Why My Muscles Won’t Grow? Cortisol Stress Hormone Destroy Muscle Tissues

There are many reasons why your muscles won’t grow or why your muscle growth is retarded. One main culprit for your muscle tissue to in a catabolic and not in an anabolic state is the stress hormone called cortisol. This stress hormone, cortisol, is produced by your body when you are under stressful situations.

Yes, any type of stress, whether they are mental stress, physical stress or just emotional stress will trigger off an increased in the production of cortisol hormones. A high level of cortisol is always a bane for bodybuilders and that in itself, is creating more stress.

When you exercise or especially weightlifting body building exercises, you are placing a tremendous stress on your body. This in turn will cause the cortisol hormone in your body to rise to unacceptable level which may destroy your muscle tissues, bone density and causes weight gain especially abdominal fat. Ohhh…that abdominal fat that would not go away.

This hormone hates your muscles and wants you to grow fat. It takes away protein from the muscles. However to be fair to this hormone, the cortisol hormone has its positive functions.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex and is commonly known as a stress hormone because the level of cortisol in your body rises sharply when you are under stress. This hormone plays an important role in your body’s metabolic function, it facilitates cardiovascular function, carbohydrate metabolism and controls inflammation. After all, it is a steroid hormone.

As more cortisol is being produced, your muscle tissue breaks down further since the amino acids from your muscle protein is being converted into glucose for energy. This hormone also blocks new muscle tissues from growing because it interferes in protein synthesis in your muscles.

How to lower cortisol level?

• Get enough sleep – Let your body recuperate from the day’s stress and let the body rebuild its wears and tears. A lack of sleep will put your body under further stress and thus increasing cortisol levels.

• Avoid stress – Take up yoga, read a book, take a break from whatever you are doing. Learn meditation and breathing techniques to reduce everyday stress. Take a week or so break from your exercise routine after 6-8 weeks of regular training. As your body learns how to relax, the level of cortisol hormone will fall correspondingly.

• Do not over train – Over training is a common issue amongst athletes of all types. This is especially so in bodybuilding and weight lifting. You are already damaging your muscles when you lift weights, don’t let cortisol hormones rob your muscles of the much needed proteins and preventing muscle repair and growth.

Once your body and mind is free from stress, your cortisol production will be at a healthy level and you will once again see your muscles growing, provided that you are doing other things that are conducive to getting your muscles to grow.

Why You Should NOT Try to Isolate Muscle Groups When Weight Training


Working as a fitness professional, there is one type of question I get all the time that shows that many people are missing the big picture regarding the benefits of strength training. This popular question usually goes something like this:

“What exercise can I do to isolate my

__ (insert your muscle of choice – abs, quads, biceps, triceps, etc)?”

It doesn’t matter which muscle someone is asking about, they always seem to be asking how to ‘isolate’ it. My first response to this question is always – Why in the world would you want to isolate it?

The first thing I try to teach my clients is that the body does not work well in muscle isolation. Rather, it works better in movements along a kinetic chain; that is, large portions of the body assist other portions of the body in completing a complex movement. In fact, there really is no such thing as true muscle isolation. There is almost always a nearby muscle group that will assist in some way with whatever movement you are doing. However, this article compares attempting to ‘isolate’ body parts via single-joint exercises to the much more effective strategy of performing multi-joint complex movements.

When you attempt to ‘isolate’ muscles by performing single-joint exercises, you are actually creating a body that is non-functional and will be more prone to injury. Essentially, you are creating a body that is a compilation of body parts, instead of a powerful, functional unit that works together.

Now if you really want to end up hobbling around in a body bandaged up with joint problems, tendonitis, and excess body fat, then by all means, continue trying to ‘isolate’ body parts. On the other hand, if you would rather have a lean, muscular, injury-free, functional body that works as a complete powerful unit to perform complex movements (in athletics or even everyday tasks), then you need to shift your focus away from muscle isolation. Believe me, focusing on how well your body functions will give you the side effect of a body that looks even better than it would have if you focused on muscle isolation. For example, take a look at the physiques of any NFL running backs, wide receivers, or even world class sprinters. Trust me when I say that these guys pretty much NEVER train for muscle isolation (their strength coaches wouldn’t be crazy enough to let them), yet they are absolutely ripped to shreds! Just look at guys like Maurice Green or Terrell Owens and tell me who wouldn’t want a physique like those guys.

Another benefit to moving away from the ‘muscle isolation‘ mindset to a more ‘complex movement’ mindset is that you will find it much easier to lose body fat. The reason is that by focusing more on multi-joint complex movements as opposed to single-joint muscle isolation, you not only burn a lot more calories during each workout, but you also increase your metabolic rate, and stimulate production of more fat burning and muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone.

Let’s look at an example. The machine leg extension is a single joint exercise that works mainly the quadriceps, can potentially cause knee joint instability in the long run, and doesn’t even burn that many calories. On the other hand, exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and deadlifts are all multi-joint complex movements that work hundreds of muscles in the body (including the quadriceps) as a functional unit, create more stable and strong joints in the long run (when done properly), and also burn massive quantities of calories compared to the single-joint exercises.