Let me start by saying that this article is not for beginners.
If you have less than two years of training, most of what is written below will not apply.
As a newbie, you need to learn the proper techniques and stick to the basics. Once you’ve hit the ground running and accumulated 15-20 pounds, a plateau is sure to come at some point.
So, if you’re in that state right now and wondering why you’re not gaining any muscle, read on and hopefully you’ll find some useful information that will allow you to grow muscle again.
You’re still doing 5×5
Beginner programs like 5×5 are great. For beginners.
But once you’re no longer a beginner, you’re going to run out of steam over time. No champion weightlifter or bodybuilder follows a program like this. Getting you from point A to point B is a good thing, reinforcing proper technique and keeping the amount of training manageable for newbies who usually don’t have the best work capacity.
Once you’ve drained your novice gains 5×5 and other beginner type programs will start to become more and more useless. First, you won’t be able to do anything but lift barbells all week.
Second, you’ll need more variations and drills to keep progressing and stay healthy and injury free.
You’re not refueling.
When you’re a beginner, the pump doesn’t matter. It’s actually the last thing you should worry about. So you can do a 5×5 workout and be fine.
In the first year of training, a pump isn’t necessary for muscle growth …… Personally, I always want a sound pump, but with a proviso. I like to achieve it with a quality setup… – Vince Gironda, The Iron Guru
But the behavior of cellular swelling and accumulated fatigue is a very important aspect of muscle growth for everyone after the novice phase. This means you need to do some higher workouts (8+), or rest less between workouts, or both.
But use high quality, heavy equipment like The Iron Guru suggests. It’s not enough to just do light workouts of 25 reps per set.
The biggest problem you need to worry about is not having a pump when you do both. If you’re doing multiple sets of 8 with a minute of rest in between and barely a pump, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
I would watch your water and sodium intake, increase your carb intake, especially during training, and make sure you are sleeping properly. When you can’t get a pump something is wrong and needs to be fixed ASAP.
Then you know something is wrong.
Which leads me to my next mistake ……
You’re just lifting weight, not maximizing tension.
Everyone wants to lift the maximum amount of weight. As a result, they often do more than they can handle in each set and end up using imperfect form. This is fine for some people, but there are many others who only feel the workout in their knees, hips, lower back, elbows, and shoulders instead of where they should really be feeling it – their abdominal muscles.
I can’t tell you how many people I work with never feel their gluteus maximus or pectoralis maximus or any other part of their body simply because they’re just lifting weights. All the stress is focused on the joints and connective tissue. They don’t get to the size they’d like to be, and they end up with bad form and shoulder injuries.
When I get them to lighten the load a bit and focus on the muscles they should be training instead of blindly pushing harder, they actually start to get a pump and grow.
Doing tons of low reps between sets is not the way to get quality size. Free yourself from this type of notion and any focus on dealing with sustained maximal weights, whether it’s in singles or low reps, where the weights, not the work, are the driving force. – – – – – – – – – – – –
Too much rest between sets
Shorter rest periods have always been positively correlated with muscle growth. That’s why the big guys always recommend an average of about a minute between assistance exercises.
If you’re doing high-intensity squats, hard lifts, or presses, you can rest a little longer.
But when you’re doing exercises like dumbbells, rowing and glute raises, you shouldn’t be sitting around talking and texting between workouts. Resting for 45 to 90 seconds is enough. Two minutes maximum for big exercises.
This is better for body composition changes and hypertrophy than resting for 3-5 minutes.
You don’t change your program often enough.
As a novice, you should stick with the same program for quite some time. But as a more advanced lifter, you need to change more frequently.
Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, always said that variety is the key to muscle growth and staying healthy. I totally agree.
As you progress, the concept of progressive loading, which is critical in your first few years of training, no longer holds up.
As Louie Simmons has said countless times, it will destroy you. That’s why you need variety.
That’s why the guys at Westside rotate their training every week. It allows you to still train hard without being exhausted and it makes you fitter.
The reason it makes you healthier is because it removes the stress of repetition. When you swing a tennis racket or golf club over and over again, you can develop tendon problems.
Of course, everyone has heard of tennis elbow. So what do you think happens when you repeatedly press a barbell that is much heavier than a tennis racket in the same plane? You get hurt, that’s what.
I haven’t done the same exercise twice in a row in years. I have all my senior assistants make some changes to their programs at least every two weeks.
The key is to have some rhyme or reason for the changes and track things over time.