Everyone experiences training problems every so often. And just like Hollywood movies these days, nothing is really original anymore. The majority of issues that people experience while they train are common amongst many other trainers. That doesn’t mean that this problem isn’t a big deal, because it is. All it means though is that others experience similar hurdles and that you can break through it, just as others have done so before you. Here is a list of 6 of the most common issues and what you should do to solve them.
Problem 1 - I Can't Gain Weight No Matter How Hard I Try
Probably one of the most common issues around, there’s never a shortage of guys who want to gain weight, but have been saying so for the last 2 years without much success. Some of them are naturally cursed with a faster than usual metabolism, but for the majority of trainers suffering from ‘can’t gain weight syndrome’, it’s because of two core reasons.
- Lack of clear goals – Saying “I just want to get bigger” is not a clear goal
- Lack of effort – Many trainers who can’t gain weight also suggest they “eat heaps”, when in actual fact, they’re barely meeting requirements.
Solution - Clear Directions & Focused Effort
If you want results, you’re going to have to put in some effort. For most trainers, it means actually eating more rather than saying you’re eating more. The simplest approach is to stick with your current meal intake and add in 2-3 mass gainer shakes a day along with 3 tablespoons of peanut butter or 3 handfuls of nuts. Depending on the type of shake, this is going to add anywhere between 600-1000 calories or more. If you do this for a month and still can’t gain weight; you’re either a liar or you need to seek professional help from an expert in the field.
Problem 2 - I Gain Too Much Fat While Bulking
One of the common hurdles in successful bulking is fear of getting fat. You put on a little pudge around your belly and that’s it; straight to the treadmill. This generally results in problem number 1. Any serious bulking or mass gaining phase will require an excess of calories, which will lead to weight gain. A lot of this gain will be from muscles, but you will also gain a bit of fat. So how do you minimize the fat mass, while maximising lean muscle mass?
Solution - Protein, Timing, HIIT & Clean
Minimizing fat gain during the bulking phase requires a concerted effort using a range of different strategies:
- Protein – Make a good proportion of those extra calories protein.
- Timing – Time two of your main meals within 2 hours of your workout times (preferably lunch and dinner)
- HIIT – Don’t overdo the cardio, but do complete concentrated bursts of HIIT (high intensity interval training). Limit to 1 hour a week max.
- Clean – Clean up your diet and avoid junk food and heavily processed food items such as cookies, biscuits, chips and chocolate. IIFYM works, but let’s focus more on nutrient dense foods.
Problem 3 - When I Start to Cut, I Lose Muscle
You’ve successfully bulked up and gained a good couple of kilos of solid muscle. You then start your cutting phase and before you know it, you’ve lost all your hard earned gains, your strength is gone and you look exactly like you did before your bulk. Sound familiar? Unfortunately for a lot of trainers, their strategies to get ripped involve pretty much starving themselves, along with countless hours of cardio mixed in with 1000s of crunches and sit ups. They might have a six pack by the end of it, but the massive amounts of muscle lost just makes it all look unimpressive.
Solution - Up the Protein & Slow Down
If you’re trying to reduce your body fat but still want to maintain plenty of the hard earned muscle you’ve gained, here are two of the most important tips:
- Increase Protein Intake – When you start to diet in the hope of getting ripped, you’re going to need added protein to help preserve muscle mass. Aim for almost 3g/kg of body weight.
- Marathon, Not a Sprint – It takes time to cut, just as it takes time to bulk. Aim for a shredding period of 12 weeks and avoid overexercising. Continue to focus on weight training, especially big compound movements and still incorporate high intensity cardio.
Problem 4 - I Can't Get a Certain Body Part to Grow
You’ve trained day in day out and you’re getting great results every other part of your body. But your biceps/chest/calves/triceps/shoulders or any other part of your body just won’t grow. You’re doing everything right as well; lifting heavy, tackling the right exercises, but the body part just looks the same. One of the biggest banes of training, if one part of your body is refusing to grow, the best thing you can do is to stop training it.
Solution - Reassess the Situation
This brief halt to training is simply so you can reassess the situation, the exercises you’re doing, the intensity you’re doing and most importantly the frequency of training that muscle group. Many trainers tend to have a weekly split where they only train one muscle group a week, which studies have shown to be less effective than training a muscle group multiple times a week for growth. It’s also important to incorporate 2-3 different and new exercises for that muscle group, as your body has an uncanny ability to adapt to the same exercises performed over and over again. After all, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
Problem 5 - I'm Strong & Can Lift, But I Don't Look Bigger
So you’re breaking PB’s left, right and centre, and your strength is shooting through the roof, but your muscles don’t look any bigger. You’re also the same weight as you were a couple of weeks ago and while you’re catching looks with the weights you lift, you wish your body looked just as good. For many trainers, there’s a disparity between strength and muscle definition. While you can have both, if you’re not genetically gifted, it’s much harder to achieve.
Solution - More Volume
At the end of the day, hypertrophy of muscle and muscle definition requires two main things; a specific volume of exercise and a specific percentage of body fat. Lifting heavy and improving your strength is great, but often leads you away from those two points. To look bigger and to make your muscles pop:
- Train with More Volume – Lower the weight slightly and start consistently hitting the 8-12 rep range
- Drop the Body Fat – Initiate a minor shredding phase to drop a bit of body fat. That drop will help show off more definition in your muscles.
- Train Smart – Looking bigger is also partly illusory. That is, you can look bigger without necessarily having to gain many more kilos. Training for evenness, shoulder size, posture and core, forearms and core will all help to create the illusion of size.
Problem 6 - I Can't Seem to Shift My Lower Ab Fat
For women, but especially men, fat seems to gravitate towards the belly region. While this does have the physiological benefit of keeping our organs insulated, it is also the impeding factor in making our abs show. The lower ab region is often the last and most frustrating area to remove fat from. Unfortunately there isn’t any spot reduction method aside from surgery which is able to remove fat from that area. That is, no amount of exercise or changes to the diet will magically remove fat from that particular section and only that section.
Solution - Perseverance
The only true solution is to simply continue persevering in terms of your weight loss strategy. The more fat you lose, the more likely that it will come from this lower abdominal region. To expedite the process:
- HIIT – Metabolic rate is a big factor in maintaining fat levels in check. Metabolic rate will decrease as you age and if your overall life is sedentary. Performing high intensity interval training will support an improved metabolic rate throughout the day. Ensuring you move around every couple of hours will also help.
- Muscle – Muscle is metabolically active, unlike fat. The more muscle you have, the greater your metabolic rate. So focus on building muscle along with HIIT.
- Hormone Support – The deposition of fat in your body will be partly due to hormonal factors, especially rises in estrogen, cortisol and insulin, so it might be a good idea to find supplements to help control this such as natural test boosters and adaptogenic supplements which help to decrease stress.
Reaching Your Goals Takes Time
There are no quick fixes when it comes to building muscle, losing weight or achieving other training results. The majority of competitive bodybuilders takes years to reach their prime, with many of them being between the ages of 30-40. Achieving your goals is a bit like going through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. You’re continually learning and improving and as much as you want to and wish for, you can’t just reach adulthood without having to go through the many years of childhood and adolescence. But there are plenty of ways to build up your knowledge and results faster. You just need the right solutions, and the above 6 will get you there faster.