You might be losing muscle and not even know it. You work hard in the gym just to throw it all away. How is this possible?
By your own habits. Habits that are so ingrained in you that you don’t even think twice.
There are some practices that you never give a thought to. Practices that are a part of your lifting life that you see no need to change. Below are 5 extremely effective ways to lose muscle. Are you guilty of any?
1. You Don't Pay Attention
You show up to the gym, maybe you meet your lifting partner and exchange a little small talk. You continue your small talk during your warm-up sets and into your working sets. Bench presses, arm curls, leg presses, it doesn’t matter. You're just going through the motions of the same workout that you’ve done day after day and week after week.
The weights are the same, the reps are the same, and the pace is the same. The reality is that you aren’t paying attention. Sure, you’re trying to use good form and perform the chosen exercises correctly, but you aren’t engaged and present. You aren’t actively doing what you set out to do.
Reverse it: A little friendly banter is fine – you don’t want to turn into one of those super-serious dudes who looks like he hates the world. But if you want to build some muscle and/or lose some fat then you need to focus and use your time wisely.
Whether it’s a warm-up or a work set, clear your head, visualize the movement, and concentrate on the muscle stretching and contracting. For that brief moment become completely engulfed in the set you are performing. Even in between sets keep a sense of focus. If practiced long enough, over time you will have developed a powerful, new habit that will take your physique where you want it to go.
2. You Eat Like Crap
Are you a fast food frequenter? Do you allow yourself a cheat meal or two or three or maybe, come to think of it, a little too often? Don’t be that guy who is always in off season mode only waiting for the right time to drop the body fat and get ripped.
Bad eating begets bad eating. In other words, the more you eat crap the more crap you want. Don’t listen to the local bodybuilder at your gym who scarfs down burgers and fries and washes it all down with a shake. More than likely he’s got some pharmaceutical help which shouldn’t apply to you.
Reverse it: Sit back and take a long, honest look at your current diet from the past week. What do you see? Fast-foods, snack foods, chemically-enhanced toxic garbage disguised as health food? How much of it is lean, whole food like protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats?
Lean beef, fish, chicken (not fried), turkey, fruits, vegetables, and healthy oils and nuts. That’s what the majority of your diet needs to include, not a bunch of hormone-infused chemicals that your body has little use for but to store as fat. A cheat meal once or twice per week is fine, but don’t kid yourself. Everyday shouldn’t be a cheat day.
3. You Go By Feel
Have you ever had one of those days where you are just whupped? When the mere thought of going to the gym makes you just want to kick back and take it easy?
I’ll go tomorrow, you tell yourself. The gym will be there waiting. And by the way, it’s not like my muscles will shrivel up overnight. Or maybe you’ve had a busy and tiring week and just can’t muster the energy to get under the bar all week. I’ll go back next Monday, you say. Some days and weeks you just don’t have it in you to get in some good workouts – so why even try?
Reverse it: Okay, fantasy’s over. It’s time to wake up, stand up, and own up to your laziness and lack of discipline. There was a story about when Arnold (you know, that dude from Terminator?) was in college and would be up all night studying (in a second language no less). He talked about how he would start getting tired of studying and wanted to shut the books and go to sleep. Instead he would force himself to study for one more hour no matter what.
There was no question and no other option. It’s time to get tough on yourself. Forget being tired and train. If you want it bad enough you will sacrifice a little comfort for your goals.
4. You Party Too Hard
You’ve read the reports. The ones that state that a little alcohol consumption is actually healthy. So you call a buddy and have a few drinks after work or even after the gym.
Getting a drink or two is fine, so you have a few more. Next, you find that you are having drinks most nights of the week. Meanwhile, you aren’t having the success in the gym like you were having before. Your strength has taken a slide and you are winded during a workout you once blew away. What happened?
Reverse it: I don’t need to don a white lab coat and glasses to tell you that too much alcohol consumption is detrimental to your efforts in the gym. Ask yourself: Do you want to party or do you want to build an awesome physique you can be proud of?
Yes, a drink or two every so often is fine and yes, healthy. But consuming too much will dehydrate muscle cells, slow or stop protein synthesis (the process of actually building muscle), and halt any progress to burn fat. Remind yourself what you are trying to accomplish and start to monitor and moderate your drinking.
5. You See it as a Job
Maybe you’re the type who dreads going to the gym. It wasn’t like this before, you think to yourself. You used to love getting through the gym doors and getting at those weights. But now it feels like a job. You clock in and get to work. Over time you may start to neglect certain things such as avoiding leg work, strength sessions, and fat-burning circuits.
You are officially burnt-out and feel like quitting. No need to worry. All you need is some adjustments and you’ll be up and running in no time. Let’s take this one step at a time.
Reverse it: First and foremost you may need some time completely away from the gym. Your joints, muscles, and nervous system could use a break along with your emotional state of mind. Now, this isn’t a free pass to get lazy, sit on the couch and binge watch Game of Thrones. During this “rest” week stay active and enjoy a favorite sport or recreational activity.
Next, when returning to the gym don’t fall into the same old trap. Review your goals and each point listed above – focus, clean up your eating, cultivate some discipline, and curtail the party life. Look over your old program and see where you can improve it. Add in some challenging stuff you aren’t used to. Maybe you need more mobility work, functional strength or a faster pace full of supersets and giant sets. Whatever the change, make sure it’s something you will look forward to.