No Muscle Gains? Top 5 Workout Mistakes You Are Most Likely Doing
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and incorporate some bad habits that we can’t get rid of later on.
Unfortunately, when it comes to muscle building, a few smaller offsets can drastically slow down progress.
If you’re frustrated and can’t see the results you were expecting from weight lifting, you could be making some of the common workout mistakes listed below.
1. Same Exercises Every Day
Most of us have a limited number of favorite exercises that we perform in our routine. And while though it’s okay to have your old staples, they shouldn’t be performed at the exclusion of other movements.
Switching up your exercise selection has a few important benefits from a muscle-building standpoint. First of all, changing your movement selection will prevent the “repeated-bout effect” where muscles become used to the same load, resistance, and movement.
Fighting off such accommodation allows a greater recruitment of muscle fibers. And this in turn means that changing exercises can facilitate more growth.
Moving forward, muscle fibers don’t necessarily span the entire length of a given muscle. They are often intervened by different nerves. Therefore, exercise variety alters recruitment patterns in the musculature, making sure that optimal fiber stimulation is accomplished.
Think of it like this: Our muscles are complex and need a variety of stimuli. So we must provide them this stimuli in order to grow.
Simple Fix: Incorporate a diverse selection of exercises in a given training period. You accomplish this by changing movements, angles, hand position, and foot placement. There is no need to get stressed out about your exercises, even a slight change will bring a lot of benefits.
Switching up your exercises should be performed every 2-3 months.
2. Training in the Same Rep Range
A moderate rep range (6-12 reps per set) has been preached as the optimal way to build muscle. Although this theory is backed by some research, evidence on this topic remains still inconclusive. So in what rep ranges should you train?
Training in a low rep range (1-5 per set) maximizes strength gains, thereby facilitating your ability to use heavier weights during moderate rep ranges. By doing this you create greater tension in the muscles, boosting growth. High reps (10-15 per set), on the other hand increase muscle endurance.
By strictly using a rep range of 6-12 you are not stimulating enough the muscle fibers responsible for strength, which in turn can even hinder hypertrophy progress.
Simple Fix: Periodize your program so that it is built around a moderate rep range, but make sure you also include training in both the lower and higher repetition protocols.
Even though a number of different periodization models work, a modified linear approach might be the best option. Starting with a strength phase (lower reps), followed by a metabolic phase (high reps), and then combine them in a hypertrophy phase (typical 6-12 reps).
Depending on your goals and body tip, you could stick to a particular rep range for a longer period of time. However, rep range periodization should occur every 2 to 4 weeks.
3. Doing Only Straight and Narrow Sets
A standard resistance training routine involves performing “straight” sets where you perform a set, rest, perform another set of the same movement, rest, and then continue in this fashion with other exercises in the training session.
There is nothing wrong with the standard approach, doing straight sets can build a solid foundation. But, it is also good to mix things up once in a while.
Supersets (doing one exercise followed immediately by another one without rest), drop sets (performing a set to failure with a given load and then immediately reducing the load, continuing to train until subsequent failure), negatives (performing eccentric actions, lowering a weight after muscular failure to fatigue the muscle even more) are excellent additions in a muscle building plan. They help induce greater metabolic stress which leads to more growth.
Simple Fix: Slowly add specialized techniques such as drop sets, supersets, and heavy negatives into your regime. Just keep in mind that these techniques are considered advanced training strategies. You should use them only in moderation, doing too much can lead to overtraining.
4. Wrong Exercise Selection
When it comes to choosing an exercise, there are two basic options. On one end we have the compound lifts such as the bench press, squat, row, etc. And on the opposite end we have the isolation movements such as the fly, curls, extension, and the like.
Some people preach that the only way to get big is by performing compound movements, others say that the muscle-building isolation exercises are the way to go.
So, who is right?
In reality you need to perform both groups in order to reap the most benefits out of your training. Compound and isolation exercises are actually complementary. Multi-joint (compound) exercises involve large amounts of muscle and therefore are very efficient for putting on mass.
Nevertheless, single-joint (isolation) movements allow for greater targeting of individual muscles, enhancing overall growth and symmetry.
Simple Fix: Structure your routine so that is composed out of compound and isolation exercises. As a general rule, every training session should contain at least two “big lifts” and a single joint movement.
5. Too Much Cardio
A goal of many lifters is to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. And cardio is commonly used to accelerate ones fat loss, while still performing intense resistance training on the side. Now, adding some aerobic training to your routine isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, overdoing it certainly is.
You see, resistance training and aerobic training are contradictory in a way. Research states that aerobic training can promote catabolic processes if used improperly, and resistance training only promotes anabolic processes.
While it isn’t a good idea to completely remove cardio for your routine, there is some doubt that aerobic training could interfere with anabolism and your muscle building progress. What’s more, adding intense cardio to an already demanding resistance-training program can often lead to unnecessary overtraining.
Simple Fix: If your primary goal is to maximize muscle, keep cardio at a low or moderate level. Okay, but how much is too much? It all depends on the individual, as some can tolerate more than others. A general rule is to limit steady state cardio to no more than 2-3 weekly sessions lasting 30 to 40 minutes.
Alternatively, 2 or 3 high-intensity interval (HIIT) sessions a week should be fine for most lifters. Just make sure to listen to your body in order to prevent overtraining.