At first glance you may be wondering why an article like this exists in the first place. After all, resistance training (exercising with resistance with the sole purpose of building muscle and strength) is widely known for being the best and most effective form of exercise for building muscle. Studies clearly prove this and show that other forms of exercises are not even in the same universe as resistance training when it comes to muscle building. Due to its muscle building effects, a whole host of amazing benefits also follow along (due to the increased muscle and strength) including a faster metabolism, firmer body, better mobility and higher testosterone in males.
Although resistance training is the best muscle builder, that does not mean doing it will guarantee that you build muscle. If you want to build muscle with resistance training, there are a few factors that you need to pay attention to in order to ensure you actually build muscle. If you fail to consider any of the factors below, it’s likely that you will build little to no muscle with resistance training.
You don’t eat enough calories/protein
Protein is the most important macro nutrient for muscle building. It literally provides the direct building blocks your body needs to enlarge muscle fibers. If your protein intake is too low, muscle building will be severely hampered. How low is too low? Anything below the essential amount, which is around 50 grams a day for the average person, is likely too low. Ideally, you would want to consume much more than that for maximum results. Studies show that 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is ideal.
Calories are also important. Its virtually impossible to gain any new muscle tissue if you eat too few calories. Similar to protein, if your caloric intake is too low, your body won’t have what it needs to even build muscle, and/or it will refuse to add calorie burning tissue (muscle) when your calories are already too low to begin with. For best muscle building results, make sure to eat a little over the number of calories you burn daily, so that your body has something to work with.
Your Routine Sucks
Just because you use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands or do bodyweight squats and pushups doesn’t mean you are doing them in a way that will allow you to effectively build muscle. Ask any experienced lifter how challenging it can be to build muscle and they will likely give you an ear full. A resistance training routine needs to be programmed well. Workout programming refers to the exercises, sets, reps, order of exercise and rest that make up a workout.
Generally speaking, muscle building routines are not like cardio. This means doing 5 exercises in a row without rest to the point where it is tough to catch your breath probably won’t do the job. Routines that build muscle have rest periods between sets, stay in the 5-30 rep range, and utilize big multi joint movements like squats instead of lots of single joint exercises like side leg lifts. Due to the potential complexity of creating a good resistance training routine, it’s of tremendous value to follow a prewritten routine from a reputable source. The MAPS programs are a great example or you can follow the routines in my book, The Resistance Training Revolution.
You Don’t Get Good Sleep
Resistance training is a stress on the body. When you lift a weight in an appropriate way, you stress the body and it adapts to this stress by becoming stronger and by building muscle. If your body’s cumulative stress from life is too high, then the stress from a resistance training routine will be too much for the body to respond to. When the body is too stressed it does NOT want to build muscle. Muscle is an expensive tissue that costs calories and nutrients and that is a bad investment during times of stress from your body’s point of view.
Lack of good sleep is easily one of the biggest contributors to chronic stress that people experience. Sleep is essential for us to thrive and it’s how our bodies rejuvenate and recover. When its lacking, the body goes into survival mode. During times of stress, your appetite increases to encourage you to eat more to increase fat storage (insurance against starvation), your body reduces muscle mass to slow your metabolism down, and your hormones shift to benefit the short term but are terrible for the long term. For example, the stress hormone cortisol provides us with energy in the short term but, over time, it increases inflammation, destroys muscle, and promotes fat storage. Chronic lack of quality sleep raises cortisol along with impacting other hormones in the body.
One way to improve your sleep is to incorporate a sleep routine. An hour or two before bed, turn off all electronics or wear blue light blocking glasses, make sure your room is cool, and black out all light. Make sure to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning to avoid weekly circadian adjustments which can wreak havoc on your sleep quality.
If you eat properly, follow a good training program, and sleep well your chances of muscle building are very high. If one of those factors is off, your odds of building muscle are severely reduced. Above all, stay consistent with all of it and watch your muscles grow.