It doesn’t matter what circle you roll in whether it’s bodybuilding, powerlifting, Crossfit, or pretty much any sport with the exception of yoga (not really a sport), everyone seems to be on a quest for more strength. If you’re in the gym and you’re moving weight, you’re trying to get stronger in some way, shape, or form – or at least you should be.
Hittin’ the gym can be one of the most rewarding experiences if you enjoy it and are achieving what you set out to do. On the flip side, the gym can be a daunting and frustrating place if you’re injured, you’ve hit a plateau or you just don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
For most, building strength and putting on muscle is the primary reason for training. There are many factors that will determine whether or not you are successful. I can speak for myself when I say that having pretty good genetics helps but that just gets your foot in the door. To build muscle and transform your physique requires a detailed look at every aspect of your training and lifestyle. If you feel like something’s missing or you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere don’t stress, I’ve made many mistakes and I’m still learning as I go. The good news is you’re probably making a common mistake that won’t take long to fix.
If you’re having trouble packing on muscle, here are 19 reasons why you can’t get jacked:
1. You’re a skinny bastard – Well, technically you’re an ectomorph. This means you genetically have a slender, leaner body type. The good news is you are one of those guys that can eat pretty much whatever they want and not gain weight (we all know those people and we can’t stand them). The bad news is YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT AND NOT GAIN WEIGHT! Sucks to be you! I’m exaggerating a little but you guys have a hard time packing on muscle because your metabolism burns more fuel than a formula 1 race car. The trick for you guys is to keep your caloric intake high and a relatively lower caloric output during exercise to sustain a caloric surplus. Focus more on big lifts, minimal conditioning and lots food. You could probably get away with training less frequently too (3-4 times/week).
they both burn fuel at an alarming rate!
2. You’re a fat bastard – I’m coming from a good place when I say this, really I am. You are what’s known as an endomorph and you unfortunately have the natural capacity to store more fat. You guys know who you are. If you even look at a box of doughnuts you gain 5 pounds. The good news is you don’t have a lot of trouble building muscle and getting strong but you struggle to get lean enough for anyone to see all your hard work. You need to eat more nutrient dense foods, keep your caloric intake lower and activity levels higher. Focus more on interval training for conditioning to preserve muscle and burn more fat and watch your intake of starchy carbohydrates. You will have to train a little more frequently (4-5 times/week) to keep your metabolic rate up. Don’t despair, there’s still hope for you, you just need to be more disciplined in the gym and in the kitchen.
3. You’re too young – I’m not talking about your biological age here, what I’m referring to is your training age; the number of years you’ve spent under the bar. If you’ve been lifting less than 5 years it’s pretty hard to build a strong muscular physique unless you have some freaky genetics and some good drugs to go with them! Muscle, like most other highly sought after things in life, takes time to acquire. If you want to walk around at 200lbs with less than 12% body fat you better put your hard hat on and go to work! Get in the trenches and start moving some serious weight. Light, medium, heavy, high volume, low volume – JUST LIFT! Any program will work as long as you stick to it and put in a solid effort. After you’ve got 5 years under your belt you can come talk to me about what to do next.
get a few more years under your belt then come talk to me
4. You’re not getting enough sleep – Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap for that matter. Sleeping is your body’s prime time to produce testosterone. Both muscle building and recovery are enhanced with quality sleep. Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night and if you can fit in a short nap every now and then that would be even better for your gains.
5. You’re using the wrong rep schemes – When you’re lifting you have to be conscious of both the loads and reps you are using. To make your workouts more effective, you need to train for both strength and hypertrophy (increase in muscle size). Strength rep ranges are anywhere from 1-5 reps and hypertrophy ranges from 5-15 reps generally. Shocking the body with ultra high reps (15-25) is a great way break through plateaus and stimulate growth. The key is to keep changing it up so you always have something to adapt to. Alternating every few weeks between strength and hypertrophy phases is the best way to keep things fresh.
6. You’re not eating enough protein – Your protein intake is critical to your muscle building endeavor. Think of protein like a passport, without it you ain’t going nowhere!! Aim for at least 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Try to get most of your protein from whole foods like lean meats, fish, and eggs. Use supplements if you find it tough to get your daily intake from food alone and post workout for quick absorption.
protein is your passport to getting jacked!
7. You’re not eating enough carbs – Yes, you need to eat carbs if you expect to pack on any muscle whatsoever. Protein and carbs go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly when it comes building muscle. Carbs are needed for glycogen replenishment (the fuel your body uses during intense workouts) and to ensure that you aren’t using protein for energy instead. Without proper carb intake, your energy levels will drop, the intensity of your workouts will suffer and your muscles will look flat and deflated. Aim for 55-60% of your daily intake to come from carbs. I’m talking about high quality carbs not the refined and processed stuff that will give a beer belly or cancer. I’m talking about good clean sources like yams and sweet potatoes, fresh fruits, and colorful veggies.
8. You’re not squatting enough – To get big, you’ve got to lift big. Squatting is one of the best exercises for overall strength and muscular development. Your testosterone and growth hormone levels will get a huge spike which sets the stage for growth in every muscle in your body. Try to squat 1-2 times per week. Mix up your weight, rep ranges, and variations (i.e back, front, goblet) to prevent overuse injuries. Whatever you do, just squat. To get more out of your squat click here.
she’s got the right idea!
