You find yourself working out in the gym week after week, month after month but why are you not gaining muscle? Gaining muscle quickly and effectively is a simple process, made complicated.
Over-analysis of the basic fundamentals has become normalised and is unnecessary. With so much information now available at our fingertips, it is easy to become overwhelmed.
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7 Reasons Why You Are Not Gaining Muscle
By making some simple changes, you can start to build muscle much more quickly and effectively. Here are the 7 most common reasons you are not gaining muscle:
- Not applying progressive overload
- Failing to record your progress
- Not consuming enough protein
- Lack of sleep and recovery
- Undertaking too much cardio
- Too much variation in your exercises
- Training without a training plan
By making these simple changes to your routine, you will notice your development in the gym improves rapidly. Let’s take a look at each of these mistakes in more detail.
Not Applying Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a fundamental obligation if you desire to gain any muscle or strength.
There are no two ways around it. It is the most vital part of any journey in life in or out of the gym. If you want to become an improved version of yourself, then you need subtly make your environment different so that the body or mind needs to adapt and therefore grow.
This principle is especially useful in the gym where an increase in weight, amount of repetitions or sets is important to make any progress. You can not expect the body to grow or adapt if you consistently undertake the same routines repeatedly. Making these small changes will develop larger changes which over time, then become more recognisable.
Training the same each time you train will allow you to maintain what progress you have made. Once you have reached this plateau, you need to learn to train out of your comfort zone.
How To Implement Progressive Overload
- Increase the weight
- Increase the number of reps
- Increase the number of sets
- Increase the intensity of the exercise
Do not try to implement all of these methods at once. Increasing one at a time on each session will suffice and be effective enough, provided you are doing it consistently.
Failing To Record Your Progress
Without keeping track of your progression then how do you know how much progress you have made? Cut out the guesswork and start writing down your sessions.
When you start training, you will be able to gain muscle and strength fairly rapidly. But as you reach a plateau these gains will ultimately slow down.
When you apply progressive overload you need to know EXACTLY what you have lifted previously. These small details will be the ones that help you progress, so you need to know the exact weight and reps you have completed.
Simply assuming that you will remember how many sets, reps, and how much weight you lifted for each exercise is not maintainable.
Trying to remember , every single weight and amount of reps for every exercise completed off the top of your head is borderline impossible.
Whilst it may feel like you can do so in the moment, you will forget after probably just a few hours. Especially if you are performing lots of different exercises.
Although it can feel monotonous, it only takes 5 minutes at the end of each session. You could even do it in-between sets.
Recording your sessions will give you written evidence of your progress to look back on.
Then if you ever feel downhearted about a lack of progress, you literally have written evidence of progression.
Either use a notepad or just write the results in the notes on your phone. Either way, make sure it is somewhere accessible for the start of the next session.
Not Consuming Enough Protein
If you are not fuelling your body with the right nutrition then it will be a much slower, much longer road to progression. No matter how much weight you are able to lift.
Every individual requires a different amount of protein consumption. Without knowing factors such as lifestyle habits, height and weight it is hard to estimate precisely.
The bodybuilding.com protein calculator, which takes into account all these variables, will give you a specific number of grams to consume each day.
Protein produces the building blocks for repairing muscles which have been worked out. The muscles then adapt to the damage by becoming larger and stronger.
With the subject of nutrition in mind, it is useful to know that, if you are in a calorie deficit then you will find it very difficult to gain any muscle no matter what you eat.
Related Article – Benefits Of A High Protein Diet
Lack Of Sleep And Recovery
In the modern world, competition is fierce and everybody is trying to outwork one another.
But how long can you really give 110% into all your endeavours before you suffer from burnout?
When training to gain muscle, you will be putting your body under an immense amount of stress to try and make it grow.
So how do you expect to recover and grow if you are not resting and allowing this stage to happen?
Related Article – How Much Sleep Do You Need To Function Optimally?
All of your gains are made whilst resting, as this is when all the torn muscle fibres are binding back together bigger and stronger.
Recovery is the most underutilised necessity in most training regimes.
Get ahead of the pack by implementing more of it into your life.
Sleeping at least 8 hours, eating well, hot baths, foam rolling and stretching are just some of the many useful methods available.
Related Article – The Ultimate Guide To Active Recovery & Rest Days
Unedertaking Too Much Cardio
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be fit, and durable and even wanting to complete long-distance runs. But cardio can negatively impact muscle hypertrophy.
Related Article – Can Cardio Ruin Your Gains?
But if your primary goal is to become more aesthetic and get stronger, then you need to manage your cardio efficiently. This is not suggesting that you should scrap any cardiovascular training you are completing.
Cardio is extremely important for general health and fat loss.
You just need to consider the volume of cardio that you are undertaking. Endurance training will likely negatively impact your ability to gain muscle unless you are consuming an excessive amount of calories.
Alternative Methods Of High Volume Cardio
There are a number of different methods you can undertake in place of doing long distance, endurance sessions. These can also have a positive impact on your physique without eating way at your hard earned gains. These include:
- Steady-state cardio
- Shorter rest in-between sets
- HIIT 2-3x per week
Steady State Cardio
If are completing 1-hour sessions of cardio 5x per week, then the likelihood of increasing muscle is going to suffer significantly as opposed to doing some steady-state cardio.
Resistance training has the potential to improve your CV endurance. So tone down the cardio, focus on less rest in between sets and you will increase your heart rate to burn calories and improve endurance.
Interval training is another great method to boost your cardio without overdoing it, and can even help you build muscle. Interval training should be no longer than 30 mins and focused on short rest periods (10-20 seconds) in-between working sets (10-60 seconds).
Too Much Variation In Your Exercises
This may seem as though it should say ‘Not Enough Variation‘. Whilst having a wide library in your armoury of exercises can be useful to gain muscle, it is actually unnecessary.
You actually only need some fundamental exercises within your workouts. So long as you perform these exercises regularly and apply all of the principles spoken about beforehand.
You could consistently perform the same exercises, for every single session for 6 months.
Depending on your type of training, with enough rest in between this method will work perfectly fine.
The problem is not with exercising the muscles from all different angles, but actually with applying the principles of progressive overload, good nutrition and recovery. The main point of this section is not to overcomplicate your training with fancy exercises that are a waste of time.
Training Without A Training Plan
If you train blindly and just decide to train what you feel like training on that day, then you are not giving yourself the best opportunity to progress to your full potential. A training plan should include plenty of compound exercises and scheduled sets and rep targets.
A well-thought-out plan that considers you as an individual and your goals, is an extremely important step towards making the most progress.
The most important thing to consider, when writing a training plan, is why you are performing each exercise. Gain an understanding of what each exercise does for your body. Being aware of what muscles are supposed to be operating when performing each exercise will help you build a mind-muscle connection. It will also give you a good idea of which muscle groups are getting the most attention and can be edited to suit your personal needs.
When planning your sessions, make sure to include the principles discussed in this article.
An experienced and reliable personal trainer would be able to assist these progressions, but you can become your own. Learn to educate yourself on training, nutrition and good habits. This will not only save you a lot of time, but also a lot of money.
Summary And Recommendations
Gaining muscle can be made much easier by following these 7 steps. Oftentimes, the most typical reasons people fail to make positive changes are down to a few key reasons.
Remember, be consistent and make sure you eat enough calories! Without these fundamentals, you will always struggle to gain any recognisable muscle.
Implement these changes into your lifestyle today and watch your muscles grow!