Men's Fitness

Why Most Men Fail At Building Muscle

Time and time again I coach men who believe they need to go hard or go home. If they aren't dying or taking every set to failure then they aren't making progress. It is the old adage they got from high school coaches, and their parents but it is time for it to hit the hay. 

Fact: You don’t always have to train balls-to-the-wall to see results. 

When I was in college I was subscribed to Flex magazine and Muscular Development. I still have them all boxed up and I even framed some of my favorite covers and placed them in the basement. I recall countless articles urging lifters to take every set to failure. Some of my favorite bodybuilders used to say they took every set to failure. In fact, various high intensity training (HIT) articles claim that the last rep of the set was the only rep that mattered. Stopping short would only maintain size and strength. But when you take it to that last grueling rep you would cause the body to make adaptations. Which meant the body would accommodate those adaptations by gaining muscle and improve strength. 

Guess what? I've had many conversations with professional bodybuilders and that is not how they train. 

Since the 90's several peer-reviewed studies emerged showing that training to failure was not mandatory for results, nor was it better than stopping shy of failure.

This is where the general public can learn from powerlifters. Powerlifting programs take advantage of lighter loads and reduced efforts in order to allow for high training volumes and frequencies. Not every single set is taken to failure. This means that they have found ways to get more quality sets in a workout and do similar exercises more than once per week. 

There are times where a set can be taken to failure. There is a major difference in taking a set of bicep curls to failure versus a set of heavy squats. It takes most lifters many years to understand how to regulate their effort and manage their fatigue. I've seen many men never get it. They get injured and blame it on something else. It's an old high school injury that flared up. No, it was plain stupidity in thinking that you should try for a new one rep max. Once lifters reach this level of mastery, training tends reach new levels and gains are made. 

You don’t have to train balls-to-the-wall every session. You don’t even need to go all out every single week to make progress. You’ll likely experience better results by performing a considerable amount of training in the 70-85% range of your one rep max and keep some reps in the tank.

Please don’t just stubbornly grind through an exercise if it doesn’t feel right. This rarely leads to good outcomes. Strength training isn’t rocket science, but it’s not linear either. Due to the various nature of human physiology we can't completely predict the response all the time. Even when all the variables are controlled. That is why having someone educated helps. 

You must pay attention to biofeedback and experiment to figure out what works best for your body. You must adhere to a proper routine to give yourself the best chance of succeeding and making progress. Don't fail at making wise decisions during the other 23 hours when you’re not in the gym.

2 Muscle Building Mistakes Men Make

This one is definitely for the men but much of the information stands true for both males and females. 

When I look back on the thousands of conversations that I have had with men regarding their current health and fitness routines I have concluded one thing; they are all experts and I'm not. 

It is as if the countless hours of study, degrees, certifications, and my personal 15+ years of weight training is null and void. 

Thankfully my father taught me some valuable lessons when dealing with people. Listen twice as much as you talk was one of them. He used to always say we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. 

At some point I eventually penetrate the thick skull, years of misinformation, and the ego driven know it all guy that has a degree from the Muscle & Fitness magazine. Working cattle all my life has graced me with a never ending amount of patience.

The same 2 principles seem to haunt most men when it comes to building muscle. So I'm going to share them with you so you are ahead of the game. Thank me later. 

1. You Perform the Same Exercises Every Time You Train

Most people have the 'list' of exercises that are staples in their routine. It's human nature to want to stick within your comfort zone so I totally understand. You can't miss bench press Monday right? 

It is okay to have movements that you feel that you respond best to. But you have to understand that muscles become accustomed to the continual use of the same movements. This will make them increasingly resistant to trauma. Why would you want the time that you spend in the gym to work against you? The goal is to create metabolic stress to the muscle so your body undergoes the remodeling process continually.

You should always utilize a variety of exercises over the course of whatever training cycle you are on. Switching angles, planes of movement, and even your hand and foot spacing plays a huge role in your muscle building efforts. There is no hard rule on how often you should be changing exercises though. I tend to stand by the general guideline to make some sort of routine changes at least on a monthly basis. 

Remember that your muscles are some greedy monsters and in order to keep them happy you must give them variety. 

2. You Believe that You Should Train In the Same Rep Range All The Time

This argument runs crazy in the fitness industry. For the longest people would always say that muscle growth is maximized in the moderate rep ranges (6-12 reps per set). That argument has some research to back it up but it is far from being indisputable. Even if it were 100% true that still would not mean that you should only train in that rep range. 

Let's break it down. 

Training in lower rep ranges (1-5 reps per set) maximizes strength increases for sure. Being in this rep range at times will help you use heavier weights during those moderate rep range training days. Training in low rep ranges at times translates to being able to create better muscular tension which will give you better growth. 

High rep sets (15+ reps per set) will help you increase your lactate threshold. Why would you want to delay lactic acid build up? If you build this up then you will have the ability to keep a lid on fatigue when training in those moderate rep ranges. This will also increase the time you have the muscle under tension which is important in the growth process as well. So you get double the benefit. Who doesn’t want more bang for their buck.

So stop with I’m doing the 5 by 5 to pack on size and then high reps to get cut program.

Bottom line is muscular development can continue to happen when you use a full spectrum of rep ranges. Your program should include both low reps, moderate, and high repetitions. 

Building muscle is harder than following some program you saw in a magazine or some viral Facebook trend. I’m tired of seeing men train year after year in the gym only to never see the gains they are looking for. Hopefully some of these tactics are already being used in your current program and if they aren’t then start as soon as possible.