A hardgainer is an arbitrary label that describes a person who practices bodybuilding or powerlifting type training but finds it challenging to develop musculature regardless of the amount of effort put in. Is this you? Are you looking to put on size but feel like it’s nearly impossible no matter how hard you try? Have a look at the steps below to see if you are on the right track with your training and nutrition:
- Train compounds – Squats, bench, deadlifts, overhead press, and pull up. These are your bread and butter of your program. Compound movements are those that work several muscle groups at the same time. The most muscle groups you used the more mass you are going to enquire. Try starting each session with a compound of some sort before moving onto your isolation work. Anything from 5-15 reps for 5 sets should do it if you want a starting point.
- Eat more protein – Keep protein goals to 1.8/2kg per kilogram of bodyweight, even if this seems aggressive to some, it will ensure an anabolic state essential for muscle building and strength gain, without any negative side effects. If this feels literally impossible to start, aim for 1.6kg of protein per kg of bodyweight as a MINIMUM and build up. Remember protein doesn’t need to be just chicken breast and egg whites when you are trying to put on mass. Using salmon, beef and more fatty chicken cuts such as thighs makes the whole process more enjoyable and at the same time get more calories.
- Just eat more! – At lot of people who class themselves as “hard gainers” probably don’t eat as much as they think. They have one large meal then get side-tracked by life and end up not eating for a while then trying to get their calories in late at night. Grazing on calorie dense foods is the key to weight gain. Further to that try and get some easy wins in your day. For example – Add olive oil to a salad/carb source, sprinkle some nuts or seeds onto a meal, add an avocado to a meal or snack on high calorie foods such as nuts or fruit loaf. All these will increase calories without increasing food volume too much. That way you won’t be overwhelmed by your suggested intake. I guarantee you can add 500kcal a day without even thinking about it. But importantly its good quality calories and not just another cake.
- Train full body frequency – Gone are the days of the “bro splits” of chest on a Monday, back on a Wednesday and arms on a Saturday night. The more we train each body part the more chance it’s got of growing. Try changing your sessions around a little so you hit things more muscle groups more frequently.
- Train for hypertrophy – This is just to bring together everything above. For muscle mass increase its important to train the right way. A lot studies these days are actually coming to the conclusion that the rep range itself isn’t hugely important and what is more important is the effort level put in. As mentioned earlier aiming between the 5-15 rep range is probably about right, but its important that you push yourself close to failure. Thinking of training in this respect opens up so many more avenues. If you are aiming for 8 reps and you get there and you could do loads more then push through to the higher rep ranges towards 12 or until you can probably maybe do one more rep at a push. Don’t just be half arsed and stop. Hard work is the key to muscle gain. Not what people want to hear but its true!
- Measure and adapt – If you haven’t got a starting point how do you know if you are progressing. Take some photos, measure body areas and take some body fat percentage. Anything that you can measure again in 6 weeks or so to see if you have progressed. Use 2-week markers and set a time towards your end goal to see if you are on track. If not then try and find a way to change your protocol to see these improvements.
Think of your body as a plant and exercise and nutrition as sunlight and water. Not enough of either and aren’t going to see the results you want. Work hard in the kitchen and in the gym implementing the points about and I’m sure you will see benefits soon enough.