Many hard-working athletes are struggling to build muscle for a variety of reasons. Some may not be eating very well or sleeping enough. Stress is also a factor that can slow down muscle growth.
Most of the time, the struggle to build muscle comes from inconsistent training. Changing up your routine or workout too often can send mixed signals to your muscles and compromise the muscle-building stimulus.
The most common mistake in trying to build muscle is the failure to progress both time and tension over several workouts. When you build muscle, you tell your muscles to both increases the amount of tension they can hold and the amount of time they can hold it for. Both time and tension are in balance to one another kind of like a see-saw. The more tension a muscle holds the less time it can endure and vice versa.
It’s very tempting to focus too much on progressing either time or tension. Sure, adding reps and sets is important, but so is making the muscle work harder. Often, an athlete can pursue one at the expense of the other. So as tension increases the reps and rest periods regress. Or as time increases, the tension regresses. This creates a time and tension see-saw where one is progressing at the expense of the other. While it may seem like there’s a lot of hard work and activity, you aren’t actually progressing the total work capacity of the muscle and therefore won’t grow it.
The solution is to keep either your time or tension consistent while progressing the other variable. Lock in the number of sets, reps and rest periods you use while improving tension control or adding resistance. Or keep the amount of tension the same while adjusting your reps or rest period to create more fatigue.
Once you feel you’ve reached the limit on how much you can progress your time or tension, you change over to focusing on progressing the other variable.