Training Tips for the Hard Gainer

Hard gainers are genetically adapted for endurance and strength, but gaining muscle is something of a struggle.

Training Tips for the Hard GainerAs a hard gainer, you’re going to have to completely shift your approach and adopt a whole new training style.

One of the biggest challenges for a hard gainer is reining in your ability to complete set after set for lots of reps. Because of your body type, you are capable of doing a lot of work and your endurance is incredible. While this may seem like a decent workout, this type of workout is counterproductive because you’re giving your body a stimulus that it adapts to very easily, but this stimulus does not activate muscular growth.

The best way for hard gainers to gain muscle and put on size is to follow these three tips:

Low Volume/High Intensity vs. High Volume/Moderate Intensity

  1. Cut back on your time in the gym.
  2. Cut down on the volume of your training.
  3. Increase the loads and intensity, big time!

By following these tips, you give your body the training stimulus it needs to grow. The other area you have to pay strict attention to is your diet. Getting adequate calories and protein-to-carbohydrate ratios is critical to helping muscles grow and maintaining that heard-earned muscle.

Mass Gaining Workout for Hard Gainers

Day 1:  Chest/Triceps

Flat Bench/Incline Dumbbell Press/Dips
Triceps Pushdowns/Skull Crushers/Dips

Using the pyramid training principle, perform 3 warm-up sets. On the fourth and final set, select a weight that would be your 10-rep max, and perform 3 rest-pause sets going to failure on each set.

*The rest/pause technique involves repping out to failure, taking a short rest and using the same weight repping out to failure again, and then adhering to this plan, you would complete one more set to failure.

**rest times for your final set should be no more than 10 seconds

Day 2: Back/Biceps

  • Wide Grip Chins/Bent Over Barbell Rows/One-Arm Rows/Deadlifts
  • Straight Bar Curls/Alternate Dumbbell Curls/Preacher Curls

For training your back, if you decide to use the rest-pause principle you may be putting yourself at risk. My suggestion is to perform simple straight sets, using the first two sets as warm ups and then performing two working sets, using a rep range of 6-8.

*Straight sets are ideal for setting up the final two sets to be an all-out, gut-busting, intense bout of physical aggression.

**For training biceps, continue with the rest-pause principle or if you would like to use straight sets again, make use of another training principle called forced reps, which requires a spotter to help you complete your final reps after you reach failure.

Day 3: REST

Day 4: Quads/Hamstrings/Calves

  • Squats/Leg Presses/Hack Squats
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts/Lying Leg Curls
  • Standing Calf Raises/Seated Calf Raises

Since your legs can really take a beating, and adding muscle to that area for a hard gainer is going to take a lot, you’re going to have to go hard and heavy and employ some training techniques that are going to leave you feeling ill at the completion of the workout. I think adding a little more volume to your leg training will be beneficial but not too much. To do this, incorporate drop sets into the equation at the end of 3-4 straight sets.

*Make sure your knees are thoroughly warmed up. If you are true hard gainer and fit the ectomorph body type, this joint can be easily injured if not properly warmed up. Long legs have more distance to travel when completing a rep compared to a shorter, mesomorph-type build. So take your time warming up.

Day 5: Shoulders/Traps

  • Overhead Military Presses (standing or seated)/Lateral Raises/Reverse Pec Deck Flyes
  • Barbell Shrugs/Dumbbell Shrugs

The majority of your shoulder mass is going to come from performing pressing movements, so focus on getting a lot stronger on this movement. It incorporates all heads of the deltoid, so pressing should be first in your program at this point in time.

Perform 3 straight sets for your warm-ups and then incorporate the ascending set training principle for your fourth and final set.

*For your last set, pick a weight that you can get 10 reps, complete the set then immediately add another 10 lb and try to get 8 reps. Finally add another 10 lb and try to get 6 reps out of it.

*Forcing your body to adapt to the increase in weight with no rest is a great way to force the muscle to grow.

Days 6 and 7: REST – All you should be focusing on is eating and resting. The work for the week has been done, the muscle has been taxed and now it needs time to recover and grow.

The best advice is to be patient and set small goals for yourself. If you are seeing strength increases in the gym, you are gaining muscle, even if you can’t really notice it.

Supplementation for the Hard Gainer

A CreMAGnavol and QuickMass stack make for a potent combination for any hard gainer looking to get bigger and stronger. A Casein-FX protein shake before bed with some ZMAs will help with recovery and keep you anabolic overnight. It is doubly important that you take an intra-workout BCAA supplement too like Aminocore for increased gains.

Above all, do not allow yourself to get discouraged. Be patient, be relentless, and work your ass off in the gym! Hard work and dedication does pay off. Even if you weren’t blessed with the genetics of a Greek God, many champion physiques were built from pure determination and sheer will. The goal is to build the best physique you are capable of. Not allowing yourself to achieve that because you call yourself a hard gainer is no excuse in my books!

Dana Bushell

As a former provincial level bodybuilding competitor, and as a strength and conditioning coach, Dana has the advantage of being up to date with the current training and dieting practices used by the industry’s athletes. Along with being an Associate Professor of Communications, Dana is also a certified fitness consultant and a regular columnist for Muscle Insider.

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