Building muscle is hard yakka. To build muscle with minimal effort typically requires you to either win the genetic lottery, or have access to some of Arnold’s Mexican supplements. For most mere mortals, especially those of you who are hard gainers or are prone to squeak syndrome (skinny-weak = squeak), then you must do everything in your power to maximise your muscle building efforts.
Whilst we know what we need to do to build muscle, there are 7 things that you best avoid to ensure you aren’t spinning your wheels.
Burning Too Many Calories.
If you are trying to build muscle, then it’s inherent that you need to eat at a calorie surplus. Muscle growth is result of a positive protein balance, and achieving this anabolic state requires that your body have excess energy available to synthesise muscle tissue.
Consequently, this makes burning calories counter intuitive to hypertrophy.
Adding in cardio, extra curricular activities and being highly active will seriously impact your ability to build muscle, and can be one of the primary reasons you don’t grow. If you are failing to replace this energy expenditure with more food, you could be hindering your capacity to get large.
2. Eating Clean Foods.
For most individuals looking to gain size, eating at a calorie surplus shouldn’t be too difficult. However, over the course of weeks, months and years, the need to increase your calorie intake is a necessity as your body adapts to the calories you consume. Trying to eat only unrefined, unprocessed, whole foods such as chicken and broccoli can have a negative impact on your gains, and the reason is two fold:
A) You’ll get bored; and
B) It’s hard eating 400g of carbohydrates from broccoli and sweet potato.
Whilst we always advocate having the majority of your diet consist of ‘clean’ foods, when trying to build muscle, eating a small percentage 10-20% of your daily intake from the not so clean, ‘dirty’ foods can assist your long term adherence as well as meeting your energy demands.
3. Getting Fat.
Although we now know that eating clean may not be a great idea when trying to get swole, focusing on ‘gaining weight’ and getting fat is far from ideal.
A common mistake most rookies make when ‘bulking’ is they get too caught up on their scale weight, and as result gain a lot of fat tissue.
Focusing solely on your scale weight can be extremely misleading for muscle gain, as it only represents a small part of the picture. It doesn’t take into consideration the type of tissue that is contributing to your ‘body mass’.
We have very limited ability to control which tissue our calories go to. This is called nutrient partitioning, and for the most part, we have a much easier time storing body fat than muscle. When we accumulate excess fat tissue, we actually inhibit our ability to send calories to the muscles.
Many things contribute to our scale weight, muscle, fat, intramuscular triglycerides, glycogen stores and our gastrointestinal tract. Thus, scale weight can mislead us into thinking that we are getting jacked, when in reality, we we are getting fat.
So next time you think about ‘bulking’ bare in mind that it comes at a cost, because one day, you’ll have to lose it!
4. Not Tracking Your Training Volume.
One of the most common mistakes we see trainees make is not monitoring or recording their training volume. Progressive volume overload (reps X sets X load) is the primary driver of muscle hypertrophy.
Read that again.
If you aren’t recording your reps, sets and loads and are simply smashing your muscles to oblivion in every session, then chances are you will plateau after a year or two and stop growing.
Get a pen, a notebook, and start recording your sessions, monitoring your truing volume and ensuring that overtime, you are getting stronger, moving more total weight, and continually recovering.
5. Poor recovery.
Following on from the above, very few people are over trained, but more so under recovered. When it comes to muscle growth, recovery is king.
Everything outside of the gym can help your gains. It’s important to train hard, but recover even harder!
6. Your program isn’t individualised.
Although nobody is a special snowflake, as we are all made up of the same stuff, we each require a unique program tailored to our individual needs. You cannot simply follow an online, cookie cutter program that is made for the masses.
7. Program Hopping.
A big mistake is jumping from program to program, looking for a ‘short cut to size’.
As we know, progressive volume overload is the driver of muscle growth, therefore if we change our program too frequently, we have no understanding of our volume from month to month and ultimately, lose the ability to track our progress.
Stick to the one plan, make small incremental changes, monitor your progress, and adjust accordingly.
It’s that simple.