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The Ex-Hardgainer Workout And Eating Plan

Average: 3.9 (160 votes)
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Tired of being a hardgainer? This program contains a detailed workout and progression scheme, along with eating advice and a sample daily diet plan.

Workout Summary

Main Goal:
Build Muscle
Workout Type:
Full Body
Training Level:
Beginner
Days Per Week:
3
Equipment Required:
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Target Gender:
Male & Female
Author:

Workout Description

You're not a hardgainer, you just think you're a hardgainer.

A hardgainer is someone who makes muscle and strength gains at a slightly slower rate than most. This may be due to any number of factors, including bone size. Small-boned lifters tend to carry around less muscle mass than large-boned lifters.

But let's not get sidetracked. Notice I said hardgainers progress at a SLIGHTLY slower rate than most. See, here's the problem...you aren't a hardgainer at all. Why? Because you aren't making ANY gains. A hardgainer still makes steady progress. Instead of being a hardgainer, you are a "no gainer."

Here's the good news: being a "no gainer" is a fixable condition. A no gainer isn't making progress because of 2 reasons:

  1. They aren't eating enough.
  2. They aren't training hard enough.

Ok, stop smirking. I know some of you are thinking...what a joke. I train hard and eat enough. This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Yes, I do. And I'm here to tell you that you are NOT training hard nor eating enough - you just think you are.

You may not believe me right now, but that's ok. You don't have to believe me. I will let the results of this article speak for themselves. If you think you're a hardgainer try this plan for at least 90 days. It works. You have nothing to lose.

The Hardgainer Workout Approach

This workout approach will ask several things of you:

  1. That you stay persistent and don't miss any workouts.
  2. That you stick to the plan and add weight to the bar according to the plan.
  3. That you minimize your cardio to no more than 3 sessions per week of 20-30 minutes.

A note before you begin this plan: this workout is not for novices or absolute beginners. If you do not have a grasp of good form for the exercises listed then take a month and get the kinks ironed out. When you start this workout plan you must be capable of adding weight week in and week out, and that will demand decent exercise form.

You will be working out 3 times per week, on non-consecutive days of the week. Here are 2 possible options:

  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Sets. For each set you will push yourself and try to perform as many reps as possible, stopping that set when you feel like you may be unable to complete the next rep. Don't train to failure.

Use an appropriate number of warm up sets. Warm up sets should prepare the body for the heavier sets to come without fatiguing or taxing the body.

Rep Goal. Each exercise has a rep goal. This goal is the total number of reps you want to obtain for the 3 listed sets. For example, if the rep goal is 25, your goal is to perform 25 total reps for the 3 sets. This is NOT 25 reps per set...it it 25 total reps for the 3 sets.

When you reach this rep goal, you will add weight the next time you perform this exercise. It's ok to go over this rep goal during a given workout.

The following is progression list for each exercise. When you reach the rep goal for this exercise, add weight as listed.

  • Squats - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you squat.
  • Deadlifts - 15 rep goal. When you are able to perform 15 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you deadlift.
  • Bench Press - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you bench press.
  • Overhead Press - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you overhead press.
  • Dumbbell Rows - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the dumbbell the next time you row.
  • Barbell Curl - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you curl.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the dumbbell the next time you press.
  • Barbell Rows - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you row.
  • Dumbbell Curl - 25 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the dumbbell the next time you curl.
  • Calf Raises - 45 rep goal. When you are able to perform 45 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to this lift the next time you perform them.
  • Weighted Situps - 45 rep goal. When you are able to perform 45 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds the next time you perform them.
  • Side Bends - 30 rep goal. When you are able to perform 30 total reps for 3 sets, add 5 pounds to the dumbbell the next time you perform them.
  • 20 rep Squats - 20 rep goal. When you are able to perform 20 total reps for this single set of squats, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you squat.

