Not Gaining Muscle?
So you’ve started lifting weights or you’ve been lifting for a while… but you’re not gaining muscle or seeing any gains? It can definitely be frustrating, but we promise you’re not broken and not incapable of gaining muscle.
Age, genetics, and physiological sex do affect your ability to make gains and could be why you’re not gaining muscle – but perhaps you’re not doing all the right things that you think you are.
“Working out” and “lifting weights” can look all sorts of ways. People often spend a lot of time working out, but it not really aligning with building muscle and an athletic physique.
Usually, it’s bad programming, too much cardio, doing random workouts (and not following an actual program), or there’s no progressive overload.
There could also be nutrition and lifestyle factors at play. Constantly dieting and undereating, not eating enough protein, consistently only sleeping ~4-5 hours a night, drinking too much, and too much stress. All examples that might be hindering your progress.
You can absolutely build muscle mass with the correct practices, a good plan in place, and lots and lots of consistency (:
Here are 8 reasons why you’re not gaining muscle!
#1: You’re Not Lifting Heavy Enough
Not gaining muscle? Well, you’re not going to build much muscle if you’re not lifting, always using super light weights and/or you’re never adding weight to the bar.
You need to lift the heaviest weight you can (with good form) so you give your muscles the right stimulus and push them to grow bigger.
We typically recommend lifting ~ 2-3 reps from failure (which is heavy and challenging!)
We can use dumbbells, barbells, or even machines to get the job done, but you need to push hard and challenge yourself.
#2: You’re Not Using Proper Form
If we can’t use good form and good technique while lifting heavy, then it’s too heavy, and/or we need to scale the movement.
Bro-reps, cheating your reps, + crappy form will keep you from building strength, and muscle, and may even lead to injury.
Lift with better form:
- Aim for full range of motion
- Prioritize Mind Muscle Connection
- Aim for a 2-3 sec tempo where possible
- Video yourself + compare to movement demo videos in our Training App / Youtube
- If you’re a Paragon Training Methods member, you can post a form check video in our FB group for instant feedback (:
#3: There’s No Progressive Overload
Progressive Overload = workouts that increase in difficulty over time and have movements or lifts that repeat each week in programming.
One of the most common ways to do this is by increasing the weight lifted every week.
For example: if squatting every Monday…
- Week 1 = 150 lbs
- Week 2 = 155 lbs
- Week 3 = 160 lbs
… and so on.
If you’re not following a workout program with progression + progressive overload, it might be really tough to gain muscle.
#4: You’re Doing Random Workouts
Are you someone who hops workout programs every 30 days (or every 2-3 months)?
You might not be seeing progress b/c you’re not trusting the process and not giving your body time to actually see results.
Maybe you cherrypick workouts? Or you’re NOT following a program at all and just “winging it” at the gym? Or you’re just doing random workouts you screenshotted on IG or TT?
Random training can equal random results. Commit to a plan and stick to it!
#5: You Train Too Damn Much
More isn’t always better (#nodaysoff ain’t it). Your body needs regular rest days + time off to recover, get strong, and build muscle.
It’s common to see people:
- Working out for hours and hours on end
- Combining multiple workout programs
- Doing too much cardio or adding stuff on top of an already complete program
- Training 6-7 days/wk and not taking rest days or deload weeks in training
Lifting 3-5x a week is plenty if you’re following a good evidence-based program. Train hard, but know that recovery = the secret sauce. Rest days are just as important as training days.
#6: Your Nutrition is Wack
If you want to easily gain muscle, you need to be well-fed and well-recovered.
It’s gonna be tough building muscle easily if you are constantly dieting, eating poorly, and/or drinking too much booze regularly.
Your body also can’t build something from a whole lotta nothing, so you’ll want to be at maintenance or in a calorie surplus.
Consider aiming for 0.7-1.0g of protein per pound body weight. Aim for mostly well-rounded meals that contain protein, carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and veggies.
#7: Your Sleep is Trash
Sleep is when your body repairs and recovers from workouts, and is one of the EASIEST ways to support your body in building muscle.
Regularly not getting enough sleep can contribute to things like:
- insulin resistance
- hormonal imbalances
- low testosterone
- poor gut health
- poor digestion
A great sleep goal would be to consistently get
7-8 hours of sleep (parents, just do your best!).
Just like with kids: have a hard cut-off time each day when you get off electronics, start winding down, and get ready for bed. Check out these tips for better sleep!
#8: You’re Too Impatient
This stuff takes time, y’all.
Strong is earned.
People who are REALLY strong or who have really muscular physiques likely have been training hard + doing “all the right things” for years. Rome wasn’t built overnight (:
Action without expectation. Be patient, work hard, keep showing up, + keep making those daily deposits via effort in food + exercise.
Progress also isn’t always linear. People usually quit right before a breakthrough. Be patient and keep showing up. The results will come.
We Can Help
Not all workouts are created equal, and it can be a real jungle out there to find training that’s fun, effective, and actually helps get you where you’re trying to go.
If you’re struggling to gain muscle, improve your physique, and/or achieve your goals, you should slide to our Paragon Training Methods Programs page and give our workouts a try.
@bryanboorstein, our Paragon Programming Expert, has been training for *25* years. Bryan’s passion for workouts, lifting, and research studies is unmatched and our workouts really are something special. We’ve changed thousands of lives around the globe – we’d love to change yours.