View Full Version : Reasons why you're not building muscle...

08-05-2012, 05:02 AM
Reasons why youíre not building muscle:

By Damien Mase; owner and CEO of Muscle & Strength

1. Youíre not getting enough calories

Calorie consumption is the solution to about 90% of the complaints lifters have about not being about to get bigger and/or stronger. Your body requires a certain number of calories to maintain your current weight. This figure is known as basal metabolic rate (BMR), and varies from person to person depending on your weight, muscle mass, activity level, age etc. If your calorie intake is lower than BMR, you will lose weight. This is known as a calorie deficit. If your daily calorie intake is higher than your BMR, you will gain weight. This is known as a calorie surplus.

How do you know how many calories your body needs?

The easiest way to calculate your BMR is to use our BMR calculator. This calculator uses the Harris Benedict Formula (one of the most accurate methods) to calculate your daily calorie requirements. Go over to the calculator and work out your daily calorie requirements. Most people are surprised at how many calories they need just for maintenance!
Letís focus on your goal. You want to build muscle and gain weight, so your calorie intake needs to be more than your expenditure. Take the figure the calculator gave you and add 500. This is how many calories you should be eating every day to build muscle.


Your calculated BMR is 2,760 calories
You require 3,260 calories for weight gain
You require 2,260 calories for weight loss

2. Youíre not eating the right foods

Generally speaking, if youíre eating excess calories every day and training with a decent workout youíll grow. But, if youíre not eating the right foods, the chances are that youíll be limiting your potential, putting on excess body fat, and not growing enough lean muscle.
The best way to plan your muscle building diet is to split it up into protein/carbohydrate/fat (P/C/F) ratios. Arguably the best ratio of muscle growth is 30/50/20. This mean youíre getting 30% of your total calories from protein, 50% from carbohydrates and 20% from fats.

So letís look at our 3,260 calorie diet from above and break it up:

30% of 3,260 is 980 calories from protein.
Divide by 4, and thatís 244g protein per day
50% of 3,260 is 1630 calories from carbs.
Divide by 4, and thatís 408g carbs per day
20% of 3,260 is 650 calories from fat.
Divide by 9, and thatís 72g fat per day

Now all you need to do is spread those amounts over 6-7 meals per day. For more detailed information on building a diet see our how to create a bodybuilding diet article.

3. Youíre not eating enough meals

When you eat is just as important as what you eat. The days of eating ď3 square mealsĒ are long gone. Research has shown that eating smaller meals is not only great for promoting a fast metabolism, but helps maintain, lose, and gain weight. Think of your body like a log fire. If you put too much wood on at once, the fire burns slow and sluggish. But if you gradually add more wood as the fire gets bigger, it burns more efficiently and gets bigger.
You should be aiming for a minimum for 6 meals spread at even intervals throughout the day. You want to make these meals as even as possible, but itís OK to eat a bit more at breakfast/lunch/dinner if you donít have time during the other breaks.
So youíre probably thinking, ďI donít have time to eat all those mealsĒ. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that I could retire. The truth is you can, it just requires a bit for forward planning. There are endless ways you can cook and store food for meals throughout the day. Spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon cooking up your lunches and snacks for the week. Use your imagination. Here are some examples of foods you can cook, then freeze or refrigerate.

Stir fry
Mexican chicken & potatoes
Pasta bowls
Potato and chicken salad
Beef stew

The other option is weight gain shakes. Thereís nothing easier than banging some water into a shaker with some powder, having a shake, and drinking. Good meal replacement shakes usually contain around 600 calories with good amounts of protein, BCAAs, glutamine and carbohydrates. Itís literally a meal in a cup. All you need is a few shaker bottles, add the powder before work, then just add water and drink on the job. Simple.

