Maybe your workout is broken. You might need to assess a few things before stepping back into the gym. Of course, there's room for improvement with anyone but sometimes more intensity, a higher number of sets or more weight on the bar isn't the answer.
Related: Realistic Muscle Building and How Fast to Gain Weight
A short survey. Answer these questions honestly to get started:
- Have you made significant improvements to your physique (gained muscle, lost fat) in the last six months?
- Have you set realistic, achievable goals?
- Do you switch from one program to the next often?
- Do you consider yourself consistent regarding diet and training?
- Do you truly believe that you'll reach your goal?
- How did you do? I bet there are a few things in need of improvement and others that need a complete overhaul.
Plan out your diet plan and training program. The more detail, the better.
Building Muscle by Fixing Your Workouts
Problem #1 - You have no goalWhy do you go to the gym every day? Can you truly define why you show up, train with intensity and keep a keen eye on your nutrition? I would venture to think that most gym-goers have too broad of a view of their reasons to workout.
To get big? To get lean? To compete one day? These are all fine and good goals to have but if you don't get detailed then you'll never make any real headway.
Fix it: Sit down and write out your broad goals but underneath each one list the specifics. These sub-lists will be the how. So, if you want to build more muscle lay out a game plan such as gaining 2 or 3 pounds per month by adhering to a muscle-building eating plan and four days per week of training. Then, plan out your diet plan and training program. The more detail, the better.
Problem #2 - You don't know how to achieve your goalThis problem is more common than you think. So many gym-goers toil away desperately trying to increase strength when what they really want is to reshape their physique with wide shoulders, bigger chest and arms and a defined six-pack.
They are training for strength when they should be training for hypertrophy (increases in muscle size) and fat-burning. Some even train like powerlifters taking marathon-like rest periods to save strength for each set.
Fix it: Staying with our example, if your goal is to reshape and build a muscular physique then train accordingly. Hypertrophy training calls for moderate amounts of weight, moderate reps and relatively short rest periods.
So, instead of bench pressing with at or near maximum amounts of weight for a handful of reps you would be much better off using an amount of weight allowing you six to 12 reps with 60 to 90 second rest periods between sets.
Problem #3 - You don't create the right habitsYou have habits but they may be the wrong kind. Do you have a habit of skipping calf training? Favoring your strengths and neglecting your weaknesses? Skipping meals?
We all can admit we could develop better habits and strengthen others but we must first recognize where we need improvement so we can shift them to more positive outcomes. Habits are tougher to develop than we think and it will take a bit of planning to make them a reality.
Fix it: Two main rules to follow when developing new habits. One, give them a timeframe to "stick." Two weeks is enough time for a habit to sink in and become a part of your everyday.
Two, when trying to cultivate a new habit or change a behavior change only one thing at a time. Taking on too many changes at once will lead you to become overwhelmed, frustrated and wanting to quit.
Problem #4 - You're inconsistent with trainingAre you training every scheduled training day week in and week out? Is it a part of your day and week like all other important habits? Are you truly giving your training the time and attention it needs?
When it comes to developing positive habits consistency should be one of high priority. Intensity, the latest and greatest training trick or technique and having a great workout every now and then just can't compare to consistency.
Fix it: With your specific goal written down and front and center commit to training once and for all. Heck, make a certain number of training days per week one of your goals.
X out days on a calendar, set a number of days per week or per month or have a training partner keep you accountable. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that you can't get to where you want to be optimally without true consistency.
Problem #5 - You're inconsistent with eatingJust as with training above you may be lacking some serious consistency with your eating plan (if you have one at all). Whatever your current desire is are you adhering to it? Are you getting in all of your meals every day and every week?
Are you getting the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats? How about water intake, supplements and pre and post workout nutrition?
Fix it: Apply the same mindset to stay consistent with your eating plan as you did with your training program. Plan out each meal for each day and, just as important, prepare your meals for the entire day ahead of time.
