Guys are banging and clanging dumbbells the world over, trying to build slabs of new lean muscle…
And the worst part is that many of them are getting nowhere.
There’s nothing more frustrating than hitting the gym every day but having nothing to show for it…
I know, because I was one of them.
Back in my early days, I followed muscle building magazines to the letter, and I made every single mistake shown below and more, before finally correcting my training and matching it to my goal.
Let’s find out if you are making one of my 5 muscle building mistakes.
Don’t worry if you are. I’ve included solutions to each one, backed up by the latest sports science to show you what to do moving forward.
Ready to begin?
1. You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
Most guys own a whey protein supplement.
But for many, their post-workout shake is the only source of protein they get in an average day.
If you want to build muscle, that’s simply not good enough.
Government guidelines set protein intake incredibly low, but it is important to remember that bodybuilders and athletes require a much larger daily intake than your average, non-gym-going member of the public.
The latest science recommends a protein intake between 1-1.5 grams per lb of body weight.
That means if you weigh 176lbs you should be clearing 176g, and up to 264g per day.
I say “up to” because this isn’t a one size fits all recommendation…
If you are a natural athlete, the cut off point for muscle building purposes appears to be 1.2g per lb of body weight. The additional benefit of going slightly higher is that it’ll help minimize fat gain by keeping you feeling fuller. (1, 2)
Try this diet.
2. You Don’t Prioritize Your Big Lifts
One of the biggest mistakes I made was over-complication.
It’s easy to overlook the basics in favor of the latest single-armed plate press this month’s edition of Muscle & Fitness magazine, and it ruins progress.
Because your big lifts (barbell squat, deadlift, bench press, walking lunges, overhead press) are your bread and butter when it comes to maximizing muscle.
They’ll recruit multiple working muscle groups simultaneously, and allow for more weight to be moved in the process.
The majority of guys who tell me they “can’t get any bigger” seem to spend far too long doing wrist curls and cable flyes, and not even time in the squat rack!
3. You Don’t Get Enough Rest
We all joke that our lives are too hectic and we never get any rest.
But here’s the thing…
Muscle growth literally depends upon adequate recovery time.
The process of hypertrophy occurs during the 24 hour period following your workout, so if you’re not getting enough sleep that’s a red flag.
More importantly, however, is knowing how to properly structure your training routine for maximum gains.
Muscle building magazines like to tell us we are “overtraining” if we go to the gym more than 3x per week. This is utter bulls**t. The body can handle even the most rigorous training program, providing it is sufficiently looked after.
So what I’m getting at here is more like under-recovery, not overtraining.
Allow me to explain.
If you imagine your muscles are a brick wall, which is constantly being torn down in the gym and built back a little bigger and stronger than before.
Now imagine knocking down that wall and building it back exactly the same (no bigger, no stronger). This would be silly, right?
Well, if we do not give a muscle group a chance to recover before hitting it hard again and, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
As such, we are never truly maximizing the potential for growth.
You can still hit the gym 6x per week if you want to, you just need to train smarter by allowing certain body parts to recover while you train different areas.
4. You Always Do 8-12 Reps Per Set
Maybe I should whisper this one.
Otherwise, I run the risk of someone from Bodybuilding.com smashing down my front door and taking a dump in my protein shaker.
Yes, 8-12 reps is right in the ‘sweet spot’ for causing optimal hypertrophy and yes, we should be working within this range on a regular basis. But don’t be fooled that it’s the holy grail of muscle building.
Far from it!
It’ll do you good to escape the same old, same old, and shake up your training with some higher and lower rep ranges because there are several crossover benefits waiting to be had.
Dropping your reps to the 1-5 range will result in much larger weights being used, and will primarily enhance your strength and neuromuscular connection. When you return to your 8-12 reps later on, you’ll be handling a larger pair of dumbbells thanks to that increased strength.
And braving the burn of higher rep sets (15-30 reps) has its benefit, too.
Improving your ability to push through the build-up of lactic acid will help you massively in the long-term. Plus, high rep sets are just as effective for building muscle as low rep sets.
(You read that correctly!)
This was first shown in a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology back in 2013, where researchers found no differences in hypertrophy when comparing a ten week 8-12 rep program versus a ten week 15-25 rep program. (4)
5. You Keep Skipping Leg Day
Your legs play a key role in your quest for more size and strength.
But not for the reason most people think…
Have you ever heard anyone say, “If you train your legs, you’ll get bigger everywhere”…?
I goes back to the belief that big compound exercises (like barbell squats) create a large spike in growth hormone, and this helps every muscle group grow bigger and stronger.
Sadly, it’s bulls**t.
Well, kind of.
The growth hormone spike does exist, but it’s too small and too short-lived to have any effect on your overall training program. However, you can use it to bring up a lagging body part by hitting it immediately after you finish training your lower body. That’s a technique I introduced you to in my Biceps Boom training system. (3)
So what’s the real reason I want you to stop skipping leg day?
Well, take a look at The Rock and tell me what you see…
You see a f**king monster, right?
He would not look this good without those insane legs propping him up.
Not only will it set your physique on fire, it will also provide you with a much stronger foundation for every other muscle group to grow. Taking the time to develop stronger quads, glutes and hamstrings will have a positive effect on every exercise from your bench press, to overhead pressing movements, to your barbell row.
There you go!
My 5 big muscle building mistakes all in one post! If I’ve just given you an idea how to iron out your weak points, or if you have any I should consider adding to the list, leave a comment below to tell me about it.
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- Leaf, A., et al. The Effects of Overfeeding on Body Composition: The Role of Macronutrient Composition – A Narrative Review. Int J Exerc Sci. (2017)
- Antonio, J., et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2015)
- Ronnestad, B. R., et al. Physiological Elevation Of Endogenous Hormones Results In Superior Strength Training Adaptation. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2011)
- Mitchell, C. J., et al. Resistance Exercise Load Does Not Determine Training-Mediated Hypertrophic Gains In Young Men. J Appl Physiol. (2012)