4 Big Reasons Why You're Still Small And Weak

Want to know why your results still suck? Start gaining muscle mass and strength as quickly as possible with these four workout training tips from Steve Shaw.

So let me guess. You're at the gym each day trying to get bigger and stronger. In fact, almost every free moment of your life is spent obsessing about adding muscle and strength.

You read all the magazines, buy all the best supplements and construct workout plans so complicated they make Jay Cutler and Derek Poundstone look like they have no clue what they are doing.

But your results suck!

No matter how hard you try, no matter what you eat, nothing changes. You feel like a hardgainer with the worst genetics in the history of poor genetics. The only thing you have in common with Derek Poundstone and Jay Cutler is that each of you sweat while pumping iron.

So what's wrong?

I am going to tell you exactly what's wrong. I am going to give you 4 tips that will turn things around.

If you listen to my advice you WILL get big and strong. If you ignore my advice you will remain small and weak. It's your choice.

The following tips work. I know because I have used them myself to make rapid progress.

Reason #1 - You Obsess About Your Abs

If you want to get big and strong as quickly as possible you need to eat, and eat big. Trying to maintain shredded abs while gaining 30 pounds of muscle is a complete waste of time, unless you are genetically gifted. Undereating is a huge mistake; one that nearly every gym rat makes. Nothing will slow your progress faster than trying to eat like a 7 year old school girl.

Trust me, you won't turn into a sumo wrestler overnight. But you will gain some bodyfat. The best bodybuilders in the world, natural and otherwise, add at least 20 to 30 pounds of weight during their off-season. They realize that to look good you must have periods of time where you put on your sweat clothes, hide your abs, and eat as big as you train.

Are you willing to gain 10 to (gasp!) 20 pounds of fat over the next several years while getting big and strong? If not, you'll likely see very little in the way of gains.

Reason #2 - You Do Not Squat Or Deadlift

If you want to remain small and weak, ignore squats and deadlifts. Don't believe me? Think I am some ignorant meathead filled with bravado? Fine. Don't take my word for it. Check out the natural bodybuilder profiles on Muscle & Strength. Most of the biggest (natural) bodies in the world list squats and deadlift in their top 3 exercises.

There are no two better lifts for building muscle and strength, period.

Continue to focus on Smith machine squats, leg extensions or light weight leg presses and I guarantee your legs with remain puny and frail. Add squats to the mix and it's like hitting your body with gamma radiation. Your legs, and for that matter the rest of your body, is forced to respond and grow.

The same goes for deadlifts. The deadlift is a raw, primal, mass and strength exercise that will turn you into a freak. Stop using the lat pull down as your main "back building lift" and start ripping heavy barbells off the ground.

Layne Norton

Reason #3 - You Train Like You Are On Steroids

In case you haven't figured it out yet, there is a reason bodybuilders and powerlifters take steroids. Steroids not only allow lifters to get unnaturally big and strong, but they also allow you to recover much more quickly. In addition, athletes who take steroids gain a greater benefit from performing additional volume. A battery of frequent and intense contractions help the steroid-user to stimulate receptors and ignite new gains.

You, on the other hand, do not take steroids. You are not training with superhuman recovery abilities, nor will you benefit from a 5-6 day split with a crazy volume of sets. You are not trying to re-ignite desensitized receptors because...wait for it...your receptors are normal because you don't take steroids.

Most prominent coaches and authors from John Christy to Mark Rippetoe to Jim Wendler to Stuart McRobert to Casey Butt to Louie Simmons to Dante Trudell (Doggcrapp training) have you lifting no more than 3-4 times per week. Want to ignore them and play a big game of pretend? Go right ahead, but you will be wasting your time and sweat.

If you can't blast your body into oblivion with only 3-4 hours of heavy training a week, you have no business training more frequently with a greater amount of volume.

Reason #4 - You Don't Obsess About Progression

Want to know a magic secret? Progression, or the adding of weight over time, is the fuel that drives muscle and strength building. You could use pretty much any workout system in the world - no matter how poorly structured or devised - and if you're adding weight to the bar, you will get bigger and stronger.

How do you progress? Simple. Push yourself during every workout for more reps, and add weight when you hit your upper rep limit for that set. If you are performing bench presses with 200 pounds and a set calls for 5 to 10 reps, add weight when you can perform 10 reps.

