So you’ve made the leap to start lifting and are ready to get ripped – except you’re just as scrawny and flabby as you used to be. What gives? Many people get frustrated and give up when they can’t bulk up, but there are a few simple reasons (and fixes) you aren’t gaining muscle.
You aren’t eating right
Rooky mistake. When you lift weights, you tear muscle and you need energy to rebuild it. That means you have to eat more. Some people think that means they can shovel down pizza and sweets, but you can’t eat just anything to gain. Make healthy choices, follow a high fiber diet, and focus on eating protein, and lots of it. Men’s Health recommends eating .73 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day and should eat a high protein meal about two hours before training and again two hours afterward.
Unfortunately, you can’t really focus on cardio and muscle gain. That’s not to say some cardio isn’t good – when you aren’t lifting, lower intensity cardio can help relieve pain and help protect muscles. However, high-intensity cardio like running is really taxing on your body so your muscles will take longer to recover. Basically, too much cardio leaves your muscles fatigued, making it harder to work them, reach peak conditions, and build more muscle.
You’re too tired and stressed
If you over train or aren’t getting enough sleep, or just find yourself fatigued due to all the stress in your life, you might be sabotaging your muscle gain. Although we admire your commitment, don’t forget to take rest days. Just because you rest particular muscle groups between workouts doesn’t mean your body as a whole doesn’t need a rest. Body Building reminds lifters that sleep, and resting in general, plays an important role in rebuilding muscle – hormones release while you sleep to help repair and build.
Must watch: 5 Best Weight Lifting Exercises For All People – Dan Witmer
Ask a friend to check your form or workout in front of a mirror to make sure you’re actually doing the exercises correctly. If your form is off, you won’t work the muscles you think you’re working. Something else to watch out for is cheating your reps. When you’re feeling the burn of the weight it can be tempting to ditch your full range of motion for a quick lift, but this trap means you won’t reach your full potential.
You’re random about your workout
Everyone seems to be looking for quick-fix fitness trends, but the truth is, getting ripped isn’t for the weak of heart. If you think you can just lift willy-nilly a few days of the week, think again. For muscle, you should lift for about 40 minutes four days a week, working several muscle groups. You need to make a consistent plan if you’re serious about building strength.
You aren’t tracking your improvement
Experienced weightlifters keep track of the types of exercise they do, how many sets and reps they do, their rests, and time. This has the obvious benefit of being able to see the progress you’re making, but it is also useful for more practical reasons. To improve, you might want to increase weight, reps, sets, or time, and having a journal will allow you to make small adjustments each day that all add up to better overall results.
Most newbies gain muscle initially but might struggle to increase at a certain point. If you’ve tried adjusting for all these factors and still feel like you’ve reached a roadblock, it might be time to consult an expert. Try working with a personal trainer or lifestyle fitness coach to perfect your technique and move forward in your workout.
Evlin Symon is a freelance health writer from New Jersey. She enjoys learning about a wide variety of wellness issues and staying up-to-date on the latest research. She also is the author of many active blogs.