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How can you tell if you are building muscle

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I am a bigger guy but I have never been strong in terms of weight lifting more of just general strength. Lately I have been working out a ton but I can't tell if I am building muscle or just wasting time.

I'm 5'10 200 pounds and a sample chest workout is doing 3 sets of 10 flys with 15-20 pound dumbells and 4-5 sets of 10 dumbell presses with 30 pound dumbells combined with incline presses with 60 pound barbell-usually 4 sets of 10. I am definitly working myself till tired, as I go right from excersises to excercise, and barely able to do 5 pushups at the end of workout. I feel like this is so little for my size and I don't really feel any soreness in my chest but a ton on my shoulders and triceps. I run and play sports like tennis and basketball regularly.

Is doing anything building at least some muscle? eventually I will increase everything but I am not sure if this is at least a good start.

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Are you eating enough calories? It takes a surplus of cals to gain muscle. I'm a little confused: do you work other muscle groups besides your chest?

Definitly, I was using the chest as an example because that is where I was most concerned. I do biceps and triceps on Monday, run tuesday, chest Wednesday, run Thursday, Legs Friday, run Saturday, and sometimes on Sunday- all combined with an additional 2 hours of tennis on 2-3 nights a week.

I am not eating enough for sure as I am trying to lose weight. I am running a 1,000 calorie deficit at least with all my activity but I eat extremely healthy 5-6 times a day but I have trouble getting in enough calories because the healthier foods like veggies and fruit are less dense. I do eat a good deal of protein(lean meats, beans, dairy)

I am not trying to become ripped or anything, I am probably in starvation mode if anything I just want to burn fat without sacrificing muscle

Look into doing the Starting Strength program that are in the stickys in this forum.  I started on March 3rd at 244lbs and I am down to 223 as of yesterday.  My poundages on my lifts has increased as follows:

Squat started at 135 lbs now do 205 lbs

Bench started at 155 lbs now do 200 lbs

Military press started at 95 lbs now do 125 lbs

Deadlift started at 155 lbs now do 280 lbs

Power Clean started at 95 lbs now at 165lbs

I also do cardio 4-5 times a week and do abs every workout.

The moderator melkor on this forum reccommended this program to me and I have seen way better results than I did doing my own program from muscle and fitness and random friends.

I am seeing results as well on my body, just looking bigger in general, but seeing the weight jump up on the bar while losing weight is how I can tell I am gaining muscle.

Oh btw all of the lifts are 3sets 5 reps, except deadlift it is 1 set 5 reps.

First, do you work your back? I didn't see that in your routine?

To track strength/muscle vs. fat loss, measure your body fat%

Try doing lower total volume (less sets) but at a much higher weight.  Maybe drop reps down to 6-8 and do max 3 sets of each exercise. You are working yourself to exhaustion, which can be good, but not really pushing the muscles to peak strenth output.

If you are trying to "burn fat w/out sacrificing muscle" starvation mode is your worst enemy. Maybe cut back on the cardio a bit? An easy way to add calories is with healthy fats like nuts - they won't hurt your progress or physique, promise! Or get a protein shake post-workout and mix it with some good carbs.

Original Post by aidancolin:

Look into doing the Starting Strength program that are in the stickys in this forum. 


Or better yet, get the book

Sounds like you're spinning your wheels trying to build muscle at a huge calorie deficit.  Do you keep a lifting log?  Do you perform full body workouts?  Do you time your sets and rest between sets or wander around and chat with people?   What about your macro profiles?  Are you consuming at least 1 - 1.5 grams of protein per lb of body weight?  I used to go to the weight room and "lift" and then eat whatever I wanted.  Now that I "train" and track my macros and calories, I'm beginning to see how I too was spinning my wheels for years by ignoring nutrition and only focusing on limited movements.  Starting strength is a good place to start for full body workouts.

Check out articles at that talk about full body training and nutrition.  Define your goals: Do you want to build muscle first then lose fat or lose fat first then build muscle?  In the process of trying to transform your body, hopefully you'll learn a lot about what training works for you and how your body responds to various ways of eating.  Good luck.

Original Post by bostonboy34:


I don't really feel any soreness in my chest but a ton on my shoulders and triceps.

What that sentence tells me (knowing the exercises you just listed), is that form is an issue.

Find videos for each exercise you want to do.  (From a reputable source, not just a random person from YouTube) 

Form was my biggest issue when I started lifting.  I would be using the wrong muscles in my exercises.  Since you're doing a lot of dumbbell work, I'd suggest doing one side with light weight to get the feeling of which muscle(s) to work.  Place your free hand on your pecs.  Feel the muscles in your chest actually push the weight, (not your shoulders).

Once you get the feel of it, start lifting both together again with heavier weights.  But form is the most important thing to remember.  It keeps you from getting injured and helps you get the most benefit from the intended exercises target muscle group.

Well part of it comes down to genetics. However, there is also ways that you can ad muscle and get stronger.

First of all, nutrition is a big part of it. Some people think that since they work out all the time you can eat whatever you want. This isn't true. The trick is eating enough of the right types of foods. If you are working out regularly, and you weigh 200 pounds, you should be getting at least 3000 calories per day.

- 5-6 small meals through out the day (1 every  2 1/2 -4 hours). Get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight from lean protein sources like chicken, tuna, turkey, eggs, etc. Also, a good Whey Protein supplement is highly recommended. Getting 200 grams of protein from meat alone is very hard. Especially when it comes to controlling sodium levels. Also make sure to get 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight of carbs. The right types of carbs though. Whole grains (whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread, real oatmeal, etc), and Vegetables. Finally drink a lot of water and get some healthy fats in your diet too. Peanut butter and almonds are good sources for that.

Hit the weights with intensity 3-4 times a week. Make sure your sessions don't exceed 75 minutes. For the rep scheme, use poundages that you can only do 4-6 reps. Lifting heavy will build muscle faster and build strength much faster.  Also make sure that you train each bodypart once per week to avoid overtraining, or at the very least wait 4-5 days between muscle group. Variety is also very important. Switch up the routine every 2-4 weeks with different exercises, changing the order around, etc.. My current split is - Mon (Legs/Shoulders), Tues (Biceps), Thurs (Chest/Triceps), and Sat (Back). I know some people say do back/biceps together. However, I find that a hard back workout can effect your bicep workout and vice-versa.

Pre-Workout Nutrition - Make sure to get 50-75 grams of complex carbs 60-90 minutes beforehand to give you energy for the lifting and a good source of protein as well. Never lift on an empty stomach.

Post Workout Nutrition - Make sure to get 40-60 grams of protein and 50-80 grams of simple carbs (Dextrose) right after lifting. Usually you would want to avoid simple carbs, but post workout is the one time it is needed. Simple carbs are absorbed much faster into the body. Within the first 30 minutes of finishing is best. This is when your body needs it the most to start repairing itself from the workout.

Make sure to scale back on the cardio and do the right type of cardio. HIIT is the best form of cardio. It combines fast, intense bursts (10-30 secs) with slower recovery periods (40-90 secs). Warm-up for 3-5 minutes, then proceed into the first "sprint" phase followed by the first recovery. Then just switch off from fast to slow for 20 minutes and do a 5 minute cool down. My personal favorite method is sprinting, although you can do HIIT on any cardio machine. Do it 2 times per week on non lifting days, and then two 20 minute Steady State cardio sessions after lifting.

The main reasons why people fail to add muscle is bad nutrition, too much cardio, and they don't follow a good program in the weight room.


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