You’re going to the gym multiple times per week, watching what you eat and training your ass off, but you just can’t seem to make any lean muscle gains… Does this sound like you?
Just as losing body fat can be tough, so can building lean muscle mass. If you’re someone who struggles to gain weight/muscle then you’re most likely guilty of one, if not all of the points below.
#1 You Aren’t Eating Enough
“Man I eat until I feel sick, there’s no way I’m not eating enough”
Eating 2-3 big meals a day just isn’t going to cut it, unless you can put yourself in a calorie surplus off those 3 meals. We know that to gain weight we need to be in a calorie surplus, which means we are taking in more energy/calories than we are expending/burning.
My suggestion: Start tracking your calorie intake using any free food track app on your phone or simply keeping track on a piece of paper (Although I don’t recommend this unless unless you have a LOT of spare time). Eat the exact same amount of calories per day for 1-2 weeks and then see whether you gain weight, lose weight or maintain your body weight. If you either lose or maintain your weight, increase calories by 100-300 and then repeat this same cycle. Remember calories don’t need to be too far above maintenance if the goal is to build lean muscle.
*To figure out your calorie intake goal along with recommended macronutrient breakdowns checkout my Ultimate Guide To Flexible Dieting.
#2 Your Training Isn’t Progressing
“I go into the gym and absolutely crush it everyday, I can barely walk to my car after leg day”
If you go into the gym and 1. Have a laugh with your mates and just go through the motions or 2. Train to failure on every set just to feel ‘the burn’, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to grow, especially if you’re a natural athlete.
My recommendation: Walk into the gym with the intention to progress, although this doesn’t mean training to failure on every exercise in every session. Train each muscle group at least twice per week, focusing on the big compound movements (such as: squat, deadlift, bench press, row, pull up, overhead press etc) before moving to accessory or isolation work.
Over time the goal is to progressively overload your training in the way of either more: weight, reps, sets, degree of difficulty or speed of reps. To do this you need to stimulate/break down the muscle tissue, allow your body to recover and then repeat.
Now you obviously won’t be able to improve every single session, although the aim should be linear progression over time, as seen in the picture above.
#3 You Aren’t Recovering
It’s very important to remember that your muscles grow outside of the gym, not in it.
We go to the gym to stimulate and break down the muscles so that they can adapt and grow when we are outside of the gym recovering.
My Recommendation: Recovery should be right at the top of your priority list. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, flexibility, mobility, supplementation (if necessary) and massage/myotherapy are just some of the elements of recovery that you should be focusing on to help you grow lean muscle.
Building lean muscle isn’t just about lifting heavy weights, there are many factors that come into play and the 3 above are just a few of the things you should be focusing on to build lean muscle.