Cook in bulk, portion out each meal for the day and always be prepared by taking a cooler with you wherever you go. Life can get hectic so always be prepared.
Hitting the easy button every day is the perfect way to stand still when you should be climbing.
Problem #6 - You don't pay attentionHow do you know if something is working or not? Do you go by feel? The weight scale? And once you see a change which technique worked?
Was it the extra volume, different rep range, the increase in calories or the addition of a training partner to up the intensity? You won't know exactly what the big change was from if you don't pay close attention to what you're doing and changing.
Fix it: The simplest way to keep track of things is to journal your training and eating habits. In addition to jotting down sets, reps and meals, be sure you also record body weight, circumference measurements and how you feel regarding energy levels, sleep quality and overall wellness.
The better you are at keeping track of all aspects that have to do with your ultimate goal the better you will be at making adjustments to move forward.
Problem #7 - You go too easyFar too many times I hear gym-goers say they are "trying to take it easy" or "going slow because they are just getting back to the gym." Yes, you should slowly build discipline, volume and intensity after a lengthy layoff but if you are constantly thinking and saying these types of things then you're just being too easy on yourself.
Hitting the easy button every day is the perfect way to stand still when you should be climbing.
Fix it: Training is hard, challenging and should make you uncomfortable. It should drive you to new levels of progress and heights in your physique. Always "taking it easy" is hogwash. It's a copout.
You need to work hard, stay consistent and venture well beyond your comfort zone. Each and every workout should drive you a step further toward your goal. Every workout should cover new ground and make you dig deeper for strength. Face any doubt you have, stare it down and run it over.
Problem #8 - You use the mirror too muchAre you a mirror trainer? In other words, do you train only the muscles you see in the mirror? These muscles include chest, arms, quads and deltoids. You don't know it yet but your posterior chain is lagging in a really bad way.
These are the neglected areas such as all areas of your back, traps, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Additionally, with a weak posterior chain you increase a major strength imbalance not only hindering the strength in other areas but you also flirt with the possibility of injury.
Fix it: Have a training partner assess your posterior chain. Next, review your training. Are you giving your back, hams, etc., equal amounts of attention (sets, reps, angles)? If you are in serious debt when it comes to those areas regarding muscle mass, strength and your overall proportion then you may need to look at your training a little closer.
Furthermore, you might actually need to double up on volume for your back and hamstrings and layoff your strengths a bit until everything catches up. You may not like it at first but once your body is in more of a balanced state strength and muscle-wise you can get back to work on your strengths.
Problem #9 - You're more interested in socialDo you take your phone into the gym so you can post the latest workout pic or video to social media? Arnold once said, "You're either training or texting, you can't do both." Technology is all well and good but if it's one of the main reasons you work out in the first place then you may need to reassess your goals.
Fix it: Either leave your phone at home or in your car or turn off all notifications while you work out. Resist the urge to check it at all during training. You should be 100% focused on training.
When you are constantly checking your phone you are breaking your concentration each time. Momentum, consistency and intensity won't reach optimum levels if they are constantly interrupted. Leave your "pacifier" alone.
Problem #10 - You don't believeFinally, if you don't have true belief in what you're doing will work then you won't succeed in the long run. Are you confident that your program will be effective?
If you're constantly switching programs and always searching for the "latest and greatest secret" then you'll be on a never-ending journey with no real answers. Adopting a few good ideas along the way is fine, but if you conduct major overhauls every few weeks you'll never develop momentum towards the results you're after.
Fix it: There's an old saying that everything works for a certain amount of time. In other words, start a program. Any program that seems to be derived from common sense and practicality will work. The key (or secret) is your effort to put that plan into action.
You only need to do two main things with any program: Stay consistent and be progressive. We've covered consistency. The other side of the coin is the all-important act of progressing in the weight lifted and/or the amount of reps performed. Pick a program, work your butt off at it and believe you will succeed.