By Tess Pollok Generation Iron
We all know the old saying — “work smarter, not harder.” But do you know how that applies in the gym?
It’s true that amazing gains never come overnight, but there are still things you can be doing to maximize the amount of muscle you get out of your workouts. Here are the top 10 reasons people don’t gain muscle in the gym and what you can do to fix them.
1. Training volume is key
Two many people get complacent in the gym and stop trying actively to push themselves. The fundamental key to muscle growth is progressive overload – meaning you increase the intensity of your workouts overtime. If you aren’t getting that burning feeling from overloading your muscles, it means you aren’t building them, period. Increase the amount of weight over time and make sure to increase the volume, too – that’s the number of sets and reps you do for each workout.
2. Be consistent
The second biggest thing to remember about making massive gains is that it’s also a game of consistency. There’s only so much muscle that can be put on by the body in a day; one huge workout, or even one huge workout once a week, will get you nowhere. Make a plan and stick to it, but be in the gym three to five times a week and make sure to do that every week. Muscle is gained incrementally. Even if you aren’t pushing yourself, it’s better for your body and overall muscle mass to do softer workouts five times a week than it is to really push yourself in the gym only once or twice a week. That’s a surefire way to lose gains.
3. Take advantage of supplements.
Depending on your unique needs as an athlete, different supplements will work for you. Creatine, casein, and whey protein are the three cornerstone proteins of making huge gains. Your muscles need to consume food to grow and develop, so you need to make sure you’re giving them all the fuel they need. In some cases, eating casein before bed can actually provide the muscles with enough to amino acids to literally grow overnight while you’re asleep. Imagine waking up with more gains than when you went to bed.
4. Be strict with yourself about form.
This is an easy one to forget. Exercises like squats, barbell presses, and crunches are all considered staple exercises for a true gym rat. But exercises only help you gain muscle if they’re performed correctly. Are you leaning forward when you squat? It could be a sign you overloaded with too much weight. When you do a sit-up, is your spine straight and your stomach flat? If not, it’s a sign you’re overloading a weak core. Take the time to do these exercises the right way. Otherwise, you’re only getting a fraction of the gains you set out to make.
5. Get a full night’s sleep.
This is another no-brainer people often don’t think about. Studies have shown that sleeping for eight hours instead of five can increase testosterone by 10 to 15%. That has a huge impact on how much you gain muscle when you work out. This is a really easy thing you can do to improve your performance in the gym.
6. Recovery is a part of the process.
If you go hard in the gym five nights a week every week for a year, you will absolutely destroy your body. Set aside cycles of rest so you can recover after tough workouts. Pushing yourself too hard will only lead to burnout. Trust me, your body will thank you.
7. Be in generally good health outside of the gym.
It doesn’t mean you can’t drink or have fun with your buddies at the bar, but you should do your best to be generally healthy in your habits outside of the gym. This means no binge drinking and stay away from drugs and smoking, at the very minimum. You definitely won’t be maximizing gains in your workouts if you’re dehydrated and hungover from a long night out partying.
8. Keep it simple with your workouts.
You don’t need fancy equipment to get shredded. Remain focused on the basics and the tried-and-true exercises that have worked for bodybuilders for generations. Don’t get caught up in the promises of fancy equipment and “new breakthroughs” that offer shortcuts. There is no shortcut; just do the work.
9. Stay organized and manage your workouts
Huge gains are no easy task and getting organized definitely helps make the process more smooth. Consider keeping a journal of your workouts and your meal plan. You’re less likely to slip up and cheat with a greasy cheeseburger at the end of a long day if you’ve already got a plan in place and food waiting prepared at home.
10. Lift as heavy as possible
If you feel comfortable lifting, you probably aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Lifting the heaviest amount of weight you can is a critical factor in making the most gains.