T Nation

Biggest Mistake In Not Gaining Mass


For all those experienced lifters out there, did you find that the biggest mistake for not gaining mass in either exercise selection (no compound lifts, no squats, etc), or in lack of calories and protein? Or was it both? Just curious about everyones experiences.


Calorie intake by far.


Seeking fatigue instead of managing it. The secret is to perform a lot of total work with a reasonably heavy (>75% 1RM) load. The way to do this is to perform mutliple sets of low reps, aka Waterbury method or similar. Of course, I'm also kind of fond of the EDT method, but hey, we all have our biases!


Calories by far. If you think you're eating enough, eat twice as much basically.



Hi Coach,

I was just talking to Coach Coffee. I am heading over to his gym tomorrow to check out a reverse hyper. I was going to see about some training sessions with him to learn how to do a few of the O' lifts. I was just wondering if you know him and what do you think about him?


Not really. I was eating 4000 calories when bulking. I thought I was eating plenty. I don't think I should've been eating 8000.


I'd say the top three would be:

  1. Not enough calories
  2. Not enough sleep
  3. Not enough consistency in workouts.

1) A lot of people wanna get big, but they try to get big while "not gaining any fat." It's just about impossible to get bigger muscles without also gaining some fat. Gaining an inch around your gut every week is excessive, but you won't grow if you try to stay cut at the same time.

2) Sleep. Getting too little sleep at night hinders recuperation and makes it difficult to properly recuperate from one workout to the next. It also diminishes your performance at work and everywhere else. You'll also catch colds more often. Shuteye is good.

3) Consistency. I don't train at a commercial gym anymore, but when I did, I remember a lot of people who'd come in everyday for a week, then 2-3 days the next week, then 1 day a week after that. They'd repeat that pattern over the course of the year, looking pretty much the same all year round.

Or you'd have people trying a new workout method every week, never taking the time to really learn the movements and make any progress on a program. One week it's Arnold's program. The next it's 100 reps; then 6/20s; then pre-exhaust, 21s... Probably was Weider's Confusion Principle. I don't know if their muscles were confused, but they sure weren't growing.


Take it easy jsbrook, T-Quinn's opinion is more towards people who have not idea about their energy intake but just feel/think they have eaten enough.

Geek boy


A scale, a tape measure and some calipers will go a long way in making sure you're eating the right amount of calories.

Take some measurements weekly, and make sure that lean body mass is increasing while fat increase is kept reasonable.

Measurements will enable you to make corrections to both training and diet and to actually know if those changes are beneficial or not.


Very interesting!

I think I was fortunate to stumble onto this by sheer luck and trial and error.

I think the pendulum has almost swung too far with many forum members just telling people they need to eat more and not paying enough attention to training specifics when it comes to gaining size.


At first it was exercise. 6 months after doing the same sets over and over i noticed nothing was happening any more.

Once i got that sorted i wasn't eating properly. I was gaining mass but not as much as i could. Now that's sorted too (6 meals a day, plus the occasional Grow!).

Last is the sleep. I try and get as mucch as i can but on gym days i never manage mroe than 7 or 8 hours. Won't be able to fix that one though. Only when i retire.


I know, I know. And I wasn't trying to come across like I was snapping. Just don't want some skinny newbie to read this thread and double their calories and wonder why they got fat and decide eating big is not for them. lol


For most of the people who are describing their food intake on this forum, I don't think it would be a negative at all for many to double their intake...or at least their perception of it. There are way too many guys loggin on claiming 130lbs body weights who are eating yogurt and string cheese.


True. There are people who probably COULD stand to double their food intake. I just like to refer all the newbies to Berardi's Massive Eating rather than just telling them to eat a lot. It seems like it's more effective and there more likely to buy and understand it. A good guideline for novices to learn.

In terms of the topic at hand, I do think that not enough calories is the biggest problem for those who 'can't' gain weight. Especially new lifters. Because most (especially newbies) will experience some, if not optimal, gains from a sub-optimal training if eating at a caloric surplus. But someone can have the best training program in the world and not experience muscle growth if they're eating way too few calories to support it.


Also I wana represent us easy gainers (fat and muscle). Go by a trusty caloric calculator to start with then adjust accordinly. Many people assume since all these guys are taking in 3500-4000 I should too. I take in 2800 MAX while bulking, anymore I start gaining excess fat.

Professor x after reading a lot of your posts I can tell by the advice you give that you are a hard gainer :wink:, don't forget about us easy gainers(I don't like the word easy cause its not easy but yeah you get the point)


Calorie intake by far.

While sleep is important I seemed to have inherited a strange metabolism that adjusts very quickly to caloric intake. I would eat 3500 calories and no change in weight. Then 4500 and no change. It took me to 6000 to get a good change going on, and I had to sleep less in order to eat it all.

So I sacrificed sleep to eat, but hopefully not everyone has to choose bewteen the two.


My two big ones were overtraining and under eating. That, and riding everywhere I went on a bike. I thought that would help leg developement. The staying lean like Pookie said happened too. B.S.ing myself with all the strength to weight ratio stuff that skinny guys tell themselves didn't help a bit.


I originally messed up by having the wrong mindset. I trained with people who were smaller than me, who had less experience than me, and were training for different reasons. I always thought I lifted good weights and ate a lot, and I did. Compared to them.

Once I started to train with a different crew, my mind set changed. My weights weren't good anymore, we would hit an all-you-can-eat buffet straight after training, and we would push each other to be bigger and stronger. We would train more often with heavier weights, but for less reps.

The difference for me was both intensity of training and diet. From what I see on these forums, though, I would say 90% not enough calories.


I don't consider myself a hardgainer at all. I don't think of hardgainers as being able to build arms much bigger than 16". Mine passed that a long time ago. I get really tired of labels, especially when those labels seem to be an attempt for people to describe themselves as having some "problem" that negatively affects their progress. I have a fast metabolism, period. If I eat well, I gain muscle. The only reason I am carrying extra body fat right now is because I believe in bulking up.