Four big blunders you don’t know, which halt muscle building in both men and women

Gaining muscle is a tough road for many people, and these small unknowns can make it even more challenging than it should be.

During my 20 years of weight training, I began the journey unaware of much — apart from knowing I wanted to be lean but have a pleasingly toned shape. I grew to love lifting weight, not only for how it made me look — but also for how I felt during and after the session. Most women are petrified of gaining muscle yet want to strengthen their bodies and eliminate having loose skin as they age. To that, I say, don’t be afraid of lifting to become more muscular. Fortunately, women and men respond in different ways when lifting weights. The apparent differentiator is hormonal make-up. As a result, women cannot attain a man’s ability to become hugely muscular (naturally, of course). When it comes to building muscle mass, I want to save you the trouble of coming across the mistakes that many people make when starting. 

Mistake One: Focusing too much on isolated exercises.

I see this happen in the gym daily. Isolated exercise serves its purpose but should be the finishing touch to your workout. To build muscle, we have to get uncomfortable and lift weights to bring about the best results. So your best exercises should be multi-joint (squats. chin-ups, lunges, bench press etc). They use the most muscle on your body — therefore produce the best results (in less time as well). Think of lifting weights as a genetically designed task. We raise, squat and bend over constantly. When training with weights, you’ll most definitely benefit from increasing your mobility and muscle mass if you can keep this in mind.

Mistake Two: Thinking that bulking is what you need to gain muscle mass.

This is one of bodybuilding’s most enormous falsities ever — and will set you back — both physique wise and for your overall health. You must stick with the correct amount of nutrients and add on as you go along. That takes patience, time and also experimentation. If you eat more than what’s required, not only will you gain weight, but the increased risk of insulin resistance will start to play a significant role. Becoming insulin-resistant puts you on a spiral wheel, where you cannot build muscle or burn fat — no matter what you do. So don’t focus on the scale or obsess about macros too much. Instead, stick with what’s been working for you, and add on as you progress.

Mistake Three: Doing too much cardio.

This is a big one amongst women — and possibly men too. The time you spend building muscle & resting is critical. Using up your precious calories for anything else — other than some shallow impact exercise for good health will become detrimental to your results. You will end up limiting your muscle-building potential, leaving you susceptible to lethargy. That may cause mediocre effort in the gym — leading to injury. What you can do is adjust your training schedule to put in place any other activity you love. For instance, if you love boxing, schedule it in for cardio day (when you aren’t lifting weights), not on a day when you are training to build muscle.

Mistake Four: Keeping repetitions far too low for growth

There are lots of different ways to train. When you use low reps and heavyweight, you are training for strength (which is still really good). But this way of training won’t give you a lot of muscle-building potential. The key to training well is alternating for both strength and building muscle size. Include a lot of higher reps with a lower weight. This will help build up slower twitch muscle fibres, like the quads. 

Mistake Five: Not eating enough of the necessary macronutrients

While it’s easy to focus on just the protein aspect of your diet, many people do neglect how important carbs and fats are too. Good fats in your diet support the health of your cells, as well as helping you stay insulin sensitive. Add in lots of good quality fats like salmon, olive oil, nuts and even avocado. Don’t be afraid of eating them because of the higher calorie density.The issue of carbs can surface too. Carbs lower your cortisol levels during the post-workout phase, restoring glycogen to the muscles and stopping your body from breaking down protein. If you are more sensitive to carbs, try cycling them according to your training schedule. However, make sure you do have them regularly if you want to build muscle. These are the most basic and essential points which will help you tweak some habits which may have halted your results. Building muscle is a time consuming and disciplined part of anyone’s life. It takes consistency and the love of metal to keep us going. Some of us become hooked because of how it makes us feel, how our body seems to transform and perhaps it keeps our sanity in check. Whatever it may be for you, please make the most of your gym sessions and give it all you’ve got. The potential for progression is endless.

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