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Why You’re Not Getting Any Bigger Or Stronger From Your Workouts

Are you frustrated with not seeing the strength and size gains you’d like from your weight training? If so put away the muscle magazines and let me give you a real world lesson in physiology.

If you’re serious about getting bigger and stronger you should quit reading about the routines that professional bodybuilders use and start spending your time learning about how the human body naturally gets stronger.

Whenever I consult with someone who wants to get bigger and stronger the first question they usually ask me is “what supplements should I be taking?”

I’m not surprised by this because the supplement industry is big business and it has a lot of influence on the inexperienced weight lifter. The muscle magazines these days are filled with more supplement ads than actual useful information.

You’re bombarded with pitches on the latest “nutritional science breakthrough” that promises you amazing gains in muscle size and strength. Let me save you the frustration and your hard earned money right now.

The problem with why you’re not getting any bigger or stronger doesn’t lie in your supplementation but with your training!

The first question I’m going to ask you is how hard are you training? I’m not talking about how much you sweat or how much weight you’re using. I want to know about the intensity of your workout sessions. The question is this…

Are you providing a sufficient overload stimulus to force your muscles to respond by getting stronger and increasing in size?

Anyone who has ever lifted weights with intensity can relate to the experience of being in a heavy set and reaching the point where you’re mind screams “stop, that’s enough, put it down.” The natural response is to do exactly that.

The link between the mind and body is a very strong one and you must learn to override these signals if you want to achieve optimal results from your training.

The purpose of this article is to teach you about the mind-muscle connection and the importance of mastering it. I’m going to get a little technical with you for a minute but stay with me.

I want you to visualize right now that you’re doing a heavy set of bicep curls. You get to the fourth rep and your mind starts telling you that the load is too heavy and you can’t do anymore.

In the bicep, at the very end where the tendon begins, you have tiny sensory mechanisms that are designed to send messages of stress to the brain. These sensory mechanisms are called “Golgi Tendon Organs.” They basically send messages to your brain assessing the load and indicating when it’s too much.

In your brain you have “muscle memory” that recalls past attempts and sends signals back to your muscles.

It is imperative that you overload the Golgi Tendon Organs by pushing past the point which they been programmed to identify what is “too much.”

By doing this you create a new muscle memory allowing the muscle to get bigger and stronger.

It’s nothing more than an adaptation response and it works the same way every time.

If you don’t force the adaptation response it’s hard to see a size or strength increase in the muscle period.

You’ll often hear some people promote “failure training” where you push yourself to maximum overload until you can’t do another rep. This is often misunderstood and taught incorrectly. Contrary to what you may have been told, it’s not a good idea to go to failure and then stop. Key word here is stopping at failure.

Remember our discussion above about muscle memory. This is very important. You’ll muscles will communicate with your brain regarding how much is too much. If you’re sending a “failure signal” this will prevent you from making the gains you want.

Instead of going to failure and stopping, it’s imperative that you push past the failure point and end with a successful lift. This will give you new muscle memory.

I never like to end any exercise or set with absolute failure.

This is where having a spotter who can assist you by helping you finish the lift is very helpful. When you hit the sticking point, your spotter can assist by giving you just enough help to finish the lift successfully.

There are some lifts (example: power clean) where this is not possible. In that case I believe the best strategy is to always finish your last set with a successful lift. If you’ve gone so heavy that you couldn’t make the attempt, that’s great, you’re pushing yourself. However, instead of quitting after that last failed attempt, simply lower the weight and finish with a successful lift.

Always, always, always look to do this.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of training hard and pushing yourself to do what your body previously thought was not possible (through muscle memory and Golgi Tendon response). You won’t get bigger and stronger if you don’t.

Your muscles adapt by getting bigger and stronger ONLY when you force them to do so by the loads that are placed on them.

If you’re goal is truly to get bigger and stronger you must “train hard or go home” as the saying goes. This is the gospel truth. Anything less than that will be a waste of your time.

Sure you might see some strength gains in the beginning through improved neural recruitment but after that strength and size gains will be hard to come by if you’re not providing a real overload stimulus.

I heard a practical example of this concept one time that really stuck with me. Picture yourself skinny and weak going into a lumber camp at the beginning of summer.

The first few weeks are brutally hard and your muscles are sore and tired from the demanding labor. You feel like you’re going to die. The work is hard, very hard. You have to keep up though or you’ll lose your job and go home with empty pockets. So you keep with it and push yourself day after day.

Low and behold over time your body adapts to the work and it begins to get a little tolerable every day. At then end of the summer you come out of the lumber camp 20 lbs heavier with slabs of rock hard muscle.

Your body has been transformed. What happened? Your body didn’t have any real sense of what was going on. It responded by get bigger and stronger to handle the heavy loads as if it were in a life or death situation. It only knew how to get strong and survive because if you didn’t adapt you’d die.

As crazy as it might sound that’s exactly what you need to do in the weight room. Your body has no real sense of what’s real or what’s self imposed.

Make your body believe that you must get stronger or you’ll die in the weight room.

The same principles apply in the weight room as they did in the lumber camp. Heavy overloads place the body under stress and it responds by getting bigger and stronger to handle the stress. If you don’t consistently go to that point of serious overload and stress you can’t expect to see a change in your body.

As a recap, forget about getting a “pump” and get moving some heavy iron. A pump doesn’t tell you anything. Too many inexperienced lifters work until they get to a “pump” and then call it a day. Don’t fall into this trap.

Give up the marathon bicep curl sessions and save yourself some time and frustration. Instead, load up that barbell and do some heavy bent over rows or do pull-ups until you can hardly feel your arms. You’ll be much happier with the overall results.

After that simply make sure you provide the adequate rest and nutrition to allow for rebuilding and growth of the muscle tissue. It’s really that simple.

Some of the biggest, badest dudes you would’ve met 100 years ago would have been railroad workers, lumberjacks, mill workers, farmers, blacksmiths, and the like. They weren’t using the latest creatine stack, or magic pill. No, they were doing heavy, hard work and they pushed their body to get bigger and stronger. Go and do likewise.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fitness expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.
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