Remember that pesky list of trainers and authors I mentioned in the previous section? Yes, you do. They all preach progression of weight. Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 training system has a structured system of progression that helps you rapidly build strength. Doggcrapp training (DC training), a bodybuilding workout system, requires you to push yourself on every set for more reps.

The best way to stall and limit your strength and muscle gains is by using the same weight week in and week out.

But wait, I know what you're going to say. Somewhere along the line you've heard the following from a big, beefy bodybuilder: "I don't train heavy." Guess what...heavy is a relative term. When a mass monster states they aren't lifting "heavy", it means that instead of squatting 450 for 5 reps, they are squatting 375 for 12 reps.

No matter how you slice and dice it, you must get stronger to get bigger.

About The Author
M&S writers is a collection of all the other writers that have published content on Muscle and Strength.

75 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 04/22/2011 - 18:56

Great article. I really want/need to start adding squats to my routine. The main thing holding me back is no access to smith machine or squat rack. Are they possible to do without these machines &/or a spotter? How do i get rid of the weight after my set, could i just let go of it backwards? I am going to start light until i get my correct form.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 04/25/2011 - 09:11

Hi Stevo,

It is possible to do squats without a rack, but it's not easy at all. You have to clean the weight, press the barbell, and lower it behind your back.

My best advice would be to find a gym locally that does have a squat rack.

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Posted Sat, 03/02/2013 - 05:11

Build your own squat rack.

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Posted Tue, 09/02/2014 - 15:55
mehdi great

very like xd lol

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Posted Mon, 04/25/2011 - 00:28

What's wrong with doing Smith machine squats? vs. regular squats?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 04/25/2011 - 08:54

Hi Julian,

Smith squats do not stress the body in the same manner that free weight squats do. For Smith squats you need only push a weight across a single plane. For barbell squats you must balance this weight while traversing the plane.

In addition, Smith squats force the body to adapt to a specific plane of movement, and therefore do not involve a natural movement. When you add heavy weight to this equation it can be a recipe for strains and injuries.

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Posted Wed, 04/27/2011 - 01:40

Great article, really made me think about my reps on #4. A question though, do you think sticking to the same workout plan for a couple months is good, or do you think mixing it up every week is better for gaining size. (While sticking to your main lifts, i.e. bench, squat, deadlift..) Like is changing the auxiliaries and sets and reps good to change each week too?

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 04/27/2011 - 09:42

Hi Maxwell,

There is no need to switch programs or exercises. You can every now and then, but it's not needed for muscle size. We all need a change now and then, but staying with a program you really like for a long time won't limit you in the least as long as you are progressing.

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Posted Wed, 04/27/2011 - 16:05

Okay, Thanks. Another question I have gotten most of my workouts off M&S, but I'm still looking for one maybe a little different. I like to classify my body as the "ectomorph" because my body fat is like 4% and I weigh 180 pounds, and I eat like a fiend. I tried that workout designated for that body type and wasn't overall impressed. My main goal is to gain weight, any ideas of a workout?
Your answers are greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Maxwell

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 06/18/2012 - 16:40

How tall are you?

What's your 1 rep max in the Bench, Press, Squat and Deadlift and how many chin-ups can you do?

If the answers are not around around 1.5x / 1x / 2x / 2.5x and 15 respectively in relation to bodyweight, you have no business trying any routine until you have met these goals.

The fact you used the word "like" tells me you have no idea what body fat % you have. If you have a 4% body fat I'd be amazed - getting down to 4-5% and preserving muscle mass as well as general health is for professional bodybuilders and their "trainers"/"doctors" - you know, pharmaceutical agents.

To put it into perspective, a well-trained 5'10 male in his thirties at 175 pounds and say 12% bodyfat would look in great shape and muscular (more so than what he is, in fact). His lean mass is around 155lbs.

You're saying that you're lean mass is approx 173lbs!! If you are between 5'9" - 6' you would be in fitness model shape and would not be seeking a new workout - people would be asking YOU for the workout!!

