If you are hitting the gym hard each and every week, you expect to see quality results to match your effort. Whether you are fairly new to lifting or a seasoned veteran trying to break through a plateau in muscle growth, there are a few habits that can significantly hold you back from obtaining the increased muscle size and strength that you desire.
1. Overtraining in the Gym
When striving to gain muscle, it may seem that the more time you spend in the gym, the more your muscles will grow. Although it is important to spend adequate time in the gym, spending two hours each and every day pumping iron is not sustainable by the body and results in overtraining.
It is important to make sure all workouts are composed of quality exercises and the correct number of sets and reps. In order to encourage muscle growth, performing three to four sets of eight to 12 reps should be sufficient. Also, be sure that you are giving your muscles enough time to recover between workouts. Muscles grow during recovery, not while you are in the gym, and require 24 to 48 hours to recover after each workout. There is no need to train each muscle group more than twice each week, and never two days in a row.
2. Sticking to the Same Routine
For maximal muscle growth, it is important to continually shock the muscles, making them adapt to different exercises and workloads. If you perform the exact same workout program each week, muscle gains will significantly decrease after only a few weeks. It is important to workout muscles from different angles to encourage constant size and strength increases.
Every four to six weeks, switch up your workout routine by incorporating different exercises, utilizing different compound and single-joint movements, and varying your usage of barbells, dumbbells, and machines. Heavy, compound exercises using barbells and dumbbells have been shown to stimulate the most muscle growth, but it is important to add in other exercises as well.
3. Not Watching What You Eat
In order for the body to gain muscle, it must have enough energy to regenerate muscle after each workout, meaning that you need to consume more calories than you burn each day. However, the body is at its best when you provide it with the correct food choices, so it is important to consume a quality diet to maximize muscle growth.
If you only consume fried, fatty foods, you will gain weight, but these gains will not be in muscle. To gain muscle, the body needs a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein should consist of about 20% your daily calories and can be found in foods such as eggs, meat, and milk. Carbohydrates make up the bulk of a daily diet at around 55% of your diet and are found in pastas, beans, and potatoes. Fats are also important, making up 25% of daily caloric intake and should be consumed by eating healthy fats. Healthy fats are found in foods such as nuts, fish, and avocados.
4. Ignoring Supplements
Supplements are critical to help refuel your body to get the most out of each and every workout. Increased protein consumption, especially directly after a workout, is one of the best ways to help increase muscle growth. The most popular protein supplements are whey, soy, and casein. Whey and soy protein are both quickly digested and have been shown to significantly increase lean body mass, causing larger and faster muscle gains. Casein protein digests more slowly and is not as effective for increasing muscle weight.
5. Not Getting Enough Sleep
One of the most overlooked ways to help increase muscle growth is ensuring you are getting enough sleep each night. The muscles in the body grow during recovery, and the best recovery time is while you sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, the body will not be able to repair your muscles effectively, reducing possible muscle growth.
While asleep, the body produces growth hormone and testosterone, while rebuilding muscle and repairing the small tears that occurred during your workout. The body’s repair processes operate most efficiently when the body is asleep because the body does not have to use as much energy to function as it does during the day. A full night of sleep, eight to 10 hours if possible, also helps the mind to recover, increasing alertness, drive, and brain function throughout the day.