If you’re a bodybuilder, what you’re about to read may disturb you and shock you to your very core. Yes, we know we’re dealing with sensitive material here, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand any longer, and we need to address the issue at hand. Okay, are you ready? As a bodybuilder, there will come a time where your gains come grinding to a screeching halt. Perhaps worse still, there may be a time that you find that you are actually, *gasp* losing muscle! That’s right, as awful as it sounds, these issues are issues faced by bodybuilders every single day. You go to the gym to bulk up, to make those all-important gains, and to see just how god-like you can get your physique. You don’t show up, lift some heavy-ass weights, just to see your efforts go to waste. For bodybuilders worldwide, training plateaus are sadly pretty common occurrences, but they can be overcome! That’s right, if your gains have stopped, and perhaps you even find yourself losing a little strength and size, you need to act, and act fast, in order to persevere. In order to solve a problem, we must first understand what originally caused the problem. For that reason, we are now going to look at several reasons why your gains may have stalled, and at what you can do to get back on the Gain Train to Swoleville. Okay, enough with the cheesy bodybuilding terminology, let’s look at why you may not be seeing the results you were hoping for in the gym.
You aren’t eating enough
To build muscle, you need to feed the body, which means taking in a lot of calories. In order to gain muscle, your body has to have a caloric surplus to dig into, which means that you need to be taking in more calories than your body can burn off. We have no idea what your basal metabolic rate is, (although there is a simple formula available online to help you figure it out) plus we don’t know how big you are, and how active you are. Therefore, we have no idea of how many calories your body needs for maintenance. As a typical example however, if we say that you need 2500 calories for maintenance, if you are only taking in 2200 calories per day, you’re not going to grow. If however, you are taking in 3200 calories, your body has an additional 700 calories to play about with, which it can use to help build bigger, stronger muscles. Basically, if you imagine building a wall, it doesn’t matter how strong the foundations are, or how great the workers and blueprints are, without the bricks, mortar, and raw materials used to actually build the wall, building it won’t be possible. The same basic principle can be applied to muscle growth. You don’t lift weights and then suddenly see your muscles have grown in size, as if by magic, your body needs to rebuild and replace existing muscle tissue with bigger and stronger muscle tissue, and in order to do that it needs proteins, amino acids, nutrients, and energy from the food you consume. You could train like an absolute beast in the gym, you could deadlift 700 pounds, squat 600 pounds, and bench 400 for reps, but if you aren’t eating enough, you aren’t going to grow, it’s that simple. Now, before you get excited and reach for the takeout menu, it’s important you eat the right foods, which brings us onto number 2…
You’re eating the wrong foods
In order to build muscle, be healthy, and to perform to the best of your abilities, you need to make sure you are nourishing your body with the goodness it requires on a daily basis. Yes, we’ve said it’s important to get enough calories, but that doesn’t mean that you can eat pizza 3x a day and still look great. If you imagine your body as an expensive sportscar, it needs fuel and oil to run and work as it should. You wouldn’t put out-dated, slurry-filled, recycled oil and fuel into your car, you’d use brand new, and the same can be said for your body. If you put junk into your body, your health will suffer, your psychological well-being will suffer, you’ll look like trash and you’ll feel like trash. If however, you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, natural proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, all washed down with heaps of water, you’ll look better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll perform better. It also means that your body will find it much easier to synthesize new muscle proteins to replace damaged ones from your workout, so your gains will improve.
You aren’t getting in enough protein
It’s a well-known fact that bodybuilders worldwide take in copious amounts of protein to sustain their gains and to build new muscle. They don’t do this just because they really enjoy meat and eggs, in fact, most bodybuilders are probably sick of the sight of the stuff. No, they do it because protein is an essential macronutrient required for the muscle repair, muscle function, and muscle growth. You know how we said that you need raw materials to build a wall earlier? And you also know that the wall was a metaphor for your muscles, right? Well, much of those raw materials used to build the wall would actually come in the form of quality proteins. The exact amount you should take in will vary from person to person, and if you search online you’ll also find a lot of conflicting information out there. Therefore, as a general rule of thumb, we advise you to consume between 1g of protein for every pound that you weigh, and 1.5g of protein for every pound that you weigh. So, if you weigh 200 pounds but would ideally like to be 220 pounds of solid muscle, aim for between 200g of protein and 300g of protein each day, spaced out throughout the day in servings of between 20g and 40g.