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/31/2013 - 05:17

So was I
but you have to eat every 2-3 hours splitting your weight into pounds and eating that in protein and double that in carbs split into 7-8 meals adding additional calories ie choco bars etc
Stick to 3 split sessions ensure you include squats deadlift bench press
try isolated exercises first like flyes before bench to pre-exhaust the pecs
anyway worked for me I went from 9 stone to 18 stone without steroids
oh yes, try no more than 8 reps and then say 4-6 and last set on 1-3 so its like a form of muscle building and power
it works for ectomorphs
I was one?!!

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Posted Mon, 05/02/2011 - 12:35
Cory Smith

Hi Steve,

I've been reading your articles and respect your knowledge. I have a quick calorie-intake question.

I'm 34, 200 pounds and 28 percent body fat. I cut 15 pounds last year by swapping burgers and fries for lean Subway sandwiches during my workweek lunches.

I'm now tracking calories with a free program on Livestrong.com, which set my daily calorie goal at 1,633 if I want to lose 1.5 pounds a week.

I can add calories to compensate for calories burned during exercise. Working out on an elliptical can give me a few hundred more calories to consume, but lifting only accounts for 65 or so burned calories, though I realize lean muscle burns fat more efficiently down the road.

You seem to generally tell people to consume 2,300 calories or so to add muscle. Do you dispute the Livestrong target?

Ideally, I'd clock in at between 180 to 195 pounds with less than 20 percent body fat.

Your input would be ver appreciated. I don't want to waste my lifting efforts. I've recently started lifting three days a week.


Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 05/02/2011 - 14:04

Hi Cory,

I tell men to start around 2300 to 2500 when cutting, depending on age. At 34, I would probably start at 2300-2400. 1600 is far too low.

My advice is to start at 2300, and run it for 2 weeks. The first week you might lose excess water and weight more quickly, so focus more on your weight loss during week two. If you aren't losing weight, drop calories by 200 and see how that goes.

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Posted Mon, 05/02/2011 - 19:12
Cory Smith

Thanks, Steve! I appreciate you taking time to answer my question. I'll make the adjustment right away.

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Posted Sun, 01/13/2013 - 10:04
Steve Lee

i say that if you really wanna burn fat, keep the calories at 1633 even if you burn calories! Also don't do elliptical machine cause that cardio machine is all about momentum! Go on the treadmill do sports, even go on youtube for mike chang's cardio workout (one of the best channels for cardio in my opinion)

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 06/07/2011 - 09:23

Hi Steve,

Great articles as always. However, I must say that I personally don't think it is necessary to gain 20 pounds of fat in order to gain lean muscle. I have no need to do that and neither do other notable naturals such as Layne Norton or Philip Ricardo Jr.

I know that those two mentioned above may be accused of "good genetics" but that is simply not the case either. I believe staying leaner (not shredded) is a better plan such as the body can build solid, quality muscle on a leaner frame.

Plus, most want to be leaner all year anyways.

Thanks for the article,

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 06/07/2011 - 12:14

Hi Brad,

I just want to point out that I said 10 - 20 pounds. Let me clarify my point.

I do not think weighing 10 to 20 pounds above ripped is an unreasonable amount of weight to gain.

Beyond that, my greater point is that far too many trainees walk the line, trying to keep a fine-tuned diet at the expense of muscle gain. A beginner can gain more rapidly, and therefore should eat more aggressively. An experienced lifter who is reaching their natural potential derives no benefit from aggressive eating. I am not attempting to counsel you, Norton or Ricardo Jr. I am giving advice to the 5'10", 150 pound lifter beginner who won't eat enough because they fear one ounce of fat gain.

The issue I see day in and day out on forums is an unwillingness to even risk gaining one pound of fat while gaining muscle. These are the individuals whom I am speaking to. My point was that if you are unwilling to risk any weight gain, your chances of gaining muscle is slim to none. I respect if you disagree with me on this issue, but I do firmly believe that aggressive eating for beginners is a better approach. There are just far too many trainees making zero progress.

I will add that it's much easier to stay lean in the off season once you already have mass and the gains have decreased dramatically.

I am not calling for folks to become sumo wrestlers. I am merely trying to get them to eat a bit more so they can maximize their training. Undereating is a worse crime than overeating for a beginner. Overeating is a worse crime for an experienced bodybuilder. At the end of the day, 99.9% who read this article aren't bodybuilders...they are guys that can't make any gains, and want to know why. I am trying to get across to them that they aren't eating enough...

