T Nation

Not Making Gains in Weight or Strength


Alright, I'm brand new to these forums and I looked for similar inquiries but had a hard time finding what I was looking for. If someone could point me in the right direction I would appreciate it as I'm sure it's probably been discussed before. Anyway, here's my situation.

I'm 20 yrs old, probably been lifting for 3 years or so, maybe 4. My main physical activity comes from going to the gym and playing soccer once or twice a week with my team. Thing is, I feel like I've kind of reached a peak where I'm not making gains in weight or strength. I'm not trying to bulk up too much, but I want to get stronger for sure. I'm 5'10 or so and 165 pounds. I'm VERY lean, I would like to stay lean but if I could gain 10 pounds and make some good strength gains I would love that.

My current routine is a press/pull/leg setup or (chest/shoulder/triceps)/(back/biceps)/legs. I try to make it to the gym as often as possible but it usually is about 4 days a week, although I can go more now as I'm jobless right now (Isn't this economy great?). My rep/set patterns are usually 4-5 sets with somewhere around 8-10 reps on the first set and then till failure as I up the weight.

The thing is, I feel like if I give my body too long to rest I don't get results, and I rarely get sore ever unless I don't work out at all for a week straight or something. I know you're suppose to let your body rest a good amount but when I have I always incur losses in strength/size.

So, I don't know if I need to change my rep/set pattern, my frequency in visiting the gym, or something else. I have a very balanced diet and eat a lot. I don't take any supplements and I would rather not. I've taken whey for a while but realized I get more than enough protein in my regular diet and found it to be unnecessary.

Anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot!


IMO, you're most likely not eating enough. You mentioned that you "eat a lot". This is usually a sign, that you aren't eating nearly as much as you think. You're trying to gain weight AND get stronger, all while maintaining a "very lean" appearance signals to me, again, you're not eating enough or definitly can be eating more. Since, you're not seeing progress, I would argue its not enough.

I probably sound like I'm ranting over and over about your food intake, but I would be curious to see what you eat an average day. Usually, I find, when people claim they eat a lot, they don't eat much at all. Of course, this is all assuming that you workout with the intensity required to add size/strength. You're weightlifting AND playing soccer, burning all sorts of calories throughout the week. At 165 for your height, gaining weight shouldn't be that difficult if the eating is in place.


You could be right. I tracked my diet (this was quite a while back though) in my nutrition class and I was getting around 3500 calories a day, would you say that's not enough for my activity level?


Sorry, double post. But on a completely unrelated side note, anybody know where to by jeans if you have a small waist and large thighs? I can't seem to find any jeans that fit me.


3,500? Well thats alot higher than I thought it was going to be. I would aim for 4,000 cals then and assess progress then.


I'll give it a try and see what happens, I'll let you know if I see a difference. It'll take a few weeks though as I'm at home sick with strep throat right now losing weight and eating nothing :frowning:


In general, if you're not gaining weight, you're not eating enough. There's really no magic number of calories needed--if the scale isn't moving, you simply aren't taking in enough food to make it move.

Now, whether that extra weight is muscle or fat is due primarily to how your macro breakdown, timing, and how hard or frequent you train.


Question for you...you said you realized you were getting enough protein. Was this based on your nutrition class? How much protein are you getting?

The thing that helped me was loosening up on my intake and trying not to be so "balanced". You can do this daily or a couple of times a week go nuts. Eat pizza, burgers whatever.


Yes, the protein info I got was from my nutrition class. I was getting like 250 percent (roughly as I don't remember) of my daily intake of protein. I put my activity level at high, so according to that I actually needed somewhere between 43 and 4500 calories a day, so according to that I wasn't eating enough. But I figured that with that much of an excess of protein it wouldn't really be necessary to take a supplement. Granted, this was all done a year ago and more recently I probably haven't been eating as well, so I can't say that my diet isn't a factor here (I just didn't really think about it).

I honestly don't "try" to be balanced, it's just that I eat at home a lot so I get a pretty good variety of meals, and I just typically have an urge to eat more healthy things rather than junk food for no reason other than me liking "good" food more.

If I ate more calorie rich foods I could easily get to that 4500 goal with the amount that I eat, it's just that a lot of the things I eat aren't hugely calorie rich. For instance I eat oatmeal prior to almost every time I go to the gym (good complex carb) but it doesn't have a lot of calories. Maybe I should try eating more junk food.


obvious troll


A couple of issues here, and some questions.

1 If you aren't gaining weight, you aren't eating enough. It has nothing to do with set/rep schemes or #of days in the gym. You just plain aren't taking in enough calories.

2 If you are "very lean" then you need to get rid of the "I want to gain weight but stay lean" mind set. Your goal should be to try to get fat. If you truly are very lean, and are lifting hard, it will be almost impossible to get fat.

