For as long as you can remember you’ve been training for size and strength. You’ve followed plan after plan, incorporated every known exercise and some no-one else has ever heard of into your routine, you’ve even changed your computer’s wallpaper to a picture of Arnie, but nothing’s helping.
You are not alone. This is a very common problem, and it doesn’t seem fair when you’re putting in all that commitment, but muscles don’t respond to commitment alone. Chances are there are a few simple things you need to focus on that will make huge changes to your results.
Here are the ones I see the most frequently:
1). You’re Preoccupied With Losing That Last Few Kilograms of Fat Before You Start Bulking
I know that when you build the muscle you’ve been dreaming about for so long you’re going to want everyone to see it. I know you’re not working your ass off so that everyone can just mistake you for being overweight, so it logically follows that you want to be nice and lean, but maybe you’re addressing these things in the wrong order. The training that lost you the rest of your fat isn’t going to help you shift these last kilos. You’re now fighting your own metabolism and that’s not really helping you get where you want to go. Start pushing to add some muscle to your frame and you’ll see your metabolism increase, which will make the process of dropping those stubborn remaining kilos infinitely more straightforward.
2). You’re Lifting But Not Eating Like You Lift
Here’s a little fact for you, muscles are built from the food you eat, not the weights you lift. It’s true. Yeah, lifting the weights is going to stimulate growth, but your body doesn’t absorb what it needs to grow muscle from just touching the bar. For that you’re going to need to eat more food than you ever dreamed of. Not any food, good food. You’re going to need to be packing in high quality protein at regular intervals, stacks of green vegetables, and carbohydrates from minimally processed sources.
If you’re hitting the weights hard, but your idea of lunch is a 95gram can of tuna and some lettuce leaves you’re robbing yourself.
3). Too Much Isolation, Not Enough Squats & Deadlifts
Muscle growth is systemic. You’ve probably heard me say this before. What I mean is that you can do bicep curls or shrugs as much as you like, but you’re never going to see a significant result from them if you’re not focusing primarily on building muscle throughout your body. For that you’re going to need to be doing a lot of deadlifts, a lot of squats, and balancing them out with some chin-ups and bench. Nothing, NOTHING in your program should be getting prioritised above these movements, in this order.
4). Failing to Progress
What’s your five rep max? What was your five rep max last month? What was your five rep max six months ago?
If you’re not progressing the weight you lift, you’re not giving your body anything to adapt to.
No, that’s it. It really is that simple.
5). Insufficient Recovery
During certain phases of your training, I understand the value of going hard for many days consecutively. You have to listen to your body, though, and this approach may not be the best for every phase. High volume is awesome, but so is a heavy phase. So are de-load weeks. Sometimes, ditching the weights for a day and going for a swim instead is what your body needs. Yes, you need to lift weight in order to foster muscle growth, but more isn’t always better. The muscle doesn’t grow while you’re lifting weight, it grows in the recovery time following the lifting of the weight. So what happens if you decide to spend that recovery time lifting weight? That’s right, you limit your body’s capacity for recovery.
Don’t do that.
Another reason – You’re Trying to Lift Heavier Than You’re Actually Able and Are Compromising Tension
You should know by now if I offer you a list of five things I’m sometimes gonna throw in an extra one. I don’t do it because I’m innumerate, I do it because I’m generous like that.
Did you read the last post in the blog about the only language your muscles understand?
If you didn’t, go do it now, and beat yourself with a knotted rope for not doing it sooner.
Well sometimes, in an attempt to appear stronger, less enlightened gym-goers will compromise their form and tension in favour of moving more weight. They will bounce heavy barbells off their chest. The will swing their hips wildly as they curl. They’ll squat with legs looking like those of a newborn giraffe.
So ask yourself what you want. Do you want to be big and strong, or do you want to be able to add ten kilograms to the number you quote to your mates down the pub?
Be patient, maintain tension, and pretty soon you’ll be not only looking bigger and stronger than ever, you’ll be wiping the floor with their numbers. Just have the humility to sacrifice today’s claims for tomorrow’s results.
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