Related: Realistic Muscle Building and How Fast to Gain Weight
Your goal should be to optimize your training, and continue to make progress for years. If you're struggling here are a few common mistakes you may be making. Remember, it doesn't matter how long you've been training; there is always more to learn.
5 Monster Muscle Building Mistakes
Mistake 1: Not Tracking Your ProgressThere's a common philosophy among strength coaches in the fitness industry. If you're not assessing, you're guessing. This applies to physique training as well. You may not be a personal trainer, but you should still be tracking and measuring your progress.
It's easy to make gains in the beginning. Once you start lifting weights on a regular basis, it seems quite simple to build muscle and strength. Anything works. Yet, once you reach a certain point, it becomes much more challenging to continue to progress. Ask any veteran lifter, and they'll tell you it's much easier to go from benching 135 to 225, than it is to go from 225 to 315.
If you are unhappy with your results, you should be able to look back at what you've been doing, and adjust. You can look at your total volume, or your sets and reps, and try to increase them or use heavier weights. If you aren't keeping a workout log, and have no idea what you've been doing, how can you expect to make adjustments and get better?
Mistake 2: Not Mixing Up Your RoutineThis is another common mistake I see. There is something to be said for following a good routine and giving it time to work, but eventually you'll need to mix things up. That workout you found online may be a great workout, and get you results. However, if you're still doing the same workout a year later, there's a good chance your progress will have slowed.
When it seems like you've hit a sticking point, and can't make any progress, try mixing up your routine and see if you can shock your body into more growth.
Mistake 3: Using Improper FormThis is a really big one. You can get very strong and muscular with poor form, I'll give you that. If you want to be lifting weights ten years from now, you'd better make sure your form is on point.
Spend any time in a gym, and you'll see all sorts of people with aches and pains. Knee wraps, elbow sleeves, people avoiding legs because of "bad knees" - I'm sure you've seen it all. Being injured will slow your progress, and lifting with bad form is a great way to hurt yourself, especially as you get stronger.
Mistake 4: Avoiding Your WeaknessesThis is one most of us are guilty of from time to time. When you first start training, everything is hard. As the gains come, you probably realized you were naturally good at certain movements, and terrible at others.
The tendency we all have is to take the path of least resistance, and just do what you love, and find easy. However, if you want to maximize your results and physique, this is unacceptable. If you have a weak back, you'd better be hitting it hard on a regular basis to work on it. If you bench a lot, you should be doing a lot of upper back and rotator cuff work, to balance things out.
Avoiding your weakness can make you imbalanced, and mess up your posture. In addition, having muscle imbalances can lead to injury, which really slows your progress. Do the exercises that make you uncomfortable, even if it's those small muscles you can't see in the mirror.
Mistake 5: Slacking with NutritionIf you're a competitive physique athlete, this may not apply to you. For your average gym member, however, poor nutrition can be the difference between good and great.
Once you get far enough along, you may think you're good enough. You probably have good base levels of strength, look like you lift, and maybe you can even see some abs. However, to truly optimize your progress, your nutrition needs to be on point.
Focus on getting whole foods that are dense in micronutrients, plenty of protein, and plenty of water. It may not seem like a big deal to get all of your protein from cheeseburgers, but if you want optimal recovery and performance, you're better off cleaning up your diet.
Anything worth doing is worth doing the right way. If you're going to put in the hours of grueling training at the gym, you owe it to your body to feed it the proper nutrients for recovery and growth.