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Common Muscle Building Mistakes

by Michael Petresky on November 14, 2013

The following reasons are some of the most common for not reaching your muscle and strength goals:

  • You are doing too much in the gym.
    • Most beginner trainees (see: strength standards) only need 3-4 days in the gym to build muscle and get stronger. The rest of the week should be dedicated to nutrition and recovery.
  • You don’t consume enough total calories – consistently.
    • Take your lean body mass and multiply by 18-20 for a rough starting estimate for calories needed for weight gain.
  • You don’t consume enough protein – consistently.
    • Eat your protein. Every damn day. LBM x 1.0 is sufficient.
  • You progress too quickly, and thus plateau too early.
    • It’s week 1 of a 12 week program for building muscle. You don’t need to add 20 lbs to your bench in week 2. Progress should be slow and incremental over time to prevent early plateaus. Also, just because you added 5lbs the previous week, doesn’t mean you need to add 5 more pounds in week 3. Try adding more reps this time, and wait an additional week before trying to add more load. This is called double-progression. Remember that progress is rarely linear whether it’s in strength, adding muscle, or losing fat.
  • You prioritize load (adding more weight to the bar) before form.
    • Back down the weight and master the exercise. You’re trying to lift too much too soon, and so you need a spotter to complete your reps. This leads to not being able to do a workout without a spotter. “I can’t squat today bro, my spotter/partner is busy” is a common excuse for you to not lift. A kitten dies every time a bro skip legs for arms.
    • Pro tip: stop using a spotter for any of your lifts. Use a weight that is challenging, but you’re still able to complete your reps on your own.
  • Your training is inconsistent rather than focused. You do ‘workouts’ as opposed to progressive training.
    • You can’t just haphazardly train throughout a year. Dedicate periods of time with building muscle and strength being a huge focus and priority. These are usually 6, 8, or 12 week time frames where you are training compound movements and slowly progressing over time while consuming sufficient calories and protein for growth.
  • You’ve followed the same split for the entire span of your life spent training: back/bis, chest/tris, arm/shoulders/abs, abz-only-day, and legs (but only when you have time).
    • Stop skipping legs. Want to build strength and muscle more quickly? Instead of the occasional leg-day, train legs twice a week with two upper body days (push/pull).
  • You train to failure on too many sets of too many exercises.
    • Stop going to failure. More than likely it’s hurting your strength progress immensely. I may take ONE single set of one exercise to failure once or twice a month. I see people around the gym all the time taking every single set to failure on their compound lifts and then burning out, but still doing even more exercises and sets. You’re doing too much. You won’t recover. You’re not that special.
  • Your lifestyle is irregular and thus so is your sleep schedule.
    • No training program will lead to muscle and strength gains if you aren’t recovering. You recover in your sleep. Stop neglecting it. Sleep 7-9 hours/day.
  • You look to buying supplements at GNC or before you look at where you lack in lifestyle factors (eg. adequate sleep/recovery, adequate nutrition/protein, hydration, excessive alcohol).
    • The only supplements worth buying: protein (whey, casein, BCAAs), creatine, fish-oil, and a greens-powder. Forget the rest and save your money.
  • You will make time for a bicep/tricep workout, but you skip training your legs more often than nought.
    • Moar squats.
    • Moar deadlifts.
  • You give an equal amount of attention to your chest as you do your legs.
    • Think about this: Your chest is made up of two muscles: pec. major and pec. minor. Your legs however include the following muscles: glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, adductors, abductors (notice how each of those are plural meaning they can be further broken down into more muscles). How can you dedicate an entire day to your chest, and reason to do the same thing for the legs?
  • You don’t train an exercise through it’s full range of motion.
    • Not because you lack the range of motion or are injury impaired, but because your ego leads you to believe you should have 300 pounds on the bar instead of 150 pounds… forcing you do to partial reps. Quarter-squats and half-bench presses are shit.
  • You are doing too much in the gym.
    • Worth repeating.

Always do your best, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to be. This article is meant to make you aware, not to get you down about where you’re making mistakes. You may feel as if you have wasted a lot of time in your muscle building efforts, but you have not. You have still benefitted from trying, and success is inevitable if you never give up.  Take note of these things and apply them to your own life.

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