1. Intensity

Ever feel like this in the gym?

If you do, you’re dreaming if you think you’ll be seeing gains.

To see any gain in muscle size and strength, you need to put your muscles under serious stress, that actually tears them apart slightly at the micro level. They then regenerate for a few days, and grow slightly bigger than before to get ready to face the stress again.

So to put it simply, if you’re not putting your body under any stress you won’t see any growth.

Want to know why Arnold was so huge? Because he constantly looked like this in the gym:

Serious gains in size and strength come from pushing your muscles to their point of failure, so if you look more like Homer than Arnold, you’ll have to reconsider what you’re really doing in the gym.

Also, get off your fucking phone.

The only thing you’re allowed to do on your phone at the gym is to change your music. That’s it.

No Instagramming.

No Snapchats.

No checking email.

That shit can wait.

Every time you get distracted and look at your phone, your mind is taken away from the task at hand, you’re taken out of the zone and your intensity drops. Lower intensity = less results.

Your phone can wait.

2. Type of exercises

Not all exercises are created equal.

The exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck are ones that make you use multiple joints and muscle groups (compound exercises). The more muscles you use during an exercise the fitter you will become.

Take a look at these two exercises as an example. Which do you think will make you work harder and stress your muscles more?

Yep, the second one.

When you can (unless you’re specifically trying to target one muscle group) go for compound movements, and you’ll see far greater results.

3. Exercise technique

You do shit like this:

Okay maybe not that extreme, but you get the point: using bad form will rob you of results, and can even get you injured (or injure someone else if you’re doing something really nuts).

Make sure your form is right before you attempt a new exercise.

If you’re not sure, ask somebody or watch some instructional youtube videos. Athlean-X and Jeff Nippard are a couple of my favourite channels.

Also, don’t fucking swing.

Momentum is not a muscle, and has no place in your workouts. Unless you’re on one of your last reps and need that tiny bit of help to get the weight moving, using your bodyweight to do an exercise is cheating, and you’re lying to yourself if you think you’re working hard.

Don’t be this guy:

4. Lack of sleep

This is surprisingly important. Since the majority of muscle repair and growth happens when you’re asleep, getting a good nights rest can seriously improve your recovery after exercise.

Studies have found that sleep deprivation can lead to decrease testosterone and IGF-1 (a muscle building hormone) levels, meaning your body is less able to repair your muscles.

It can also increase your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, as well as alter your blood pressure and eating behaviour.

Conclusion: a good night’s sleep is always a 10/10 decision.

5. Frequency

“Women are checking me out lately. Was it the ten push-ups I’ve been cranking out every other Sunday?” — JD, Scrubs

This one is pretty self-evident. You need to be hitting the gym at least three times per week in order to see decent improvements. If you want to see more rapid gains you should be going 4+ times per week.

You won’t get anywhere doing one or two lazy workouts per week thinking ‘I’ve been to the gym, I’ll totally be huge soon’.

6. Nutrition

Fitness nutrition is one of the most talked about, and most misunderstood topics in health. If you’re training to be an athlete or have medical issues, sure, the exact types and amounts of foods you eat are incredibly important. However, for the rest of us it’s so simple. Michael Pollan puts it best in his book ‘Food Rules’: “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

It sounds kind of overly simplistic, but what he’s saying is eat real food. Not edible products that come from packets or factories. Eating a variety of real, whole foods will cover all your micro and macronutrient needs, and eating not too much will cover your calories as well. No need to count, no need to stress.

Vegetarians and vegans may need to think about supplementing their protein intake with protein powders (go for unflavoured, sugar free protein powders) as it’s slightly harder to get the right amount when trying to build muscle.

It might not be easy to follow this if you love a good tub of ice cream on a Sunday night or a packet of chips or three each week, but it’s incredibly simple, and if followed correctly gives you 80–90% of the gains of a strict, precise diet with 0% of the effort.

7. Excuses

This is probably the most difficult to accept, at least it was (and sometimes still is) for me. When you’re having a bit of an off day, or the bed is feeling extra comfortable, your brain gets amazingly creative in thinking of reasons why you can’t do something, and it’s incredibly easy to accept it.

I hate to break it to you, but:

“All your excuses are lies” — Jocko Willink

It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Excuses are just straight up lies, which allows your brain to justify your laziness.

I used to do this all the time. On my way home from work and on my way to the gym, something would inevitably come up that was just far too important, and there was another session skipped, another missed opportunity to take one more step towards my goal.

Once you realise that your brain is lying to you when it’s telling you not get off your ass, or that you don’t need to push out that last rep, it makes it so much easier to say ‘fuck you, I’m doing it anyway’.

So there you have it, 7 reasons you’re not seeing results in the gym. There are many other points that I didn’t cover here, but from my experience in the gym, these are the biggest mistakes that beginners make, and most are so easy to fix with just a little extra effort.

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Originally published at medium.com