Firstly, let me define what a hardgainer is. Hardgainers are skinny, their appetites are usually small, they have a very fast metabolism and because of these three factors they cannot pack on muscle easily. This is why they call themselves “hardgainers”, because these are the challenges they face. So how should you work out if you are a hardgainer? Use the hardgainer workout advice that I am about to lay out for you.
Before I even begin to start, I want to outline the traditional hardgainer advice and then let you know why you shouldn’t follow these hardgainer workouts.
Hardgainer Rule 1- Focus on Compound movements
A compound exercise is one that uses more than one muscle group. Isolation exercises are exercises which typically only stimulate one muscle group such as the peck deck machine. Traditional hardgainer workout advice is to focus on the big 3 compound movements. These are the bench press, deadlift and the squat. The idea is that by doing compound movements you are recruiting the most amount of muscle fibers to break down and grow stronger. The reason I go against this advice is that solely focusing on the big 3 will put mass on in the wrong places. When you do excessive bench pressing, you wind up with a droopy looking chest with your upper chest lagging far behind in development. With the deadlift, you are packing on mass on your lower back, hips and butt. This will make your butt and waist bigger, and this is just not a good area to put muscle on. The squat will also make your butt much bigger, and make your thighs stick out which also isn’t a good look. These big 3 movements are great for packing on scale weight, but they will add muscle in the wrong areas. Using them in moderation can do great wonders, but don’t think you must focus on compound movements, use some isolation exercises as well.
Hardgainer Rule 2- Lift Heavy
This seems to make sense, that to get bigger you need to get stronger and is partially true. However, lifting heavy weights is what will restrict you. To grow muscles, you need to fatigue them. Lifting in the 6-15 repetition range with moderately heavy weights will allow you to lift in this rep range and really fatigue the muscle. Lifting heavy will not allow you to lift for many reps and not cause you fatigue. Keep rest between sets down to 30-60 seconds as the idea is for your muscles not to reach full recovery so you can fatigue them further. When you get the desired size you like using this method, now is the time to start lifting heavy. You see, using the 6-15 rep range is good for building big muscles but this is only sarcoplasmic growth, which basically means an increase in fluid within the muscles. This is not a very good look, so when you get the size you want, focus on strength training to tone the muscle and work on myofibrillar muscle growth. Combined with a low calorie diet and cardio you can get really ripped using this strategy.
Hardgainer Rule 3- Work One Muscle Group Per Week
The idea is that the 45-60 minute workout they suggest, is going to tire your poor muscles so badly, that you need a whole 7 days to recover. Again, this is just silly. Rest is key to muscle growth, as muscles actually grow outside the gym, but 7 days is excessive. Resting the muscle group for 3-4 days is sufficient before training them again. When you next train your muscles, you should bare in mind the overload principle which is that you must work out harder than you previously did to keep the gains coming as muscles adapt and need a new stimulus. This new stimulus could be to lift slightly heavier, decrease the rest time or increase the amount of reps or sets.
Hardgainer Rule 4- Eat as Much As Possible
This is the biggest one to avoid for a hardgainer. Following this advice will make you gain weight. But the keyword being weight. What you truly want is lean muscle growth and not a whole bunch of fat along with it. You see this advice comes from the bodybuilding bulk and cut approach, which aims to get as big as possible before doing a toning phase to hold all the acquired muscle while dropping the excess fat. My advice is to get your workouts right, and eat a little bit above maintenance to build lean muscle and limit the fat gain.
Hardgainer Rule 5- Don’t Do cardio And Be Lazy Outside The Gym
The idea here is that doing cardio burns up calories which your precious muscles need to grow. This advice makes an individual lazy and also to pile on fat with all the excess calories they are told to eat. Cardio in moderation is fine, avoid marathon type events if you are serious about gaining muscle, but actually doing HIIT workouts raises HGH which is essential in muscle building. Cardio will also help you in the gym, as using fatiguing methods is cardio in nature. I would never tell a hardgainer to drop whatever sport they are doing all in the name of muscle growth. Live your life, gaining muscle is a slow process anyway. Typically 25 lbs can be synthesised in a year, so 0.5lbs a week.
Okay that covers most of the typical hardgainer workout advice and why you shouldn’t follow it, aim at building a lean athletic body, and not a big oversized sluggish one using poor advice.