Building muscle isn’t easy.
The majority of the men who engage in strength training fail to build a noticeable muscle mass.
With that being said, something being difficult isn’t a valid excuse to not do it. Millions of men manage to build terrific bodies. The difficulties of building muscle apply to these men too but they refused to give in to the difficulties, went ahead and built muscle anyway.
Once a man understands the reasons why it is so hard to build muscle, he will have better odds of succeeding because problems are easier to solve when they are correctly diagnosed.
I was one of those men who regularly went to the gym without any noticeable gains whatsoever.
After I diagnosed my problems and solved them, I built the muscular physique I so desired.
Here are the reasons why it is so hard to build muscle:
1. Bad genetics (and how to overcome the problem of bad genetics)
Most men blame their bad genetics for their failure to build muscle and they are partly right.
I say “partly” because all humans have the bad genetics to build muscle.
Jacked men didn’t have good genetics to build muscle. They managed to build muscle despite the fact that they also had the bad genetics to build muscle.
We modern human beings (homo sapiens) are not the only human species that inhabited the earth. Other hominids (human-like species) such as homo ergaster, homo habilis, homo afarensis, homo neanderthalensis, etc. went extinct for various reasons.
The most notable clash of modern humans with other hominids happened between humans and Neanderthals, about 43,000 years ago.
We coexisted with Neanderthals in Europe for around 2,600 to 5,400 years before we wiped them out of existence.
One of the advantages we had over Neanderthals was that they had more muscle mass than us.
But Lane, how was being muscular a disadvantage, especially when they had to hunt giant animals for feeding themselves?
Muscles are calorie-burning machines. In a period where the food (and thus, calories) was scarce, being muscular was a huge disadvantage because muscular men need more calories to survive. Neanderthals failed to survive the famines which were common in a time period where the food wasn’t as abundant as today. We humans could survive long periods of time without food because we were less muscular and we needed fewer calories to survive. This is one of the main reasons Neanderthals went extinct and we didn’t.
As a result, modern humans haven’t evolved to be muscular. If anything, we evolved to be less muscular because muscular bodies lost the evolution battle. Having bigger muscles got coded as a genetic disadvantage in our DNA.
For this reason, ALL humans have a genetic aversion to building muscle
This is the most important reason why it is so difficult to build muscle. Your body doesn’t want to build muscle. Your body thinks, rightfully, that muscles burn too many calories and concludes, wrongfully, that you will starve when you are muscular. Food is abundant in our times but our bodies still operate on outdated genetic conditioning.
Since every human is genetically averted against building muscle, stop making the excuse of “bad genetics” for your failure to build muscle.
Every human has the bad genetics to build muscle but the muscular men beat the odds. They go ahead and build muscle anyway. When you stimulate your muscles enough, your body has no choice but to grow muscle.
Related: 8 Ways to Overcome Your Outdated Genetic Conditioning Before They Overcome You
Nerds ruined bodybuilding.
Nerds know it all. They know that deadlifts and squats aren’t necessary to build muscle. They also know that the role of protein in building muscle is overrated. Meal timing? Doesn’t matter. Rep ranges? Don’t matter. Weightlifting routine? Bro, the best routine is the one that you are able to follow.
According to nerds, nothing matters in bodybuilding. They go through countless mental gymnastics to find a workaround just not to follow the essential principles of bodybuilding.
Needless to say, the internet is filled to the brim with nerds. That’s why it’s incredibly difficult to find legit muscle building information on the internet.
Nerds don’t have skin in the game of bodybuilding.
ALL the legendary bodybuilders did deadlifts and squats. They all ate copious amounts of protein. None of them skipped the leg day. None of them arrived at their physique goals by haphazard actions. They all had solid routines.
Yet, the nerds of the internet know better than the legends of bodybuilding and of course, they are full of shit.
Look, if you want to build muscle you better follow the essential principles of bodybuilding. To repeat:
- Compound exercises. First, get a sound bodyweight training routine. Don’t try to build muscle mass on a non-existent foundation. Compound exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, bodyweight squats, and burpees should be the staples of your bodyweight training routine. After you build the foundation and decide to put on more muscle, switch to lifting weights. Compound exercises such as deadlift, squat, military press and bench press should be the staples of your weightlifting routine.
- Progressive overload. There’s no building muscle without progressive overload. Progressive overload in bodyweight training is achieved by doing the same set of reps in less time. Progressive overload in weightlifting is achieved by lifting more weight for the same reps for an exercise or doing more reps with the same weight.
- Keeping a training journal. You must diligently note down how many reps of which exercise you did and the weights you lifted for every training session.
- Eating right. Eat your protein first, then adjust your carbs and fat consumption accordingly. For bodyweight training, you want to follow a bodyweight training diet. For weightlifting, you will have periods of bulking and cutting.
- Consistency. You will not build a noticeable muscle mass without consistent training. Many men start strength training with great enthusiasm but they quit before they reach their goals after the initial enthusiasm wears out.
However, there’s no point in being consistent about a training routine that doesn’t work. Expect to build 1,5-2 pounds of muscle in your first six months of strength training. If you didn’t build at least 9 pounds of muscle in your first six months of strength training, you are doing something wrong. Check the essentials again to see what went wrong.
Here’s how much muscle you can expect to build as a natural trainer:
3. Lack of proper effort
Most people who train for strength aren’t even trying, yet they are scared of overtraining or injury.
Strength training is one of the safest types of sports. The risk of injury is incredibly low.