Your intensity is lacking
The key to hypertrophy is intensity. Don’t believe us? Just ask former Mr. Olympia and the king of the Mass Monsters himself, Mr. Dorian Yates. Dorian Yates was an animal in the gym, he trained with the intensity of 10 men, and if you’ve ever seen him in his prime, you’ll know that this intensity paid off, and then some. You don’t need to go crashing into the gym, pick up the heaviest barbell you can find and start slamming it up and down off of the ground, screaming at the top of your lungs as you do so. You could do that if you liked, but you’d likely get kicked out of the gym, plus you’d make yourself look like an absolute fool. When we talk about training intensity, we basically mean that you should really push yourself during your training sessions and work as hard as you can. Every single day we see people in gyms across the nation, lifting weights that are far too light for them, and not performing anywhere near enough reps to really be beneficial. You should make each rep count, meaning that you should lift with power and you should lift with a real purpose. When lifting, don’t stop at 10 reps if you feel you could keep going, keep going until you reach failure. If the weight feels too light, don’t just rep it out anyways, put it back and go with something that will at least test you. Each working set should be challenging, and by the time you get close to your target rep range, you should really be feeling the burn and starting to struggle. If you don’t, you’re going too light, or aren’t doing enough reps, so get that taken care of, and fast!
You’re training too frequently
Up next, we have another very common reason why people stop seeing progress being made in the gym. When people have been training for a while and they notice that their muscles have stopped responding to the training stimuli they’re placing them under, a natural reaction is to try and do more. They think that they’re not working hard enough so as to really test the muscles, when in reality it could be the exact opposite. Forget about these social media PTs who talk about how they’re in the gym three times a day, several hours at a time, “feeding the gains” because they’re speaking rubbish. There is literally no reason, whatsoever, to be training 7 days per week. There is also no reason in the slightest, to lift weights twice a day, or for 3, 4, even 5, hours each day. This is over-training at its finest and all it is going to do is hinder your progress and set your gains back several weeks. Our bodies do not grow in the gym, our bodies grow in bed when we sleep, and when we rest. If you are constantly smashing your muscles, every day, of the week, or several times per day, try as it might, your body will simply not be able to repair itself and recover in time. Ironically, all of this training you are doing, that you think is the key to new growth, is actually only going to make matters worse and result in you losing muscle, aching, feeling weak, and not building new mass. Train 3 – 5 days per week, don’t try training twice in one day, give yourself at least two full days off from ANY form of physical exercise, and make sure you are getting enough sleep at night.
You’re following the wrong routine
One of the greatest things about training, is the fact that there is now so much variety for you to choose from. There are routines and programs out there for building mass, for burning fat, for enhancing stamina, for building strength, and much more besides. The thing to remember however, is that as human beings, we all have different genetic makeup going on inside of us, so just because your buddy Steve found that he gained 10 pounds of muscle from following a German Volume Training routine, that doesn’t mean that you will also gain 10 pounds through GVT. You might. But at the same time, you might not notice any real improvements at all. What you could find that works better for you, would be to follow a Push/Pull split instead. Basically, don’t be afraid to try new routines and programs, but if after several weeks, you find that something isn’t giving you the gains you were hoping for, don’t stick with for the sake of it, move on and try something new. We all respond to different stimuli in different ways, so forget everybody else, and instead stick with what you know works for you. If you don’t know what yet works for you, experiment with new routines and exercises and find out.
You expect too much from your supplement stack
We all know that the supplement industry is incredibly popular in the bodybuilding community, and we also know that good quality supplements can really make a big difference. These supplements however, are not anabolic steroids, and they don’t work miracles. If you’re using a good quality New Zealand Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, if you are training and eating right, you’ll notice a slight improvement in your physique and performance. A lot of people however, spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on supplements every single month, and get upset when they don’t look like the bodybuilder on the front of their tub of protein. Supplements, if chosen correctly and used right, do work and they do provide noticeable improvements. They don’t however, work miracles so if you’re expecting to completely transform your body in a matter of weeks, just by using a new creatine, protein, and BCAA stack, well, we’ve got some bad news for you.