The 5 Perils Of Muscle Building (And 5 Practical Solutions)
But now, it's that time of year when your inner behemoth wants to come out of hibernation. It's time to put on some quality mass.
Give your Johnny six-pack mentality a rest, and take a break from the marathon pumping workouts.
The time has come where you will build scary strength, punishing power and maximum muscle.
But information doesn't mean transformation.
Related: How to Gain Muscle by Removing Workout and Diet Clutter
The harsh reality is this: Most people set out to put on some size and build strength by training a few times a week and by eating a little more. The initial enthusiasm carries them through the crawling pace of progress.
Then, something happens inside. They keep showing up to the gym and punching the clock, but that fire is gone. They aren't training with the intensity or focus they once had. It's akin to a team that's down 41 points in the fourth quarter with two minutes left in the game - they're still playing, but they're playing with no hope. No fire. No drive.
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And then cruise control is engaged for the person who has lost that zest in the gym. They do the same thing over and over pathetically hoping for a different result.
Every lifters has gone through a frustrating phase where gains aren't apparent. It's part of the journey. However, what I've learned is that they use these as lessons to course correct their path so they can continue to make progress.
It's much like a detour on the highway. When the road is closed, you take the detour to get to the same place. Hitting a roadblock, and then throwing your hands up in the air with frustration does nothing for you. Realizing you hit a bump in the road and then reacting appropriately is your only choice - that is, if you want to keep making gains.
I've been there too. Hours of lifting and tons of meal prepping, I've stalled several times. But I got help. I studied what on what the best people do in the industry. I read books. I asked questions.
I developed a detour for myself so I could keep laying the game with enthusiasm.
And that's what I want for you. I want you to realize any perils in your approach that may be holding you back from making quality gains. Then, I want you to have a detour option to help you side-step permanent stagnation and essentially help you get back on track to finally make the gains you've always wanted.
Here are the 5 perils of muscle building (and practical solutions) that are the most common when attempting to put on quality mass.
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Best Way to Build Muscle - 5 Perils and Solutions
Peril #1 - You Aren't Eating EnoughMany people scream that they want to put on size or get swole. Many also say they are eating a lot in the attempt to look like The Rock. But for some reason, they just can't put on the muscle.
When we look at the research of overweight individuals, they almost invariably tend to grossly under-estimate their food intake. On the other hand, people who are trying to gain muscle, and have no progress to show for it, almost always are guilty of the opposite: Severely over-estimating how much they actually eat on a daily basis.
So, they think they're eating enough to grow, but in reality, they aren't. In fact, their eating habits are more akin to a new born hummingbird rather than a hungry lumberjack.
Solution: The physiological fact is this: To build muscle, you have to provide your body with the proper training stimulus AND the building building blocks for new growth. This means sufficient amino acid intake and overall energy consumption must be sustained over a a period of time - long enough to let your body grow.
However, this doesn't mean eat everything and the kitchen sink at each meal. A surplus of 300-500 calories per day will suffice. The extra calories will in addition to a baseline intake of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) which is the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight. Your TDEE is comprised of your basal metabolic rate, plus additional energy burned through physical activity and the food you eat.
To arrive at a total daily intake 300-500 above your TDEE use this calculator.
Once you establish at your estimated TDEE, add 300-500 calories on top of that to your current daily intake. An average rate of progress is about 0.5 - 1 pounds of lean body mass every four weeks. If you're trending that kind of progress, keep your intake the same. If progress is slower than that, bump up your intake by another 300 daily calories.
For people who lack the appetite to eat more, but want to gain muscle, getting 300-500 extra calories in per day can be done by adding a protein shake to your diet every day. To bump calories even higher, you can throw in nut butters and fruit into the shake.
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Peril #2 - You Are Chasing Two RabbitsA martial arts student approached his teacher with a question. "I'd like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to being mentored by you, I'd like to study with another teacher in order to learn another style. What do you think of this idea?"
"The hunter who chases two rabbits," answered the master, "catches neither one."
This paints a strikingly accurate picture of what a lot of trainees do today in the gym. Building a musclebound physique along with herculean strength is their goal. Yet, they're running around dabbling in several methods, getting advice from people who don't even lift and consuming far too much media that ends up adding to the malaise.
