T Nation

Feeling The Burn


I have been working out for about 9 months now, I'm 5'10 and 160 lbs. During those 9 months of training, I about never felt the actual targeted muscle working during an exercise except legs with which I have a pretty good mind-muscle connection.

My biggest problem muscles are pretty much everything but legs. Chest, back, and my arms, I never get the pump in my arms or never feel my chest working during DB bench presses or flyes. I always try to focus and contract but I fail most of the time. I lowered the weight on most exercises but still no results. I rarely get muscle soreness either.

What am I doing wrong? I read up on every exercises the most I can and now it's making me lose motivation. Any help at all is greatly appreciated.


Have you been gaining strength?


Are your weights going up? If so, then who cares?

If not, there's a problem somewhere in your diet and/or routine.


You can decide how or whether this applies to you, but I couldn't agree with number 12 of the recent Clay Hyght article "12 truths of bodybuilding" more:

12) Feeling the muscle work is of utmost importance


Try drop sets or strip sets.


Use more sets, less rest, and supersets. Everyday do the same exercises and you'll start to feel it. Try 20 sets per exercise thats what i am trying now and boy does it work.


Oh and up and down the rack. There's loads of techniques. One me and my friends do which annihalates the biceps is 21's. Sounds common but we do 4 sets of this back to back with no rest in between. The first time i did this i could not even straighten my arms my biceps were that pumped.


The key to continual gains is variation.
You need to change your routine (be it exercises, reps or sets) every now and then to guarantee that your body continues to adapt.

Also, lack of muscle soreness or burning does not necessarily mean you are not growing.

Are your lifts up, is your weight up? etc.
(As a few guys have already asked.)


All this depends a great deal on what his goals are and people ARE different, but this somewhat recent fashion trend to discount feeling muscle fatigue and soreness isn't necessarily doing everybody any favors. I for one DO NOT grow unless I get a nice burn followed by a decent dose of DOMS.

Even when imbalances crop up the sorest side is ALWAYS bigger. I suspect this is true of more people than want to acknowledge it because it's viewed as modern and advanced to not believe such things anymore.

If he wants to get bigger I agree with Hyght. Feeling what you're working is essential and this is accomplished through knowledge of how the body works and practice. No offense, but doing more, going heavier or post failure techniques are not the answer.


Well I'm stronger than when I first started (about first 3 months) but now my lifts have been pretty stable, no big difference in weight.


One of the biggest noob mistakes when doing pushing and pulling movements is various types of shrugging. When doing pushing exercises concentrate on holding your shoulders down and back. The front delt's favorite past time is hijacking pushing exercises.

It's natural to start moving the shoulders around when the set starts to get harder. Use slower deliberate motion to resist that inclination and feel your pecs doing the work.

Similar situation with pulling movements. Try to imagine a spot on your spine a few inches above the beltline and concentrate on trying to reach it with your shoulder blades and elbows. You can't actually do this obviously, but it trains you to contract your back effectively.

Use a high cable for now and pay attention that your forearm is a straight extension of the cable. In other words, through the whole movement someone should be able to put a broomstick across your forearms and the cable.

If your forearm is below the line of tension you'll feel it in your triceps, if above you'll feel it in your biceps both of which take away from the involvement of the back muscles. Again slowER and deliberate. Plug your mind into the working muscles. It takes practice, but you can get it.


Can you explain what exercise you are talking about, I'm not sure I got what you meant?


When I'm doing flat dumbbell press, should I push the dumbells until my arms are almost locked or fully extended? Because that will make my shoulders go forward when they should not be moving like you mentionned.


Do you have access to a high cable pulley machine? Everything I'm saying is just for the purpose of learning how to work the muscles and not meant as a long term training plan.

For Pressing try this. Take a pair of really light dumbbells and lock them out. Now with your arms locked pull your shoulders forward and back a few times, like shrugging forward toward the ceiling. Once you get a feel for this concentrate on pulling your shoulders back, but thrusting the weight to lockout your elbows. Don't lockout TOO hard with a lot of weight because you may hurt your elbows. Keep your elbows a little below parallel meaning out to the side, but not all the way.

