5 Reasons You Can't Build Muscle

Struggling to build muscle and get stronger? It's probably due to one (or more) of these reasons.

Building muscle is probably the biggest goal of anyone who steps into a gym. Numerous types of workout programs can help you accomplish this goal, but your success is largely up to you, not the program itself. So, before you blame your workout for lack of results, make sure to correct the following muscle-blocking mistakes.

You're Not Eating Enough

Nutrition is arguably the most important variable in building muscle. If your goal is to gain weight through lean muscle growth, you may need to increase your caloric intake.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, if you want to build lean muscle, you should consume approximately 10 to 15 percent more calories than you need to sustain your current weight.

If you consume 2,500 calories per day to maintain your weight, you should aim to ingest between 2,750 to 2,875 calories to gain weight. If you don't know how many calories you're currently getting, keep a food journal to track what you eat and drink.

Eat healthy foods like meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.

RELATED: 5 Simple Muscle-Building Nutrition Tips

You're Doing the Wrong Exercises

You should always perform the exercises most suitable to your current needs and abilities. Performing an exercise used by the advanced lifter one squat rack over may not be a good idea. You may lack the mobility, stability or motor skills to successfully execute that movement.

If you're an athlete with little experience with resistance training, focus mainly on compound movements—ones that involve multiple joints and muscle groups—to elicit gains in muscularity.

In a 10-week study performed at a Brazilian university, 29 untrained men were divided into two groups. One group performed two upper-body compound exercises, while the other group performed the same compound movements and two single-joint exercises. Both groups increased strength and muscle mass, but the men who also performed single-joint exercises saw no additional gains in muscle size or strength.

So if you're relatively new to strength training, you should focus mostly on multi-joint movements like Squats, Deadlifts, Push-Ups and Chin-Ups to build muscle. Don't waste your time with single-joint exercises like Bicep Curls and Leg Extensions.

And make sure to use weights that challenge you.

According to research, "intensity (i.e., load) ... is arguably the most important exercise variable for stimulating muscle growth."

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Your Form Stinks

Good technique is essential for optimal gains.

Your body doesn't know what muscles are supposed to be engaged during an exercise. If you don't practice sound form, you might not target the desired muscles.

Even if you think you're using proper form, it's important to have a qualified coach or trainer review your technique to ensure you're maximizing your results.

You Don't Track Your Progress

Are you writing down the amount of weight you lift each time you train? If not, you should start right away.

Progressive overload, or gradually increasing the resistance, is an effective method to build muscle. If intensity is arguably the most significant variable promoting lean muscle growth, make certain you increase the load as often as possible.

Recording your results after each workout allows you to look back and chart your progress and gains to avoid getting stuck at the same weight for too long.

You're Not Resting Enough

Your muscles repair themselves bigger and stronger between workouts. If you don't devote enough time to recovery, this process doesn't play out accordingly to plan, and you continue breaking down your muscles without allowing for growth. Give yourself 48 hours between intense workouts focused on the same muscle group.

And remember, sleep is crucial for muscle growth.

Researchers from Brazil found lack of sleep can contribute to increases in the secretion of cortisol; decreases in the production of testosterone and insulin-like Growth Factor 1; decreases in protein synthesis; and muscle loss. Be sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

RELATED: 5 Steps to Build Muscle Fast


Campbell, Bill I., and Marie A. Spano. "NSCA's Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition." Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2011. Print.

Dattilo, M., HK Antunes, A. Medeiros, M. Monico Nato, HS Souza, S. Tufik, and MT De Mello. "Sleep and Muscle Recovery: Endocrinological and Molecular Basis for a New and Promising Hypothesis." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011. Web. 08 June 2014.

Gentil, P. "Effect of Adding Single-joint Exercises to a Multi-joint Exercise Resistance-training Program on Strength and Hypertrophy in Untrained Subjects." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 05 June 2014.

Schoenfeld, Brad J. "The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24 (2010): 2857-872. Web.

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