8 Muscle Building Mistakes Stalling Your Progress



In the quest for muscle growth, these are the most common muscle building mistakes that everyone from beginners to advanced trainees make all too frequently. Most are often overlooked and are easy to avoid. Don’t fall in to one of these traps!

8. Doing the Same Workout For Too Long

No, this is not about ‘muscle confusion’ or just changing things up with different exercises. You need to change the actual stimulus of your workout periodically. The body adapts to the training stimulus we subject it to but this only happens for so long. Eventually either the stimulus is insufficient to create an adaptation response or we can no longer recover from the stimulus. Progress stalls and we hit a plateau even if we try to continue increasing volume or intensity. This is where proper periodization of training stimuli becomes important for continued progress.

7. Always Training for Hypertrophy

Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? In order to progress the stimuli for hypertrophy we also have to improve our performance and recovery capabilities via other training methods. For example, using a neurological phase (strength/power training) to improve the number of fast twitch muscle fibers we can recruit in a contraction. Or using a metabolic training phase to improve our mitochondria’s ability to produce energy both during a set for sustained performance and outside of the workout to speed up recovery. This is why strategically implementing other types of training can ultimately speed up your long-term muscle growth.

6. Using Too Much Volume or Overusing Intensifiers & Advanced Techniques

The fastest muscle growth occurs when you perform the minimum effective dose to stimulate hypertrophy paired with optimal recovery. Doing excessive volume simply creates more for you to recover from without necessarily any additional muscle gain. Overdoing volume or intensification techniques (drop sets, super sets, etc) past what you need to achieve the stimulus or more than you are capable of recovering from will result in slower recovery and growth.

5. Poor Nutrition Quality

The quality of nutrients we put in our bodies has a significant impact on recovery and potential for changing body composition. Many nutrients are essential in the pathways and processes that take place in order to build muscle tissue. Lack of essential nutrients, or the consumption of low-quality nutrients can lead to increased inflammation and systemic stress. Both of which will put the brakes on the hypertrophy process. No one wants to hear that the secret to building muscle is starting with a foundation of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It’s just not sexy or interesting. If they are missing though, none of the other fancy strategies and techniques will be as effective and you’ll be wasting a lot of time, money, and frustration.

4. Not Focusing on Recovery

You’ve probably heard that muscles aren’t built in the gym. We create stresses (stimuli) during training to trigger an adaptation that results in muscle gain, fat loss, or nervous system changes. The key is making sure that you have the ability and sufficient nutrients to recover from those stresses.

It may be simple and not sexy, but quality sleep is critical. Lack of quality sleep will result in decreased glucose sensitivity (sometimes referred to as insulin sensitivity) making it more challenging to partition nutrients to muscle growth rather than getting stored as fat. During sleep is also when your body produces its highest amount of growth hormone, repairs and detoxes the liver, and the nervous system recovers. All of which are essential if you’re wanting to pack on lean muscle tissue as fast as humanly possible. This muscle building mistake is perpetuated by all the focus on “training hard” perpetuated on social media without paying proper respect to the fact that the harder you train, the more you need to prioritize recovery.

3. Not Learning Proper Execution

Learning proper execution gives you the power to put tension on the target muscle you’re trying to train. Creating tension is the cornerstone of all training stimuli. Without proper execution, other muscle groups will by lending to movement and less tension will be created in the target muscles. This means that you will have to do more sets and reps to get the same stimulus.

That may not sound so bad at first, but when you consider that the additional work is contributing to unnecessary stress on your system, you’re only creating more to recover from than you really need to. This will shorten the time you can stay in a particular phase of training because of the excess recovery requirements and stress. You also won’t be able to get the maximum benefit from some stimuli because your recovery capability has to compete with the additional stress due to poor execution. Learn more about why tension matters to achieve the fastest results HERE.

2. Focusing On Execution At The Expense of Effort

At the other end of the spectrum, it is a mistake to focus so hard on execution that it becomes inhibitory to your ability to actually produce intensity and put effort into your reps. No matter how hard you ‘mentally’ squeeze a muscle, at some point you HAVE to add load to continue to create a stimulus. You have to progress intensity. That is not specific to hypertrophy either. Once you can competently execute an exercise, you have to use load as a part of increasing the stimulus in conjunction with your other training variables. Moving weight is not the goal, but the weight is an important tool.

1. Trying to Over Isolate

Trying to over-isolate a muscle in a movement that is meant to function in tandem with other muscle groups creates a neurological conflict and drastically reduces the load (and stimulus) you are capable of using.

An example would be a quad-dominant squat or hack squat. The goal is not to ONLY use the quads to squat. The glutes need to fire as well for stability and in order for the quadriceps to contract with maximum intensity. Trying to only use your quads is not only challenging, but cuts the load you can use so drastically that you aren’t getting the potential stimulus (might as well do a leg extension). It also trains an unnatural movement pattern and can eventually lead to neurological inhibition. Understand what muscles are meant to fire and function together in certain movements. Being able to bias a movement to a specific muscle with execution is one thing, but be careful that you’re not defeating the purpose of the exercise or creating dysfunctional movement patterns.

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