During this whole time consciously unshrug, pulling your shoulders toward your feet. The idea is to have your shoulders down and back to minimize front delt involvement. Even with fairly light weight if you keep your shoulders down and back and learn to let your pecs do the work you will feel it. If you have trouble with this try everything exactly the same, but on a decline bench. See how that goes.

The fact of the matter is learning to perform exercises correctly is a skill that most people don't automatically have. They mistake the fact that the weight is moving for the target muscles being necessarily worked. It takes practice and can be a pain if you have no experienced help there to guide you while you're learning. It's kinda tough to get instructions over internet.


Disregard every post that calls for you doing more volume. You are doing something fundamentally wrong most likely and doing more of it is not going to fix your problem.

I agree with that post about getting bigger. Getting bigger and getting stronger are two entirely different realms.

This is what I do when I am trying to gain muscle mass.

You have to feel the muscle work. The problem with this method is that most people pick a certain weight and begin the set feeling the muscle, then they fatigue and end up squirming the weight up. If you cannot stick with feeling the muscle and basically squeeze the weight up EVERY SET of the exercise the weight is too heavy.

This is a whole different concept because you are not lifting weights based on how many times you can lift it, you are lifting weights based on a weight that you can control the entire set, if you start to go too high and end up with a weight you are just repping out without controlling it, you will screw up the entire progression of lifting this way. I wouldnt try to use this method with barbell bench, barbell military press, Bent over Row, or barbell back or front squats. These exercises are just too difficult to do with this method.

And you would have to use a weight too light to get the benefit of these exercises IMO, also you will get a greater effect of this method using dumbells and cable exercises because of their freedom of movement.
Also, it usually takes a few weeks for your muscles to really adapt to using this method so that you will feel the exercises very well.

I used to notice that when you are dehydrated you will underperform much more when lifting in this way than traditional strength training, so hydration is a must.

Alot of your improvements in muscle mass using this method will come from just being able to do it. For instance if you usually rep 50lbs on dumbell bench for 3 sets of 10 reps, when using this method, you will probably start being able to do 3 sets of 10 or 12 10 8 etc.. with 35 to 40lbs at the most. Like I said you will probably not start to feel the movements really well for a few weeks or so. During this time, keep going slow, squeezing the weight up about 2 seconds and emphasizing the eccentric for about 3 seconds.

Until you start to feel the pump and your muscles squeezing the weight up do not increase the weight. When you start to feel this, you can increase the weight as long as you can keep the temp and can feel the muscle.


Usually just working on this tempo and not pushing the weight will cause you to feel the muscle work..


Just wanted to say, I agree with Tribulus first two posts wholeheartedly. I was benching 300 plus for reps and my chest was small as shit. When I focus on "feeling" (isolating) the muscle and it gets sore, it seems to grow. By the way, I also need soreness to grow. Maybe others are different, but thats how it works for me. Piling more and more weight on the bar, yes is ultimately the goal but it has to be with the right exercises that produce the feeling you are trying to get.


Well I just came back from my chest workout but I still didn't feel it in my chest, could it be that my shoulders are weaker than my chest so that's why I kinda feel them more or is my chest just not developped enough to get a good pump since the muscle is small?


Here's something you could try, simple but effective.

Stand in front of a mirror (so you can see your muscles), hold your arms out in front of you and replicate a horizontal pressing movement. When you have a mind muscle connection you should be able to squeeze extremely hard even without any external resistance. Practise until you can control the target muscle with ease then replicate the contraction when you lift.

As for the people telling you that feeling the target muscle isn't important, just remember that when you know how to lift properly you'll never have an unproductive workout again. Even if I have one of those days when I just can't lift the weights I usually can I still leave the gym feeling just like usual.


Well, people are built differently but I wouldn't say this is a show stopper. Let your results be your guide. If you can't see the results then you should look at your performance. If your perfomance is improving then you are headed in the right direction. In your case, I'd keep a journal. I don't say this lightly 'cause I have never kept a journal.

Secondly, I once had this issue. I seldom got sore especially in my legs. But, I was getting results. What changed with me is that I partnered up with somebody who knew what they were doing he nailed me on form and intensity. I got sore all the fucking time after that.

Up your intesity. It is enevitable you'll get a burn and a pump when you do. Get and good training partner or find somebody to criticize your form. You get intesity and form down, your results will come much faster.