I’ve had plenty of hardgainers come to me seeking advice for putting on size. They feel as though they are destined to be skinny forever and nothing seems to work for them. Thankfully, by asking the right questions, and making tweaks to their approach, it is in fact possible to get a hardgainer on the right track to putting on size. It just requires some thought and consistency.
Having a sound workout program will go a long way in putting any hardgainer in the right direction towards muscle growth. There needs to be a proper focus on progressive overload so that the muscles are adequately challenged. This can come in the form of doing more reps or more weight than the week before.
Choosing the right exercises, and making sure you work in a variety of rep ranges will also help you set on the right course. The foundation of a good program should be compound exercises such as bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and a row. This will stimulate all muscles of the body, and allow the biggest potential to grow. Only after these are all covered should one consider adding direct arm work.
Nutrition is Key
How you are eating is probably more important than the workout program. Even the perfect program followed every day will produce minimal results if you are not eating in a surplus. You must be eating enough protein (1g/lb of bodyweight) to repair the muscle, and enough calories (300-500 above maintenance) to ensure you provide enough carbs and fats to promote growth.
Your Environment and Lifestyle
As much as we all want to blame our genetics, research shows that only 40% of the equation. That means there is still 60% within our control! How well you manage your stress, sleep, and hydration are all important factors towards fueling growth. We break down our muscles in the gym. The only way they can rebuild into bigger muscles is when we sleep. You should be shooting for 7-8 hours minimum to allow for the repair mechanisms to kick in. Use meditation and breathing techniques to help mitigate any unwanted stress in your life. Drinking enough water allows the nutrients to get where they need to be, while keeping your cells hydrated and providing you with the energy you need to perform your best by clearing our waste products.
Consistency and Time
With all the hardgainers I’ve worked with as a trainer, I’d say that the hardest tip to follow is consistency. Being able to follow the above steps at least 90% of the time, week to week. You have to appreciate, as with anything worth achieving in life, it takes time. Muscle isn’t built overnight. Just because you don’t see results in one month doesn’t mean you failed. It can take at LEAST 3 months to see any reasonable change (depending on your experience level). Take pictures weekly, so you can eventually look back and objectively see all the great progress you’ve achieved over those last few months. It’s a lifestyle change that’ll take time to reap the reward, but once it’s there it’s very easy to maintain.
Due to unregulated marketing, and false claims, the fitness industry has been built to make us all believe supplements are the key to our success. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. At BEST, taking the right supplements will add maybe 1-5% to your overall progress. While that isn’t insignificant it’s not high enough to be the first thing on your list. Following the above advice will account for 95-99% of your progress, and I’d say that number is way more significant. There is no one supplement that increases your size overnight. Whey protein can help fill in the gaps, and creatine can help your performance in the gym, but that’s really it. No other supplement out there will outperform eating whole food consistently, and getting the right amount of sleep.
I definitely don’t want to get caught up in this. I only even write this just to give a light mention that – yes, some individuals are predisposed to putting on muscle easier than others. I say this as to inform any hardgainers out there that they shouldn’t be comparing themselves to anyone else anyways. Some may have it easy, and some may have it hard. While you may struggle adding size, there are plenty of people who will tell you they have an even harder time losing the weight. The grass will always be greener. What’s important is that we learn to handle what we can control.