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 06/07/2011 - 17:05


Point taken. I understand where you are coming from. It is just hard to imagine a 150 lb trainee gaining 10-20 pounds of fat just to put on a few pounds of muscle.

I know the point you are making, but as with many beginners, they take advice and normally run with it and go to extremes.

On another, but similar note, I know guys who are ALWAYS in offseason mode and are ALWAYS carrying that extra weight around. They tell me one day they will rip it up and get lean - but that day never comes around for them.

A lot of the clients I work with actually get leaner and add muscle at the same time. More muscle burns more fat. Some actually grow into a show - myself included.

But please, don't take me the wrong way - excellent article, and many, many great points. I just like using the comments section for a little discussion and to see what other think as well.

Thanks bro!


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Posted Wed, 06/08/2011 - 21:19

Steve, Thanks for the article. I really love getting up early in the mornings to get a great workout in to start the day. I hate taking time off so I usually workout 5-6 times a week (2-3 days of cardio). According to the article, this would be too much? Thanks


Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 06/09/2011 - 10:40

Hi Stephen,

Steroid-style volume training in the context I present it in usually involves 5-6 weight training days using 30-40 sets per bodypart. These are the types of workouts presented in magazines.

Working out several days per week and doing cardio sounds solid.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 06/09/2011 - 11:32


To everyone else, be sure to check out Steve's article: "Forget Steroids." Another excellent source for naturals!


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Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 15:01

This steve guy is sooooo fake

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Posted Sat, 06/11/2011 - 18:51

Hey there Steve, just wanna say thanks for being around & keep up the good work!!
I have actually been in the gym irregularly for about 3 years now, and it is today that I realize I'm still a novice at best- after talking to an experienced lifter and reading your article..
Indeed, sometimes when you see the guy beside you is pushing 20kgs for shoulder presses, and you're only holding a 7.5kg in each hand.. Human nature is that we feel intimidated & wanna 'keep pace'..

Just a question here about doing squats..
Well I know you have to keep your lower back straight by tensing your abs.. But it seems my back is arched even when I tense my abs..
The only way I seem to be able to get it right is if my knee goes out beyond where my toes pointed, as I squat down..
Because I read somewhere that your knee should not exceed your toes when squatting..
Thanks in advance

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Posted Thu, 06/16/2011 - 19:43

Great article!!

Thanks steve, I'm sure this has helped a lot of people including myself. my roommate could profit from reading this, he is the type to watch his figure and believe it or not he avoids carbs like the plague even during his so called "bulking phase".

Brad made a good point for discussion, it was answered very clearly, and I enjoy seeing this kind of communication on a forum. I do agree with him though it is very easy to take what was said and think it means its ok to eat every meal at mcdonalds. However, as a basic rule "eat all you can while bulking"

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Posted Thu, 06/16/2011 - 20:36

Hey Steve.

Good article here, but I'm a little confused. You say that working out more than 3-4 times per week is a waste of time if you want to get bigger and stronger yet, I have been following one your 5 day Power Muscle Burn workouts for a while and have made great gains. Are you saying that the 5 day power muscle burn workout not effective for gaining mass and strength?


Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 07/12/2011 - 14:45

Hi R,

More than 3-4 times a week is a waste of time for someone who has not made any gains. They need to start simple and basic, and learn how to make gains before they waste time on a lot of volume.

The 5 day plan I wrote is for advanced lifters.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 06/24/2011 - 16:25

Hey Steve,

So, in March of this year I changed my life overnight. I went on the Atkin's diet for a month, but felt it wasn't right for me. The diet itself wasn't good, but when it did for my self control really paid off. I started eating more healthy after I quit Atkins, just strictly eating health and correct portions. I then joined a gym and began swimming 5 days a week. Currently, I now lift weights 3 days and walk on the treadmill for half an hour and do about 1.5-2 miles during that time. One of my co-workers noticed I looked different and we began to talk. He's a body builder that is currently working on muscle mass. He is encouraging me to work on muscle density as he says the more I get the more I will burn. I read one of your comments and it mentioned that trying to cut weight and build muscle is nearly impossible. So, what do I do?

