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  • Writer's pictureGreg Schumann

The Top 6 Reasons Why You’re Struggling to Add Muscle Mass:

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Written by: Will Richards

Adding muscle mass is an arduous undertaking. Even if you’re doing everything

correctly, it will take time, as in years to see drastic changes. But if you feel like

you’re stuck in your progress, chances are it’s a result of one of these reasons:

1. Training frequency. The sweet spot for building muscle is going to be 3-4

hard lifts per week. If you’re an absolute beginner, you can get away with 2

and see progress, but once you enter the intermediate/advanced stages,

you need to be training enough to cause enough of a stimulus to spark

adaptation. On the other side, you may be training too often. If you’re

lifting 6 days per week, for example, you aren’t giving your body any time

to recover, adapt, and build more muscle tissue. Yes, you can train different

muscle groups on different days, but you still need time to allow your

central nervous system to recover.

2. Effort level. If you’re a beginner, you can lift with any semblance of effort

and see results. After that, you need to be lifting extremely hard to

continue to give your body a “reason” to keep adapting. In this context,

effort level means training to or close to failure, meaning lifting until you’re

unable to do one more rep with good form. As you go through a set and

approach failure, you’ll notice that the reps start to slow down

involuntarily. These “slow” reps are essential for muscle growth, because

it’s during these reps that the most tension is being created in the muscle.

Mechanical tension is the driver of muscle growth.

3. Exercise selection. The goal when selecting which exercises to do should be

finding movements that fit your structure and allow you to create

maximum tension in the targeted muscle. Barbell squats, for example,

while a great strength-building exercise, aren’t going to be ideal for a lot of

people who have a primary goal of adding muscle mass. If someone has

long femurs and poor ankle mobility, it’s going to be very difficult to

execute a squat without compensating with other muscle groups like the

lower back. Not only is this increasing injury risk, but it also is dispersing

tension to the lower back when our goal is to keep maximum tension in the

legs to spur muscle growth. In this example, a leg press could be a good


4. Nutrition. To build muscle mass, you have to be in a caloric surplus,

meaning consuming more calories than you’re burning on a daily basis.

Your body can’t build new contractile proteins (the building blocks of

muscle) if it doesn’t have the resources available to do so. If you feel like

you’re eating a ton, lifting with appropriate frequency and effort level, and

picking good exercises, then the solution is often pretty simple: You need to

eat more.

5. Sleep. It’s vital for recovery. Getting enough sleep lowers cortisol and helps

optimize testosterone. It allows adaptation to occur. Remember, you aren’t

growing muscle when you’re lifting. You’re placing a stressor on your body

that it has to adapt to, and the primary way it adapts is by building more

muscle tissue to keep up with the demand of the training. You want to treat

the recovery i.e. your time outside the gym with as much care as you do the


6. Genetics. Even if you’re implementing all of the above points correctly,

genetics will always be the end-all-be-all when it comes to how much

muscle you can ultimately pack on your frame. For most people, after 5-10

years of consistent, hard training, they’re going to start approaching their

ceiling in terms of genetic potential. There’s nothing you can do to change

this, as you can’t change your genes.

To learn more about Will Richards, check out his bio under our team section. To set up a free consult about training with him, contact us and don't forget to mention his name. Thanks for reading!

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