One of the most frustrating things in the world is lifting weights but not seeing results. I know this because I spent years in limbo as I worked out almost everyday, desperate for an ounce of muscle.
In this article, we are going to discuss what to do and what you probably aren’t doing to see results. You are going to be surprised with how small changes can lead to massive results.
The best part about this article is that it took me years to learn these basic concepts, but it’s going to take you just a few minutes to read it.
You are going to find a ton of misinformation online about building muscle. Why? Because the truth is, the fitness industry is run off selling supplements and unnecessary workout gear. You don’t need any of that. In fact, you can get big working out at home.
Before we get started, I recommend downloading our FREE app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). If you are serious about putting on muscle, our workout plans are going to get you there.
You probably aren’t eating enough
The most important thing about any muscle building journey is making sure that you are eating enough food. For those who say that they just can’t build muscle, I always ask them how much they eat per day.
As I expected, the answer is never what I want to hear. It is always “I eat a ton,” or “I eat a lot of food.”
Here is the thing. If you don’t know how many calories you are eating, how can you say that you eat a lot. Even if you eat a lot of food compared to others, it is worth mentioning that your body is completely different than theirs.
Here are the steps you need to take:
- Calculate your maintenance calories
- Eat 500 calories per day over maintenance
- Add another 250 calories per day if you aren’t gaining at least a half pound per week.
I remember when I thought I was eating enough food to build muscle. Once I started calculating my calories, I realized how inconsistent I was. Sure, maybe one day I would eat 4,000 calories. But the next day I would eat 2,000 calories.
Over 2 days, that averages out to about 3,000 calories per day. That is a lot, right? What is the issue? Well, it turns out that my maintenance calorie number is 3,100 calories per day. So essentially I was eating at a caloric deficit.
The key here is to find your maintenance number and eat over that number every single day. This is called being in a caloric surplus. The opposite is called a caloric deficit. And you cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit.
If you struggle with physically eating that much food like I do, I recommend checking out our 1000 calorie protein shake recipe.
You might not be lifting heavy enough
The first requirement of building muscle is being in a constant caloric surplus. The second suggestion is lifting heavy weights. But why?
Lifting heavy weights is going to ensure that your muscles get the micro tears that are necessary to build muscle. Although this is not a requirement, it is a definite suggestion.
Evidence suggests that you can build muscle with no weights. In fact, I even made a muscle building workout plan without equipment.
But lifting heavy weights is going to ensure that your body takes full advantage of your caloric surplus.
The way that muscle building works is by tearing under stress. Assuming you are in a caloric surplus, those extra calories floating around in your body are going to come to repair those muscles.
This in turn makes your muscles grow bigger over time. If you want to learn more about this, check out my article, how does lifting weights build muscle.
Before we get too carried away with how heavy we need to be going, let’s first talk about your current ability. I would never suggest someone lift weights so heavy that they end up getting injured.
The goal here is not to tear muscle and connective tissue. It is to slowly build muscle over time.
With that being said, lifting heavy just means to lift weights that you think are challenging. From there, you can build up confidence over time, and keep moving up.
A good example of this comes from when I originally started working out. I started by curling 5 pound dumbbells. And now, I can curl 40 pound dumbbells for 8 reps. But this took many years to get to this point.
If you are lifting weights but not seeing results, focus on your form first, then start going up in weight.
It is possible to workout too much
Not only is it possible to workout too much, but it is detrimental to your success as someone who is trying to get results from lifting weights.
I briefly mentioned this in the intro, but I used to think that the more I worked out, the quicker I would gain muscle. I couldn’t be more inaccurate about how much building works.
There is something called overtraining. And it essentially means that if you workout too much, your muscles will stop growing because your body does not have enough time to repair them.
If you are serious about seeing results, you should probably stay in the 3-5 day range of workout plans.
In fact, the year that I built over 20 pounds of muscle was the year that I only worked out 3 days per week. I now workout 4 days per week, but 3 days a week can be just as good, especially for beginners.
If you are interested, I even recreated the same workout plan that I used to build that 20+ pounds of muscle in our app. The exact plan is called 3 day overload. It is quite challenging, but if you are serious about building muscle and only have 3 days per week to workout, it is your best option.
So, if you are lifting weights and not seeing results, be sure to evaluate how much you are working out. As long as you are eating at a caloric surplus, 3 days per week can do the trick. Go for 4 days if you have the time.
Working out too much can lead to negative bodily reactions, so it is definitely important to be aware of this possibility.
Consistency is king
You have probably heard this over and over again. And honestly, it goes well with pretty much anything in life. Being consistent gets you results. But a lot of people gloss over the fact that being consistent doesn’t just mean being consistent with your workouts.
Being consistent is about mastering multiple areas of your life. In this case, we need to be consistent in working out, eating at a caloric surplus, and much more.
But what is the much more part? Well, making healthy choices is a great start. There is evidence that alcohol stops muscle growth, so be sure to take that into consideration.
Also, make sure that you are drinking enough water. When you are consistently hydrated, your body has no issues getting nutrients to your muscles. If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day, be sure to learn how to trick yourself into drinking more water.
As you can see, being consistent with working out is just the starting point. Consistency is also about eating enough calories and making good life choices.
If you want to get the body of your dreams, you might have to stop indulging in things that could be detrimental to your goals.
Main Point: Lifting weights but not seeing results?
If you have come this far, you know exactly what to do if you are lifting weights but not seeing results. All you have to do is identify which areas you are lacking and put those changes into your life.
It all starts with making sure you are eating at a caloric surplus. If your goal is to build muscle, then you really have no choice but to eat at a caloric surplus.
Let me tell you, I worked out for 7 years without caring about my diet and ended up not building an ounce of muscle. What you eat, or how many calories you eat, is the most important thing that you could possibly do if your goal is to build muscle.
Another thing I need to remind you of is not to be afraid of lifting heavy weights. Remember, it is not about being the person in the gym who lifts the heaviest weights. It is about finding what weights are challenging enough for you, and moving up from there.
And yes, it is possible to workout too much. If you don’t have a routine that falls into the 3-5 day per week range, then it is time to move on. Overtraining is a real thing, and it can have negative effects on your body.
Lastly, we talked about consistency. Consistency is not just about showing up to the gym every week and checking all the boxes. It is more than that. Consistency is about your workouts, your diet, and your life choices. When you add all these good choices up, you are going to hit your goals.
As you can see, it is not all a perfect formula. It takes little pieces of this and that to ensure that you see results.