7 Mindful Ways to Gain Muscle Mass and Avoid Plateaus

mindful weight lifting

Focus on the Muscle Gains Mindfully

By: John D. Moore, PhD

Gaining muscle mass is the primary goal of most people engaged in strength training and conditioning. One of the most frustrating obstacles for those who frequent the gym on a regular basis is experiencing muscle plateaus. At their core, muscle plateaus are roadblocks to new muscle growth, meaning a person engaged in body building is unable to add mass to what they already have.

If you have been struggling to put on more muscle, you may need to focus less on the physical and more on the psychological. By this I mean using concepts that are deeply rooted in eastern philosophies, commonly referred to as mindfulness.


You might be wondering … what the heck is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a 25 cent word that is all about focusing on the here and now. This is a term that is linked to the world of positive psychology. Mindfulness also borrows from cognitive therapy and humanistic psychology with a bit of a Zen dynamic.

Essentially, by focusing on the moment (as in this moment) using all of your senses, mindfulness can help a person with a number of life issues, including working through muscle plateaus, building more muscle and creating change.

What follows are 7 mindful ways for you to think about which may help you pack on more muscle and jettison past the gravitational pull of body building plateaus.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

positive psychology

Muscle Mass – 7 Mindful Ways

1. Create awareness around change

Creating awareness around change means knowing when you have entered into a workout routine rut. Mindful solutions include using some type of a journal to track the exercises you have been using over the course of time. This in turn will allow you to tweak your program and work past muscle memory, which is a major reason why plateaus happen in the first place. Creating awareness can sometimes mean breaking out of your comfort zone and employing the expertise of a personal trainer to help you reach new heights.

2. Focus on full range of motion

Focusing on full range of motion truly requires you to live in the here and when lifting. This means being honest with yourself about how much weight you can lift and if you are able to move the dumbbell or barbell in a balanced way from the start of the repetition to completion.

3. Lifting with purpose

Infusing purpose into your workout routine means engaging in exercises because you have a goal in mind, such as growing your arms or legs. The opposite of lifting with purpose is lifting out of habit. Mindfulness necessarily means that we have a specific intent for all that we do – including lifting weights.

4. Rhythm and structure

This point has nothing to do with music. Instead, it has to do with your circadian rhythm. The ability to recognize when you are most alert and most energetic can be a powerful way mindfulness approach to working out. Ideally, you want to be lifting when you are at maximum energy. By knowing your rhythm, you can then structure the time of your workouts during the week.

5. Rest and sleep

This mindful tip is one you have probably heard before but is worth mentioning here because of its importance. You must take give your body enough time to rest and heal from the previous workouts. This means building in at least 8-hours of sleep. Notice I did not say 6 hours or 7 hours – but 8. It’s pretty simple – if you lift weights, you are necessarily expending more energy and tearing more muscle fibers than a non-weight lifter. Rest and sleep are essential if you ever wish to grow your muscles.

6. Time off from the gym

While many people have different opinions about how much time you should take off in between workouts, one thing that is not in dispute is the importance of gym-breaks. Here, I am talking about taking a week off after a continuous period of strength training. Generally speaking, you should be taking 1-week off every 8-10 weeks. The break will allow your muscles to grow and in many ways reset your exercise cycle. The week off can also help to prevent gym accidents.

7. Patience and trust

The final mindful approach to gaining muscle mass relates to patience. We live in an instant results society, expecting change to happen in the blink of an eye. Because our society has conditioned us for immediate results, it is easy to forget that real, lasting and substantive change in our body takes time. The concept of patience applies to all areas of live, regardless if we are trying to lose weight or if we are trying to assess our readiness to be in a new relationship. Patience is empowered by trust – trust in ourselves and in our ability to meet our muscle building goals.

Muscle Mass Final Thoughts

It is easy to focus on the physical issues which may be preventing us from gaining new muscle. In many ways – this is easy. The hard part is looking inward, using concepts of mindfulness to shift our psychological schema and create change.

I encourage you consider picking up a copy of Mind and Muscle: Psych Up, Build Up by Blair Whitmarsh. Lots of great insight for you to gain in this read!

Thanks for taking time to read this post. I hope you found this information useful. Please Like 2nd Story Counseling on Facebook, Circle us on Google Plus and share on Twitter!


  1. This is am extremely good article on mindfulness and should be reposted on its own. I follow ” mindfulness in everyday life.

    • Rick,

      Thanks for this note. I am assuming you mean a post on Psychcentral? If so, you may just see something similar there:)


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