4. Youíre not getting enough water

Water is natureís wonder supplement, itís essential for a whole host of bodily functions. Many lifters underestimate the importance of being hydrated well before they step into the gym. If you feel dehydrated just before youíre about to train, itís too late, you wonít be able to rehydrate yourself time. Keeping yourself hydrated should be a priority from the moment you get out of bed. Dehydration is a serious problem, and in extreme cases can lead to death. Here are some signs of dehydration you should look out for:

Feeling thirsty (obviously)
Fatigue. Feeling tired for no apparent reason.
Dry mouth and possible sore throat
Loss of appetite
Dark urine with strong odor

Drinking an adequate amount of water is easy, and thereís no excuse why you cannot do it. Just take a bottle wherever you go and keep sipping out of it throughout the day.
Some supplements, like creatine, may lead to dehydration. If youíre using creatine monohydrate you should increase the amount of water youíre consuming.

5. Your workout routine sucks

Choosing the right routine to suit your body type, training experience and goal is vital. Many new lifters get their workout routines from magazines and articles written by professional bodybuilders. These workouts are not designed for beginners, and will only lead to a lot of wasted time, energy and frustration.

A good workout routine needs the following:

Training days arranged to allow for adequate rest
Muscle groups arranged so overtraining does not occur
Muscle groups arranged so that each muscle can be worked to maximum effect
A good selection of compound and isolation exercises
Good warm up and cool down

We have a big database of workouts on this site that has been designed for beginnersí right through to advanced lifters. Check out our workouts section.
Itís also important to know and understand the characteristics of your body type. Different body types respond to different methods of training. What works for your friends may not work for you. For more information on body types see our ďwhich of the body types are you?Ē article.

6. Youíve been using the same workout too long

Building muscle is simply the process of the body reacting to increased stress. You put stress on your muscles in the gym, and they grow bigger to cope with the stress. The body is very quick to adapt to any changes, this includes your workout. Once your body adapts to your workout routine, it will not see the need to build more muscle or get stronger. You have to change.
As a general rule you should change your workout when you stop getting stronger or heavier, or after about 8-10 weeks. If youíve been doing your workout for 12 weeks and youíre still growing, donít change it, everyone is different Ė if youíre still growing, stick to it. We have plenty of great workouts on this site for all experience levels. Check out the workouts section.

7. Youíre not focused on progression

Progression builds muscle, without it you wonít grow. Progression is the constant increase of weight, stress and intensity required to tell your body that it needs to grow more muscle.
You should aim to improve at least one aspect of your workout every week. It could be increasing the weight, it could be your increase the reps, but it has to be something. This is where a training log becomes so important. Before every workout you should look back at what you did the previous week, exact weights and reps. Choose the areas you want to improve, and get in the gym and do it.
If youíre finding that you canít progress (ie youíre not getting stronger) read the other points in this article, especially the points about diet and workout routines.

8. Your exercise technique is bad

Youíre doing the right exercises, but are you doing them right? If you want to place the maximum amount of stress on the muscle, and prevent serious injuries, you have to execute every movement with good form. Donít copy what others are doing in the gym, this is how bad habits spread. Here are a few general rules that apply to most exercises:

Keep your reps slow and controlled
Donít use momentum to move weight (no swinging!)
Use a full range of motion
Donít lock joints out at the top of movements

Check out the exercises section on this site for instructional videos on how to do all the muscle building exercises correctly.

9. Youíre doing the wrong exercises

This goes hand in hand with a solid workout routine. Doing the wrong exercises is a common mistake made by new lifters. Usually, the lifter is either doing too many isolation exercises and not enough compounds, or only doing exercises they ďlikeĒ.
Big compound movements recruit the most muscle fibers and place the most stress on the body. These are your big muscle builders. A good compound to isolation ratio is 2-1, or 3-1. So for every 2-3 compound exercises you do, you do 1 isolation. This of course does not apply to arms, forearms, and calves where most exercises are isolation movements. Here are some big mass builders that you should be including in your routine:

Wide grip pull up
Chin up
Bench press (dumbbell and/or barbell)
Shoulder press (dumbbell or barbell)

Check out the exercises section for instruction on these exercises.

