There's always that one guy in the gym that no matter how hard he trains, he never manages to put on so much as a pound of muscle.
Whilst everyone else around him is setting PRs and piling on mass, he's stuck in a rut with his training, unable to make any progress physically or aesthetically. Sure, he's lean and has visible abs, but what good is that when he can't even fill out his tee shirt?
If that person's you, keep reading to find out why you suck at building muscle - and what to do about it.
#1 - You're not eating enough
You know the rules. If you want to get big, you have to eat big. But very few people who are small and weak really understand what this means.
In order to build muscle mass, our bodies must be in a calorie surplus. Going out for a pizza one day each week doesn't count. You need to be consuming more calories than you are burning day in, day out in order to start making real size gains.
Do you know your basal metabolic rate? Do you even know how many calories you consumed yesterday?
Didn't think so!
You need to get to grips with your daily calorie intake and get a better understanding of how much you should be eating if you want to build muscle. So start by working out how many calories you need using a daily calorie calculator such as My Fitness Pal, and add on another 10% to get yourself in a calorie surplus. Weigh yourself. Stay at 10% above your daily calories for 2 weeks, and see if you have put on any mass. If your size gains are less than 1 pound, you're going to need to add another 10% on again. Keep repeating this process until you find the perfect calorie level that allows you to steadily size without getting fat.
Struggling to cope with all the extra calories? Slowly increase your portion size to allow your body to adapt to the new level of food intake. Add an extra cup of rice to your evening meal, or drizzle a little extra olive oil onto your salad. Find the best way for you to eat more, and be consistent with it.
#2 - You're not training hard enough
You're not in the gym to catch up on email, scroll through Instagram or even chat with the guy on the bench next to you.
If you've got enough energy in between sets to strike up a conversation, you're not training hard enough.
Most people will never get jacked because they won't put themselves through enough pain to get there. If you're serious about building muscle, you need to stop half-arseing your workouts and push your body further than it has ever been.
In order to build muscle you must first stimulate said muscles with enough intensity to force them to grow. That means more reps, more weight, and shorter rest periods. Every time you set foot in the gym you should aim to lift more than you did the week before. If it's comfortable, or even just bearable, you're not going hard enough.
Make a decision now. Commit to training like an animal and watch yourself grow. Or, go and find a new hobby.
#3 - You're not training often enough
If you're stuck in the outdated hardgainer mentality that tells you to only train three times per week, you need to listen up. You're not training anywhere near as often enough as you should be to start building muscle.
If you wanted to learn how to play the guitar, you'd practise every day. If you were a professional football player, you'd be training every day to improve your skills. So why should getting strong be any different?
If you want to bust through your plateaus and start growing, you need to be hitting the gym hard a minimum of 4 - 5 sessions per week. That's two to three days on for every one day off. If your nutrition and sleep are correct, it's very rare that anyone is being held back by not resting enough.
Hit every muscle group at least twice per week. Smaller muscles such as the biceps, triceps and calves can get even better results with three sessions per week. If you want to get strong and build muscle, you've got to dedicate the time to do so.
#4 - You're not sleeping enough
This one is crucial. There is nothing more important for your muscle gains than your sleep. During sleep, muscles are repaired, human growth hormone (HGH) and world's best athletes sleep anywhere between 8 to 12 hours each night. Be like them. Commit to time between the sheets to accelerate your muscle growth.
#5 - You're not training with enough variation
Last but not least, people fail to build muscle is because they're not varying their programmes enough.
Variety is what forces our muscles to grow. When we get stuck in a rut with our training, our muscles lack the required stimulus to adapt and grow stronger.
Typical 'hardgainer' mentality tells us to focus on the 'big lifts' and little else. And whilst heavy squats and deadlifts do have their place in any programme, doing them alone every week won't give you the results you're looking for.
Mix up your training programme periodically to keep your body guessing. Swap your barbell bench press for an incline dumbbell press. Swap your deadlift for a barbell hip thrust. Play around with different rep ranges and rest periods. Don't get caught doing the same thing week after week after week.
Push your body. Get uncomfortable. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Don't get lost in the science of muscle building. Train hard, train often, eat well, and sleep like a baby. Now go out there and watch yourself grow.