“Do I have to take rest days?”
“Can I add more exercises that target my arms?”
“Don’t you need to change the exercises up frequently to keep the body guessing?”
These are just some of the questions we get regularly and I feel bad when we get them.
You all are making building muscle way harder than it has to be.
Today we’re going to talk about 3 common ways lifters make this mass game harder on themselves and we’ll also pose a few new ways to think about each concept.
If any of these apply to you, hopefully you’ll leave today with reassurance that the process isn’t actually that hard.
1. You Focus too Much on Training
For decades the industry has put most of its eggs in the training basket. And for good reason, after all, proper nutrition, improving mobility, meditation, and the topic of sleep just aren’t as sexy as the workouts that will help you gain or lose x amount of pounds in x amount of weeks.
However, it’s unfortunate, because training is only part of the process, not the whole process. Truth be told, it might not even be the most important part of the process.
You’ve heard the saying “you can’t out train a poor diet”. And for the most part it’s true, but I think it’s better phrased as, “you can’t out train poor recovery”.
It’s always a pleasure when I can help someone have that “aha!” moment and they discover that muscles are broken down in the weight room, they’re built through proper rest each night, nutrition, and overall workout recovery.
If you want to build serious muscle mass, you’ve got to start putting more of your eggs in those baskets.
None of this is to say training isn’t important. It is. A good workout program kick starts the muscle building process through the breakdown of muscle tissue. Then, it’s your job to do all the right things to rebuild and repair those muscles.
The end result? A way more jacked you!
2. You Don’t See the Bigger Picture
This point is kind of tied in with my first point. I can’t tell you the number of times I get asked, “Can I add more volume to this workout?” or “Can I just do this workout with no rest days?”
The answer is always yes. You can add more volume to your workouts. But the better question is should you? There’s a time and place for everything, including progression – which should be figured into your long-term goals.
If you decide you’re going to up your set counts to 25+ sets a workout, are you going to be able to continue on with that program week after week? Or is the increase in volume going to make you dread your workouts to the point you don’t even want to do them?
Consistency is the name of the muscle building game. Don’t think 6-8 weeks down the road. Think 6-8 years down the road.
You have to be consistent in your workouts if you want to see results. And you have to give consistently good effort during your workouts.
This same concept can be applied to nutrition as well in terms of drastically altering your calorie intake or placing extreme restrictions on the foods you eat. Are you adding in or subtracting too many calories from your daily intake based on your goals? If you are, you’re going to short change yourself in the long run.
Not many people can consistently live off a 1000 calorie deficit for the long haul, and even less will maintain a decent body fat percentage eating in a surplus as aggressive.
3. You’re too Focused on What Other People Do
“Bro, you got to do X workout 5 times a week, HIIT 3 times a week, weigh out all your food, and make sure you hit your exact macros each and every day if you want to be jacked like me.” - Most Instafamous Models
Can this work? Sure, for some. But what works for someone else isn’t always going to work for you.
There are plenty of concepts that are backed by science and actually do work (i.e. resistance training can increase lean muscle mass1).
Then there are highly individualized practices that work for someone that might not work for you (i.e. the guy who preaches the benefits of a very specific workout program, who is simply seeing a gain in lean muscle mass because he IS resistance training).
We all lead different lifestyles and have different work and familial obligations. These will alter what we are capable of doing with our workouts, nutrition, and sleep cycles. The trick is to find the things that work for YOU and that you can do – wait for it – consistently.
It doesn’t hurt if you actually enjoy what is working for you either. Seeing results from and enjoying that bootcamp style training facility your buddy invited you to? Keep at it! Like the strength gains you’re making on your 5x5 program? Keep at it.
Want to cut back your weight training sessions to 2xs a week so you can try out a yoga class? Test it out, track and assess your results. You never know where it might lead – and if you find out it doesn’t work for you, go back to what was working before.
There’s no shame in trying new things. However, it’s important to realize there’s no one right way for everyone to follow. You’ve got to find what works for you.
Bonus: You’re Not Adding in Enough Compound Lifts
Despite my first point, it’s hard not to put a focus on training. Mainly because there’s a lot of misinformation out there about it and it’s also where most health enthusiasts begin their fitness journey.
The most common thought process for a lot of lifters, especially those new to the gym, is “I want to make X muscle bigger”.
That leads to them increasing the amount of isolation work for the given muscle group. That’s fine, but if your goal is to increase your overall lean muscle mass, you need to lift heavy and you’re going to be able to lift a lot more weight performing compound exercises than you would doing isolation work.
For example, say you want to build bigger biceps. So, you decide you’re going to target them with a lot of curls. That’s not a bad idea. But the biceps are a small muscle group and they get worked a lot when training pull variations such as the chin up and row.
And since your back is going to be the primary muscle group worked here, you’re going to be able to move a lot more poundage during the workout.
The more weight you’re able to move during a workout, the more testosterone and growth hormone you’ll release, meaning the more jacked you’re going to get in the long run2.
You can always add in isolation work. But the majority of your workouts should be centered around big lifts: Squats, deadlifts, presses, rows/pulls, and carries.
The top ways you’re making gaining muscle harder than it has to be:
- You focus too much on training and not enough on things outside the gym such as proper nutrition, sleep, and overall recovery.
- You don’t see the bigger picture and jump into workout and diet plans that put you in way over your head. This leads to inconsistency.
- You’re too focused on what is working for other people and not enough on finding what works for you and your lifestyle.
Building muscle is a lot easier than folks make it out to be. It’s just a long process. And you’ve got to be consistent in your efforts.
What about you? Do you know of any other ways people are making this muscle building game harder on themselves than it has to be? I’d love to read them in the comments section below.