For calf raises, you may use whichever variation works best for you. Weighted sit ups are performed like regular sit ups, except that you hold a plat or dumbbell on your chest. DO NOT swap in any exercises. The exercises listed are the exercises to be performed. No exceptions.

What Weight Do I Start With?

Estimate which weight you would currently be able to use to reach the rep goal for a given exercise, and then start with about 75 to 80% of that weight. It will take several weeks to grow accustomed to the unique demands of this program, and it may take several weeks to get your eating up to speed, so don't rush to add weight right out of the gate.

Monday
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3 25
Bench Press 3 25
Dumbbell Row 3 25
Barbell Curl 3 25
Weighted Sit Up 3 45
Wednesday
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 3 15
Overhead Press 3 25
Dips 3 Max
Barbell Calf Raise 3 45
Side Bend 3 30
Friday
Full Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 1 20
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 25
Barbell Row 3 25
Dumbbell Curl 3 25
Weighted Sit Up 3 45

The Hardgainer Eating Plan

You have one goal during the next 90 days:

  • To eat 4000+ calories per day.

Combined with the aggressive progression of weight found in the workout plan, this food intake will assist you with packing on muscle.

You can train as hard as you want, but if you're not eating enough it will be extremely difficult to add muscle or strength. Most hardgainers don't eat enough food. They often have lightning fast metabolisms and have a hard time adding any weight.

As a "hardgainer" you must not underestimate the importance of eating big. Eating big will only make you fat if you're not training hard enough, and we already have that base covered.

Stop panicking. You will not turn into a sumo wrestler during the next 90 days. In fact, if you truly are a hardgainer with a super high metabolism you probably won’t gain much fat at all. But you should gain muscle and strength at a rapid rate.

Don’t even think about skipping this step. Eating is just as important as training. Here are some tips to help you eat right are reach 4000 daily calories:

  • Protein. Eat at least 30 to 40 grams of protein every 2.5 to 3 hours. At minimum you should eat 180 grams of protein each day.
  • Fat. Eat at least 30% of your daily calories from fat. It will be virtually impossible to eat enough if you focus on protein and carbs.
  • Carbs. Make sure to eat at least 3 servings of quality carbs each day, if not more. Quality carb sources include oatmeal, rice, whole grain cereal and bread, and quinoa. You can also eat fruits and veggies.

High Calorie Foods

It can seem tough to reach 4000 calories per day, but it's rather easy if you plan properly and consume the correct foods. If you are having a hard time eating enough, here are some suggestions:

  • Whole milk. Sip on whole milk throughout the day. Each cup contains 150 calories and is full of muscle building protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Almonds. An ounce of almonds is rich in calcium, healthy fats, and contains about 160 calories.
  • Butter or Olive Oil. Add a pat or two of butter to your veggies, or cook your meat in olive oil.
  • Sour Cream or Cheese. Top your dinner with a little sour cream or cheese. Both are calorie rich and can add quite a bit of flavor.
  • Weight Gainer. Weight gainers add quite a few calories per serving and are a good choice if you don't always have a lot of time to cook.

Sample Eating Plan

Here is a sample eating plan that provides 4300 daily calories:

  • Breakfast (889 calories) - 4 large eggs with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, 12 ounces of whole milk, 1 cup cooked oatmeal with one large banana.
  • Snack (519) - 8 ounces of whole milk with 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 6 ounces of Greek yogurt with 3 diced strawberries.
  • Lunch (1020) - Double cheeseburger, 12 ounces of whole milk, spinach cooked in butter or olive oil, medium sized baked sweet potato with butter.
  • Snack (557) - 8 ounces of whole milk with 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 1 ounce of dry roasted almonds, one large banana.
  • Dinner (915) - 8 ounces of chicken topped with salsa, 2 ounces of sour cream and 1 ounce shredded pepper jack cheese, peas and carrots cooked in small amount of butter, 1 cup cooked rice.
  • Snack (400) - 8 ounces of whole milk with 1 scoop of casein protein powder, handful of almonds.

