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7 Muscle Building Mistakes Natural Lifters Make!

Never Give Up On Your Goals!

Posted by Scott_Herman - February 12th, 2015

The journey to accomplishing your goals already has enough trials and hardships without having to deal with the misinformation being taught online.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand that there is a clear difference between the steps you must take as a natural lifter to build muscle when compared to someone who is on drugs or steroids. This article is not meant to judge anyone, just educate you as my goal is to help you reach yours!

Be sure to pay close attention to each topic and if you have any questions, leave them as a comment below!

Now let’s get focused on helping you make those gains! #HTH #SHFAthlete #ProjectGains

1. Eating Too Much

Natural lifters think that in the off-season, when you are supposed to be bulking, you need to eat all kinds of food including junk food to gain a lot of muscle! The more fat you pack on the better! But it doesn’t work like that Nation.

As a natural athlete, if your routine and meal plan are on point, in general, you can expect to gain around 20 – 25lbs of muscle in your first year. 12 – 15 your second year, 6 – 8 your third and around 4 pounds a year for each year after that. So if you’re eating too much thinking you will forcefeed your muscles to grow, sorry but all you are doing is gaining fat.

The right thing to do is to eat 250 – 500 calories above your maintenance calories each day to make sure you’re growing muscle and yes you will gain a little bit of fat too, but this way you’re growing lean and minimizing the damage. You can check out my video on this topic called “Are You Bulking Or Just Fat?” for more information on this subject.

It is also important for you to know that extra fat, especially belly fat, affects insulin sensitivity, thyroid hormone function and testosterone levels (I talk more about T levels in this video - “How To Maximize Your T Levels Naturally” and all of that makes it even harder for you to make gains and lose fat with each bulking cycle. +

So why would you want to go on a crazy bulk and gain all kinds of fat just to have a harder time to lose the extra fat in the end? Yes, you need to eat more to grow but, eat in an adequate calorie surplus!

2. Having Unrealistic Expectations

I get comments like this all time:

“Scott, how come you haven’t grown like so and so?”

“You have been the same size forever Scott, shouldn’t you be bigger since you have been lifting your whole life?”

There is nothing that pisses me off more than when people compare me to athletes that are on drugs. To me, that is ignorance at its best! You can look shredded and pretty big as a natural athlete but, sorry to say, you will not look humongous like these pro bodybuilders and many so called “Natural” athletes all over the fitness industry. That’s the reality Nation!

As a drug-free athlete, and not drug free for the past 6 months, you have a limit which is predefined by your genetic makeup. Also understand that you are not going to see unlimited growth for the rest of your life. If that was true, every experienced lifter would look like The Hulk! You gains will taper off as time goes by and that’s just how it is. If you want to be huge, unless you have a genetic mutation, it probably won’t happen naturally.

One way to be natural and look bigger, if that’s what you are into, is to carry a little more body fat so that your overall frame looks bigger. Lots of my friends actually do that because they prefer to look more intimidating vs being shredded.

Now let me clarify that drug users are not just the humongous guys like Arnold. There are plenty out there that are in that midrange physique category that might trick you to think that they are natural and make you THINK that you can look like them. So don’t be gullible guys! Educate yourself, make a decision as to what your goal is and have realistic expectations in terms of what you are going to achieve.

Overall, the MAIN POINT I want to make is that I hate seeing people give up on fitness because they’re working hard and not looking like that big shredded “natural” physique guy that is obviously taking something. It is misinformation like this that is pushing many beginners away from fitness because they are just not seeing results as quick as the people they follow online who are lying about being 100% Natural.

3. Thinking Heavy Weight & Low Reps are the Only Way to Gain Muscle

Here is some bro science for you nation: ONLY LIFT BIG TO GET BIG! We hear this all the time and it is just not true. Of course you can build muscle by lifting heavy, but there are those of us that build more muscle and strength by lifting with the focus being on VOLUME and not weight.

