Your workout routine isn’t effective.
Most beginners or even some experienced lifters get their routines from magazines and publications written by professional bodybuilders – these are not designed for people new to lifting or natural lifters, rather for the ‘enhanced’ trainee due to the huge amounts of volume for specific bodyparts. Others follow the routine their ‘friend’ is doing as he’s had great results, however everyone is different and just because your friend has had decent gains, it does not follow that you necessarily will. Following these examples will generally only leave you frustrated, sore and with minimal improvement.
A good routine needs to be well structured; workout days to be arranged to allow for adequate rest, muscle groups arranged well in order to avoid overtraining a specific bodypart, muscle groups arranged in order for each muscle to be worked for maximum effect, a good selection of compound and isolation exercises and good warm-up and cool-down.
A compound exercise is one where the body moves through more than one joint (i.e. Squat moves the Hip, Knee and Ankle) and isolation exercises move through only one joint (i.e. Leg Extension moves only the Knee). To provide complete stimulation of a muscle, you should take advantage of both of these types of exercise. However if mass is your main goal, compound exercises should make up the majority of your training with a few isolation exercises thrown in to supplement the main lifts.
Compound movements allow you to lift more weight and work through more muscle groups at the same time than isolation, this will not only save you time in the gym, but provides more stimulation for the muscles and in response your body will release more anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone) in response to the stress.
3-4 days a week of training is adequate for any natural lifter, any more than this and you’ll struggle to recover enough between workouts to keep the right level of intensity when training. Don’t forget the importance of warming up and cooling down – These will not only increase blood flow and loosen muscles prior to training, but also reduce the chance of injury during your workout and enhance recovery afterwards.
Finally try to have a days rest between each workout, for many of the reasons above but also to be able to perform at maximum intensity every session. If you follow up a heavy squat session with deadlifts the next day, you’ll no doubt have tired legs and won’t be able to lift the same amount of weight/reps as you could with a days rest between sessions. Building strength and muscle is a long term goal and trying to rush it will only hinder your progress.
Your not training your legs as hard as the rest of your body
Our ability to increase muscle is a direct result of our ability to increase our natural anabolic hormone levels. You’ve heard of these before – Growth Hormone, Testosterone, IGF-1 to name a few – You’ve heard of these probably because you’ve heard of steroids. Steroids are just natural chemicals our bodies produce, the reason bodybuilders get so freakishly huge is they take far more of these hormones than their bodies can develop for themselves. You however, can increase your bodies natural levels of these hormones by the right training and nutrition. As our bodies operate on a ‘supply and demand’ basis, to boost these hormones you must train as intensely as possible and recruit as many muscle fibers as you can during training.
Now some basic anatomy! Our legs make up almost two thirds of our entire muscle mass! (Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals and Calves) So by training your legs as intensely as your upper body (or more), you target far more muscle fibers and so force your endocrine (hormone release) system to release all these anabolic goodies into your system. As these hormones are not just isolated to build muscle in your lower body, they also help increase size on your chest, back, shoulders, arms .. in fact, your whole body!
The Squat (In particular the Barbell Back Squat) has long been proven to be the ultimate in mass gaining exercises. It’s estimated to involve hundreds of muscles, acting as prime movers or stabilisers in the upper and lower body. The squat recruits so many muscle fibers, it releases more GH (Growth Hormone) than any other exercise – period. More GH, more muscle.
The Deadlift is number two as far as I’m concerned in the mass building arsenal. It is the ultimate strength exercise – What is more satisfying that bending down and picking up some seriously heavy weight off the ground? Again, as the squat, to deadlift requires your whole body to work ,so encourages the hormones to be released as mentioned previously.
The reason we don’t see everyone doing these exercises? (Squat & Deadlift) Mainly because they’re so hard – Most people would rather push 250kg on a leg press for 10 reps, than do 100kg back squat for 10 reps. Somehow they think this is a more impressive feat as more weight is being used. Anyone who has done a nice heavy rock bottom squat knows damn well that it is far harder (thus requires more strength) to drive up out of the bottom of a squat, than to slide a sledge a few inches along it’s track, whatever the weight involved. Either that or they don’t know how to squat or deadlift correctly so choose not to do them instead of finding out or being shown.