Why aren’t my muscles getting bigger / more defined?

Just a quick one today for those of you wanting to put a bit of size and / or definition on. If you’ve been lifting weight in the gym for a while now and you’re wondering why you aren’t making the progress you would like, here are some common reasons.

These are common mistakes we see from people who come to us at the RISE Group and 1:1 Personal Training Studio in Buxton, Derbyshire (and at DW Sports Fitness in Macclesfield) who are struggling to gain muscle. Have a read through and see if any of these apply to you:

  • I don’t record what I do in my workout.

If you don’t have a plan, know what you did in the last workout and what you need to do in the next to progress, it is unlikely that you will make good progress


  • I don’t monitor the tempo of my lifts.

Reps and sets are only part of the equation. Each exercise should be done at a specific speed. Reps multiplied by tempo gives Time Under Tension (TUT) which is the key number to get in a certain range to achieve a certain response. It’s also the key variable to progress.

This is why some people get stronger but not bigger or more defined – they may be doing the number of reps they read was for size or definition, but are doing them too quickly, so that TUT is more in the strength range.

They may not be making progress because they speed up movement or take longer pauses between reps and sets over time – so although they may progress from, say, 8 to 10 to 12 reps, their TUT might be staying at 20 seconds. Which is not a progression.


  • I don’t eat enough protein.

If you’re not eating 2.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, then you might as well not bother training. So, if you weigh 80kg, you need 200 grams of protein in your diet as an absolute minimum.


  • I’m doing lots of isolation exercises.

Isolation exercises have their part in a balanced programme, but without big, heavy compound exercises, you’ll only make so much progress. So if you’re not bench pressing, squatting, deadlifting, etc then maybe it’s time you started.


Whilst there is, of course, much more then this to building quality muscle, these are a few basics, that if you’re not doing them already, we’d recommended starting now.

About The Author

Jon Hall

When not helping people to transform their lives and bodies, Jon can usually be found either playing with his kids or taxi-ing them around. If you'd like to find out more about what we do at RISE then enter your details in the box to the right or bottom of this page or at myrise.co.uk - this is the same way every single one of the hundreds who've described this as "one of the best decisions I've ever made" took their first step.