What to do when your body refuses to grow

Team AX March 12, 2011 Training Articles

Kim here and today I am talking about a very common question I get asked.  It usually goes something like this:

“Kim my motivation is in the toilet right now.  Got any advice? I want to pack on an extra 20lbs of lean muscle, but it seems like no matter what I do, I just can’t grow….so part of me just says screw it because I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.”

This is a common problem I hear all the time.  You train harder and harder, but no matter how hard you seem to train or how much you push it, your body refuses to grow.  In fact it may seem paradoxical – the harder you train, the fewer results you see.

However, your analogy may be right on target.  You are indeed spinning your wheels and not moving.  Lets take that a step further and look at a literal example.  Lets say your car’s stuck in a mud hole.  What’s going to happen if you step on the gas?  Wheels are gonna spin, but you’re not gonna move.  What you need to do is ease on and off the gas real gently to get your car rocking back and forth a bit until you’re out of the hole.  And when you’re out, that’s when you can slam on the gas again.

Your body is probably overtrained.  You’ve trained too much, too often, and now you’re stuck in a hole.  Best thing to do is to back off from hard training for a while.  This doesn’t mean you cant come to the gym, but it means give yourself a few days of rest, and when you come back, take it easy.  One or two sets of exercise per body part.  That again, one or two sets per body part.  This doesn’t mean 2 sets of bench, 2 sets of cross overs, and 2 sets of incline bench.  It means just 2 sets of cross overs, then you’re done with your chest.  Repeat that for back and shoulders, and you’re finished.  You wont sweat much, you wont work hard, and you wont be there long.  You’re easing on the gas and giving yourself a chance to rock out of that hole you trained yourself into.

Here’s an example of what to do.

Monday (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms)

Warm up: Treadmill 5 minutes

Bench Press – 10 reps / 2 sets

Wide grip bent over rows – 10 reps / 1 set

Wide grip pull ups – 10 reps / 1 set

Overhead dumbbell press – 10 reps / 2 sets

Bicep curls – 10 reps / 2 sets

Wrist curls – 10 reps / 2 sets

Reverse wrist curls – 10 reps / 2 sets

Thursday (Lower back, legs, abs)

Warm up: Treadmill 5 minutes

Front Squats – 10 reps / 2 sets

Good mornings – 10 reps / 2 sets

Weighted crunches – 10 reps / 2 sets

Calf raises – 10 reps / 2 sets

Additional Notes: I’m aware of the lack of direct tricep work on Monday.  It’s made that way since 2 sets of bench and 2 sets of overhead press are fine for triceps when you’re backing off.  Further I’d suggest you casually bring yourself near failure – that means do not fail mid rep on anything.  If you know you’re going to fail on the next rep, then go ahead and stop the set.  This works even better if you don’t bother with anything containing caffeine or listening to music.  Both of those get your adrenaline pumping, and we’re trying to let your body to include your adrenal glands rest a while.

A week or two of taking it easy is just what you need to perk back up.  You’ll feel better and your motivation will return.  While you cant completely avoid getting yourself into an overtrained state (getting stuck in a hole), you can increase how long your program can last before you do overtrain by boosting your testosterone.  One supplement I recommend to everyone (I really do) that can do this is Mass FX The Destroyer.  So long as your diet is in check (high protein, good fats balanced with bad fats, plenty of green leafy vegetables, and other common sense things), this will definitely help keep you out of a rut.  And if you find yourself back in a rut, you’ll know what to do.

Hope this helps.

Kim “Swole” Williams

About The Author

Athletic Xtreme – The no B.S. supplement company. AX is a leader in innovating unique sports nutrition products for athletes. Established in 2005 AX has become an authority on training, nutrition, and supplementation for reaching your goals.

  • Jeremy Ryan

    Excellent post. It doesn’t seem to matter what discipline you’re in, overtraining can step in and mess the whole thing up. I do have to ask though, aside from the supplement you mentioned, what about dietary changes? Increases in protein, for example? Do you believe a dietary change hand in hand with a new training schedule could bring about more efficient results? And where does cardio fit into this?

    • Team AX


      These are great questions. Let’s talk about over-training first. Then we’ll discuss diet and how cardio fits into all of this.

