Can't Build Muscle

HELP, I Can’t Gain Muscle No Matter What I Do…

I received this e-mail from a skinny hardgainer who says he’s tried everything, but still can’t build muscle…

Hi Lee, I have followed you for a few years. I have attempted every possible avenue to improve my body and I have seen no change. I am 5’10” and weigh 140lbs. I have added calories, added weights and consumed a ton of protein. Still, no results. I have gained no muscle or mass of any kind. Is there any advice you could give? I have spent thousands on pills, shakes and powders. I have an entire gym in my basement. Should I give up or is there another option?

Please Help!
Desperate Fan

You Are Your Own Worst Critic…

When it comes to developing our body and seeing changes with building muscle, losing fat, etc… Very often we are our own worst critic and will discredit any progress that we make as “not good enough”.

Even though you are not at the level you want to be in terms of muscle and strength development. I’m willing to bet that over the past few years you’ve been working out that you have made some progress.

Making Progress

For example, you can probably lift more now compared to when you did your very first weight training workout. And if you were to track your body composition in terms of bodyfat and lean muscle mass from when you first started to now, chances are you’d see some improvements in that area as well.

Again, it’s probably not the life changing results that you were hoping for, but most likely there are some results non-the-less.

Unless You’re A Genetic Freak, All Muscle Gains Are “Slow Gains”…

Despite what the bodybuilding supplement ads and fitness media try to make you believe through exaggerated marketing hype – building a big muscular physique is a slow process.

Unless you are a genetic freak, all muscle gains are slow gains. But slow gains made consistently over the long term will add up to real measurable progress.

Most of the bodybuilders and physique athletes that you look up to and follow online through social media will have at least 10+ years of hard consistent training under their belt.

For example, it’s quite common for a lot guys to start lifting in their mid teens. So by the time they are in their mid to late 20’s many of the more serious lifters will be looking big and jacked. If you want to achieve similar results, it’s going to take you at least a decade of training as well to build an impressive muscular physique.

Lee Hayward's 20 year bodybuilding transformation

It took me 17 years of training before I was able to win my first bodybuilding competition, and even that was just a small local level competition. The fact that you’ve been working out for a few years and are not looking huge and jacked yet, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. Most likely you just need to give yourself more time in order to develop your physique to it’s full potential.

Don’t Get Suckered Into The Bodybuilding Supplement Hype…

A lot of guys don’t fully understand how the process of building muscle in the real world works because they are constantly bombarded with all the bodybuilding and fitness media BS telling them that if they take this miracle supplement, or follow this special program, they can get huge and ripped in the matter of a few short weeks… But it doesn’t work that way.

In virtually all cases, the fitness models and bodybuilders who are being paid to promote these supplements have been training for 10+ years in order to get to their current level of development. And ironically most of them built their physiques without even using the supplements that they are promoting.

Just look at this advertisement for some bodybuilding supplements that were popular back in the 1990’s when I started training. As a gullible teenager I fell for all the marketing hype, but now I can see things for what they are and cut through the hype and BS…

Note: the guys in this video were pro bodybuilders long before these particular supplements were even available on the market. So obviously the supplements weren’t the “secret” to their muscle building success.

There’s More To Building Muscle Than Just Calories, Protein, and Lifting Weights…

Another thing you need to consider when it comes to building a muscular physique is your overall lifestyle. There’s more to building muscle than just eating a lot of calories, drinking protein shakes, and lifting weights. Here’s some other things to consider…

  • Are you getting at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night?
  • Are you under a lot of stress from work, school, or family issues?
  • Do you drink alcohol, use recreational drugs, or any other substances or medications that could affect your metabolism, health and fitness?

Even if you are following a proper bodybuilding program in terms of diet and training, outside factors like these can negatively impact your progress.

It’s Not What You Know, But What You Do That Counts…

One of things that I find is pretty common with a lot of people I coach is most of them “Know What To Do” in terms of diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc… But the biggest problem is they can’t get themselves to follow through and do what they know they should do consistently enough to make real change.

They may have a good diet and workout program and follow it for a few weeks at a time. But then life gets in the way and something comes up (i.e. work, family issues, or other responsibilities) and they get off track, and before you know it they are back to square one starting all over again.

With cases like this providing someone with a new diet, new workout, new supplement, or giving them a more demanding training program isn’t going to help. In fact, taking the opposite approach and focus on simplifying their program, mastering the basics, and gradually building in new positive habits into their routine is what often produces real lasting results.

Become A Master Of The Basics…

One of the key things that I’ve noticed over the past 27+ years I’ve been involved with bodybuilding, is that most advanced guys usually keep things very basic. More often than not their diets are not overly complicated, their workouts are quite simple, and most of them don’t use a lot of supplements, but rather just focus on eating natural unprocessed foods.

But their “secret” that makes all the difference is they are masters of the basics. It’s more than just “knowing what to do” intellectually, but rather knowing it internally by living, breathing, and doing doing it – day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out, over the long term until one day they get to the point where other guys look at them with awe and ask “Dude, what workout are you following?” or “What supplements are you taking?” or “What’s your macro split?”

It’s not that these things are not important, but most people miss the bigger picture of consistently doing the work year after year. Building muscle is not an overly complicated process, but it takes a lot more grit and effort than most people realize.

Slow Progress Is Still Progress

The part about bodybuilding that creates most of the confusion and unrealistic expectations is when greedy supplement companies distort reality so they can profit off people’s naivety. They will use photos of experienced bodybuilders, guys who have already been busting their ass in the gym for 10+ years. And try to sell you through clever marketing about how you can get similar results in less time if you only take what ever supplement they are selling… But it’s just a steaming crock of BS and the biggest cause of failure and disappointment among bodybuilding enthusiasts.

Now I’m not saying that all supplements are worthless, but they aren’t nearly as good for building muscle as the supplement companies would like you to believe. In most cases you’d be better off saving your money. Spend it on real food instead and get proper coaching from someone who’s already done what you want to achieve and who can help guide you through the process as well.

Would You Like Some Help With Your Muscle Building Program?

If you’d like some help with reaching your personal fitness goals, then I invite you to join me for a Free 20-minute one-on-one phone call (or skype chat) where we can privately discuss your situation, your fitness goals, and the challenges that are holding you back. During our call you’ll get your questions answered and we’ll discuss some realistic strategies for how you can start making progress towards your muscle building and physique development goals.

Click Here for more information and to book your free coaching call with Lee Hayward.

About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you...


  • If you’d like some help with reaching your personal fitness goals, then I invite you to join me for a Free 20-minute one-on-one phone call (or skype chat). During our we’ll discuss some realistic strategies for how you can start making progress towards your muscle building and physique development goals. Click on the link below for more info:

  • Ethan Parks

    The emphasis on sleep is imperative. Recovery and muscle growth just won’t be maximized if not consistently sleeping enough. Alcohol is another major player in impeding results. These are so often overlooked factors and are great points made here in this article that should be taken seriously. Take heed!

  • Steve

    Good article. I’m 40, started training in 2015 as part of lifestyle improvements. Quit drinking, cigarettes etc. I am frustrated by my lack of progress. Reading this really helped. I have made gains. Just so much slower than I hoped for and expected. I will keep pushing through and take recovery more seriously. Inspiring read thanks. ( I was close to giving up)