***Look up some of the nutrition articles here on the site. Theres a diet/nutrition tab. For me its taken bagels, candy bars, whatever, NO LIMITS to gain weight.

3 Your diet probably doesn't have much to do with lack of strength increases. You are either over-training, under-training, or both. I would think probably both. You are probably doing way too much volume, too much frequency, and not enough intensity.


Hope all this helps, but the main thing to really change, is your mind set. You cant have the mind set of a "skinny kid" that wants to stay lean. You need to have the mind set of a big dude that lifts heavy shit. Eat big, lift big, recover big. That needs to be your motto, and you'll progress.


This is terrible fucking advice. Nowhere, in any of the "eat big" crowd, including Professor X, does [i]ANYONE[/i] say the goal should be to get fat. No one EVER said to binge on candy bars or pizzas. What they said was, throwing dirty calories into a mostly clean diet might --emphasis on the might-- have a positive impact on size gains through added calories.

I'm a life time "skinny kid" and my goal was never to get fat, but I still managed to add appreciable muscle.

If you're lean, stay lean. If you really LIKE eating healthy foods, then by all means continue to do so!!!! Once you introduce bad habits to eating it takes a lot longer to kill them off, versus if you never started them to begin with.

While gaining, you should not be afraid of a hamburger or cheeseburger, or whatever, but that is a far, far, far cry from intentionally eating a lot of crap.

Dirtying up my diet did in fact help me to get to an all-time high in terms of bodyweight last year, but it was not an all-out binge. I simply ate some calorie rich items like burgers or pizza if I wanted them. I still stayed away from candy and outright shit, and I always made sure to get my protein and veggies in every day. I just wasn't anal about being super clean.

Advice to The OP--- stay eating mostly clean. If you are in need of some extra calories, first try healthy foods that are calorie rich. These include but are not limited to:

mixed nuts
olive oil, coconut oil, etc
WHOLE milk
Orange Juice
Peanut butter

etc. etc.

Whole milk probably helped me more than anything to get my size up, although I'm a traditionally carb tolerant and lactose tolerant person. 1 quart of whole milk is 600 calories. 1/2 gallon is 1500 ish.


No, I'm going to reiterate NO!! Don't eat more junk food. If you like eating healthy foods already, there's no reason whatsoever to introduce junk food that will cause bad habits to form--which might at a later date come back to haunt you.

Try healthy calorie rich foods first. I typed a list in the post above this one.

Whole milk and OJ (real, NOT from concentrate) are two of my favs. I rely on whole milk more than OJ though, as it doesn't have quite as much sugars. But besides that adding some olive oil on your veggies or salads (or making you're own vinegrette dressing using olive oil as a base) will add a good amount of good quality calories.

Olive oil is plentiful and cheap-ish. Peanut butter is another good option. These two choices--along with mixed nuts--are even more calorie filled than milk. AND they're all healthy.

4300-4500 sounds like it could be about right for you based on your training frequency, age, and soccer playing.


I agree with Aragorn.
Nuts are great for adding calories and portable so you can take a bag with you. I usually have almonds, walnuts, cashews and some dates in a bag at work. Almond butter (awesome) or peanut butter is a quick way to get some good calories. I completely agree that adding crap calories is silly when there are easy, better options.

Don't be concerned about adding additional protein to your diet. If I had to guess, your nutrition class said you need 0.5g per lean pound of bodyweight or something similar. Even at 250% some would say you are on the low end of what is needed. More won't hurt you.


I'd suggest pyramiding your sets


yea, more calories... try some lower rep sets if u dont already and always have a spotter so u can get one or 2 extra forced reps...


Well aragon, I disagree with you, but to each his own. For a "skinny guy" sometimes you have to decide if you want to be healthy, or be big.

I base my advice completely off my experiences; which usually isn't accepted. But for me, I cant gain eating "clean". Foods are just too filling, not as convenient, and more likely to upset my stomach.

You gotta find what works for you though. I quickly found that pizza and other really greasy foods (including healthy fats) upset my stomach a lot. Whereas something like low fat cookies, bagels, and candy gave me no problems.

And for a "skinny guy" depending on how fast you metabolism is, the worst thing for you can be the "i want to stay lean" mindset.

The minute you start to feel guilty for eating something or start to think about your health, youve already failed.

But like I said, To each his own. They are two different methods, both may work with similar results, to the OP its plain and simple take in more calories and if you cant do that while eating clean, then eat dirty.


The answer is in your question. If you're not making gains in strength then you are not making any real gains in size.

Why are you not making strength gains? You're probably training wrongly (for your body type). Post your current training program.

Personally I think the "eat pizza and burgers" answer is very fashionable (currently) and very useless. A caloric surplus is NOT necessary for size gains. Strength gains are.


"A caloric surplus is not necessary to gain size" (i.e. gain weight)? What world is that in?


Can you go into some more detail on this one please?