10. Youíre not training your legs

Want to increase your bench, increase your squat. Yeah, yeah, I know we all want big biceps and chests, but hereís 2 reasons why you should train your legs just as hard as the rest of your body.
Firstly, think long term here. Do you want to get the ostrich look?! A big upper body on thin legs does not look good, in fact Iíve seen it in extremes, and itís laughable! Secondly, exercises like squats have an impact on your whole body. Not only does it use most of your upper body muscles in the movement, but this exercise is so stressful that the body releases growth hormone to try and cope with the load. This affects the entire body.
Leg training is hard, but essential for a well developed physique. See the leg exercises section for detailed instructions on how to do leg exercises using strict technique.

11. Youíre not getting enough rest

This point kind of goes back to point #5, your workout routine does not allow for adequate rest. Rest is just as important as training. Many people believe that muscle building takes place in the gym, but itís actually the opposite. Weight training is actually creating millions of tears in the muscle tissue. In effect, youíre actually damaging the muscle. Your muscles get ďpumped upĒ because of the swelling caused and increased blood flow to the area. The actual muscle building (repair and growth of new muscle tissue) takes place out of the gym, when youíre resting and sleeping.
There are 2 ways you may not be getting enough rest. First, you are training too many days without taking as day off. Although you may not feel it, you body needs days of complete rest to recover from hard training sessions. Itís not just the muscles that need to recover, itís your whole neurological system, tendons, joints, and even your brain needs rest.
Secondly, and this comes back to your workout routine again, you may not be allowing muscle groups to fully recover between training sessions. If you do not allow enough recovery time, your muscles will not grow. Itís that simple. If your muscle group is still sore from the previous workout, donít train it. For most muscle groups, one training session per week is adequate. Some smaller muscle groups like calves and abs may be trained twice, but still need at least 2 days of rest between sessions.

12. Youíre not getting enough sleep

Sleeping is you bodyís time to recharge. For you, the weight trainer, itís your bodyís time to repair damaged muscle tissue, and grow more muscle. As I discussed in the previous point, no rest, no muscle. Aim to get around 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Here are some tips on how to get a good nightís rest:

Only sleep when youíre tired. Thereís no point it trying to when youíre not.
Develop sleeping rituals, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
Refrain from stressful activities for 1-2 hours before bed
Donít take stimulates within 4-6 hours before bed time
Have a light snack before bed

13. Your post workout nutrition sucks

Your post workout shake/meal is arguably the most important meal of the day. When you finish your workout, your muscles are crying out for nutrients that were lost during training. Your protein levels are down, creatine levels are down, and glycogen is depleted. Most people think that a simple whey protein shake is all thatís needed after your workout. This is not true. While a protein shake is better than nothing, it still falls well short of a good post workout shake. Hereís what would be better:

Shake containing the following:

30-40g of whey protein powder
5g of creatine
60-70g of dextrose

1 hour later:

A well rounded meal containing protein, complex carbs and fats.
You see above Iíve pimped out your post workout shake by adding dextrose and creatine. Dextrose is the simplest of simple carbohydrates. Studies have shown that taking dextrose in these doses creates a huge spike of insulin in the body. Insulin is an extremely anabolic hormone and helps move nutrients quickly throughout the body. This means that the creatine, protein and BCAAs are quickly absorbed into muscle cells where theyíre needed for muscle repair to begin.

14. Your pre-workout nutrition sucks

Carbohydrates are the key to having adequate fuel in your tank for a hard workout. There are 2 types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates (like dextrose mentioned above) are quickly converted into energy for use in the body. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and process, but provide you with long lasting energy. Complex carbohydrates are your primary fuel source for your workouts.
What you eat throughout the day, and 1.5-3 hours before your workout is going to affect how much energy you have. Like I mentioned at the start of this article, you need to space your meals out evenly throughout the day. If you eat a big breakfast, a big lunch, then train after work, youíre probably going to feel tired and sluggish. What would be better a better approach would be to eat a small breakfast, mid morning meal, smaller lunch, afternoon meal, then train after work. This gives you about 2 hours between your last meal and training, which is ideal.
So what should you have in your pre workout meal? This meal should be well rounded, containing protein, complex carbohydrate and fats. The amount of calories in the meal depends on your personal diet plan. Try and keep the protein/carbs/fats (PCF) ratio to around 30/50/20. Here is some examples of quality sources of complex carbohydrates:

Brown rice
Brown bread
Pita bread

15. Youíre not motivated

Finally, if youíre not gaining it may be due to lack of motivation. Can you honestly say you put in 100% every time you hit the gym? There are several ways you can help yourself stay motivated and focused on your goals.

