This time of year, your mind may be more on how much weight you're gaining, rather than taking it off. But experts say it's actually harder to gain muscle than lose weight. Especially if you're going about it the wrong way.
Luckily, fitness experts from Mirafit, a UK-based fitness equipment brand, just released the five muscle-building mistakes that gym-goers make that ruin their gains and keep them skinny.
Gareth Sapstead is a world-renowned strength and fitness coach. “There’s an abundance of information surrounding exercise, and it can be overwhelming for fitness enthusiasts. However, once you understand the mistakes that may be preventing muscle growth, you can set goals and fix bad habits to start seeing results,” he explains.
Here are the the five biggest muscle building mistakes you should avoid when trying to add a few pounds of muscle to your frame.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital to gaining muscle and is often overlooked when it comes to exercise. Many gym-goers sacrifice sleep to wake up for early workouts, but this has a negative effect on muscle building. It’s a common reason for not seeing results despite setting great goals.
A minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night is crucial for building muscle; without this, the production of testosterone, an essential hormone for muscle building, decreases. Reduced sleep is also related to higher cortisol levels, which breaks down muscle mass and hinders progress.
Lifting heavy weights and pushing through tough workouts becomes increasingly difficult when the body is tired. Going to sleep earlier at night, for a longer period of time, is critical for muscle growth.
Targeting the intended muscles, using the correct form, should always be a priority when working out. With improper form, little to no progress will occur, and the risk of strains, sprains, and tears increases dramatically.
Ego lifting is when someone attempts to lift more weight than they can handle. It's one of the leading causes of incorrect form. When a lifter swings or squirms to incorporate more muscles into the lift to get the weight up, they increase the likelihood of injury.
It’s fundamental to only lift weights when a single rep can be performed slowly and with the correct technique. Doing so will ensure targeting the right muscles and allow consistent incremental weight increases over time. Warming up with no weight is perfect for practicing form. It prepares the muscles for lifting heavier and engrains the technique.
“In an ideal world,” Sapstead explains, “if you put time and effort into your training, then you should be rewarded by seeing growth in muscle and changes to your physique. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.”
While it’s essential to work out regularly to see results, there’s such a thing as working out too much. Overtraining causes muscle soreness. That can prevent a similarly hard workout the next day. It also leads to injuries, like sprains, that result in time off from the gym.
Rest days are essential for muscle growth. The ‘day off' gives your muscles time to repair and replenish the glycogen stores to prepare for the next workout. Wait at least 48 hours before training the same muscle group and factor in at least one complete rest day each week. Avoid excessively long workouts, and don’t abruptly increase intensity and volume.
Keep track of each workout in a second brain app, including exercises, reps, sets, and rests, to help recognize when overtraining occurs. As always, it is essential to consult a doctor or a professional before strenuous exercise.
Coach Sapstead sums it up well, “Too little will leave progress on the table, while too much can result in overtraining and the negative effects that come with it.”
The two critical components of a muscle-building diet are protein and calories. A high-calorie intake allows damaged muscle tissue to regrow after a workout, while foods high in protein provide the body with amino acids that help muscles repair and rebuild.
Increasing calorie intake doesn’t need to be unhealthy. Opt for foods like oats, avocado, and brown rice — high in calories, but still part of a healthy diet. Adding processed foods to increase calories will likely cause fat gain rather than muscle gain. Adding food high in protein, such as boiled eggs, chicken breast, and Greek yogurt, make muscle gain easier.
Too Much Emphasis On Cardio
Cardio has many health benefits, including weight loss and lowering blood pressure. Too much cardio, though, can hinder muscle-building progress. Cardio burns calories that are important for muscle growth while also reducing testosterone levels, which is vital for muscle growth. Cardio also causes fatigue, making a heavy lifting session more challenging.
Two weekly cardio workouts are typically enough to reap the benefits without preventing the muscle-building progress. However, if an athlete is still waiting for results, try a shorter workout or cut back to once a week.
Motivation and Consistency Win The Day
Motivation is vital for consistency. It could come from a local athlete, a kung fu film, or a favorite song. On those days when the workout feels long and hard, go back to that song or movie and reignite some motivation.
Everyone was once a beginner in the gym, so mistakes are common, but it’s important to stay determined and keep showing up. Learning new information about technique will help on any fitness journey, but nothing beats consistency.