Time is precious a commodity. I wasted three years of my training life making bonehead mistakes in the gym, thinking I was Rocky Balboa or Arnold Schwarzenegger and pounding myself into the ground. I went from 160 pounds soak and wet to a whopping 163 pounds from 2009-2012. It was only recently after I wised up and educated myself, that I was able to jump from 160 pounds to about the 190ish that I am now with minimal fat gain.
Here are 4 Things that are halting your progress from becoming big and jacked:
Training Too Hard Too Often
Although the actual state of overtraining is harder to reach than you think it is, most people don’t allow their central nervous system to recover enough in between workouts. Your central nervous system controls everything and it’s vital to your progress that you give it time to rest. Lifting weights 7 days a week for two hours a day isn’t going to get you looking like a bodybuilder unless of course, you’re taking steroids. Training with weights 4 days per week is probably optimally for most people.
Notice I said WEIGHTS, not training in general. It’d probably be a good idea to do some conditioning work 1-2 times per week on your “off days” such as sprints, sled work or bodyweight training. Also, don’t train longer than an hour. Your testosterone levels are at their highest about 30 minutes into your workout, baseline at about 45 minutes into your workout and then cortisol, the stress hormone that hinders your progress, steps in at 60 minutes. Keeping it short will make you train with a sense of urgency which will result in a more fulfilling workout.
Next, don’t go over 20 total work sets per day. This doesn’t include your warm up sets. Training hard for more than 20 sets once again screws your central nervous system up and makes recovering properly a longer process. Finally, don’t train to failure. Again, this is another central nervous system oriented issue. As soon as your form breaks down, STOP. I don’t care what your program says, it’s not worth it. Train hard, but don’t destroy yourself. Oh, and by the way, make sure that you’re taking enough rest between sets!
You’re Using the Wrong Exercises
Chest cable flys, triceps extensions, concentration curls, and seated calf raises with 8 45 pound plates are not going to get you big and strong. Compound exercises do this. Always start with your big, compound exercise first in your training session. These exercises are squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, chin-ups, and rows. If you did nothing else but focus on getting incredibly strong in these 6 lifts for the next year I guarantee you’d be the biggest, most bad-ass version of yourself that you have ever been. Remember, start with the big lifts and get really good at them; machine training and isolation exercises should make up a very, very small portion of your program.
Here’s a secret most people don’t know: any program works. Where most people mess up is that they never have a program, to begin with, and if they do, they do the program for a week and a half and then ditch it because their biceps didn’t go from 12 to 18 inches in 11 days. Building muscle is a frustratingly slow process; it’s those who have the patience and work ethic that reap the benefits of their programs. Once you get a program, stick with it for at least 8 weeks. Give it a chance! You’ll grow, trust me. Some great programs to try are Wendler’s 5/3/1 or Elliott Hulse’s Grow Stronger Method. Or try out TMuscle.com, they have a bunch for free.
You’re Eating Wrong
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “eat big to get big”. This is actually true, very true. I had to eat upwards of 3500-4000 calories a day to see any appreciable size gain. Luckily, I am a lover of food, so that was not a problem, but I know some individuals don’t enjoy eating that much. Sometimes to eat that much you have to break that amount of calories up into 6 meals, or if you’re like me, you can sit down to one 4000 calorie meal and be content. Either way, eat big to get big.
This does not mean, however, that you allow yourself to become a fat mess. My advice for gaining mass with a limited amount of fat is not eating breakfast. Skip it entirely, or just move it later in the day. Periods of fasting 12-16 hours take stress off of your digestive system; if you’re digesting food every 2 or 3 hours your body’s abilities are stretched too thinly. Your body can focus more on recovery if it is not digesting food constantly.
Although some people need to break their calories into smaller meals, eating 6-8 times a day to “keep the fire burning” for your metabolism is a myth; IT IS NOT NECESSARY. Combine fasting with conditioning work to keep yourself lean and mean during the muscle building process. Also important to note is your protein intake. Try to get a gram per pound of body weight. For example, if you weight 160 pounds, get 160 grams of protein per day. If you need to keep a journal to track this, then, by all means, do so, it’ll make the muscle building process that much quicker and effective.
To discover and learn a system that has been built and put together by modeling the best of the best in natural bodybuilding and is based on science and application and not merely theory, a system that is proven to produce results while avoiding these biggest mistake bodybuilders make.