4 Reasons Why You’re Not Building Muscle

by Chris on July 27, 2010

There are a lot of people out there who never see the results they want from exercise. Lots of guys head into the gym and never get any bigger or stronger and can never figure out why. So here are some of the most common reasons why you may not have gained as much muscle as you could have.

Not getting enough “good” calories

Probably the number 1 reason why guys looking to get bigger and stronger don’t get bigger and stronger is poor nutrition. Gaining muscle isn’t as simple as just lifting weights and eating. You need to eat a lot, and you need to eat well. I have to admit, this is something I’ve had a problem with myself. I’m not saying you need to go out and drink 10 ‘mega gainer’ weight gain shakes a day like some people do, but you need to eat enough calories to add some mass.

While we’re on the subject, you need to eat clean, too! Don’t listen to the people who think that in order to put on muscle you need to put on pounds of fat too. That’s crap. Don’t go out and eat an entire pizza and a ton of fried chicken because you’re “bulking”.

Here’s a little example to help you get the idea. 1 lb of muscle is equal to approximately 2500 calories. So in order to put on a pound of muscle you need to consume 2500 calories over your normal caloric requirement. For those who are doing the math, 2500 calories is equal to 625 g of protein. Something to think about.

Not providing enough stimulus to gain muscle

The second reason lots of guys don’t gain muscle is that, quite simply, they don’t work hard enough! I watch people day in and day out who head into the gym and just go through the motions. They lift the same weight for the same reps and set with no change and no plan on improvement. “Maintaining” is bullshit. You are either working towards a goal or you’re not. If you’re not trying to make some kind of improvement each workout, whether it’s intensity, volume, density or otherwise, then you probably aren’t going to see results.

Not recovering enough

Another big mistake a lot of guys make is not letting their bodies recover from the work in the gym. Here’s exercise science 101 for you: you break down muscle in the gym, you build it at home when you rest and recover. If you’re not getting enough sleep and proper nutrition, you’re never going to recover fully and get stronger and bigger.

Also, don’t decimate your body all the time. You can’t (and shouldn’t) hit the gym with high intensity all the time. Yeah, it may work in the short term, but after a while you will burn out. It’s always a good idea to schedule a deload in your training every so often.

Poor exercise selection

This is something I see all the time. Guys who head into the gym and start their workout with curls or kickbacks and other isolation movements that are ineffective or inefficient. Focus on big, multi-joint, compound exercises that give you the most bang for your buck and you’ll see far more results. A few examples are squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, rows and pullups. Focus your priorities on those movements and then, if you have time and energy left, throw in some isolation movements.


Dave Sandel July 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I agree there’s too much emphasis on “you have to put on fat to gain muscle”. Most likely, you will, but there’s no need to get sloppy.

Oh, and, um, I eat a whole pizza in one sitting while I’m dieting down. It’s sweet!

Chris July 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Dave, I’m just sick of guys using “bulking” as an excuse to put on lots of fat and then proliferating the idea that in order to get big/strong you need to be fat. The condition of a lot of powerlifters/strongmen out there doesn’t help either.

Some guys can get away with a less than stellar diet. I make no effort to pass myself off as someone with a perfect diet. The point is that those kinds of foods aren’t necessarily conducive to gaining muscle.

Thanks for the comment!

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