Along with weight loss, building muscle is one of the primary reasons people join a gym. After all, gaining lean muscle not only looks good, it is also important to your overall health. With increased muscle mass, you will experience improved posture, joint protection, stronger bones, stronger joints and tendons, better metabolism, athletic ability and balance.
The list goes on.
As you are on a muscle building journey, let’s look at the 13 most common muscle building mistakes to avoid:
1. Not Eating Enough
All that time in the gym pounding away at the weights may be all for nothing if you’re not taking in enough calories. This is because, without being in a calorie surplus, you will make muscle building very difficult for yourself.
It is important to remember, calories are needed to fuel your workouts and to help your muscles to repair and grow.
Calorie counting is far from a perfect science but to get a rough idea of how many you need a day to build muscle, you want to multiply your weight in pounds by 15 to 17.
2. Not Consuming Enough Protein
Protein is important for many functions in the body. It is also important in the process of muscle building known as ‘muscle protein synthesis’. The purpose of your workout will be to breakdown the muscle fibers with microscopic tears and when they repair, they will build back bigger. Over time, this increases muscle mass.
To repair and rebuild your muscle tissue, you will need an adequate protein supply — aim for 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you would want to consume around 120 grams of protein a day.
3. Not Drinking Enough Water
Your body is made up of two thirds water. Out of that, two thirds of that water is found in your muscle. Your muscle cells are made up of protein and water and if you want to gain more of it you need to increase your water intake.
The usual 6 to 8 glasses a day is a good guideline but a more accurate approach is to drink half your weight in ounces of water each day. So, with our 150 pound example, you should be drinking approximately 75 ounces of water a day – the average cup has about 8 oz in it, this equals around 9 cups a day.
Training breaks your muscle tissue down and then repairs it afterwards. It might seem logical that the more you workout, the more muscle building you’ll accomplish.
However, this isn’t the case as training too often can cause your body to burn out because your body will not be getting the rest time to do so. This can increase your stress hormones, leading to injuries and even sickness as it can suppress your immune system.
Also, you put your central nervous system at risk by overtraining and this can adversely affect your results.
5. Not Getting Enough Sleep
This is related to point 4 above as a lack of sleep is going to seriously derail muscle building. After nutrition, sleep is what encourages your body to repair and recover.
If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re interrupting the growth and repair process. Sleep deprivation can elevate your stress hormones making gaining body fat easier, drag your energy levels down and negatively affect your workout.
6. Not Eating Enough Carbs
You might do well on a low-carb diet such as paleo or keto but those diets aren’t for everyone. If you’re working out hard, you will need energy and your body can get it through the form of glucose from carbohydrates.
These carbs will help push you in the gym to lift more weights, leading to better muscle building results.
It is important to keep your carb intake clean, you can do this by opting for complex carbohydrates like wild rice, steel-cut oats, and sweet potatoes.
7. Not Lifting Enough Weight
If your workouts are not challenging you, then you will need to increase the intensity.
If you are doing an exercise where you can do 20+ repetitions, you’re not lifting a heavy enough weight.
Choose a weight that is challenging and that you can’t do over 10 to 15 reps with while maintaining good form.
8. Lifting Too Much Weight
On the flip side, if you are lifting a weight you can only perform 4 or 5 reps, it might be too heavy. You’ll gain strength training in that range but for better muscle building you want to be doing at least 10-15 reps.
9. Lifting Weights Too Fast
The pace at which you lift the weights is important because your muscles need time under tension as this is where your muscle fibers get the full resistance and muscle building occurs.
For example, if you perform a set of 10 repetitions in 10 to 15 seconds, your muscles will not receive the necessary time under tension. To achieve muscle growth, you want sets to last at least 30 to 45 seconds.
10. Lifting with Poor Form
Here you will want to make sure you are using a challenging weight but it must also be one you can control through the repetitions with good form.
If you can’t control the weights, you will be working out everything but the intended muscle. If the weight is too heavy and your form is sloppy, you’ll be engaging your joints and tendons more than your muscles and this can also lead to injury.
11. Not Using the Mind-Muscle Connection
This may seem weird, but it is important to be mindful of the muscle you are working.
For example, if you are doing a bicep exercise, you want to focus on the bicep and the squeezing to produce the maximum muscle building. If you are doing bicep curls and just going through the motion, you’re not fully engaging the bicep.
Focus on the muscles you are using, consciously contract and squeeze them to make them grow bigger and stronger
12. Not Stretching Enough
If you start or finish your workout without stretching, you’re missing out an important part of muscle building.
Stretching at the end of a workout not only starts the recovery process but helps prepare your body for the next workout. Without stretching, you can leave your muscles tight and risk injury.
Stretching is also important for the muscle fascia – similar to a bag that holds your muscle tissue. It is important to stretch the fascia, because by doing so, you allow your muscles more room to grow. This can be done in between sets during the “pump” and after.
13. You’re Not Getting Enough Nutrients Each Day
You may eat a good amount of carbs and protein but you still need all the micronutrients important for muscle growth.
If you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, it can throw your body off. You need a good fruit and vegetable intake, aim for double digit servings of non-starchy vegetables each. You can add a multivitamin supplement to your diet.
Muscle building doesn’t happen overnight, it takes smart, hard work, planning, and dedication. You will want to make sure you’re not making the above muscle building mistakes that can delay your progress.