Jacked Cash
You lift weights almost every day, yet you can’t build muscle. What gives? Most likely you’ve hit the dreaded fitness plateau, a state in which your body has gotten used to your normal workout routine and you no longer see as big of a progression as when you first started. So how can you overcome this affliction thats preventing you from seeing the results you want?
First, you’ve got to understand that building muscle is a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how heavy you lift or how much protein you stuff your face with.


Once you’ve accepted that it takes a while to build muscle (and refuse to let that deter you from your goals), you should know about some common mistakes that could be causing your fitness plateau and preventing your body from building bigger muscles.

1 OF 5
Oleksandr Zamuruiev

1. You Aren’t Challenging Your Muscles​

Not to sound like a fitness-hustle bro, but how hard are you working in the gym? Your effort level is the first place you should look to when muscle growth stalls.
If you aren’t effectively challenging your muscles, they won’t grow. That’s just science — the body adapts to the stressors placed upon it. This is why progressive overload is so important. Without continual increases in load, volume, or another element of weightlifting, you’ll hit a plateau and struggle to bust through it.
Deb Averett, NASM-CPT and Row House coach, says one of the best ways to build muscle (other than lifting heavier, of course) is to increase time under tension — aka add a tempo to your lifts. “Varying the tempo can make any amount of weight instantly feel heavier,” Averett says. Studies do in fact show that increased time in the eccentric phase (the lengthening of the muscle) of a lift results in greater hypertrophy.


  • Shortening rest intervals
  • Adding another set
  • Adding reps to each set
  • Achieving a deeper range of motion
  • Increasing workout frequency

2 OF 5
alessandro guerriero

2. You’re Overworking Your Muscles​

Rest is such a crucial part of gaining strength and building endurance, Averett says. “To build muscle and achieve our goals in gaining strength, we want to be mindful about our approach to produce the best possible results,” she says.
Contrary to popular belief, your workouts aren’t what make your muscles grow. Instead, workouts are like the trigger, and rest is where the magic happens.
During exercise, your muscle fibers suffer tiny tears (called microtraumas), and your body needs rest to repair and rebuild damaged muscle.
“Inadequate rest may lead to overtraining syndrome, which can actually reverse the anabolic process and put your body into a catabolic or destructive state,” Averett says.
That’s not even to mention the other common symptoms of overtraining, which include increased fatigue, decreased performance, injury, altered hormonal states, chronic pain, decreased immunity, and mood swings.

3 OF 5

3. You Don’t Eat Enough​

You can’t build muscle out of nothing: Muscle requires a surplus of nutrients and calories to grow. No matter how hard you work in the gym, you will not see the physique changes you want if you don’t supply your body with the fuel it needs to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
“Many tend to think that building more muscle means only increasing more protein or getting the majority of your dietary intake from protein-rich foods,” says Maria Sylvester Terry, a registered dietitian at Eat Fit NOLA. “This is not the case. In order to gain muscle mass, one needs to ensure they are first eating adequate calories for their activity level. While some body composition changes can occur without a major shift on the scale by adjusting nutrition choices and training, for significant muscle gains, one needs to increase overall intake to create a calorie surplus.”
Protein is a major building block of muscle, of course, but one’s diet does not need to be mainly or solely protein for muscle gain, Terry says. You will see websites, social media pages, and YouTubers with specific macro amounts for muscle gain, like a special formula or secret to be unlocked. Truly, this depends on the individual person.
Carbohydrates play an important role in this process as well. Your muscles store glucose as glycogen, which is accessed for energy during exercise. Keeping glycogen stores replenished should be a post-workout routine: With enough carbohydrates in the diet, your body can utilize your protein intake for muscle recovery and growth, among other diverse roles protein plays in the body.
“Athletes who take in adequate carbohydrates can complete their workouts with energy and intensity,” Terry points out. “After all, what good is a sweaty lift session if you don’t have the energy to complete it with good form or the energy to replenish those hardworking muscles?”
4 OF 5

4. You Aren’t Sleeping Enough​

Rest is one thing; sleep is another. Even if you’ve established a prophylactic rest schedule and do deload weeks like a smart weightlifter, you won’t fulfill your muscle-building potential if you don’t get enough sleep.
While you’re fast asleep, your body is hard at work completing several tasks to rejuvenate your body, repair damages and quell stressors from the day. A few things that occur during sleep that contribute to muscle growth include:
  • Growth hormones are secreted
  • Glycogen stores are replenished
  • Muscle fibers are repaired
  • Muscle protein synthesis occurs
And a few things that happen if you don’t get enough sleep:
  • Inflammation persists, impairing recovery
  • Hormones are thrown off balance
  • Physical performance decreases
  • Motivation to work out drastically drops

5 OF 5

5. Your Form Could Use Some Work​

In the pursuit of muscle growth, many people forgo mobility and flexibility training to prioritize strength training. This may allow you to dedicate more time to building muscle in the short term, but in the long term, your lifts — and your body — will suffer.
Greater mobility generally equates to better technique during muscle-building movements. Take the squat for example. Who’s going to build more muscle: The guy who does a half squat or the guy who squats ass-to-grass?
Still, limited mobility is no excuse to skip out on the big lifts. “If we are working on mobility issues, it is still possible to have great form, but it may be a modified version of the movement,” Averett says. “With proper form, we will get stronger over time, even with modifications.
Plus, good technique prevents injuries, and an injury would be your greatest hurdle to building muscle — so take this as your sign to finally sit down and stretch.