7 Muscle Building Workout Mistakes Killing Your Gains

In today’s post, I am going to cover 7 mistakes that most guys make in the gym with their training, on their quest to gain muscle.

On the surface, it may seem like these mistakes should be obvious. Yet they’re still so often overlooked.

The good news is that once you read through these 7 mistakes in the next 5 minutes, you will have an ‘ah-ha!’ moment, and realize where you have been going wrong all along.

You’ll also have the the action steps necessary to get back on the right track immediately, and start building some serious muscle.

Let’s get right into it….

 

Mistake #1: Following a “Bro Split”.

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The body part split – otherwise known as a “bro split”, which involves hitting each individual muscle group once per week over the course of 4-6 workouts, has long been a very popular approach amongst bodybuilders.

Each workout is typically based on blasting each muscle group with high (often excessive) volume, a bunch of exercises, and basically trying to destroy the trained muscle by creating lots of muscle damage. And then giving it a week to recover.

There are many different ways this could be laid out, but typically it looks something like this…

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Quads/Hamstrings
Thursday: Shoulders/Calves
Friday: Biceps/Triceps
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Now you’ve probably seen all of the massive bodybuilders following this kind of split, and read about all the routines in the magazines, so this must be the way to go, right?

Wrong.

For a natural trainee, a body part split like this doesn’t allow you to get enough training frequency.

Allow me to explain…

When you go to the gym to train, your goal is to to stimulate new muscle growth (at least, I hope!).

You do this by performing weight training and resistance exercises, in which you are essentially breaking down muscle tissue and then forcing your body to adapt to the training stimulus you exposed it to.

Each time you train a muscle group, you raise muscle protein synthesis (MPS) levels. This is what starts the growth process – protein synthesis is activated, the muscle re-builds protein and has the ability to grow bigger and stronger than before.

The thing is – muscle protein synthesis levels do not remain elevated forever.

Research has shown that protein synthesis increases post-workout, but falls back to baseline by roughly 36 hours post-workout.

Now think about this for a second.

That’s only a day and a half!!

With a typical body part split, you’ll only train each body part once per week. The problem with this is that the other 5 days after training a muscle group are essentially going to waste. You’re leaving MPS stuck at a baseline rate… during a time in which you could be stimulating a new growth period.

Put simply – the training frequency is just too low.

By only training a muscle group once per week, you aren’t keeping MPS maximally elevated, and therefore, you’re leaving growth on the table.

Your Fix:

If you are looking to progress at the fastest rate possible, hit each body part a minimum of 2-3 times per week – and even up to 4+ if you are really looking to spark new growth.

Now when you increase frequency, keep in mind that volume in each individual session needs to decrease.

For instance, if you normally train your chest with 18 sets once per week, you aren’t going to go and hit that same workout, performing 18 sets for chest multiple times per week.

You might start with 6-8 sets on 3 separate days.

Basically, you are splitting up the volume and spreading it out over the course of the week.

This can be done in a number of ways, but I’d suggest starting with one of the following splits:

Push/Pull Split
Day 1 – Push: Quads, Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Calves
Day 2 – Pull: Hamstrings, Glutes, Back, Biceps
Day 3 – Rest and Repeat

Upper Body/Lower Body Split
Day 1 – Upper Body
Day 2 – Lower Body
Day 3 – Rest and Repeat

Push/Pull/Legs Split
Day 1 – Upper Body Push: Chest, Front + Side Delts, Triceps
Day 2 – Upper Body Pull: Back, Rear Delts, Biceps
Day 3 – Legs: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
Day 4 – Rest and Repeat

Strength & Hypertrophy Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP)
Day 1 – Lower Body Strength
Day 2 – Upper Body Strength
Day 3 – Rest
Day 4 – Legs Hypertrophy
Day 5 – Chest, Front/Side Delts, Triceps Hypertrophy
Day 6 – Back, Rear Delts, Biceps Hypertrophy
Day 7 – Rest

 

Mistake #2: Limiting Yourself to One Rep Range.

The greatest muscle building range is arguably 6-12 reps, but does that mean you should be training exclusively in that rep range?

The answer is, no — not 100% of the time.

While you are best off sticking in the hypertrophy rep range of 6-12 reps the majority of the time, that doesn’t mean other rep ranges aren’t important.

Getting stronger is important for progressive overload, and you shouldn’t ignore performing lower rep, higher intensity work either, when you’re trying to gain muscle.

Because when you’re stronger, you can use heavier weights in the hypertrophy rep range, which allows you to do more volume easily.

And remember, volume is the key driver for muscle building.

Training volume has to increase in a progressive fashion throughout your training career if you want to see consistent gains in muscle hypertrophy.

Your Fix:

For best results, it’s important to utilize all rep ranges, rather than limiting yourself to a single rep range and intensity zone, because many rep ranges can hypertrophy a muscle.

Heavy weights and lower reps (1-5) train the muscles to get stronger. And when you are stronger, you are able to use more weight in the 6-12 rep range for building muscle — which translates to more growth for you.

Higher reps (15+) push your body to produce more lactic-acid and metabolic stress — one of the other stimuli for hypertrophy.

When I’m writing programs for clients, the majority of the work is performed in the hypertrophy rep range, but I also like to incorporate a mix of strength focused work (heavy weights, lower rep ranges), and metabolic work (lighter weight, higher rep ranges). This way, no gains are left on the table.

 

Mistake #3: Too Much Variation in Exercise Selection.

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Changing up your exercise selection to incorporate different planes of movement and training angles is important and beneficial from a hypertrophy standpoint, but too much variation can actually be counterproductive.

If your exercises vary so frequently that you never get enough time to practice and really nail the form for the exercise,  you won’t be able to add load/reps, because you’re constantly changing back and forth and having to get familiar with different movement patters.

