5 Mistakes Wrecking Your Hypertrophy Program

Sep 15, 2022

Photo Credit: Bruno Beuno/Pexels

By: Danielle Abel, MSN, FNMS, CSCS(c)

There are 5 common mistakes we see from people trying to gain muscle. Before we dive into them, it's important to recognize that many people make these mistakes and it's not that they are "bad" it's just that your time and energy is important so we want to help you get the most out of your training. 

1. Junk Volume

Essentially junk volume is work that doesn't actually stimulate a muscle adaptation. This can be things like light sets that aren't very intense or even lifting weight that is too light for you and not doing enough reps at the load to promote a high level of intensity. For example, if you can Bench Press 280lbs, lifting 135lbs isn't going to do anything

You can fix this problem by training at high enough loads at the appropriate reps to stimulate the programmed level of intensity (that you're hopefully getting from your coach). 

2. Not Tracking Progress

If you're not tracking your lifting sets, reps, and load, you're leaving gains on the table. Going into the gym and going "kinda hard" all the time probably won't stimulate an adequate amount of intensity or could even leave you more fatigued due to inadequate low volume, low load weeks (deloads). 

You can fix this problem by tracking your training. You can use a notebook, an app on your phone, or even just the notes app on your phone. Either way, find a way to document your training so that you can see if you're making performance progress or not.  

3. Not Training Hard Enough

If you're not taking your sets close to failure, in a phased, strategic way, with intelligent programming and training periodization, you're not going to give your body a reason to adapt. To make your muscles grow, you'll want to have periods of time where you're pushing volume or intensity and periods of time where you're not. However, the majority of the time, you'll at least want to be taking your accessory movements closer to failure because they don't cause as much central nervous system fatigue as compound lifts do. 

To fix these, set up your training in blocks or series where you bring volume or intensity gradually upwards over the course of the training block. You can use either linear periodization where over the course of the block, the volume or intensity gradually increases. You can also use daily undulating periodization where the volume and intensity are going up and down over the course of the week but in general, either intensity or volume increases (depending upon the training goal) over the block to stimulate progressive overload. 

4. Never Training For Strength

If you're always training for body composition, you limit the strength stimulus that's produced by training strength. When you only train within the hypertrophy rep range, your body eventually becomes used to this. So the set and rep range that you love eventually stops producing results. 

You can fix this by setting up seasons within your training to focus on different adaptations. For example, if your goal is truly body composition, then maybe you have 3 hypertrophy blocks followed by a strength block to mitigate adaption and plateaus. 

5. Not Eating Enough 

The literature shows that it's difficult to put on muscular size if you don't have adequate energy (calories) available. However, because strength is primarily from neuromuscular gains and not from muscular size, it is possible to gain strength when in a calorie deficit. 

To fix this problem, you should probably focus on strength blocks of training when you go into a cut to lose fat. When you're eating near maintenance or bulking, that is a better time to focus on hypertrophy because your body has more energy available to deposit into the muscle fibers. 

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