Now, if you are on steroids, you WILL grow muscle no matter what you do because of all that extra awesome testosterone! But don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not saying that if you are on enhancing drugs you don’t have to work hard because I have lots of friends that are professional bodybuilders that use steroids and they still kill themselves at the gym to get good competition results. What I am trying to say is that you will probably see good results with any technique (Heavy Weight or Volume) if you are on steroids. For the rest of us “mortals”, technique is VERY important and as you probably all have seen in previous videos like my Muscle Genes genetic report that my report revealed I personally need to do high volume workouts in order to build muscle.

There are three mechanisms by which muscles grow and heavy loads (or mechanical tension) is just one of them! On top of this, using just this technique will work best only for those people with a higher ratio of FAST twitch fibers. If you are like me, with a higher ratio of SLOW twitch muscle fibers, and remember I found this out on my muscle genes report, this approach will not work for you in terms of MAXIMIZING muscle growth. I’ll talk more about the 3 hypertrophy mechanisms in another video, It’s just too much content to cover right now.

The bottom line is that recent research has led us to believe that the sweet spot for maximizing muscle growth is actually a middle ground which gets benefits from all 3 growth mechanisms. It involves reasonably higher reps, so from 6 -12 but I personally even prefer the 8 – 12 rep range and weights that I believe should be in the range of 75% to 85% of your one rep max.

So don’t be a bro! There isn’t one recipe to get the most growth! You have a few options: you can operate in the middle ground or incorporate these different techniques to see what works best for you. If you’re a fast twitch muscle fiber guy, you will see great gains with low reps and heavy weight but if you are a slow twitch guy, you will need more volume to grow.

4. Not Doing Full Range of Motion

Again in the topic of technique, another issue I see in the gym all the time is half reps! If you’re not natural, actually, even if you ARE natural, you will see growth with half reps but you will not see the MOST amount of growth you could achieve.

Like I said, as a natty, everything counts and full range of motion will make sure you’re elongating those muscle fibers to the max and will make sure you’re also maximizing the eccentric (or descending part of the movement) where you get a lot tension and stimulate the most amount of growth. So don’t cheat yourself.

Are you at the gym to show off and pretend you can handle weights you really can’t or are you trying to actually look good and grow as much as possible?

5. Following Advice from Athletes that Are on Enhancing Drugs

Someone that is taking drugs to increase muscle growth or help with fat loss will react to exercise and food very differently than a natural athlete, so why would you follow their advice and try to copy their workout regimen or meal plan?

Technique, workout frequency, rep range, weights and so many other variables will generate VERY different results for each group…juicing and not juicing!

Don’t get me wrong, there are topics and certain general knowledge that is common for everybody. I’m not saying don’t take advice from people who are on juice, just makes sure they’re knowledgeable and are building a plan that is custom for YOU. I see A LOT of bros who just tell their communities to “do what they do” but they leave out one KEY INGREDIENT they owe their gains to…. STEROIDS. Also, because whats his face eats pizza before his workout claiming he practices IIFYM and he looks great, it does NOT mean you will too!

The other mistake people make is assuming that if someone looks good they are automatically qualified to teach others. I hate to break it to you but looks are not correlated to IQ whatsoever! I’ve seen some really dumb people that have an awesome physique and on the other hand, I’ve seen some scrawny looking dudes that were some of smartest most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met!

Some clues to watch for are:

  • Are they articulate?
  • Are they entertaining you or actually giving you solid information?
  • Do they have experience?
  • Have they actually trained people before?
  • Do they read?
  • Do they even know HOW to read?
  • Are they getting information from research or just babbling for 15 min giving you their opinion?

You get the point. There is nothing wrong with reading random stuff or watching fitness personalities for fun Nation, I do it too! But that shouldn’t mean you actually believe or have to follow their advice.

Know the difference!

6. Not Switching Up Your Workouts

I see this all the time: day in and day out people are doing the exact same routine they have been doing forever, especially my buddies that have been lifting for a while. Same old chest routine, same old arm routine… etc.

