What went wrong?
There's a whole number of common habits that could be hurting your results. To make sure you get the best possible results from your workouts, we've rounded up the six things you should absolutely avoid when trying to build muscle.
The late Jim Rohn, a noted strength guru, always said we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with. If gaining strength is your serious goal, then eliminate training partners that are lazy, negative, and unwilling to work. Don’t train with jabronis!
Instead, surround yourself with like-minded people with similar goals and attitudes. In turn, you'll feed off of each other, and success will be a foregone conclusion.
Machines are great for some secondary assistance movements, but training exclusively on machines will never lead you to superhuman levels of strength.
Sure, fancy machines attract the softer uptown crowd and make the joint look nice, but machines also alter the way your body moves, eliminate the need for your body's natural stabilization, and restrict your range of motion.
Strength, on the other hand, is built by teaching muscle groups to work together to produce maximal force.
There's a time and place for machines in your program. But if you want to get strong, free weights need to be at the nucleus of your program. Let machines play a secondary role.
Are you logging countless hours on the same boring piece of cardio equipment, or putting in endless miles of joint-destroying and testosterone-draining road work?
If you answered yes, then you're probably performing far below your strength potential. One study from the University of Tampa showed that adding jogging to a weight-training program decreased strength gains by 50 percent.
Adding insult to injury, as you get weaker, you lose muscle and your body fat increases—and we know most Men's Fitness readers are trying to avoid exactly that.
Instead, walk at a low intensity, which will facilitate recovery and have no adverse effects on strength. For intense conditioning, short bouts of HIIT will suffice.
As little as two to three percent dehydration can cause double-digit drops in performance. Staying hydrated isn't sexy, but it's one of the most underrated performance enhancers. Drink at least half an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight. If you training extremely hard, sweating a lot, and/or working out in a hot and humid climate, you may easily need to double that.
Staying hydrated keeps you healthy and your performance on par.
It’s difficult to get stronger and ignite muscular hypertrophy without enough sleep. A large percentage of anabolic hormones, like growth hormone and testosterone, are released during sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be seriously damaging to your health, including disrupting your natural hormonal balance and limiting your performance in the gym. One study found that after three days with only three hours of sleep per night, athletes' maximum bench press, deadlift, and leg press lifts were down significantly.
Other scientific studies suggest that sleep deprivation can result in less energy, getting exhausted faster, getting injured more often, slower sprinting speed, reduced accuracy in basketball, and slower reaction times.
Since strength is the objective, strive for at least seven hours of sleep each night—and eight hours if you can manage it.
Big, powerhouse lifts like squats and bench-presses are key for gaining strength—so make sure your gym has the equipment for you to do them properly!
And while excessive noise-making is never something you should strive for—remember, you're there with other people—there's no harm in grunting as you exert yourself. Dennis G. O’Connell, a professor of physical therapy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, has piloted studies on the effects of grunting. O’Connell found that weight lifters produce between 2–5% more force when they grunt.
On a 500-pound squat, 2–5% is equivalent to 10–25 pounds—so go ahead, voice your exertion. Just make sure you're using the right equipment. And if your gym has scratched its squat racks, then think twice before renewing your subscription.