Hardgainer is used to describe individuals who struggle to put on size. You’ll know you are a hardgainer if you’ve ever found yourself seemingly eating and lifting as much as you can and not seeing weight go up on the scale. What I’d like to show those of you struggling with this is that you are not doomed! With a couple tweaks we can get you growing muscle again.
The first step we will focus on is what you are eating. I find no matter what a hardgainer tells me they are eating, it isn’t enough. By the law of thermodynamics, if you are not gaining weight, you need more food. It’s that simple. Don’t just eat ANY food. Start with adding 500 calories more than you are currently eating. Aim for 1 gram per pound of body weight in protein. The rest can come from carbohydrates and fats.
Here’s the catch: you NEED to be eating in that surplus EVERY DAY. One big issue I always find with hardgainers is they tell me they are eating these crazy amounts of calories, but after I have them track I realize it’s only a couple days a week. The rest of the week they’re barely at maintenance. You will not grow if you are not consistently eating in a surplus.
Focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods like lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, consider incorporating supplements like protein shakes and creatine to support your efforts.
The next component is making sure you are adhering to a proper workout regimen. If you are completely new to lifting start with a 3 day full body routine. This will ensure you are hitting the same muscles multiple times a week. Lifting sends a muscle building signal that stays elevated for 48-72 hours. After that, the signal drops down. Knowing this then we should eat each muscle 2-3 times a week to keep that signal elevated.
Aim to do 1 rep more or 5 lbs more than the week before. This will make sure you are training at the right intensity and progressing week to week. Far too often I see people hover at the same weight finding any excuse to not add more. Choose a rep range you enjoy (6-10, 10-15, 15-20) and stick to it for 4 weeks. Then change the rep range to add variation and a new stimulus without changing a whole lot.
Make sure to deload after 4-6 weeks to give your body a chance to catch up to increase in intensity over time. Our bodies accumulate fatigue from the increase in volume with that progressive overload mentioned earlier. Give your body one week at half the volume and intensity to catch up and recover.
We also want to focus on quality. Just as lifters can get stuck using the same weight and being too scared to move up, they can overshoot the weight for the sake of their ego. If you find you are swinging your body to get the movement completed it is probably too heavy. You should feel the targeted muscle for that exercise doing the majority of the work. If it is not getting tired, you probably added too much weight.
That leads me to recovery. Along with deloading, make sure you are staying mobile and focusing on mobility exercises. Make sure you are staying hydrated, and getting 8-9 hours of sleep a day. Make sure to take days off from the gym to let your body heal.