A check­list that every novice ath­lete should con­sult.

Your program is no good

Your time in the gym is valu­able, so don’t waste it on use­less exer­cis­es. Many guys have been doing the same chest, arm and abdom­i­nal exer­cis­es for years and get­ting nowhere. If they worked with a pro­gram that used the prin­ci­ple of over­load, peri­odiza­tion, and oth­er aspects of good sci­ence-based plan­ning, their progress would be sus­tain­able. Work­ing hard is not enough. It’s impor­tant to work smart.

Your meal plan leaves much to be desired

With­out chang­ing your approach to nutri­tion and tai­lor­ing it to meet your goals, you are unlike­ly to make much progress in chang­ing your physique. Sure, you can get stronger and a lit­tle big­ger, but you’ll nev­er look good. Take time to under­stand your diet. At the very least, spend as much time plan­ning your diet as you do cre­at­ing your work­out plan.

You’re not eating enough protein

To effec­tive­ly build mus­cle, your body requires ade­quate amounts of pro­tein. Noth­ing new. But if you’re only increas­ing your pro­tein intake on work­out days, it’s time to recon­sid­er your approach. Your body can­not store amino acids for future use, so you need to keep your lev­els high between work­outs. Every day, try to con­sume about 1.8 grams of pro­tein per kilo­gram of weight, dis­trib­uted even­ly over three to four meals.

You’re ignoring basic movements

Some­times it’s worth elim­i­nat­ing some of the inef­fec­tive iso­la­tion move­ments and focus­ing on train­ing your largest mus­cle groups. If you want to build big mus­cles, you must per­form com­pound move­ments that work more than one joint—deadlifts, pull-ups, squats, or bench press­es. It is no coin­ci­dence that strength sports ath­letes, whose physiques we all envy, laid their foun­da­tion with pre­cise­ly such exer­cis­es.

You are overtrained

Some peo­ple try to copy the pro­gram of pro­fes­sion­al body­builders, per­form­ing 15–20 sets for each mus­cle group. Do you know what the prob­lem is? You can’t take a pro­gram used by a genet­i­cal­ly gift­ed body­builder with strong drug sup­port and expect to get the same results.

You don’t get enough sleep

Not only do you feel weak—and there­fore unable to give 100% of your workout—but your testos­terone, growth hor­mone, and IGF‑1, key mus­cle-build­ing hor­mones, drop while cor­ti­sol, which destroys mus­cle tis­sue, ris­es. mass. Accord­ing to a study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sao Paulo, sleep-deprived rats lost up to 20 per­cent of their mus­cle tis­sue with­in a few days.

Your technique is bad

Don’t swing the dumb­bells, ignor­ing the speed con­trol of the rep­e­ti­tions. Manip­u­lat­ing the dura­tion of the set by con­trol­ling the time to low­er the bar, the time it is at the bot­tom, the time to rise and pause at the top is a good addi­tion­al strat­e­gy for increas­ing stim­u­la­tion of mus­cle fibers.

You don’t train your back

Bench­ing every work­out is not the best tac­tic. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, doing pro­grams that are heavy on press­ing and short on pulling exer­cis­es can lead to all sorts of prob­lems. To keep your shoul­ders healthy and visu­al­ly increase your chest size, try work­ing on your back with more vol­ume.

Do you often skip leg day?

One of the most com­mon attrac­tions in gyms is huge, busty hip­pos hob­bling around on spindly legs. It is impos­si­ble to achieve excel­lent sym­me­try with­out well-devel­oped ham­strings, quads and calves. Take the time to do squats, leg curls and lunges and you will look much bet­ter. This will also reduce the risk of injury.

You overdo it every workout

Don’t get me wrong, pro­gres­sive over­load, where you grad­u­al­ly increase the inten­si­ty of your work­outs, is tru­ly crit­i­cal to gain­ing mus­cle mass. But train­ing to mus­cle fail­ure on each set can slow down your progress because it takes longer for your body to recov­er. A good alter­na­tive may be strength train­ing with sets that stop one or two reps before com­plete mus­cle fail­ure.

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