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    Average: 3.9 (160 votes)
  • About The Author
    Steve is a powerlifter who has also spent 20 years training in bodybuilding. He is a national level competitor training for an all-time over 50 raw world record.
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Comments (695)

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araheem
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 16:51

i am on real results pull, squats .. workout for last 3 weeks and i have seen v slight increase in my strength but i want get muscles fast, is this one better for me ? ex hardgainer and i m afraid eating so much will give me a big belly i want have lean muscles + a six pack can it be done 2gether ? should i continue results pull for one week more and then switch to this like one month for each workout , i learned decent form for deadlift squat and bench press and i m starting too light as suggested in ur workout and increased weight only once in 3 weeks by 2.5 pounds , just feel tat i am not working my calf bicep forearms shoulders with this exercise or am i ?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 19:29

Neither workout is better per se. the important thing is to find a plan, add weight, and eat enough so you can grow.

If you try to add a six pack while building muscle you will most likely not achieve either goal.

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Tyler
Posted Sun, 11/13/2011 - 22:25

Hay do I need to do cardio on the days I workout or off days

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Rinaldo
Posted Sun, 01/22/2012 - 17:28

He mentioned in the article you need to do cardio on your days off 20 to 30 minutes.

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Kane V
Posted Fri, 10/24/2014 - 20:39

True that!

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karl
Posted Mon, 01/02/2012 - 16:36

hi steve i have been ollowing this plan for 3 months and ive gone from 12stone to 14 stone and my muscles have started to take shape this has gave me more incent to keep going exerlant post works wonders thanks

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rainmane
Posted Fri, 02/15/2013 - 19:15

So are you saying its best to build the muscle and then once I am happy with the muscle work on the six pack? This is something I've wondered about for a while with the higher calorie diets.

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Richard
Posted Thu, 12/19/2013 - 20:56

A 6 pack abs is only achieved once muscles are there to do it. Once you have them to make your abb's poop out to a 6 pack you go on a fat free diet for a week and they usually poop out then. this called show shape and most men don't walk around in daily life with 6 packs everyday its un healthy to stay in this ultra low fat condition...

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Chris
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 22:19

I was trying to figure out if i cant have dairy is there something i can replace that with?

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dillon gercone
Posted Tue, 01/17/2012 - 17:04

Hey seems like there should be more in the exercise doesnt seem like enough.. Are you sure it is

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JohnZimmerman
Posted Sun, 09/23/2012 - 22:34

It's not enough by most official standards for maintaining heart health. But most bodybuilders will tell you not to worry about this while you're on a bulk, since you won't be bulking for most of your life. Your body needs rest to build muscle. Think rest = anabolic, cardio = catabolic.

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mike rice
Posted Mon, 02/20/2012 - 12:47

For your 25 total rep work out, do you still add weight to your lift after each individual set? say set one 100 lbs set 2 105lbs set 3 110 lbs....... or do you lift the same weight for three sets?

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Gsan
Posted Sun, 04/28/2013 - 17:08

Hi Steve,
I've been on the ex hardgainer workout for a week and a half, but the following is really confusing me:
i've weighed myself before starting the 90 day program. my stats were 5.7 ft, 63.1 kg bodyfat 16.9% musclemass (according to the scale) 43.1 my daily calories needed to be 2460 cal.
I've started eating like a horse, not makin it to 4000 but 3300cal average. Except for one day skipped (heavy and severe muscle soreness) i,ve trained my ass off in the gym.
Today i've checked my stats again and the scale is saying the follwing, 64.2kg bodyfat 19.8% musclemass 41.6. How can this be? I'm really confused not sure what i'm doing wrong. My bf skyrockets and seemingly my musclemass is getting less? (example of food taken 3 whole eggs+ oatmeal+glas of orange juice, rice+ white beans+ beef, rice+salmon+broccoli, through the day some snacks and drinks like whole milk, a banana, handfull of almonds, 2 slices of whole wheat bread, another piece of salmon and another piece of beef. 2-3 ltr of water.
Please help me!?
(sorry for the long story and thanks so much)
Btw any substitute for the deadlift, could i do pull ups?

