Hardgainers naturally have a high metabolism and any calories that they eat are used pretty quickly. Ectomorphs in particular find it very difficult to gain weight or muscle.
However, although getting bulked as a hardgainer is difficult it is far from impossible. You will need to be synchronise with your nutrition and training plans; you will also have to be 100% committed and dedicated to the task of getting ‘built’.
Fundamentally, there are 7 reasons why hardgainers can’t gain weight, these are as follows:
- Not enough food and not tracking your foods with a food diary
- Wrong food choices and lack of calorie dense foods
- Too much activity throughout the day e.g. a physically demanding job
- Training wrong, using isolated exercises and not compound exercises
- Trying to avoid gains in % body fat
- Lack of consistency, faith and motivation
- You blame your genetics
Which one or more of the above reasons do you use as an excuse for not gaining weight or muscle?
To be frank, there really isn’t room for a half arsed approach and the excuses need parking in the back of your head.
The following top tips will help you on your journey. Are you ready?
#1 – Eat higher calorie foods
Don’t stuff your stomach with a huge quantity of low density foods such as fruits & vegetables, for the purpose of trying to load your body with calories. These food types will make you feel full and this is rather uncomfortable in and out of the gym.
That is not to say that veggies are not healthy, but for the hardgainer the focus should be on foods such as steak, whole eggs, oatmeal and dried nuts. As these food types will be a lot higher in calories and most hardgainers need to be consuming about 25 calories per kg of bodyweight per day, to pack on the muscle.
This should equate to above 5000 kcals per day and if you still are not gaining weight add more calories into your nutrition plan.
Try to eat every 3 hours, include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks into your nutrition plan, as this will keep the insulin levels spiked and you should start to gain weight. Be consistent with this approach and you will gain weight and muscle.
#2 – Drink some calories
In addition to the pre and post work out shakes, aim to drink at least another shake per day.
Liquids will fill you up far less than solids and are packed with calories; this should help you to achieve your calorie intake for the day.
Add the following high calories ingredients to your shakes or buy a weight gaining shake:
- Peanut butter
- Coconut oil
- Greek yoghurt
In addition, drink 4 litres of whole fat milk per day, every single day no matter what.
#3 – Eat the right carbs
Load up on the carbs post exercise, as this strategy will give your body the right nutrients to boost glycogen stores and will be the platform for recovery.
This is prime time for muscle building and for repair; load up on carbs such as dextrose and maltodextrin.
If you are not already carbo loading post exercise, then this should be your first adjustment to your nutrition plan, as this improves recovery rates and strength gains. If you are stronger, you can pump more weight and increase muscle mass a lot quicker.
Two hours before you train eat whole wheat pasta, as 250grams of pasta = 1000kcals. Also go heavy on the bananas, as they are packed with calories!
#4 – Eat the right fats
Add omega 3-s and saturated fats into your nutrition plan and don’t substitute your carb intake with fats. Both macros should be included, fats are highly calories dense and help to stimulate muscle growth.
Healthy fats from fatty fish, nuts and coconut oil are a must for the hardgainer e.g. 100 g of nuts= 500 kcals.
#5 – Do compound exercises and give the isolation exercises a miss
Bin the isolation exercises and perform compound exercises instead.
Compound exercises include the following:
- Bench press ( including incline & decline)
- Bent over rows
- Shoulder press
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- Leg presses
The major benefit of compound exercises is that you are using and recruiting more muscle fibres during the whole movement. Therefore, you will be able to lift heavier weight and this translates to more rapid strength gains.
This increase in strength gains is especially evident in beginners, because building a solid foundation of lean muscle is achieved via heavy lifting. Rationale dictates that you will always lift more total weight when performing a compound exercises.
Another key benefit of using compound movements is that you are reducing the overall time of your work outs. In simple terms you will be working major muscle groups instead of singular muscles and so you will be saving time by performing compound movements.
Realistically, you can accomplish a whole body work out in about 5 compound exercises and just think ‘How many isolation exercises you would have to perform to get the same full body results?’
Therefore, for the hardgainer less volume of weight is usually better, keep your rep range low and increase your rest intervals in between sets to about 120 seconds.
If you force yourself to do another set before you have recovered, you will not see the maximal muscle gains.
#6 – Cardio
A training myth is that hardgainers should eliminate cardio completely from their work outs. This is not true and when performed in the right manner cardio does have its place in the hardgainer’s training schedule.
The best approach is to keep cardio at a low to medium intensity for 20 minutes, 3 times per week and this helps with general heart health.
Final Words of Advice
Finally, believe that you are not a hardgainer and that you were eating and training all wrong; then you will start to see some muscle mass gains.
Remember to log and track your progress by taking pictures throughout the whole process, and monitor all of your foods along with the training that you have completed. Good luck.
For further tips on how to bulk effectively I would recommend the following guide.