Everyone hits plateaus in their workout routines, even experts, but many people can’t figure out what is causing their plateau and they quickly fall off track. There are a lot of reasons you might not be progressing, and sometimes a small change is all it takes to get back to building muscle. Fitness has a different path for everyone, it isn’t just a destination. Everyone has to make adjustments along the way and stay dedicated to their goals even when they hit walls where they aren’t seeing progress. There are a number of things you could be doing wrong that might be hurting your efforts, but there are a lot of resources and communities available to help you push past those plateaus. Reach out on bodybuilding forums to find a community for support and advice whenever you need it.
10 Reasons for a Plateau in Muscle Gain
1. Skipping Compound Lifts
Compound lifts using barbells make a huge difference in building muscle and strength. They use multiple joints per movement and strengthen your core at the same time. Some essential compound lifts include squats, deadlifts, and presses. Squats are one of the most beneficial compound lifts, using 85% of the body’s total muscle mass and encouraging testosterone production to stimulate muscle growth. The core benefits from compound lifts will help you build a sturdy core that will support you in every single compound lift you do. Start off with bodyweight compound moves to learn how to do the moves correctly and perfect your shape before adding weight, then aim for reps of 5-6 at high weights to focus on muscle building for these moves instead of endurance. These heavy compound lifts should be combined with isolation moves that also use heavy weights and low reps to stimulate muscle growth.
2. Lack of Calories
Gaining weight requires a calorie surplus, so if you’ve stopped gaining muscle it could simply be the result of not eating enough. Skinny guys often claim that they aren’t able to gain weight even though they eat but people who are trying to lose weight don’t realize how many calories they’re eating , men who can’t gain weight most likely don’t realize how few calories they are eating . To get bigger you might have to eat more than you’re comfortable with, not eating just until you feel full, but eating enough calories to reach your desired weight. You should be eating carbohydrates at every meal if you’re trying to gain weight, eating 3,000-5,000 calories a day for muscle growth. Don’t worry too much about gaining excess weight at the beginning because when it’s time for cutting to get that shredded look you’ll lose the excess weight quickly, especially if you’re prone to not weighing or eating enough. Muscle building is 80% diet and 20% exercise so make sure you’re eating according to your goals.
3. Skipping the Post-Workout Window
Protein after a workout is essential to muscle building. There is a short window a half hour after a training session where it’s important to get a protein-rich meal in. Most people do this by bringing a protein shake to the gym to drink right after their workout and then eat a larger protein and carb-rich meal when they get home. A large meal after a workout helps replace glycogen stores, and healthy fats are also a major aid to muscle building. Some s even have a protein shake before their workout too to get a head start on muscle recovery. If you have a weak stomach then this might not be a good option for you as many people are uncomfortable working out on a full stomach or with a lot of liquids splashing around in their belly. If you have any stomach sensitivities, then stick to eating 2.5-3 hours before a workout to allow the food to digest and provide you with energy and fuel for a great workout session.
4. Not Keeping Careful Track of Progress
Keeping track of your progress is the only way to know how far you’ve really come. It makes a huge difference in your level of dedication by providing you with a mental reason to keep going when you see that your hard work is paying off. You can track your workouts a variety of ways like keeping a workout journal to track what weights you use in your workouts and pick up where you left off at your next session. Analyze your , rest, and training to see what is working and adjust your methods where they aren’t working. Another way to keep track is by taking before and after photos. Weight isn’t always a good indicator of progress because you’re gaining muscle to replace the loss, but photos will still show real progress.
5. Only Eating at Major Meal Times
If you’ve stopped making muscle gains it could be because you aren’t eating as often as you should be. You should be eating every three hours to keep your metabolism working efficiently and your calorie high for muscle growth. Keeping your metabolism up also promotes hunger which will help you eat more as you get used to a higher food intake. Aim for a calorie count of 20 times your target body weight. Try to eat protein at every meal, especially at breakfast to keep you full through a busy morning. Eat a hearty, balanced meal at lunch and dinner, and always keep healthy snacks on hand that protein, fat, and carbs. Stay away from starchy and processed foods, and stick to nuts, protein bars, and protein shakes.
6. Not Eating Calorie-Dense Snacks
Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy and balanced diet conducive to muscle building, but your body also needs calorie-dense foods to give you a caloric surplus for muscle gains. For calorie-dense foods try fueling up on nuts or raw whole milk. Nuts provide calories, healthy fats, and protein for a perfect macro supply and snack between meals. You can also drink raw whole milk if your includes dairy. It will help you gain weight, and even chocolate milk is allowed, a long time for s!
7. You Aren’t Giving Your Body Adequate Recovery Time
Muscle growth doesn’t happen in the gym; muscles grow while you sleep and while you let your body recover from exercise. Sleep is a huge factor in muscle growth success, and pushing yourself further in the gym when you stop seeing muscle growth could actually be hurting your success. When you wear your body out it can no longer repair itself to regrow stronger muscles after you break them down in the gym. Your recovery should also include stretching and foam rolling, and maybe even a yoga class, to let the body relax and repair. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night, and even feel free to take a short nap in the afternoon if your schedule allows. Rest at least one day a week and find some sort of relaxing activity to do in your free time, even if it’s active rest like a leisurely walk or bike ride.
8. You Aren’t Pushing Yourself Hard Enough
This might seem contradictory to all of the factors listed above, but sometimes you adjust to an exercise routine without realizing it and you stop pushing yourself hard enough to continue improving. If you find yourself just going through the motions in the gym, then it’s likely that your workouts aren’t difficult enough. Change up your routine, add weight or reps, and start pushing yourself hard again. Always head into the gym with a plan. Decide on what muscle groups you are working out that day and what exercises you will be doing. Know what weight you used in your previous gym session so that you know where you left off and can increase your weight accordingly.
9. Lack of Structure
If you’re just winging it every time you go the gym, then you probably won’t see much progress. Set a plan and stick to it. Instead of random workouts, know what muscle group you will be working out when you walk into the gym, and exactly what moves you will be doing to work those muscles. The best way to get stronger and build bigger muscles is through a structured plan and lots of tracking to see what is working and where there is room for improvement.
10. You Get Impatient
All beginner s know that there isn’t much change occurring in the first few weeks of a program. It takes about 8 weeks to start seeing real progress so don’t get impatient and give up. Building muscle takes time, dedication, and a plan. Your muscles might not be used to so much exertion at the beginning so start with training 4 times a week for 8 weeks and never miss a workout even if you think you’re not making progress. By the end of 8 you will probably have made enough progress to motivate you to stick with your new gym regimen.