Struggling to build muscle? Do these 4 things

And it doesn't involve working out 7 times a week

Man lifting dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

Ok, so you're trying to build more muscle; you’ve increased your calories and are hitting the weights every other day, but you’re still nowhere near close to looking like Chris Hemsworth. Why? When our goal is to get bigger, sometimes we adopt a ‘go hard or go home’ kind of attitude.

And while this is great to an extent (after all, building muscle takes time and dedication), sometimes it can actually end up being more of a hindrance than helpful. Luckily, 25x record powerlifter, Stefi Cohen, has shared four simple that will actually help you start seeing some gains.

Firstly, you need to understand you’re not going to grow muscle overnight. It takes hard work and (much to many people’s dismay) time. Rolling out of bed and doing a couple of push-ups every other day isn’t going to cut it. It also involves you not switching up your full-body workout or upper-body workout every other week. Consistency is key.

This is one of the powerlifter really emphasises during a recent podcast, but what it doesn’t mean is going to the gym 7 times a week for a three hour sesh—and we’re glad, because it’s not sustainable. These are her four top tips: 

Tip#1: Lift weights 2-4 times per week

Although you can still gain muscle doing bodyweight exercises and resistance training, weightlifting is the go-to for many and research shows that lifting weights, at the very minimum, of two times a week is essential to maximise muscle growth. 

Tip#2: Aim for 10-15 reps per muscle group 

When muscle building is your goal you want to focus on doing more reps, whereas when you’re looking to increase muscle strength you’ll do less reps using heavier weights. This is why you often see bodybuilders perform exercises with more reps, whereas powerlifters adopt a lower rep range.

Tip#3: Lift to or close to failure 

Lifting to failure is trying to continue lifting a weight for a final rep when you've pretty much got nothing left in the tank. Unless you’re pretty advanced in the gym/lifting weights or are under PT supervision, we don’t recommend doing this to avoid injury. Also, don’t worry if you can’t, as research shows you can still build muscle without doing this.

Tip#4: Repeat all the above for 24 months 

As we mentioned earlier, building muscle takes time. We’re not saying you won’t see muscle until two years later, but the point is you need to continue doing all of the above for a consistent length of time in order for real change to be made. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you’re now feeling like you don’t have a clue where to start with your training, we’ve got a full push-pull workout that you can follow, as well as a five-move leg workout. Remember, just pick two upper body days, two lower body days, six to seven exercises, stay consistent and the results will follow.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.