Firstly you must have a realistic idea of how slow muscle growth can be and then of course, the genetic shape and insertion of your muscle. Some people are genetically blessed in certain areas, however, regardless of your start point you can always improve and build an improved version of yourself. The beauty of a persons' physique is that we all look different, yet all of us can still be so impressive in our own ways.
2. Training age
How long have you been lifting? A person who has consistently trained their chest over 5 years will generally have a bigger stronger chest than the guy who is in their first year of lifting. Progression over time and consistency is key, so stay true to your programs! This stuff won't happen over night so set targets and chase them down!
Are you simply not strong enough at the moment? To grow a muscle you must achieve 'progressive overload' or simply increase reps, weight and total training volume, over time. The act of progressively overloading will force the muscle fibres to continue to break down and repair and regrow stronger. Paired with correct nutrition, sleep and recovery, this is a dynamite combo! Someone who is pressing 100kg for 12 reps will generally have a bigger chest than the person who is pressing 60kg for 12 reps.
4. Poor activation patterns/ bad form
This is getting a little deeper now, form is everything! I see so many people 'training chest' yet whilst they're doing their exercises they are using far too much weight and dominating their lifts with their delts and triceps. If the chest is not being activated and squeezed on every rep then it isn't being overloaded efficiently. This will result in poor results over time and a strength and physical plateau. 'Don't shift it, lift it' leave your ego at the door, strength will come.
5. Low training frequency and volume at "muscle growing" range @65% 1rm or '12 rep range'.
If you're training your chest once every six days then you're typically not going to see the same results as someone who is training it once every 4 days, higher frequency results in more total training volume over time, which ties in with progressive overload and therefore growth. Training a muscle with more frequency (within reason) will generally yield better results as the muscle has far more stress and volume to adapt to. Also don't get caught training too heavy too often! Your body will plateau faster than you can say gains!
6. Poor nutrition.
This is NOT supplements I'm talking here, we're talking straight up food! We've all heard that abs are built in the kitchen. Very true, however every muscle is actually built in the kitchen and the bedroom (Sleeping)! The act of training is essentially a just a damaging act to our bodies, we put ourselves into a weakened state and push to our limits to tear down muscle fibres. While we sleep, all of the nutrition we've fuelled our bodies with will get to work and repair damaged tissue and regrow thicker stronger fibres over time. Diet must be kept in check if you wish to maximise results in any program.
Also poor pre workout nutrition can lead to poor energy in workouts meaning the volume and intensity is not sufficient to create a state of overload. Muscle requires building blocks (amino acids from proteins) (hormones from fats) (insulin response and glycogen stores from carbohydrates)
7. Poor exercise selection
Choose a variety of squeezing and pressing exercises, it's useful to utilise different types of stress including bodyweight, cables, bars, dumbells, incline, decline, flat. Learn your movements and structure your programs so you have a good variety of squeezing and pressing exercises at different levels. Generally your compound and free weight movements will be the best ones to build up a better stronger muscle, prioritise those big movements you get the most out of at the start of your session and work down to isolation and smaller movements with less effect to get the max out of your session. Light pullovers are always felt much harder after a brutal chest session.
8. Lack of effort
Some people don't want to hear this but a lot of guys and girls simply just won't put the work in. If your muscle isn't forced to adapt and change, why should it? The body will try to always maintain its current level (homeostasis) so our job as trainers is to overload this system and force the body into changes over time through consistent hard work. The body will increase to the match the level you set it over time. Basically you want look like an athlete, train like an athlete! The best sessions are always those when you've given everything.
9. Higher body fat %
This is a big one, if you look at a lot of people's transformation pictures or athletes who 'cut' for shows, checking that before and after the person nearly always looks bigger when they're lean and shredded! Despite being around 10% lighter most of the time! This is because the muscle is no longer hidden! You could have an amazing physique you've developed over time however you just can't see it as the body fat may be a little too high, I would suggest for males to be looking around the 8-12% body fat range and females around 18-23% (depending on where your fat is stored mostly) will start showing some of those hard earned gains! This is a game of illusions! When building a better you don't always just look at what you can gain but also what you can afford to lose. This balance will help you massively!
10. Ignoring the basics
Again so many people get caught in the trap of reading these fitness magazines and online help forums telling them they have to do pyramid sets or giant sets to see the results they want, this can be true for experienced lifters however someone who is still fairly new to lifting and learning their body is far better suited to progressively overloading the muscles through controlled rep ranges and movements as they will get far more out of it. If you pre exhaust your chest with push ups before you jump into that next bench press set, yes you will feel it more, however you are also now in a much weaker position to do the lift meaning form can become untidy and muscle activation can go out the window which means... Guess what.. Youre no longer overloading the chest!
-be smart with your exercise choices,
-learn what to expect from your program and body realistically,
-keep the frequency, intensity and overall volume to a good level and ensure progressive overload is being met via targets set in the gym.
-stay true to your program and diet, the results will come!
Always progress with form over weight, it's not what you lift but how you lift it
Happy training people! Hope some of these points helped you guys, most of these points do apply to all muscle gains in the body.
Any questions or queries on any points feel free to ask as I've only touched on each here.