Your body is VERY smart and will adapt to everything you throw at it. Thinking in terms of a graph, the results from a workout routine will go up for a while, hit a peak and then taper off. You want to vary your exercises and techniques to make sure you are hitting and challenging your muscles in different ways, so you hit the peak and move on to a different routine before it tapers. This way you are constantly growing at max rate. Don’t ever let you routine get stale. If it is not challenging anymore, it’s time to switch it up.

A good GENERAL guideline is changing your routine every six weeks, but that will vary depending on the individual. If you feel your routine is still bringing good results, it’s ok to keep it longer. The best gauge for it is to monitor yourself and don’t think that you have to completely create a new routine.

You can change the order of the exercises, change the finisher, change the reps and sets, or even incorporate different techniques like pyramiding your sets for example.

If you would like some suggestions leave a comment below!

7. Not Paying Attention to Details

For us, natural lifters, every detail matters if you want to achieve maximum growth! Maybe if you are on enhancing drugs, you can get away with more but as a natty athlete, if you want to grow as much as possible, here are some things you do need to pay attention to:

Food! We already talked about this. Your meal plan needs to be on point! Each type of macro is very important and will play a key role in growth. Do you know how much of each macro you are eating now?

Bottom line is: eat the right amount of calories AND in the right ratio! If you need help calculating your macros, go to and in the MEALPLAN section you will find a BMR calculator and a step by step video on how to calculate your protein, carb and fat goals.

Next is how Insulin function could play an important role on being shredded depending on your genetic makeup! Some people can eat more carbs and get away with it but, if you are like me, with below average insulin function, you need to watch carbs closely!

Simple carbs like white rice and sweets in general cause your insulin to spike causing fat burning to stop. In my case, I release even more insulin than the average person so fat loss really stops! I control this by eating more complex carbs. Brown rice and sweet potatoes for example keep insulin release more consistent instead of a spike. Also, I try to avoid eating simple carbs when I wake up so my body stays in fat burning mode from my overnight fast and also before workouts so fat burning doesn’t stop during my lift.

Keeping your Testosterone level in check is very important as well! Do not do anything that might affect your T levels drastically like consistently drinking booze and not getting enough sleep.

Now if you want an extra edge, you can get supplements to help with your gains but instead of following fads, spend your money on well-proven supplements such as creatine, fish oil, and BCAAs (especially leucine). But don’t let them be a solution for a bad meal plan! Remember, they are supposed to SUPPLEMENT, not replace it!

Last on my list, pay attention to your micro nutrients: vitamins and minerals. These guys play a key role in so many processes in your body! Lack of certain vitamins can affect important hormonal processes such as testosterone production! Hormones are a HUGE factor in maximizing your gains and minerals are just as important!

I know pizza and poptarts are awesome, but they should be the exception and not the rule. The IIFYM trend has caused a lot of misconceptions out there and yes, a molecule of glucose is the same whether it comes from a poptart or a can of beans but with the beans I‘m getting some protein, some good vitamins and minerals instead of tons of coloring agents, artificial flavor, and preservatives .

In general, you should opt for functional foods that are not only giving you macros but also vitamins and minerals for maximum benefit and growth. Think about it this way, let’s pretend I want to buy a car, I can buy the cheapest car available out there and it will take me from point A to point B or I can do my research and find an option with better fuel efficiency, better safety features and made with better quality parts for more reliability. That’s why I drive a Camaro instead of a Mustang… haha. Both will fulfil their function which is taking me from point A to point B, but which one is really the better option? Same thing with food: I can get fat from a Wendy’s hamburger or from a salmon fillet. Both will fulfill their goal which is supplying me with fat molecules, but which one is really the better option?


I hope this article will help open your eyes to the enormous amount of misinformation that is out there Nation. The last thing anyone in this community wants to see is you give up on your goals. Remember the key is to listen and learn from others, but to also do your own research to determine if their advice is truthful and should be applied to your fitness journey!


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Don't miss out on gains because of misinformation Nation!