Are you a hard-gainer, or just doing something wrong?
The truth of the matter is that gaining significant muscle mass is a slow process. In a sense, it is much like a weight loss program in that people’s expectations are that they will put in some work for a month or maybe two and they want the end result by then.
Even the best program and nutrition will likely only result in a net muscle mass gain of 5 to 10 pounds per year for the average person.Younger folks, those with great genetics, and even true beginners can expect to see more than this over the short term, but for most of us it is maybe a half-pound of muscle a month distributed over our entire body.
It helps to keep perspective on the longer term, and to aid in this I have included a viral video at the end of this post to help frame this longer term perspective issue for you. Whatever you do, don’t leave without reading through the post and clicking the video link below. I guarantee it is worth it, and it likely will have an impact on how you look at something you may be doing every day.
Body fat and body type issues for muscle building
I highly recommend some level of strength training for women – it helps you build enough lean muscle mass to boost your metabolic rate which just makes it that much easier to control your body composition. It is virtually impossible for women to get overly bulky with a moderate strength training program, you will not end up looking like a female bodybuilding contestant unless you really totally dedicate yourself to achieving that with a very intensive routine.
The dudes out there all aspire to have the ripped muscular body, and it takes a lot more than throwing a little weight around to achieve that. The mistake many make is forgetting that getting that look requires pretty strict nutrition. Male or female, being ripped requires a very low body fat, and a level of personal dedication and sacrifice few are willing to make.
I know I have personally struggled to put on lean muscle mass of any great magnitude, but a fair amount of that has to do with age and hormonal capacity. Genetically, I am also a bit of a hard-gainer, since although I land about halfway between a mesomorph and an ectomorph body type, I tend to lean more towards the ectomorph body type in my frame and more towards the mesomorph in my metabolism.
Body Type infographic
Female Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph
10 Things You Shouldn’t Do If You’re Trying to Build Muscle
I am linking below to an interesting post titled “10 Things You Shouldn’t Do If You’re Trying to Build Muscle” by Mark Sisson, former elite athlete, author, leader in the Paleo movement and creator of marksdailyapple.com, which discusses in detail 10 mistakes people make in their quest to build muscle. The ten he discusses are:
1. Skip sleep for a late (or really early) training session.
2. Sacrifice form just to increase weight.
3. Speed through the eccentric phase (drop the weight).
4. Stick to the ideal routine even if it’s not working.
5. Try to lose weight.
6. Train for endurance.
7. Spend hours in the gym doing every exercise.
8. Ignore other forms of physical activity.
9. Do high-rep conditioning workouts like P90x.
10. Do post-workout cold water plunges.
This is definitely worth a read, especially the top five which in my opinion are vital to any program, although he does not mention adequate protein and optimal post-workout nutrition.
Number 5 above is worth a little comment by me. It is weird to see the number on the scale go up and not feel just a little paranoid about that – that is what we did not want to see all our lives while we were putting on the fat. I struggle to this day with that number phobia. However, muscle weighs more than fat and if you replace fat with muscle you will weigh more. As long as you monitor body fat and it is going in the right direction, you don’t have to obsess so much over the number on the scale.
What is weird about this is the BMI calculation which does not take this into account. I have a very lean body fat of 12% but because of my muscle weight my BMI is just shy of classifying me as overweight!
For a great “rant” video by Sean Croxton of undergroundwellness.com/ click the link below, it is worth watching!