I did play high school football, but I was never one for the gym. The last two weeks I've noticed my muscles feel bigger and harder... and I like it (not to mention my wife). I need a good workout that will build strength and density but at a beginner's pace. I weighed 450 when I started and I'm 6'2". I currently weigh 395.

Also, you mention eating protein every few hours. What is the best method for getting this? Just baking up some boneless chicken breasts and tearing into them? I'm keeping myself between 2500 and 3500 calories a day.

Thanks for the guidance!

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 07/12/2011 - 14:51

Hi Joel,

Trying to cut weight and build muscle is extremely difficult, but you certainly can try. Most individuals don't have the necessary attention to detail to make a solid attempt at it. If you train hard and have a nailed down diet then you could possibly do both. Unfortunately many individuals have neither.

For protein, my advice is to keep things simple. 4 eggs, 4 pieces of low fat string cheese, whey protein...things like this that do not involve a lot of cooking. They are great for times when you can't cook, or don't have the energy to do so. I always keep things like this handy.

I recommend eating your 3 square meals, having the bulk of your carbs for breakfast and post-workout meal, and using snacks like the above in between meals.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 06/18/2012 - 16:46

You've been deadlifting, squatting and carrying around 450lbs - you probably have more muscle than the bodybuilder!

Good luck and never give up.

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Posted Sun, 07/31/2011 - 20:24

I took Mark Rippetoe's advice on strength training after being on and off for several yrs from the gym. It's a 6wk program where you workout m-w-f, always performing squats,deadlifts,and alternating days on bench press/shoulder press (5reps x 5sets @ 80% of 1 rep max). Well I've consistantly gained strength adding between 5-10lbs per workout on bench and 10-20lbs on squats and deadlift. Like Steve was saying keep adding weight to your reps and it will take a very long time to plateau. Great article!!!

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 08/02/2011 - 17:19

Thanks Tony.

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Posted Fri, 08/05/2011 - 06:24

by squats are you talking about most squats or barbell? because i mostly do hack squats.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 08/08/2011 - 15:00

Hi Faust,

Barbell squats.

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Posted Fri, 09/09/2011 - 13:58

Excellent article Steve, You stated all of my dilemmas in your opening remarks...I read it and re read it, and carry it with me to re read.
Started squats and deadlifts seriously this time. Excellent once again!

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Posted Tue, 09/20/2011 - 21:01

Steve, I just want to say that this is a great article for those interested in gaining size and strength!
I was recently forced out of the gym for almost a year due to an injury (and rehab). Now I'm finally back in the gym and currently running your modified Power Muscle Burn routine. In 6 weeks I was able to up all compound/power exercises by at least 45lbs! After reaching a plateau I read this article and realized I had dropped my caloric & protein intake significanly without noticing. After 3 weeks with next to no gains I'm now up another 10 lbs/exercise...thanks for the advice and the reminders!

As an aside, so far it's seemed to me that legs can take a significantly larger pounding than any other muscle group. I do each exercise to 1 rep below failure for all muscle groups, and have been to the point of sore/weakness doing menial tasks with most muscle groups but legs seem to stay sore and weak the longest (as a wrestler for 3 years before injury my legs are significantly proportionally stronger than most of my other muscles/groups)
Anything to that?

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 17:00

After 25 years me legs still stay sore the longest as well. That's fairly normal.

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Posted Sat, 12/31/2011 - 14:54

Hello Steve,
I am preety skinny and have a slight belly. Im working out five days a week because i have weight training second hour at my school. But i havent worked out in a long time. Is this to manys to lift when starting again to lift?

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Posted Mon, 07/30/2012 - 10:02

i love the gym, it's great going Monday until Saturday my routine is Monday: shoulders/biceps Tuesday: chest/triceps Wednesday: squats deadlifts and overall back along with intense stomach. Then it repeats for thurs, fri and sat then Sunday rest I lost 5 stone in weight in 6 months... Is this routine fine or am I going to end up like a stick eventually?.. I do see a lot of muscle growth but I'd rather know that I'm doing things the right way than the wrong way of approaching weights.. Also eating my
6 meals a day

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Posted Thu, 09/13/2012 - 23:14

Great article. Just great, honest advice. And I know I do all four of these things. It is very very difficult to get out of that frame of mind, but I have to....