      Plain and simple, way too many people are over trained and they don’t even know it. Weeks and months will go by where progress just flat out sucks. And in my 17 years of experience, I have found one golden key to continually make the kind of progress that puts a big shit eating grin on your face month after month. That is…

      Every 3-4 weeks, take 7 days off and stay the hell out of the gym! It’s hard for many to do. Then again, many don’t do this and they’re not making the kind of progress they want.

      If you’re the kind of guy that can’t stay out of the gym, follow these rules.

      1. Train 3 days during your off week.
      2. Use full body routines each time
      3. Work only 5 muscle groups per session
      4. Do only 2 sets per muscle group – so 10 total sets per workout
      5. Aim for 10 repetitions per set
      5. STOP 3-4 reps shy of failure – this is VERY IMPORTANT. So the weight you work with is a weight you can normally fail with at 13-15 repetitions. This is NOT the time to push your muscles. The goal is to allow them to heal up and recover. This technique simply flushes blood and oxygen into recovering muscles to help them recover faster. If you’re not sure about the weight, make it lighter!

      On the subject of diet….

      If your goal is to gain lean muscle, I generally recommend people to consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight. You can go as high as 1.5g/lb of body weight, but in my experience most people tend to add body fat when their protein intake is elevated that high in conjunction with higher carbs. Yes, excess protein can be converted into stored energy….ie, body fat. But this depends on a variety of factors, such as your metabolism and the total number of calories you burn up throughout the day.

      Remember, just by implementing this new style of training into your routine, and in addition with a solid bodybuilding diet, you will still experience the following benefits.

      • 20-40 times more Human Growth Hormone released into your blood during training
      • Enhanced excitation and release of anabolic insulin-like growth factors (IGFs)
      • Superior testosterone production through rep specific training
      • Increased availability of amino acids for protein synthesis (muscle growth)
      • Greater muscular strength
      • Enhanced muscle mass
      • Decreased fat mass

      Adding Hard FX into your routine is like putting the above results on OVERLOAD. So it’s a win-win either way. Like I said, I don’t care if people buy Hard FX or not. It’s a KILLER supplement…truly awesome….and it will GREATLY magnify your results…but you will still experience solid benefits just by applying the advice I laid out in the article.

      As for cardio….It depends on your current split.

      But most importantly, do not neglect cardio. Having a healthy and advanced cardiovascular system is SO horribly under-rated in today’s mass monster state of bodybuilding. Here’s some quick facts for you.

      1. Having an improved cardiovascular system will help your body better deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles.
      2. Having an improved cardiovascular system will help you recover faster between sets, which means you can lift heavier weights on the next set…which means you get bigger and stronger – faster.
      3. Having an improved cardiovascular system will help you add more muscle mass
      4. And, it helps you recover faster between workouts.
      5. But most importantly, it helps keep you healthy, and that should always be goal #1.

      I generally recommend that you perform 3 weekly sessions of cardiovascular work..each session at 30 minutes. If you’re concerned about losing muscle mass, the solution is simple.

      Mix up some BCAA’s to sip on while you train. AX makes a GREAT BCAA called Axcell, and they’re running a killer deal on it now. You can check it out here. BCAA’s will help to protect your lean muscle mass, decrease fatigue perception, and increase your overall performance. So you can now push yourself harder, which equals more body fat lost, and protect your lean mass. The end result? A bigger, leaner, healthier version of you.

      I hope this helps,


  • Amber

    Great info! I am stuck in a rut… Can’t grow any mass at all. Thanks for the suggested routine. I think I will follow it for a while and see where it takes me. Also… Can you post any women specific articles? We like to have hard bodies too! ;-)

  • Dr. Dalji Jaura

    Dear Kim “Swole” Williams
    Thanks for educating public. Please let me know, Monday and Tuesday are exercise days, what about other four days, rest?


  • Rishi

    I need a perfect routine. please help me by sending it because ur 30 days Arm routing is very effective so far…Thanks

  • Syd

    i need a perfect excersice for my daily routine i join the body building club before 2 months .the size of my bisceps is in 16 inch width .,now i want to grow my wings and shoulder muscles do you help me plzz

  • norman

    can you do us a 4 day a week training pro plz