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Rosa
Posted Sat, 03/08/2014 - 06:29

Hi there Gsan; so your post is almost 1 year old by now - are you still on this program and if so, how are things working for you these days? I just wanted to say that I totally relate to your story there, my friend (more according the mass values on the scale, because I don't even can eat as well as you seemed to be doing). By the way (I'm sure you know this by now, but just in case): pullups don't really substitute deadlifts! First's for upper body (back) and last's for lower one. You have plenty of lower-body exercises to substitute the deads, is just a matter of searching. Take care!

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Kevin
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 17:19

Amazing article. This is the same advice I give to people that are hardgainers. I myself am a hardgainer. A couple of other foods to add to your high calorie foods: Avocados, excellent fat and vitamin source. Greek Yogurt - loaded with fat and protein.

Basically almonds, eggs, greek yogurt and whey protein makes up 50% of my diet. I go through a tub of greek yogurt a day.

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Zac
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 18:08

This looks great. I know you will be asked this soon so might as well get in early. Can you give another eating plan or two so we can mix it up a bit.

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 19:32

Hi Zac,

It's pretty easy to change things up. Just keep the basic template and swap in different protein foods, veggies and carb sources. It doesn't matter much what you eat as long as you eat enough.

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Melvin
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 18:31

Hmmmm, how would a vegan adjust this?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 19:33

Hi Melvin,

The keys are calorie and protein intake. You would have to adjust your intake to hit both regardless of the food choices.

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henk
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 16:34

look into HEMP seed protien...there are many other kinds

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Tim
Posted Tue, 11/22/2011 - 15:52

Beans area good source of protein, eat them with rice. avocados on that too

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BOb
Posted Thu, 01/26/2012 - 19:38

vegans dont. because that is a dumb way to live.

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David
Posted Mon, 03/05/2012 - 15:19

^Agreed^

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justin
Posted Tue, 05/15/2012 - 23:26

haha totally agreed.

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Ronnie
Posted Sat, 08/18/2012 - 13:16

Good one man, full of raw wit and irony. You don't sound like a dumb meathead at all.

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araheem
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 19:14

do i increase my strength with this programe also

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 19:33

Yes, you will get much stronger.

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JohnZimmerman
Posted Sun, 09/23/2012 - 22:39

If your main goal is to increase strength, you'll want to focus on doing less reps of heavier weights. This promotes "myofibrillar hypertrophy". If your main goal is to get bigger, most recommendations are to do sets of more reps (12-15 per set). If you go over 15 reps per set, you're training more for endurance than size.

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Rick
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 20:17

I run and play sports constantly, will this programme decrease my speed?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 20:26

This type of program increase my sprint speed and athletic performance.

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John
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 20:35

If someone stick to this plan and works hard, how long till you notice some results?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 20:46

Hi John,

If I were training you personally I would expect you to gain about 15 pounds of muscle during your first year, which is a substantial amount.

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Vineet
Posted Sat, 10/01/2011 - 02:57

hello sir this is vineet sir i want to know that i m having some amount of chest fat and how can i overcome the chest fat so that i can build muscle.

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Ian
Posted Sun, 10/02/2011 - 18:08

heyyy im a really hard gainer and i started weight trainin about 3-4 months ago i was 8 stone 2 wen i started and now im 9 stone 5 is that a good gain?? i cnt really see much muscle change but other people say they can

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Steve
Posted Sun, 10/02/2011 - 19:12

Have your lifts been going up? If you aren't pushing for progression the weight gain might not be much muscle.

