be targeting the muscles correctly. Still, you see them doing dumbbell curls with these overly heavy weights and in order to lift them, they launch them into the air with every rep with the help of their back.
Not only does this mean that they’re now inadvertently targeting other muscle groups rather than their biceps, but it also puts them at risk of severe injury. You should always perform every exercise with a controlled, slow movement. If you can’t do this, then lower the weight
#5 – You Are Working Out Too Much (Or Too Little)
Another part of gaining muscle mass that is exceptionally important is how frequently you workout. Unfortunately, getting the balance right is a pretty hard thing to do and most people will either workout far too little, or far too often.
First of all, let me tackle the ‘far too often’ guys. Working out too often is going to hold back your muscle building efforts as one of the most important phases in muscle building is the rest phase. It is not actually the act of working out but rather the resting period that actually builds muscle mass. When you workout, you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers and as these are repaired by your body, muscle mass increases. If you are putting your muscles under too much stress and not giving them sufficient resting time, it can actually lead to a decrease in muscle mass.
Now, for those that workout too little, it’s simple, get to the gym more often! Ideally, if you are serious about gaining muscle, you should be heading to the gym and performing weight lifting exercises at least 3 – 4 times per week. It is a good idea to focus on no more than 2 muscle groups per day (e.g. biceps and triceps, or back and chest). This way, you will allow each muscle group plenty of resting time if you stick to a regular workout schedule.
#6 – You Are Doing Too Much Cardio
You’ve probably heard a million times that you won’t be able to get good muscle definition (or reveal those six pack abs) if your bodyfat percentage is too high. To combat this, you’ve decided to hit the running machine for an hour or so every few days. Sure, this is going to keep you fit but if your primary goal is to get ripped and build muscle, chances are that you could be doing too much.
Every time you do cardio, you are burning calories quicker than you do normally. Of course, this is what leads to weight loss for a lot of people. If you’re burning too many calories, your body isn’t going to have enough energy to function, and then you are at risk of your body breaking down your muscle tissue in order to obtain enough energy.
As strange as it sounds, unless you are substantially overweight, cardio will more than likely need to be kept to a minimum during a muscle building phase. If you do want to do cardio, you need to realize that you will need to eat more to ensure that you aren’t burning more calories than you are consuming.
While there are a number of other things that can prevent you from building muscle, I find that these tend to be the most common. Nutrition and exercise are complex subjects and the truth is, nobody’s perfect. Most people are usually at risk of incorporating at least one of these problems into their routines, so hopefully, this post will have pointed out any flaws you might not have realized were flaws and promote a change.
Bio: Joshua Hardwick is a fitness enthusiast, with a particular interest in muscle building and getting ripped. He mainly writes for his own website; iWantASixPack.com, giving muscle building advice and regularly dispelling common muscle building myths.