the fitness journal
Why are my muscles not growing? The training effect.
Have you ever wondered why your muscles are not growing effectively?
I have been working in the fitness industry for 12 years as a personal trainer and I have been offering online training plans for the past 6 years. Over this time one of the most common sticking points is slow muscle growth.
In my experience, there are a number for factors that contribute to the problem of slow gainz
I am going to run a 3-part series addressing the reasons why your muscles might not be growing as quickly as you like.
The first topic I am going to cover is the training effect, so let’s see if these help to answer your question of why are my muscle not growing.
Increasing your muscle size is known as hypertrophy. This basically means the increase in skeletal muscle through the increase in the size of its component cells. There are two factors that help your muscles to grow; sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is all about the glycogen storage within muscles and myofibrillar hypertrophy which is concerned with increased myofibril size.
Now we’ve covered the science bit, let’s take a look at how you can utilise them, and the three main mechanisms of building muscle, to create the body you want.
1. Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is, at its basic level, concerned with how efficiently you lift weight and therefore optimise the tension you place on the muscle. It’s not about the size of the weight itself. With any movement, there will be a multitude of ways of doing it. You only have to look around the gym to see how many different techniques people use when, for example, they’re bench-pressing. I’m sure it’s part of your regime, but how do you do it? Do you bounce the bar off your chest and lock your elbows at the top? You wouldn’t be alone in doing that, but it’s not efficient because the tension in your muscles is reduced at the top and bottom of the movement. To increase your efficiency and therefore improve muscle tension, you should stop the lift just short of the top and bottom of the movement and in doing so you will keep your muscles tense throughout.
It might be easier said than done but when you get it right, the other two factors we’re coming on to, metabolic stress and muscle damage, are both enhanced.
2. Metabolic Stress
You might know the term ‘metabolic stress’ by another name; The Pump! You know that feeling you get when you’ve really gone for it and you genuinely feel like your muscles are completely exhausted? That’s ‘The Pump’!
It happens when your muscles have a build-up of blood and lactic acid, combined with the fact that they aren’t receiving as much oxygen as they are used to. It might not sound like a good thing, but this metabolic stress is crucial to building muscle. This stress triggers a process that ultimately ends with the cells in your muscles becoming activated and therefore primed for growth, which is exactly what you want.
3. Muscle Damage
Again, muscle damage doesn’t sound like a good thing when we’re talking about building it, but it’s exactly what you’re doing when you workout. When you put your muscles under stress, you’re effectively damaging the fibres. Once damaged, they will begin to repair themselves but to anticipate any future damage, they will come back bigger, stronger and more dense than before. Repeat this process and the muscle fibres get bigger and bigger, but you need to remember to keep pushing them by increasing the load or altering the exercises you do. It’s this continuous improvement that will help you build the muscle you want to see.
To effectively apply these principles you will likely not have to make drastic changes to your plan. The results here come from the details. Your exercise selection may be perfect, even your rep ranges might be appropriate, so where could you be going wrong?
If you are bouncing reps with no control then this is an area you need to look at to improve the muscle tension aspect. Utilizing slow negatives and pause reps can be incredibly useful tools for muscle tension. Try incorporating 4 second negatives on lifts and also implementing 1 sec pause reps. An example of a pause rep would be stopping your bench press 1 inch above the chest hold for a second before continuing with you rep. You can also use pause reps at the bottom or top of the lift.
Time under tension
Using longer rep sets is a fantastic way of incorporating extra metabolic stress. I like to use several formats to do this, the first being supersets on the same muscle group. An example of this would be hitting 3 tricep movements back to back for 12 reps, you then total 36 reps on the muscle group which adds great metabolic stress and get the pump going.
An example of this would be Dips – Push ups – Tricep pushdowns. Only rest once all 3 are complete. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat a further 3-4 times.
Another useful tool for increased metabolic stress is timed sets. Using set times of 60 or even 90 seconds can really drive fantastic progress. This isn’t for the faint hearted but it can be very valuable.
In order for all of these things to come together and to also ensure adequate muscle damage you need to be training with intensity. Push sets to your limit, don’t sell yourself short. And keep the gains coming in.
Next week I am going to uncover how your nutrition might be sabotaging your gains.
Til then if you can share this anyone you know it will benefit it would be greatly appreciated!
Have a great week training