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Matt
Posted Thu, 10/04/2012 - 19:49

Steve,
After looking all over the internet for solutions to being the hard gainer that I am, I must say your's is the most helpful. You don't just supply a diet plan and workout routine, you give your reasons and explanations throughout, this helped me learn what to rationally expect and set out as goals. Great article.

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Joe
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 23:29

So I was looking to find a routine to do 3 times a week since classes started. The thing is it will be difficult to get my diet right having a meal plan. The meal plans are expensive, and I can't really eat there more than 2-3 times a day. I fear this would mess up my diet and prevent any gains. Do you have any advice? In addition to a weight gainer supplement I could reach 5 max a day.

Also, I don't think it is possible for someone of my size to eat 4,000 calories a day. Being 5'8 and 115 pounds, i think my stomach would explode. I had trouble during the summer just getting above 2500.

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Steve
Posted Tue, 09/27/2011 - 23:35

Hi Joe,

You're stomach won't explode, trust me. You have to learn to eat more calorie dense, high-fat foods. If you want to gain you're going to have to learn to eat., Simple as that.

I started small and in college I simply had to eat like a horse every meal. There are no shortcuts. Drink your whole milk, eat almonds in between classes...find creative ways to snack. Take a shaker and fill it with 3 scoops of protein powder and water. Eat plenty of dessert.

You have a choice...find a way to get it done, or keep saying you can't. The choice is yours.

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Mohammad Sahid Sha
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 06:54

Hi,
I m 33 yrs old n working 10-11 hrs for 6 days a week, have recently joined gym to build muscle and I want it to be big. My body weight was 72kgs n now after 25 days its 74kgs, my height is 5.9'. I used to do bodybuilding earlier which was 12 years ago, after that I stopped workout completely and became lean year after year. I have 2 beautiful kids n a lovely wife, its been 12 years of my marriage. My lower abs have come out a little, arms became smaller, upper body bad, lower chest is little bit ok than upper n legs thin. I have been smoking from past 6 years but have reduced a lot now a days and want to quit it.
I m working in a hotel in U.A.E, my trainer in the gym advice me to take (muscle tech) Cell tech hardcore pro series n (Dymatize)super amino 4800mg caplet.
I m not satisfied as he is giving every one the same workout routine to beginers as well as those who are training from last 6-12 months.
please provide me with a suitable routine and diet plan to get big muscle.

Regards.

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Justin
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 18:55

So I recently been doing slot of cardio and calorie counting
I'm down from 213 to 189 I want to put muscle
On I'm trying to eat up to the 4000 plus calorie
Which is a little difficult since I e been eating
A 1780 diet now with the exercise can I add
More exercises as long as I do your three day
Plan also ?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 22:25

No, do not add more exercises. Work on progressing with weight as stated in the workout. This is the key to gains.

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Frank1030
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 18:59

Hi, how many did you rest between the 3 sets to get to 25?!

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Steve
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 22:25

Rest about 90 to 120 seconds between most sets, and up to 3-5 minutes between heavy, taxing sets if need be.

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Justin
Posted Wed, 09/28/2011 - 23:58

Ok I'll stick to program how about supplements
I take a multi vitamin and protein shakes
How about creatine or other to help with growth

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Steve
Posted Thu, 09/29/2011 - 12:57

Hi Justin,

Here is a good article on supplmeents I recommend:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/prioritize-your-supplement-pur...

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Mark
Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:12

Hi Steve,

Quick question: are the dumbell rows two-arm, similar to the barbell rows, or single-arm, done while kneeling on a bench?

Thanks. Looks like a great program!

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Steve
Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:34

Hi Mark,

One arm at a time with a hand and/or knee on a bench.

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Wayne
Posted Fri, 09/30/2011 - 18:59

Hi Steve, just one quick question, do you need the bar bell to be able to go through with this program?

Cheers

Wayne.

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Steve
Posted Sat, 10/01/2011 - 10:37

Hi Wayne,

Yes.

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