If you’re working out for 2+ hours a day and are wondering why you can’t build an appreciable amount of muscle, it’s because you’re natural and your variables are messed up.
There are 3 variables related to hypertrophy (4 if you include Density). They are volume, intensity, and frequency.
The use of these 3 variables dictates how successful your progress is. Remember, you can only keep 2 variables high at the same time and still recover appropriately. If you have all 3 high your recovery will suffer meaning you will not progress optimally and may even regress.
So if you are that person working out for hours while struggling to build muscle, change your variables up. Lower your volume, increase your frequency and intensity.
When you study more, you get better grades, and when you work more hours, you make more money. Inevitably people tend to believe if I work out more I will get better results. Unfortunately, that’s not how the body’s hormonal system works.
When volume is high, your body has to mobilize energy stores to keep working out.
Your body accomplishes this by releasing cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that while mobilizing energy stores, also inhibits mTOR and induces AMPK expression. Two enzymes are responsible for whether you build or break down muscle. So unless you’re drug-enhanced, the optimal amount of volume is limited.
As for intensity, it refers to how heavy you are lifting. It is most commonly expressed as a percentage of your 1 rep max.
You can work out hard, or you can work out long but you can’t do both.
As the volume goes down, intensity must come up and as intensity goes down, volume must come up. They are inversely related.
People hear “frequency” and think, “oh well I train 6-7 days a week so my frequency is high.” That’s not correct.
Frequency refers to how many times you stimulate a specific muscle during a 7-day period.
You can train for 7 days and still have extremely low frequency by training a different muscle every day of the week. A more optimal way to train is to train a muscle 2-4 times a week to stimulate protein synthesis more often.
Protein Synthesis is only elevated around 24 – 48 hours after a workout in a natural lifter so it is not optimal to rest it for 5 more days before training it again. Your muscles can revert back to baseline by the time you hit them again so you never really make any progress.
Just because something works for your favorite drug-taking YouTube bodybuilder, does not mean it will work great for you. Keep volume in check, lift heavier, and hit muscles more frequently.