Millions of people who avoid strength training get injured when they are doing trivial things like tying their shoes or picking up a glass from the cupboard. All of these non-training injuries are the results of the lack of muscle mass in the first place. Yet, people think they will get injured more when they try to build muscle. No, you are more likely to get injured if you don’t do any muscle-building exercises.
Yes, an injury is still a possibility at strength training, but you risk more injuries by not building muscle.
The fear of overtraining is another reason why people fail to build muscle. The human body is incredibly resilient. It’s so hard to overtrain the human body that the majority of the people have no reason to fear it.
I’ve been to countless gyms around the world and I’ve trained with thousands of people. I’ve seen only 2 men who may have been overtraining. And that’s only a maybe. They were probably doing fine.
Fear of overtraining is often groundless and it can be easily overcome by training less but efficient.
People waste their time and effort by doing endless isolation exercises when five minutes of deadlifts can build them ten times more muscle than fifty minutes of biceps curls.
4. An overreliance on supplements
After I got jacked, the most common question I get from random people on the street is about the supplements I am using.
True, I’ve used supplements such as creatine, vitamin D, and whey protein but I never used them regularly. In fact, I didn’t use any supplements at all for the majority of the times I’ve been training. Yet, people want to believe that I must be using magical supplements to build muscle instead of training hard.
Supplements are just that, supplements. They are not magic. Just look at the ancient Greek statues for historical proof that men don’t need supplements to build a terrific, muscular body.
What matters is the essentials. Everything else is minutiae.
5. Mental masturbation about ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and other irrelevant BS
One of the most infuriating questions about building muscle comes from skinny men who fail to gain weight.
I can’t gain weight no matter how much I eat. I am so desperate. What should I do?
Look, the laws of thermodynamics are universal. They apply to the skinny guys too. There’s no way you are not gaining weight if you eat more calories than you burn.
If skinny guys counted their calories for a 2-4 week period instead of whining about their inability to gain weight, they would easily diagnose and solve their problem.
But no. They have to go into extended mental masturbation about ectomorphs, mesomorphs or other body types instead of addressing the elephant in the room.
ALL humans are subject to the laws of thermodynamics.
No matter whether you are an ectomorph, mesomorph or any other made up BS body type, you will gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. Period.
6. Limiting beliefs
Humans tend to overestimate their abilities in the short run and underestimate their abilities in the long run.
This belief system leads to quitting prematurely or worse, not starting at all. This stands true for every worthwhile endeavor. Building muscle isn’t an exception.
Many men who start strength training get frustrated after a few training sessions and they quit because, in the short run, it looks impossible to get jacked like the bigger guys. But they don’t know that those jacked men were once weak too. They pushed through the initial frustration, kept on training and got jacked.
Many other men don’t even attempt at strength training because they underestimate what they can achieve in the long run with hard and consistent work.
Like I said in item #1, any man who has human genetics can be jacked provided that he sticks to the essentials of building muscle.
Related: Are You Overestimating or Underestimating Your Abilities?
7. Useless gyms, useless personal trainers, and bad training routines
5 years ago I moved to a new house. There was a fancy gym nearby and I said to myself “Why not join the gym and build some muscle when there’s a nearby gym?”.
So, I joined the gym and I was assigned a personal trainer.
She (yes, a woman), put me on a body composition monitor to measure my muscle and fat mass and wrote me a training schedule.
I knew nothing about building muscle and I assumed that she gave me a solid routine. After all, she was a professional personal trainer.
My weightlifting routine was fully composed of machine training. Of course, somebody had to use all those fancy weightlifting machines. My training program mandated me to lift tiny amounts of weight which I didn’t feel the slightest difficulty lifting.
Although I religiously followed my routine to the letter, not surprisingly, I built no muscle mass whatsoever. Worse, I ate more food than I needed with the hopes of building muscle and as a result, I got fat.
The gym was a fancy one but the weight room didn’t even have a squat rack and I don’t even recall anybody doing deadlifts or squats.
It was only after I figured out the right kind of training that I was able to put on the muscle mass I wanted. I quit that worthless gym and I started doing these 8 simple yet effective bodyweight exercises. After I built a great foundation with six-pack abs, I switched to lifting weights and I added slabs of muscle to the excellent muscular foundation I built with bodyweight training.
Never go to a gym where doing compound lifts is not possible.
Don’t blindly trust the personal trainers in fancy gyms. Their job is not to get you jacked. They will give you a bullshit routine to keep you coming for more and they will make sure that you don’t lift heavy weights because they want to avoid the trouble in case you get injured.
Every man can get jacked if he sticks to the essentials.
The difficulties of building muscle apply to all the men around the world but millions of them overcome them and build great bodies.
None of the difficulties I listed are insurmountable. Not even close. Strength training has so many benefits to ignore. The investment you put in is minuscule compared to the benefits you will receive.
2 years of strength training can set you for life.
Stop with the excuses and start building muscle. You’ll thank yourself later.
Be sure to read:
- Ripped with Bodyweight: 12-Week Program for Muscle Growth and Fat Loss, the ultimate bodyweight training program to build muscle fast.
- 10 Truths About Building Muscle That Nobody Wants To Believe
- Building Strength and Muscle: Bodyweight Training (Calisthenics) vs Weightlifting
- 8 Best Bodyweight Exercises to Build Muscle, Burn Fat and Get Ripped at Home Without Weights
- Why Is It So Hard To Get Six-Pack Abs?