This will limit the amount of muscular overload you can produce.

Your Fix:

First off, your program needs to be centered around basic compound movements.

Compound movements allow you to use heavier loads, which distribute the greatest amount of muscular tension to the muscle being trained and allow you to produce the greatest amount of overload.

Stick to a handful of key movements at a time and focus on progressively increasing performance on those movements.

I would recommend choosing one of each of the following:

  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Push
  • Pull

Isolation movements are still part of a well rounded physique development program and definitely have their place, but compound movements need to take priority, as they will be the greatest contributor to helping you develop muscle size and strength as efficiently as possible.

 

Mistake #4: Poor Technique & Exercise Execution.

When you first begin training, it can be easy to get caught in the trap of trying to lift as much weight as possible all the time, with no regard to what is happening with your form.

While it’s important to get stronger, adding more weight to the bar should never be at the expense of proper form.

One of the most common mistakes lifters make when it comes to execution, is training a muscle through a limited range of motion (ROM).

While it may be great for your ego to load up the bar with a bunch of weight, performing half reps is a surefire way to impair your gains and worse yet, could also lead to injury.

Your Fix:

When training for muscle growth, your goal should be to maximize muscular tension. The goal is not simply to move the weight from point A to point B, but to provide the greatest stimulus to the muscle.

There’s a concept you might have heard, called the “mind-muscle connection” which states that you must focus on the muscle with the mind, in order to get the greatest muscle activation. This can be useful when training with lighter loads, but becomes increasingly difficult as you work in higher intensity zones.

As long as you perform heavier lifts with correct form, they will result in maximal activation of the muscles involved in the movement, and therefore generate maximal tension.

So make sure you learn and proper form, and practice it. Use a full range of motion and focus on feeling a full stretch in the muscle.

 

Mistake #5: No Workout Structure.

I used to be the guy who walked into the gym, not having the slightest idea of what I would be doing, other than maybe knowing which muscle muscle group I was going to train that day.

For example on a Monday, I might walk into the gym for a ‘chest day’.

This means I would do anything that would train my chest – bench presses, incline presses, DB presses, flyes, cable crossovers, pushups, etc.

As long as it worked my chest, I would go hard until I was fatigued.

If one piece of equipment wasn’t available, or I didn’t feel like doing a certain exercise that day, I would choose a different exercise instead.

You’ve probably done this before too.

But this is a big mistake.

Showing up in the gym and simply choosing a few exercises that look fun or you feel like doing on a given day is not going to take you very far.

If you have no plan in terms of exercise selection, order, rep schemes, and rest periods, you are going to be wandering around the gym like a lost sheep, and seriously limiting your progress.

Your Fix:

You need an actual workout plan so that you’re in the gym training – not exercising.

You need to train with a purpose.

Some real intensity.

Someone who trains goes into the gym knowing exactly what they are going to do.

Their program is structured to elicit a desired training effect, and has a specific means of progression built in.

When you have a proper plan set in place, all you have too do is simply EXECUTE. Show up in the gym and do what’s written.

 

Mistake #6: No Progression Model.

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Building on the previous point, it’s important to remember that you must subject the body to a stimulus that exceeds the stimulus the body receives on a regular basis — and to which it is accustomed to, in order to elicit favorable adaptations such as increased muscle size and strength.

Continuing with the same stimulus, means no further adaptation.

This is why we need some focus and structure to make sure we are increasing training volume over time, via an increase in reps, sets, and/or weight to provide the necessary stimulus for growth.

Your Fix:

If you want to see continual progress and improvement, you must plan to progress your workouts so that you gradually improve in some way each week.

Plan your program in advance. A program designed in 4-6 week phases (depending on your training experience) typically works best. Volume and intensity can gradually increase over the training block.

Use a training journal to keep track of your progress, and log your workouts.

If you know exactly what you did in your last workout, then you’ll know exactly what you need to do next workout in order to improve.

 

Mistake #7: Inconsistent Training.

Building muscle is the sum of small efforts repeated over time.

Continuing to execute day in and day out will put you on the path to success.

Consistent training is literally the king of gains.

One of the biggest reasons people fail to see results is they simply don’t stick to a program long enough to see results.

If you train hard one month, you’ll grow muscle, but if you sit back and take the next month off, you’ll be back to square one.

It’s not enough to train for a week, or a month at a time – it takes months and years of consistent effort to grow an appreciable amount of muscle.

Your Fix:

Pick a workout program that’s suited to you – a muscle building program, and actually stick to it.

Hopping around from program to program will only limit your gains.

 

Wrapping Up

This article has armed you with 7 very important lessons on the fundamentals of effective training for building muscle.

By now, hopefully you know where you have been going wrong.

And don’t worry if you have been guilty of making any of the above mistakes – it’s honestly not your fault.

The important thing, is that now you have the steps laid out right in front of you.

To quickly summarize:

  1. Train each muscle group with adequate frequency. 2-3 times per week – and even up to 4+ if you are really looking to spark new growth.
  2. Perform the majority of sets in the hypertrophy rep range (6-12 reps), but don’t ignore the benefits of higher and lower rep ranges.
  3. Stick to a handful of key movements at a time and focus on progressively increasing performance on those movements.
  4. Learn how to perform each exercise safely and correctly — always use proper form.
  5. Structure your workouts, so you have a clear focus each time you train.
  6. Plan to progress your workouts so that you gradually improve in some way each week.
  7. Stick to the program.

 

What To Do Next?

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to approach your training for maximal growth.

If you have any questions you need answering, pop them in the comments below, or get in touch, and I’ll be sure to help you out.

One more thing…

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