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Why You Aren’t Getting Stronger or Gaining Muscle.

So you’ve been lifting weights for a while. Maybe a couple of months, maybe over a year. When you first started it was great, you were getting stronger and packing on some muscle. But you didn’t change things up much and you usually got your workouts from some website or a magazine, or maybe even some dingus from Instagram. Eventually you hit a wall and just used the same amount of weight every session because you couldn’t get over that hump. You start getting nightmares about being that guy from your gym who has been working out for the past 5 years and literally has not progressed at all!

Well, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just that you aren’t working out properly. Sure you can go to the gym everyday and do your same routine. You’ll get in shape and be better off than the couch potato who does nothing. But! If your goal is to progress, get stronger and even gain size you’re going to have to do something different.

How It Works

The entire reason that the body is able to get stronger and grow is through a series of physiological adaptations. These occur when the body is given a certain stress (i.e. lifting weights) and then when recovering from that stress, it makes itself bigger and stronger so that the previous stimulus won’t damage it again. These principles apply to both gaining strength and increasing muscle mass.

The one stipulation that this adaptation has, is that you must consistently increase the stimulus to get the end product. For example, if you were lifting 45lbs for 3 sets of 5 one week or session, you would need to increase that load or increase the volume (50lbs for 3 sets of 5; 45lbs for 5 sets of 5). If you aren’t increasing these variables and driving adaptation, then you get stuck in the rut that we previously discussed. This is usually referred to as a plateau and it takes a stronger or different stimulus to break through it.

What You Need To Do

Now, I will start by saying that there is no gold standard way or magic program that will give you the results you want. You just need to be smart about what you do. The reason that people stop getting stronger is from stagnation or from switching things up too often. With that being said, to fix this you need to drive adaptation and have consistency.

If you want to start increasing strength, then you don’t need to show up doing 100 sets of 15 rep bicep curls. Strength is derived from force production which comes from muscle activation. The best way to do this is with heavy weights (80–90% of 1RM), reps of 3–5, and complex exercises that use more than one muscle group. An example of this setup would look like this:

Back squat- 5 sets of 5 reps @ 80% of 1RM

The back squat has one of the highest levels of muscle activation in the whole body so it is perfect to gain some strength, 5 sets of 5 reps is decent volume to tax your body, and 80% of 1RM is plenty weight to drive adaptation in the body. This setup is perfect for strength gain, but you’re not done. You also have to continually drive adaptation, and this is best done by increasing these variables over time. A good way to increase this setup would be to increase the amount of weight you use by 5–10lbs each week. After a few days of recovery from the previous week, the body will have adapted to that stimulus and you can now lift more weight. More weight means more stimuli to drive adaptation! You can usually run something along these lines for 2–3 months and then you need to switch up because your body will have become so adapted.

One thing you will notice is that when you first begin that you will get strong very fast! This is due to how new the stimulus is to your body. You will get this response for about a month, and then it usually slows down some (depends on your genetics). The more advanced you get, the more stress it takes to drive adaptation. If you look at professional power lifters, they have to work out very hard for months just to increase their lifts by about 2 pounds. So enjoy those 10–20 pound increases while they last!

In regards to gaining size, the best thing you can do is increase weight, but you also need to pay attention to volume. The best rep range is around 8–12 reps. So lets say you want to grow some wheels (aka legs), then you would want to do some back squats at around 3–5 sets of 10 reps. Trust me, they’ll grow from that!

The Next Big Factor

All of this is going to increase your strength/size. However, all of the work you’re doing may not be paying off. It’s not the new program you’re doing, but the lack of recovery. Workouts like these are challenging and cause a lot of muscle damage (the good kind). The only way that you’ll benefit from all of this damage is if you recover from it. Recovery is simple, but very under-utilized mainly in the form of proper nutrition and sleep. If you aren’t getting results, don’t always blame the workouts (which could be the case) but check up on your sleep and nutrition. Once those are in check, you should be on pace to board the GAIN TRAIN!!!!!

Now Go Get Skrong

All of this knowledge is great, but it’s only useful if you put it into action. So, if you’ve been struggling to make gains and get stronger then this is a great solution for you. You must drive adaptation to build a stronger you and this can only be done with good ole hard work.

Now you may not want to get stronger and more jacked and like things the way they are. If that’s the case then stick to your normal plan, I just don’t want to hear any complaints about wanting more 😉

Originally published at on July 30, 2018.