I Can’t Gain Muscle…What Do I Do?

Adding just a few pounds of lean muscle mass can instantly transform your entire appearance.

So you want a better body?  Who doesn’t.  When it comes to developing that healthy, killer physique it really comes down to two crucial factors; lowering your body fat percentage and the ability to gain muscle mass.  For the overwhelming majority of you out there, burning fat is something you already have a pretty good handle on.  If you’re a reader of this blog, you should know all about HIIT and other advanced techniques that help you shed pounds of body fat.  Thankfully, losing body fat isn’t very complicated.  Burn calories, keep your metabolism high, eat clean and healthy, and the weight will come off.  It’s a pretty sure-fire formula for success.

Muscle mass will help you develop great curves, an athletic apperance, and a boosted metabolism.

Unfortunately, the hard part, and where many people run into trouble, is in the muscle-building department.  As I mentioned, it’s far easier to shed unwanted body fat than it is to pack on pounds of lean muscle mass.  Because of this, we’ve got a ton of people who lost a bunch of body fat but are still unhappy with their body.  They’re no longer obsese, but they’re still soft, un-athletic looking, and weak.  Not a good combination.  What’s the solution?  They’ve got to gain muscle.

What’s more, they may be spending inordinate amounts of time in the gym but making little to no progress in developing new muscle or increasing their strength.  Common sense says they should be adding lean muscle and improving their physique, but something isn’t adding up….what gives?

What You’re Doing Wrong?

Something is obviously going wrong here, but what is it?  It’s most likely not one single issue, but a combination of things that is preventing you from adding visible muscle to your frame.

First and foremost, ask yourself, are you eating enough?  Are you eating enough protein?  Muscle doesn’t just grow out of thin air; why do you think body builders eat thousands upon thousands of calories when trying to gain muscle and bulk up?  Building muscle is HARD.  Getting by on a salad or two, a couple of pieces of fruit, and a granola bar isn’t going to get it done.  If you’re committed to building some muscle, you’ve got to feed yourself.  Shoot for a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, whey protein shakes after each weight training workout, and enough calories that you aren’t going into a deficiency.

Second, are you challenging your muscles enough?  Lifting a few 5-lb dumbbells and expecting fitness model arms is fantasy world.  You need to do complex exercises (those that hit multiple body parts are one time) mix heavy lifting with lighter lifting, and keep variety.  You won’t believe how many people come to me having performed the same basic workout for years on end, still wondering why they aren’t adding any muscle mass.  A few easy changes, a few new exercises, and some added weight, and these same people are astonished when they start developing beautifully toned bodies.  Often times, a couple of quick changes is all that’s needed to jump-start your muscle-building progress.

Thirdly, are you still over-doing it with the cardio?  Even after losing the LB’s, so many people hold on to their cardio like a security blanket.  This is understandable, especially from a person who has spent so long and worked so hard to lose unwanted fat.  But you’ve got to remember, muscle will not grow when there is a caloric deficiency.  If you’re going too hard on the cardio and not eating enough, you’re creating the perfect condition for muscle NOT to grow.  For this reason, I almost always recommend people with a beginner to novice level of fitness experience focus more on losing weight THEN more on adding muscle.  When trying to add muscle, I’d limit cardio to no more than two 20 minute sessions per week.  If you find this isn’t enough, bump it up slightly.  Remember, fitness is a game of trial and error; find what works best for your body type.

Some Other Tips To Jump Start Muscular Growth.

Working out hard doesn't make you big and bulky...It'll make you slim, toned, and healthy.

We took a look at some common errors people make when trying to gain muscle.  Now, we’re going to look at some additional tips which have been shown to help add muscle to even the hardest gainers out there.

We talked about challenging your muscles adequately to promote growth.  This cannot be stressed enough; you need to fatigue your muscles and break them down so they grow back stronger.  Want to know how to do this?  Check out these quick tips…

  • Supersets – Supersets involved pairing two exercises together with no rest between.  If you’ve never used supersets before, they are a great way to confuse your body and challenge yourself.  You can combine exercises that focus on the same or different body parts.  I would recommend using a combination of both.  An example superset would look like this:
  1. 3 x 10 Bench Press/Dips – Perform 10 bench presses, immediately followed by 10 dips, then rest 45-60 seconds and repeat two more times.  This is an example of working the same muscles back-to-back
  2. 3 x 10 Wide Grip Pull Ups/Barbell Lunges – Again, perform 10 wide grip pull ups, immediately followed by 10 squats, then rest.  Repeat a total of three times.  This is an example of working different muscles, which should allow you to go heavier than in the previous example.
  • Strip sets – It helps to have a partner with these, but you can certainly do them alone.  An example of strip sets would look like this:

3 sets of Barbell Curls:

  1. Set 1: 40 lb barbell, 10 reps
  2. Set 2: 40 lb barbell, 10 reps
  3. Set 3: 40 lb barbell, 8 reps.  When you begin fatiguing, strip off ~20% of the weight and perform 4 more reps.  Repeat once or twice more so you are completing ~20 total reps.

This is a great way to really hit your muscles in a way they haven’t been hit before, and make muscular progress you never dreamed of.

  • Complex sets – Complex sets are similar to supersets, except that they are often longer series of exercises and repeated for more rounds.  Complex workouts often feature one piece of equipment, so you can shuffle through them without having to run around the gym.  These types of workouts are also great for bumping your heart rate and burning extra calories, so for the person who is concerned with gaining back fat, consider incorporating these into a total body weight training routine.  An example of a barbell complex workout would look like this:
  1. Barbell Squat Jumps
  2. Front Press
  3. Barbell Curls
  4. Barbell Reverse Lunge
  5. Push Ups
  6. Bent Over Rows

Perform each exercise, one after another, without rest.  Rest 60 seconds after the 6th exercise.  Repeat this complex a total of 6-8 times.

Again, these are just a few ways to continually push your muscles.  As many of you know by now, here at Share It Fitness, we utilize a methodology called Body Diversity Training to help our users and clients make progress.  We believe in hitting the body with a variety of fitness disciplines, at varying intensities, to promote gains.  It cannot be stressed enough that challenging yourself and continually confusing your muscles by introducing a variety of workouts is key to building the body of your dreams.




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