1) Your training is lacking intensity
There is a huge difference between ‘using your muscles’ and ‘developing your muscles’. In order to gain muscle size and strength, you need to force them to grow and you can only do that with intensity. Let’s look at an example, the bench press. If you perform this exercise without any change in your facial expression, then your muscles are not going to grow, it’s as simple as that. If all you’re doing is moving the weight from point A to point B, and it’s comfortable, then you’re not straining your muscles, which means you’re using them rather than developing them.
If you watch someone like Mike O’Hearn train, to some it would look like he’s in pain, but that’s in fact him pushing his body to its limit and overloading his muscles – forcing them to grow. That’s the kind of intensity you need in order to add size.
2) You’re not consuming enough calories
Many people don’t consume sufficient calories because they’re afraid of putting on body fat, which in a way, makes sense. Eating a lot of food can mean weight gain, but when you’re training for muscle mass, you’re putting your body under tremendous strain, and therefore your body needs more calories for growth, repair and daily function.
However, that doesn’t mean you should suddenly bump up your calories to 4000 a day, as that would result in excess body fat being added. You want a small surplus of calories per day in order for your muscles to grow, without adding much body fat.
3) You’re neglecting recovery
If you think your work is done the moment you leave the gym, then you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s only stage one. Once you leave the gym, you’re in recovery mode, which requires calories (protein, carbs and fats), rest, sleep, stretching, foam rolling and supplements if you’re using them. That’s a lot of things to do to ensure maximum muscle growth.
While all of the above are important for muscle growth, sleep is one of the most underrated. When it comes to sleep, it’s not just about duration, but quality of sleep is important. Your HGH levels (human growth hormone – one hormone responsible for muscle growth) are at their highest when you’re sleeping.
4) You’re consuming insufficient protein
Without monitoring your calorie intake, you won’t fully know how much protein your consuming. Many people could do with increasing their protein intake – I recommend those who are serious about packing on muscle to consume 1.3-1.5g protein per pound of bodyweight. Don’t stick to just one source of protein, as all protein sources contain different amino acid profiles – variety is best!
5) You’re focusing on too much cardio
Cardio burns calories, which is great for shedding body fat, but too much and it can affect muscle growth. As mentioned, you need to be in a calorie surplus in order to build muscle, but if you’re burning too many calories, you’re going to be in a calorie deficit instead. Intense weight training will burn calories, so a cardio session once per week will be adequate for getting rid of some unwanted body fat, without affecting muscle growth.