When you’re trying to build muscle, there are a lot of ways that you can go wrong.
It’s not enough to simply to go the gym and lift weights. This is an important component of the process, of course, but it’s not enough if you’re looking to really maximize your progress.
You see, many guys don’t have a plan when they get to the gym. They go in, run through the same old exercises, in the same way that they have for done for years, and see very little to show for it.
So, if you’ve been struggling to put on muscle, then take a look at the following list to see what you’ve been doing wrong – and what you should be doing instead.
1) You’re Not Focusing On Progressive Overload
If there was one ‘secret’ to building muscle properly, it would be something known as progressive overload.
In simple terms, progressive overload just means working to steadily make some sort of progress each time you go to the gym – whether it be increasing the number of reps that you’re doing for an exercise, or the amount of weight that you’re using.
Many guys tend to just do the same exact thing each time they go to the gym – the same amount weight, for the same number of reps.
Well, if you don’t force your body to get progressively stronger, and work harder each time you go to the gym, why would you expect it to build more muscle?
If you focus on making progressive overload a cornerstone of your workout routine, then you’ll immediately start making faster muscle building progress, even if you literally change nothing else.
2) You’re Not Tracking What You’re Doing
When you go the gym, you should have a very clear goal in mind.
And that goal should be working to improve upon the previous workout (as we went over in the first point).
However, if you aren’t actually tracking what you’re doing – keeping a log of the number of reps you did for each set, and the amount of weight you lifted – then how can you expect to make incremental progress with each workout?
The answer is, you can’t. You’ll end up forgetting the specifics of what you did last time, and won’t have an accurate basis to make progress from.
There are many ways that you can track your workouts. Some people prefer to just use a pen and paper, while others choose to log their workouts using an app on their phones, potentially being monitored by a reputable online personal fitness trainer.
The way that you choose to track is up to you, but just make sure that you’re actually tracking!
3) You’re Working Out Each Muscle Group Too Frequently
When many guys go to the gym, they tend to train the same muscles groups each time they go.
In a certain sense, this is understandable, since if you want a muscle grow it makes sense to train is as much as you can, right?
Well, that might sound reasonable, but it’s not the case when it comes to maximizing muscle growth.
The truth is that your muscles need time to recover – and if you are working the same muscles too frequently, your recovery will be limited, and they won’t develop as quickly.
There are different schools of thought on how frequently you should train each muscle group, but the research suggests that every 5-7 days is optimal for most people.
4) You’re Not Resting Enough Between Each Set
Most guys don’t pay attention to the amount of time they’re resting between sets.
If anything, many will try to run through as many sets as they can, as quickly as they can, in order to get as many total sets done within their allotted gym time.
Unfortunately, if you do this, you won’t make nearly as much progress as if you took an appropriate amount of time to rest between each set.
The reason for this is that when you rest for long enough between each set – between 2 and 4 minutes, in most cases – you give your muscles a proper chance to recover from the previous set.
As a result, you are able to perform much better on the next set – doing a greater number of reps, or lifting more weight – compared to if you hadn’t rested enough.
And this comes back to the first point in the article, about progressive overload. In order to give yourself the best chance of making some type of progress with each and every workout, you need to rest enough between sets to truly maximize your performance.
5) You’re Doing Too Many Sets
In most areas of life, doing more of something leads to better results.
If you want to do well on a test, you study more.
If you want to learn how to cook, you cook more frequently.
However, with weight training, more is often not better at all.
This is because the total number of sets that you do in each of your workouts is far less important than maximizing the intensity of each set that you do.
And if you do too many sets, you’ll burn yourself out too quickly, exhausting your supply of muscle glycogen, and will also likely end up taking shorter rest periods so that you can pack as much in as possible. In fact, most guys will make far greater progress sticking to between 9-12 total sets in each workout – but really focusing on making those sets count.
6) You Only Do High Rep Sets
There is nothing wrong with working with different rep ranges during your workouts.However, if you only do high rep sets, aiming to do as many reps as possible, you’re selling yourself short.
When you push your reps too high, cellular fatigue takes over, exhausting your muscles. This produces that burning sensation that many people equate with having a good workout – often known as ‘muscle pump’ – but the problem with this is that it will limit the amount you can lift for your next set.
Your muscles burn out too quickly, leaving you depleted, which in turn impacts your overall performance and slows down the rate of your progressions.
Most guys will do far better focusing on lower rep range sets for the majority of their exercises. This means primarily working in the 4-6 rep range, or the 6-8 rep range, for most of your core exercises.
If you want to include some higher rep work later on, that’s totally fine – but save it for the end of the workout, not for the beginning.
Summing It Up
As you’ve seen, there are a lot of ways that you can go wrong when you’re trying to build muscle.
Luckily, there are easy fixes for many of these issues, and simply by implementing some of the points mentioned in this article you’ll be well on your way to making much faster progress.
At the end of the day, building muscle is just like anything else: if you approach it with a sensible, well-structured plan, with a clear focus in mind, you’ll do far better than if you just try to wing it.