Keep a training diary
Set small bi-weekly achievable goals (use your training diary to record results, good or bad)
Take before and after pictures
Get a picture of someone you want to look like and stick it someplace youíll see it all the time.
Get involved with discussions about muscle building and learn more
Watch training and workout videos from the pros before you train
Fire yourself up before a session with some music that gets you going

OK, letís recap.

Letís quickly recap what Iíve just talked about in this article. So if you want to build muscle and gain weight you need toÖ

Know how many calories your body needs, then eat 500 more than that every day.
Eat the right amount of protein, carbs and fats in your diet.
Eat 6-7 meals spread out evenly throughout the day.
Keep yourself hydrated all day, whether youíre working out or not.
Get a good workout routine to suit your goals.
If youíre not growing, change your routine.
Make sure youíre progressively adding more weight.
Always use correct exercise technique
Do the right exercises for your goal
Train your legs as hard as the rest of your body
Get enough rest between workouts and muscle groups
Get enough sleep
Have good post workout nutrition and supplementation
Have good pre workout nutrition
Keep motivated!

I hope this article has shown you the light, and you can see where youíve been going wrong. If not, you can always head over to our muscle building forum and ask one of our experienced members for some advice on your training, workout, supplements or diet.
Good luck with reaching your goals!

Deja Vu
08-05-2012, 07:16 AM
Good read brother. repped ^^^

08-05-2012, 01:08 PM
"3. Youíre not eating enough meals" stopped reading here

08-05-2012, 01:13 PM
Thanks for the post Darkside, always nice to get back to basics every once in a while.

08-05-2012, 02:49 PM
Good article.

08-05-2012, 06:51 PM
Great read! #3 can go though, except the part about pre-preparing meals in advance. The whole 10 meals a day thing is unnecessary. As long as you hit your macros, nutrient timing is irrelevant.

Deja Vu
08-06-2012, 01:14 PM
Great read! #3 can go though, except the part about pre-preparing meals in advance. The whole 10 meals a day thing is unnecessary. As long as you hit your macros, nutrient timing is irrelevant.

I try for four good solid meals a day.

08-06-2012, 02:40 PM
Ya good read bro!

08-06-2012, 08:12 PM
I do 5-6 depend my day. 10 is way of the chart and 3 is not enough.

08-07-2012, 06:16 AM
I do 5-6 depend my day. 10 is way of the chart and 3 is not enough.
Exactly. How someone could get in 10 meals a day if they work is unbelievable.

08-07-2012, 08:09 PM
Mahhhhn ! thanku for the info...sumtimes i need to just go bac to the basic and re-evaluate all aspects ...Thanks :winkfinger:

08-07-2012, 09:39 PM
Great read! I get about 6-7 meals in

08-08-2012, 12:12 PM
great read

08-08-2012, 06:10 PM
16. you are not injecting enough...

08-08-2012, 06:12 PM
17. the gear is bunk

08-08-2012, 08:12 PM
DIN DIN DIN...that sponsor gear is BUNK!!!!

17. the gear is bunk

08-08-2012, 09:00 PM
thx for the info brotha

08-11-2012, 10:43 PM
nice find

08-12-2012, 04:53 AM
Nice post Darkside

Deja Vu
08-12-2012, 06:10 AM
16. You are not injecting enough...

moar gear!!!!!

Deja Vu
08-12-2012, 06:11 AM
17. the gear is bunk

At least you can take a good look at a bag of weed and have a pretty good idea. But gear is a different story.....

09-16-2012, 03:49 AM
thanks for posting