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Trying to Build Muscle? These 6 Things are Getting in Your Way

You might be shooting yourself in the foot with your fitness approach.

 
By Laura Williams, Men's Journal

Look, packing on muscle isn’t exactly rocket science. But if you’re struggling to get ripped, your routine might be the culprit. Here are the hurdles getting between you and a powerful-looking physique.
  
    
Excess Calorie Restriction
 
[post_ads]Getting lean and getting big are two different things. While calorie restriction can do wonders for helping you lose excess fat, going overboard with excess calorie restriction isn’t doing you any favors. “Many men are worried about eating too much because they’re afraid of putting on fat while trying to gain muscle,” says Ivana Chapman, a strength and conditioning specialist and a national-level bodybuilder. “But if you don’t consume enough calories, or if you just meet your current nutritional needs, there won’t be anything left for your body to build muscle with.” 

Think about it: Your body’s in a state of constant cellular turnover. You need a steady flow of energy (food) to maintain your current status. If you restrict your food intake too much, you’re essentially cutting off your body’s building supplies, and that’s a problem if you’re trying to build new muscle.
  
     
Cutting All Carbs
 
It’s fine if you ditch your soda and chip habit — you should do that anyway — but Chapman points out that high-quality carbs optimize muscle recovery by replenishing muscle glycogen stores between training sessions. “If you’re falling short of carbs, you’ll never get the most from your weight training sessions, ultimately limiting your gains,” she says. Stick to high-quality carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and eat a diet balanced with all three macronutrients: proteins, carbs, and fats. 
         
   
Too Much Cardio

No one’s suggesting you give up your running routine altogether, but if you’re splitting your gym sessions equally between strength training and cardio, you’re sending your body conflicting signals. “We are adaptation machines, which means our body gets better at anything it does on the reg,” says Rob Sulaver, Founder and CEO of Bandana Training and Founding Trainer of Rumble. “Generally speaking, when you do a lot of cardio, your muscles get smaller and more efficient, and when you do a lot of strength training, your muscles get bigger and more powerful.” 
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Of course, this is a simplified explanation for how the body adapts to exercise, and Sulaver is quick to point out that cardio isn't the enemy of muscle. But if you’re struggling to put on mass, you have to adjust your routine to include more anabolic, or muscle-building, activities. Sulaver suggests switching out your long runs for alactic intervals, such as med-ball slams, battle ropes, or short sprints with 10 to 15 seconds of work and 60 to 90 seconds rest. 
   

Skipping Leg Day

Sure, you want to develop the “show me” muscles of your chest and biceps, but working your upper body to the detriment of your legs is a bad idea, and not just because you end up looking disproportionate. “If you want to gain size, it’s important to target the lower body, specifically with squats and deadlifts,” says Todd Durkin, a strength and conditioning coach for professional athletes. 

[post_ads]“Working the glutes, quads, and larger muscle groups helps stimulate testosterone and growth hormone.” These hormones are critical to muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy, so if you fail to sufficiently work the largest muscles in your entire body, you’re cutting your workouts off at the knees. A well-balanced, full-body program maximizes natural hormone production and sets you up to gain mass efficiently.
   
   
Not Training to Failure

Henneman’s size principle clearly states that the ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibers, the ones most responsible for hypertrophy, aren’t recruited until your level of effort reaches its highest point in a set,” says Fredrick Hahn, a NYC-based personal trainer. In other words, you’ve got to max out each set to enjoy maximum hypertrophy. 
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If you’re regularly tearing through three sets of 10 with no problem, it’s time to make adjustments. You can do this by performing more repetitions with lighter weight, or fewer repetitions with heavier weight. Either way, the goal is to take each set to complete muscle failure, Hahn says. Of course, the most efficient way to do this is by lifting heavier weights with fewer repetitions, but research indicates that taking your muscles to failure is more critical than the load you use to get there. So lift light or lift heavy — either way, give each set your all.
     

Ignoring the Importance of Sleep

Like every other situation in your life, a lack of sleep is going to bring you down. “Sleep is when you rest, recover, and grow,” Durkin says. When you're asleep, your body repairs the muscle tissue you damaged during your workouts. If you don’t clock enough sleep at night, you’re not giving your body the chance to effectively recover.

To get the most out of it, maximize your protein synthesis at the same time. “I recommend taking some casein protein before going to bed, then having your nighttime routine dialed in,” Durkin says. Casein is a slow-releasing protein that’s perfect for overnight muscle maintenance — so you can keep your muscles fed while you're busy sleeping off a rough workout.


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Men's Magazine: Trying to Build Muscle? These 6 Things are Getting in Your Way
Trying to Build Muscle? These 6 Things are Getting in Your Way
You might be shooting yourself in the foot with your fitness approach.
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