By Jeremey Duvall, M.S., CPT Men's Fitness
When it comes to building muscle, it's easy to get frustrated. Between eating the right foods, doing the right exercises, and recovering properly in between sessions, it becomes extremely difficult to build the body you want. The search for more muscle often leads guys looking for shortcuts. Adding mass is a slow process. Consistency is rewarded with results whereas those looking for a quick fix often find themselves frustrated with their lack of progress.
To keep you on track and help you see the best results, we've outlined the five most common mistakes guys make in their quest to bulking up fast.
1. Training Overload
If lifting helps you build muscle, then the more the merrier, right? Wrong. Lifting weights for hours at a time is beneficial up to a certain point; then, it becomes counterproductive. After an hour or so of intense lifting, your body begins to release stress hormones like cortisol that are counterproductive to building muscle. Rather than spending hours a day in the weight room, simplify your program and cut out needless exercises to get more done in less time. For most guys, 45 minutes of actual lifting time should be plenty to get in a great workout. That equates to around 6-8 different exercises in your routine according to Jason Ferruggia, head muscle-building coach of the Renegade Nation. Rather than spending every moment trying a different variation of bicep curls, master the basics and load them up. Dedicate the rest of the time to a proper warm-up and detailed cool-down to complete your routine.
2. Caloric Deficiency
Nutrition is a huge hurdle for any guy looking to pack on some size. There's a constant battle between quantity and quality. For some, the fear of adding additional fat while packing on mass prevents them from eating enough calories to see the desired gains. Nate Green, coach of the Scrawny to Brawny program, points out that there is a big difference in eating "a lot" versus eating "enough". Eating enough produces results whereas eating a lot is based on perception. In order to pack on size, guys should be eating enough calories to cause the number on the scale to go up. As far as quality of food, don't resort to packs of cookies and cakes. Keep the bulk of your diet reserved for quality sources of protein, vegetables, fruits, and carbohydrates. Sprinkle in some occasional cheat meals and high-calorie splurges to spur gains and avoid plateaus in weight gain.
3. Harder-is-Better Mentality
HIT (High-Intensity Training) classes popularize the notion that harder is better packing total-body exercises together in a circuit-style fashion that leave most lifters laid out on the floor, gassed for hours after a workout. For weight loss and general fitness, this approach has its benefits. For muscle gain, it's counterproductive and can even lead to losing muscle. According to Rob Sulaver, head coach and founder of Bandana Training, "Most classes are designed around weight loss ('cause most people need to lose weight.) If you're a hard gainer and have trouble packing on lean meat, think heavy resistance and an impressive amount of food." Spend your time in the gym lifting heavy rather than running through a tortuous circuit.
4. Lack of Patience
Most guys looking to build muscle want to see results fast leading them to hit the gym seven days straight. While this dedication may eventually pay off down the road, it's counterproductive for hard gainers having trouble with building muscle. According to Sulaver, one of the biggest mistakes a guy can make is getting frustrated with their progress early on. "Getting hulked is a slow and arduous process - that why it garners so much respect." Don't expect adding size to come easily. Track your results from each workout and look for small improvements each week. Adding five pounds to your bench press may seem like a small amount. But, if you add five pounds every few workouts, you'll see amazing results down the road. Focus on being consistent rather than looking for shortcuts.
5. Poor Recovery Plans
Far too many guys fail to realize that lifting is actually a catabolic activity - meaning it breaks down muscle fibers as opposed to building them up. Lifting serves as a stimulus to build more muscle during your recovery bouts between sessions. In other words, what you do between your workouts has a far larger impact than your actual time spent in the gym. Poor nutrition and improper sleep patterns can sabotage the best workout plan. Rather than obsessing over your workout details, stick with a basic plan that works. Focus the rest of your energy on all of the factors that occur between gym visits.