If you are not gaining, it's probable that you're chasing two rabbits. You're approach is to complex and the objectives of each chase conflict each other. Thus, hindering your ability for sustained progress.
For some reason, those who have a hard time gaining, take the "muscle confusion" concept to a new level. Changing methods, workouts and programs as often as they change their underwear makes them feel productive. But really, they are just mistaking activity for achievement.
Solution: Do what works. The lifters who get great results year over year do two things:
- They develop a program that is tailored for their desired adaptation.
- They follow it.
Peril #3 - You Toss Out CardioIn terms of mass gains, bringing up the topic of cardio is like jumping into the lake of fire.
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For some reason, we think that cardio should be quarantined if mass gain is the objective. But unless you're a lineman, sumo wrestler or you simply don't care about being over-fat, including cardio work into your game while your adding mass is sound for a few reasons:
LISS (low intensity steady state) is a great tool to help your body repair itself. Since high intensity workouts cause metabolic waste to be built up in the muscle, the oxidative nature of LISS increases blood flow that assist in shuttling away these byproduct without causing further muscle damage. Studies show that low-intensity work helps you flush out the soreness faster than taking a few days off from the gym. In other words, you recover faster, and going to the bathroom gets easier after leg day.
By adding in steady state cardio to your game, your body gets better at transferring blood to tissue because LISS increases capillary density. This allows more oxygen to be delivered to muscle cells which increases nutrient delivery.
Solution: 2-3 steady state cardio sessions per week for 20-30 minutes will do. Run, bike, sled walks, row, swim, weighted hikes. Choose something that doesn't make you want to pull your eyes out while you're doing.
Peril #4 - You're Trying to Flex FatAs the winter rolls in, take a look at the population in the gym. Herds of people have shifted their mindset to "I've gotta get HUGE."
The problem however, is that most of them are already huge - huge in the wrong way. They've been bulking their whole lives. And now, they're lugging around a jelly belly, man boobs and a muffin top. And since adding muscle naturally will almost always induce some fat gain, these people will only get fatter with their bulk.
Sure, they may add some muscle, but those beefy traps and that barrel chest will still be camouflaged by a layer of fat. The storage facility of flubber around their waist will increase in circumference.
It's time to stop glorifying fatness. It's not synonymous with strong and muscular.
Solution: If you're over-fat, you need to lean out to a healthy body fat level FIRST, before you try and get huge. For men, this means getting to 12-16% and for ladies it means 20-24%. In the first point we stressed that adding 300-500 calories do your daily diet was key to gain mass.
In this instance when fat loss is the goal. you do the exact opposite. Track what you're current daily intake is, and then subtract 300-500 calories to arrive at calorie deficit. Average rate of progress is about 0.5 to 1% body fat reduction every two to three weeks. If you're trending this progress keep things the same. If progress is slower, reduce by another 300 calories.
By getting lean first before you bulk, you set the stage for maximum muscle growth. Your muscle cells will be primed for nutrient delivery (insulin sensitivity) and you'll actually look bigger when you're leaner.
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Peril #5 - You Don't Have SupportNobody expects to excel at the game of basketball without being guided or mentored on how to play the game. They get a coach. With guidance, support and accountability, habits are formed and skills are developed.
Getting strong and big works the same way. If you are clueless on how to do it, but attempt to do it anyway without any help, what kind of progress can you really expect?
If you aren't a fitness professional for a living or you don't have a background in the field, you'll save yourself tons of money and frustration by having someone show you the ropes - teach you how to do it.
Having support or guidance along your muscle building journey does a few things, that are invaluable:
- It prevents you from giving up
- It keeps you accountable and on track when you don't feel like doing what you should do
- It provides an outlet for you to express the struggles you're going through to someone who gets it
Above all else - the high tech periodized programs, the chrome plated machines, the cutting-edge recovery systems - this is the most important thing you can do to make sure you stay in the game.
Bring in support. Get a coach. Join a community. Building muscle and strength takes a long time. Your endurance to show up everyday carries more weight than you think.