I know what it’s like to be a hardgainer!
For years I lifted weights in the gym but barely got bigger! I’d often leave the gym feeling like a skinny rake, and wondering if i’d ever get the physique I wanted!
Thankfully though, after 12 years of experience; training courses, reading hundreds of books and completing over 8,000 sessions with my 1-1 training clients – I’m now 100% confident in my physique and know the best ways to build muscle…
Here are 8 Tips to help you pack on some serious size…
#1 Eat, Eat, Eat and then Eat Some More
For years I thought I was eating loads, how could I eat any more? Back then I’d have a big bowl of cereal for breakfast, snack on protein shakes and bars throughout the day, and have a massive bowl of tuna pasta for lunch and another big meal for dinner!
Despite me eating lots, I wasn’t eating enough. When I started tracking my calories I realised I was eating around 3,500 cals per day and still maintaining weight!
I therefore pushed my calories up to 4,000 and started to notice weight gain (around 2-3lbs per month). After a year of doing this I gained 14 lbs and finally started to look like I lifted weights! lol!
TIP: Start tracking your calories using Myfitnesspal. Be consistent for a few weeks and set yourself a daily calorie target. For most hardgainers – 3,000 calories is a good place to start. See if your weight goes up or down and then make your next move. Unless your weight goes up, you’ve got to increase calories.
If you maintain or lose weight then throw in an extra 500 calories on training days and see what happens. Then reassess and keep with this method until you find a sweet spot where you are gaining weight without too much body fat.
#2 Lift Big Ass Weights
When I started lifting weights, and for many years after I was guilty of trying every program under the sun. One week I’d follow a plan from Mens Health, but then the next week i’d be doing one from Flex magazine! There was no consistency, and I’d be in the gym for hours, thinking that the more I trained the quicker i’d get results.
The truth was I was burning what little muscle I had for energy and my performance would suffer because I was aching and weak all the time from over training. I never got any stronger!
It’s much better to focus on lifting heavy (providing form is good!) than it is to spend hours in the gym. 30-45 minutes of heavy lifting 4x per week is more than enough for the hard gainer. The heavier you lift the more muscle you will recruit which means the more size you’ll gain.
#3 Log Your Lifts
Do you track your workouts? writing down the sets, reps and weight lifted? If not you are missing an extremely valuable trick.
Like I mentioned in the previous point in order to get bigger you’ve got to get stronger. It’s absolutely imperative to log all of your lifts to ensure progress. I’d recommend picking up a gym diary and from this day forth (or whenever your diary arrives!) start logging all of your lifts.
By logging your workouts you’ll know when you need to reassess when progress stalls and you’ll also know what you are doing right when you make good progress. If your strength drops or stalls, it may be because of poor sleep, under eating, or neglecting important components such as foam rolling, stretching, etc.
Get the log book out and start tracking!
#4 High Intensity Low Volume
As a beginner or hard gainer it’s much better to go for a low volume approach. 8-16 highly intense sets per workout is enough. Go as heavy as you can and take at least 60s rest in between each set (for heavy strength work e.g. 3-5 reps take 2-3 minutes in between each set) .
Your sets should push you to the limit. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spotter to help you when pushing yourself, especially on potentially dangerous exercises like the bench press and squat.
#5 Add in a Supplement Stack
For the hardgainer supplements can be a great way to get in additional calories and improve training performance. Mass gainer shakes can contain a whopping 1,000 calories per shake – a great way to add calories in without any more BIG meals.
Alongside the protein shakes i’d also recommend creatine and potentially a pre-workout to help improve concentration and intensity. With all supplements they should be used in moderation. 90% of your focus should be on training, nutrition and rest, the final 10% can be from supps.
#6 Dose up On Protein
Protein is the equivalent of bricks for your house (or wood in America! lol!), it’s one of the most important things to focus on when it comes to slapping on muscle tissue. For every pound of bodyweight you need between 1.5-2g. If you weigh 150lbs that means you’ll need anything between 225-300g of protein per day. Foods rich in protein include: eggs, chicken, beef, steak, turkey, cod, salmon, nuts, protein shakes
#7 Focus on the Compound Lifts
Compound lifts are basically exercises which recruit large muscle groups. For example the bench press not only works the chest but also the shoulders and triceps. The squat hits the quads, glutes, and abs.
If you want to get big you’ve got be including at least 3-5 compound lifts each week into your workout. Compound lifts include: Dips, bench press, bent over rows, squats, wide pull ups, close pull ups, military press, lunges, etc
#8 Train For A Marathon Not A Sprint
Obvs don’t train for a marathon because that will make you even skinnier! lol. But what i’m saying is it will take time to build muscle, don’t expect results over night.
The 3 most important aspects you need to focus on are:
- Calorie Surplus – eating more calories than you are burning
- Getting Stronger In The Gym – track workouts and keep increasing strength
- Rest and Recovery – good sleep routine, foam rolling, massages, stretching and of course…proper nutrition.
Do the 8 things that i’ve mentioned in this post consistently and over the next 6-12 months you’ll turn into a beast from the east (that means a muscle bound hunk! lol!)
Any questions please give me a shout, i’d love to help.
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