The Muscle-Building Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

Sometimes it seems like you’re doing everything you can to eat right and stick to your training program, but that tape measure around your biceps just doesn’t want to budge. You’ve reached the dreaded plateau. Nearly every athlete goes through this type of training blockade at some point, and it can be seriously frustrating. You obviously don’t want to throw in the towel, but overdoing it could leave you susceptible to injury. If lifting doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere, you might be making some huge errors that you haven’t considered. Avoid these five muscle-building mistakes, and you’ll be back on track before you know it.

1. Not eating enough of the right foods

Chicken broccoli stir fry, peppers

Healthy foods are vital for increasing muscle mass. | iStock.com

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can eat whatever you want. Even the most intense exercise regimen won’t make up for a crappy diet. Verywell says eating too many refined carbohydrates and high-fat foods will keep you from achieving your ideal physique. And don’t forget about protein — BuiltLean notes every individual is a bit different, but men interested in losing weight should try to eat their desired body weight in grams of protein. If you’re looking to lose weight to get to 190 pounds, that means you’ll want to aim for 190 grams of protein. If you’re trying to gain weight, you’ll want to increase the amount a bit.

2. Always sticking to the same routine

Man performing hammer curls

Change up your workout routine. | iStock.com

Many guys in the gym always head for the same weights, do the same number of sets, in the same order every single time they work out. It might be easier on your mind, but it’s also easier on your muscles. If you want to see improvements, you’ll need to step away from the arm curls occasionally. Changing your routine will also keep you from getting bored. That might mean trying something you’ve never done before, which could seem a little bit intimidating. Instead of shying away from something because you’re afraid you won’t be any good, Outside Online says to embrace the challenge. Incorporating new moves will help prevent muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries.

3. Screwing up sets

Lifting weights

Don’t self-sabotage your goals. | iStock.com

Even if you’re trying your hardest for every lift, you aren’t going to see results if you’re taking a 10-minute break between each set.

The number of sets, as well as repetitions, you complete also has a huge impact on your ability to grow muscle. Bodybuilding.com says you should be aiming for 12 to 20 sets of eight to 15 repetitions for areas where you’re trying to see growth, but you can get by with less for muscle groups where you aren’t looking to build as much. And while your ego might tempt you to pile on the weight, it’s not the best idea. SimplyShredded.com explains you’ll see more gains if you stick with something manageable, maintain good form, and go for more repetitions.

4. Not getting enough rest

man sleeping in bed

Sleeping is super important. | iStock.com

Inadequate sleep can lead to all sorts of health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. If you’re not adequately rested, you’re never going to be able to push yourself as hard as you’d like. For those who struggle with insomnia, creating better sleep habits is key. The Huffington Post suggested reducing the amount of caffeine you consume in the afternoon and shutting off all electronics at least an hour before you turn in.

Sleep isn’t the only type of rest you should consider, because you can still be overdoing it while getting plenty of shut-eye. If you’re hitting the gym for hours every single day, that’s just too much.

5. Overdoing cardio

running on the treadmill

Running is good in moderation, but don’t overdo it. | Thinkstock

Any good fitness routine involves a combination of cardio and strength training. Figuring out the proper balance is the hard part. Men looking to build muscle can completely derail their efforts if they’re spending too much time on the treadmill. Men’s Fitness reveals going overboard on cardio sessions depletes your cumulative calories, which are necessary for muscle growth. It’s especially problematic if you’re exercising on an empty stomach. The article went on to say this will force your body to burn muscle as fuel.

So how much is too much? It really depends on the individual. Born Fitness suggests keeping it to three or four sessions, lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. If you prefer high-intensity intervals, stick with two to three sessions. Even with these guidelines, though, you may have to adjust depending on how your body reacts.