Whenever we start taking our fitness goals seriously, we get pretty wild in researching and learning every single detail we possibly can to ensure that we do everything right.
Unfortunately, some important details still slip through the cracks, and that’s especially the case when trying to understand how to build muscle.
Sure, most of us understand that muscle growth hinges upon good training and getting enough nutrients.
However, there are some common mistakes that might be holding us back from maximizing our gains.
Let’s go ahead and dive into three potential muscle building mistakes you might be making that you should definitely try to fix now.
Now for number 1: You’re not training close enough to failure
To build muscle, our goal is to properly activate and fatigue them in order to drive the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy adaptation.
First, we need to ensure that we’re maximizing motor unit recruitment, where the size principle dictates that higher threshold muscle fibers, like type 2 fibers, are only recruited once fatigue-resistant fibers, like type 1, reaches muscular fatigue.
In short, the best means to fatigue and activate all muscle fibers is to train with relatively high effort, often achieved with training close to failure.
The only issue, however, is that people’s perception of failure is often a bit off. Or rather, many people think they’re training close to failure when they actually have plenty left in the tank.
In order to deal with this inaccuracy, occasionally training to ACTUAL failure, the point in which you cannot concentrically move a load without sacrificing form, might be the answer.
After all, experiencing actual failure, safely and with a spotter of course, will help you understand when to stop short of failure in future workouts.
In many programs, it’s often recommended to train to the point where you have about 1 to 2 reps in reserve, or RIR. This simply means that, had you continue your set, you’d only muster 1 to 2 reps before reaching failure.
As mentioned, reaching this point consistently will ensure that all muscle fibers are properly activated, giving your muscles the best stimulus for growth.
Number 2, Mismanaging Progression and Volume
I’d be one of the first to tout the importance of progressing volume in your training especially if your goal is to build muscle.
After all, many studies show that the best predictor of muscle hypertrophy is in fact volume, which commonly is measured as
reps times sets times load, the weight on the bar.
However, this doesn’t mean that more and more volume will always produce more and more gains.
In fact, too much volume has shownt o have diminishing returns to a point of actually curtailing adaptation.
The big question though, that is still up for debate in scientific research, is at what point is more volume no longer effective?
Some experts would break it down to anthropometric measures and fitness levels to summarize a personalized maximal recoverable volume, or MRV, in which you program into your training.
Some would take a more reactionary approach by gauging how one responds to volume progression.
For most, the simpler option is obviously the second one.
And finally, number 3, thinking you need to cut when you actually need to build muscle.