T Nation

Same Old Sob Story of Not Adding Muscle

The best I ever looked was in 2012. I was lifting 5 days a week and doing cardio 4 days a week, eating paleo plus rice occasionally. I’m 5’8, at my leanest I was 147. My best guestimate was that I was around 8% bodyfat.
For size context my arms were 14 1/2 flexed. Chest was 42 flexed. Not huge at all but lean and athletic. Since then I’ve been as heavy as 165 this year. I thought I was putting on muscle. I was looking bigger but definitely could tell I was 15+% bodyfat. So I started a cut. I’m realizing that as I approach 155 with plenty of belly fat to go it appears I haven’t put on one fucking pound of muscle despite 5 days a week of consistent hard work. Intensity is 8-9 almost every workout. I don’t program hop. Consistency, overload and intensity is there. It’s really frustrating. It feels like I’m swimming in my shirts now. Arms are getting back down to14 1/2. It seems I can put on fat very easily but muscle not so much. What suggestions do you have?

How old are you know? How old were you then?

What’s the layout of your split? What does an average workout look like?

What worked 11 years ago may not work so well now.


Lemme add: what does your diet look like now? What did it look like for your bulk?

Run Jon Andersen’s Deep Water program and diet.

or 5/3/1 Building the Monolith with associated diet.

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You say the intensity is there. But are you getting stronger? The body will keep as much fat and hold as little muscle as possible to accommodate the activities you’re regularly requiring it to do. That’s why you see people who go to the gym constantly, spend 30 min on an elliptical and then do a machine circuit for 20 minutes, but after years of this they literally look like they’ve never set foot in the gym. Why? they mistake “intensity” for moving around fast and being tired. That’s not what will build muscle. Pick a couple key moves: squat and bench are good ones. Now, spend all your effort at getting stronger at these. Eat to support that goal. Rest as needed to support that goal.

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Its pretty carnivore/pale-ish for the most part. Fasting blood glucose has always run high like 104-106 so I try to keep a lower carb approach as I have diabetes and heart disease in my family. Calories were around 2500 for several years, protein always very high. In order to lose fat I’ve found the scale doesn’t budge until I get at 1800/day despite what the TDEE calculators recommend for me which seems to be around 2300 calories for a deficit. I just don’t lose weight at that level.

Thanks. I’ll take a look at these

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That isn’t bad then. What programs were you doing? Were you squatting and deadlifting, benching, rowing, and standing pressing? What sort of sets/reps/progression are you using? If diet is nailed down then the answer should be in one of those parameters.

I’m 37 now, 28ish then.

I have a 5 day split. Upper push day 1, upper pull day 2, legs day 3, off, arms and shoulders day 4, legs day 5.

Currently 3-4 sets 3-4 exercises per body part. I run a double progression 10-15 reps for most exercises. It seemed for a while that time under tension was really working so i was doing longer reps but perhaps it wasn’t working as much as I thought? typically 5-6 reps didn’t allow me to “feel” the muscle and I burned out quick with motivation and joint issues if I kept pushing heavy weight so I backed off the weight and went more for TUT.

Run through proven Tnation templates
Eg -This…

then this…

then 1.2 or a challenge

If reeeealy want to do split training look up Kingbeef thread or Thibs ‘Best Damn for naturals 2’

Alright! That seems like most of the relevant details, except for one thing. How are you recovering?

You mentioned going just about All Out every workout, and using a double progression system. Are you able add reps/weight to most lifts, most workouts? Are you making progress?

For me, 5 days a week is a little much. And hitting everything twice a week is a little too much. I’d have trouble recovering, and my weights would stall. But if you’re progressing the reps/weights, it may not be too much for you.

I like 5 days. After 8-10 weeks of a program I will notice stagnation in my lifts, lack of motivation to workout and this is my tell that it’s time to take a recovery week or 2 and go easy. So when i stop progression in lifts for a while and when things start feeling heavy, that’s when I take some time to recover. Also, if i’m just not feeling it on a certain day, I will take that day to recover. That doesn’t happen too often though

Are you doing compound movements? Is there cardio mixed in there? Maybe you can do a training log and post videos and pictures there. It’s hard to give advice without being able to evaluate you.

A rep range of 10 will work, but to see you with 15 reps makes me think you are not moving enough weight.

Also, have you had labs done?

Yea there are plenty of compound movements. Right now I’m limited from a shoulder injury so no overhead press or benching. I’m subbing heavy high pulls 3-5 reps (the only exercise I go that low on). lots of laterals and reverse flys for shoulders and the only thing I can do for chest is pushups without shoulder pain. Had prolo therapy on them about a month ago but healing is slow but steady. Anyway that’s only the past month. typically its bench, incline bench, close bench, squats, pull ups, pull downs, rows etc. the usual stuff ontop of other isolation movements. Like i mentioned above, My joints always feel beat up after a few weeks of going under 8-10 reps so I go after more TUT approach but obviously something isn’t working.

To me it sounds like your joint pain is keeping you at lighter weights. There are some movements that limit joint pain for me. Like the hammer strength pullover. I can put 360 on it without any joint issues. Dorian Yates said it’s the best back machine considering safety.

My take, none of this is that surprising. Not only are you exclusively training in high rep range, you’re eating low carb. This is exactly what you do to deplete yourself, and a pretty good approach in the early phases of a cut IMO. Good luck growing muscle when you’re in a perpetually depleted state.


This is a pretty good point, as soon as I go higher rep with no/low carbs I feel like dogshit. Pretty much hormonally putting your body in a state of distress. If you’re mixing in higher rep stuff your body should use the carbs you’re taking in, so if you’re worried about blood sugar just include them right around your workouts.

Yeah, I don’t think the OP’s carbphobia is justified TBH. I have diabetes and heart disease in my family too. Maybe this means I’ll never be like one of the studs on here who can pound 500g/carbs a day, but I can still comfortably add muscle with 200-300g if I’m smart with my sources and timing

Paleo/keto/lower carb approaches are typically geared towards sedentary individuals. If you’re hitting the high reps at high intensity you need glycogen! It’s not as simple as avoid carbs, but rather condition your body to handle them better.

Moreover, prolonged periods of low carb are very likely contributing to the joint and tendon issues. He’s probably put himself into a perpetually cortisol-elevated state without any of the anti-inflammatory benefits of training with full muscle bellies. .


Eat bagels.