You’re grinding, following your program to the letter and still seeing very little result in the mirror.
If this sounds like you, you may be missing a key component of lifting for aesthetics and that component is mind body connection.
One of the most fundamental aspects of getting targeted muscles to grow is alignment of your movements and feeling the muscle working.
To put it simply: if you do not feel like its working, it's probably not working.
One reason it might not be working is how you are moving.
When you you squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press, if you do not focus on getting a hard contraction with a mind/muscle connection, it can be quite difficult and quite aggravating to train so hard with little gains. It will make very little difference how much weight is on the bar or how many repetitions you do if they are all garbage.
What do garbage reps look like?
Garbage reps, in terms of aesthetics, are reps that don’t look the same.
Reps that get shorter over time.
Reps that don’t look graceful.
Reps that don’t have any intention behind them.
If you major goal is aesthetics, and particularly building muscle in a certain area (commonly referred to as “toning”) then you must increase your ability to control those muscles against the load that you are carrying, no matter which movement pattern it is.
There are two major ways to ensure that you are moving well:
Bar path. If the bar is not moving straight up, there is something that you can do immediately to make it move straight up. This is an external cue.
Intention. If you don’t flex the muscles you are trying to target, some other muscle groups are moving the load more than the ones you are trying to target. This is an internal cue.
Now, with all of that being said, doing anything for too long will no longer induce change, so don’t become an absolute perfectionist that uses 10-20% load on the bar, but instead maybe just take a second to determine if the lift you are doing is actually working for you or not.
Learn the function of the muscles you are having trouble with, then load the bar up for the amount of reps on the program.
Have someone check your form once in a while, maybe video yourself moving.
How does your posture look?
Are you bracing tight?
Do you see the muscles flexing hard?
Do you know what those muscles look like in there?
Your ability to control heavier load should still increase over time, but its a game of patience and fortitude with a major focus on quality movement. You must still increase the demands on your body for your body to respond, for you to grow and for you to look more athletic.
Overall, this should allow you to continue to train for muscle gains with little to no risk of injury because you will be so locked in and focused on the results you are trying to achieve with each movement.
If you live in the New England area and this is something you are looking to learn more about; we are hosting a HYPERTROPHY CAMP in October that will give you all the information necessary to start making more progress in the gym. You can find more information, pricing and schedule here.