For the majority of gym goers, winter is the primary time to focus on muscle gain. If you are planning on implementing a muscle gain routine, it is important to know how to avoid common pitfalls so that you achieve evident and well-balanced increases in muscle mass.
Pitfall 1: Lack of nutrition
Initially, it can be difficult to eat a sufficient amount in order to gain muscle. A lack in appetite can be a problem for those starting out a muscle gain regimen. You may be able to force feed yourself calories for a limited time but it is unlikely to be for long enough in order to see the results you are seeking. There is also the problem of something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is an increase in metabolic rate causing you to burn off more calories.
Without providing the building blocks for new tissue, it is likely that all your hard work in the gym will fall flat and leave you frustrated with your rate of muscle gain. You need to be consuming sufficient protein (of course) but don’t neglect the other nutrients in a bid to eat more protein. The best way to overcome these issues is to eat a relatively ordinary, balanced diet with larger portions and supplement the protein.
There are many cost effective and tasty protein supplements available on the market now, making it much easier and more enjoyable to use supplements to support your progression.
Pitfall 2: Bad technique
When beginning a gym routine to promote muscle growth, it is often the case that your stronger side (usually the hand you write with) tends to do more of the work. This can lead to disproportionate development. Disproportionate muscle growth, or having muscles on one side of the body grow more than on the other, is a normal problem but it is easily avoidable.
The first thing to do is check your form. We all see those people in the weight room, lifting weights which are clearly too heavy for them with appalling form. Don’t be one of these people! Ensure that your targeted muscles are the ones doing the work. If you try using a bar and notice that you are pushing one side faster or higher than the other, try using dumbbells so you can ensure that each side of your body is receiving an equal workout.
If a stronger or more developed side is already aesthetically obvious, adapt your routine to concentrate on activating the muscles of the weaker side. Take the time to build the strength on both sides. Avoid favouring your better side purely because you can lift more and it makes you look good in the gym.
Pitfall 3: Following the trend/ Overtraining
‘Monkeys are made for swinging in trees; a disproportionate amount of their muscle mass is in their arms’ – Knut Nielson (1984).
Upon hearing the phrase ‘gym monkey’, most people picture a disproportionate gym goer with massive arms. Many of these people focus too heavily on their upper body, neglecting their lower body in a bid to become as big as possible up top. What many forget is that while our monkey friends major limbs are his arms, a humans major limbs are his legs.
Do not fall into the trap of focusing too much on your upper body. While it is great to have a massive upper body and it is your aim to gain muscle, it should not be your aim to promote posture and joint problems because your body is abnormally proportioned.
A moderate number of sets, perhaps 4-8 per bodypart is generally about the right amount. Research suggests that 40-60 contractions per bodypart per workout appear to give the optimal response. 4 sets of 10 would be a good starting point on this scale. A typical workout might last 60-90 minutes depending on how you prefer to split things up (McDonald L, 2005).
McDonald L, The Protein Book, A Complete Guide For The Athlete And Coach, 2005.