9. You’re not deadlifting enough – Much like the squat, the deadlift should be one of your go-to exercises. Improved grip strength, upper back and posterior chain development, the deadlift should not be ignored. Do your deads to build blue collar strength and the body of a superhero. Try to give yourself a few days between squatting and deadlifting sessions to allow your legs and nervous system to recover.
10. You’re working out too many days in a row – Believe it or not, there is a fine line building muscle and simply destroying muscle. It’s vital that you program recovery days into your training otherwise all your hard work might start to work against you. Try to take at least one complete rest day and one active recovery day per week. Give your muscles, joints, and nervous system a chance to recover so you can have more quality workouts. You also don’t want your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to get to high cause that will just leave you tired and beat up. Like the saying goes “take one step back to take 2 steps forward.” Training is the step back and recovery is the 2 steps forward. I know you’re anxious to get in the gym and pump iron but you won’t last very long if you don’t take your foot off the gas every now and then. Take it from a guy who’s spent over 15 years in the gym; if you want to continue to improve you better start taking pride in your recovery.
going too hard for too long almost never ends well
11. You’re too weak – Have you ever seen a really jacked guy in the gym who lifted like a prepubescent school girl? Like I mentioned in #5, if you want to pack on muscle you need a solid base of strength to build it. The more you can overload your muscles, the more you can stimulate them to grow. If you can’t bench press your body weight, squat 1.5x bodyweight or deadlift 2x bodyweight then you still have some growing to do. Remember, strength is the cornerstone of any effective training program.
you gotta move serious weight to get jacked!
12. You’re not explosive enough – When you look at an NFL running back or an Olympic sprinter’s physique you’re looking at a body that is comprised of a shit ton of fast twitch muscle fibers. It’s the fast twitch fibers that give you that “tone” or dense look. Hill sprints, sled pushes, and plyometrics are just a few great ways to develop explosiveness and a body that belongs on the cover of Sports Illustrated. To learn more about how to develop power click here.
Linford defined explosiveness!
13. You want instant gratification – Maybe you’ve always gotten what you wanted when you wanted it. Maybe you’ve never had to struggle. Maybe everything you’ve tried has always come so easily to you. I got news for you, getting jacked is a huge investment of time, energy, and discipline. More time than most people are willing to put in. There is no easy way, just hard work day in and day out. Trial and error will be your most effective training strategy. If you aren’t prepared to grind it out then you better take up jogging.
14. You’re too inconsistent – I’ve talked a lot about the role consistency plays in getting results but I can’t stress it enough. The only way little things lead to big things is through deliberate, repeated effort. Don’t train hard for 2 weeks and then take 3 months off. Don’t jump from program to program. Don’t make excuses for why you couldn’t get to the gym. You can have excuses or results, NOT BOTH. Stay focused, treat every workout like it’s your last and everything else will take care of itself.
15. You don’t have a plan – Click here to find out why your workout routine ABSOLUTELY SUCKS!
16. You have too many injuries – Shoulder impingement? Sprained ACL? Torn bicep? If you are constantly getting hurt or suffering from old injuries that never healed properly (you never took the time to rehab them properly) then you’re gonna have one hell of a time trying to make any significant gains. Imagine trying to drive a car with a flat tire. You could, but you won’t be able to go as fast and it will be a really rough ride. That’s what training with injuries is like. Being able to train hard and pain free is a beautiful thing. Take some time to work on your mobility and get some soft tissue treatment. Trust me, training is way more fun when you’re healthy.
17. You don’t have any heart – If you want to achieve a goal like gaining 10lbs of lean muscle then you had better be ready to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get there. Some things can’t be taught or coached, one of those things being HEART. Are you the first one to show up and the last one to leave? This is an intangible that can’t be read in a book or taught in school. Either you you got it or you don’t. If you’re waiting for someone to come and motivate you then maybe you’re not cut out for this fitness gig. This is what separates the good from the great, the average from the elite, the bone racks from the chiseled. “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
18. Your workouts are too long – I know I said that you have to put in time if you expect results but I’m talking about QUALITY time. Too often, people waste too much time socializing, resting too long, or doing exercises that aren’t really going to make them any better. If you focus on quality movements and strict rest periods, 30-60 minutes should be more than enough time to get the job done. A main lift, 1-2 accessory exercises and some high intensity conditioning and that’s all she wrote. Stop floating around from exercise to exercise and get shit done!
19. You’re unrealistic – You need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself “can I really put on 30lbs of muscle in 30 days?” There’s nothing wrong with aiming high but don’t be delusional. All that does is set you up for failure. Set small goals to compliment your bigger, long term goals. For example, a short term goal could be to workout 4 times per week. A long term goal could be to gain 10lbs of muscle in 8-10months. Slow and continual progress should be your main objective. Ironically, effective training requires high intensity activities like sprinting but the overall process of building muscle is somewhat of a marathon.
better get some Windex for that mirror..
Don’t despair, your goals are still within reach, you just need to make a few tweaks. When you’re finished reading this article, read it again. Then share it with your other muscle hungry friends.
What’s your biggest struggle with trying to gain muscle? Drop a comment below!
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