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Posted Tue, 11/13/2012 - 11:15

Hello Steve very good article,
What can I do to get stronger, but adding not that much weight. The thing is my knees are not good at all, I knew about squats and deadlift since ever however I have had always that stop, my knees.

What will you recommend.

Thank you in advance.

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Posted Wed, 11/28/2012 - 20:46

Hey Steve, I am new to the lifestyle and I could use some advice. I am 34yrs 5'8" 155 lbs (soaking wet) Very little body fat. I have a fairly athletic build but out of shape. I decided to do the beginners home circuit training. I started today and I feel great. Now,my question is this, I want to gain about 10-15 lbs of muscle. For someone like me who is slender, what is the best way to go about gaining this muscle mass and staying cut?

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 12/05/2012 - 13:04

You'll have to eat above maintenance level. If you're worried about gaining excess fat, you can simply eat slightly above that maintenance level. Here is a helpful tool to give you an estimate as to how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. http://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-and-daily-calorie-calculator....

You might start by taking in 200-300 extra calories per day. Remember to increase the total calories as you gain weight. 

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Posted Sat, 01/19/2013 - 03:48

about the eat big part. what kind of food is good. im pretty new to the gym but im soo keen to get fit and strong. i weigh 60kgs at the moment. so any advise where i should start lol

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Posted Thu, 02/14/2013 - 15:37

I have difficulty keeping my balance when I only manage even to get half way into a squat. Are there any exercises I can do to help me with my balancing issues first?

mnsjason's picture
Posted Mon, 02/18/2013 - 18:33

You might want to use a lighter weight and work on form if you're having balance issues, as you really run a risk of injury. Keeping your head up is important; the moment you look down, you're very likely to lean forward. Also, concentrate on pushing the weight through your heels. Running shoes can have a lot of material under the heel, which can push you forward. Try lifting in a flat shoe to resolve the issue.

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Posted Tue, 03/12/2013 - 06:20
Brendan :)

Hey steve great article iam a natural bodybuilder / strength trainier for 8 years and being a ectomorph I know how hard it can to make gains. Iam currently training 3-4 days aweek 1 muscle group a week due to iam a ectomorph and thats what works for me. I have reached a platau tho i can bench 100kg at 8 reps and squat 100kg but recently my workout have been really heavy and hard training for a long period some weeks my bench goes down in strength eg this week i benched 5 reps could this be becaurse i have not changed it eg do 12 reps instead or could i be doing to much ? is it bad just to lift heavy all year round i dont want to loose my strength tho ? I got my body % mesured at tafe when i was studying cert 4 in fitness and i was 8 percent at 78 kilos should i increase my calories ? Or just change the rep range or both i enjoy being lean but want to be strong to :) any advice would be great thanks mate.

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Posted Fri, 03/22/2013 - 20:12

hi steve i likes ur article i want to ask u one que.that im so weak and i attain jim and my trainer suggest me about the suplymentry supermass hard core is that effective for my body?plz suggest me right wsy to built my body.

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Posted Mon, 04/22/2013 - 04:55

same thing everytime. "do squats" "eat more" "put more weight on the bar" HOW DO YOU PUT MORE WEIGHT ON THE BAR IF YOU GO IN AND CAN'T EVEN SQUAT WHAT YOU DID LAST WORKOUT?!!! i do squats and deadlifts and i get stronger for like 2 workouts then just get weaker. then i take a few weeks off and i'm back where i started. "eat more" doesn't do anything just makes you fat and bloated!

mnsjason's picture
Posted Wed, 04/24/2013 - 19:36

Hey Jason! I'm sorry to hear that you're having trouble; I know lifting can sometimes be discouraging. Based on your comment, it looks like consistency is an issue for you. By taking a few weeks off between a couple weeks of lifting, you don't stimulate growth. Squats and deadlifts are, in my personal experience, two of the best lifts out there. Also, if you're "eating more" on those three weeks of not lifting, you'll certainly put on weight, but not the good kind. You'll have bad days in the gym, but stick with it. You'll find that you have more good days than bad, and you'll see your numbers improve.