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The Ex-Hardgainer Workout And Eating Plan

Average: 3.9 (158 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 (158 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 (694)

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No Profile Pic
brandon
Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 21:11

Thanks steve,

So if I reduce my current full-body routine

A1) Squat 1x6,5x5

A2) bench 5x5, 2x10

b1) romainian deads 5x7-8

b2) decline close grip bench 5x6

c1) Rows 5x8

c2) tri extensions 4x8

d1) curls 5x6

d2) shoulder raises 3x10

e1) close grip pull downs 3x10

e2) calf raises 5x8-10

diamond pushups 5x15

abs 10 sets

Will your routine be a better option or should I go to something like PDH-4 5days a week

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sharmarke
Posted Mon, 10/17/2011 - 08:28

hi Steve, my question is that can i just stick to the workout plan since im already 178ib and i don't want to get any bigger then that.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/17/2011 - 09:57

Sure you can just use the workout.

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Mark
Posted Tue, 10/18/2011 - 10:50

Hi Steve,
I need to start a workout routine very soon that will put on muscle fast and this looks like a great workout routine! But, I only have one dilemma. I have to have shoulder surgery and my doctor says I shouldn't do bench and incline. If I replaced bench press and dumbell bench press with an alternative chest excercise, will it defeat the whole purpose of the workout routine since bench is such a important workout for chest?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 10/19/2011 - 15:54

It certainly isn't optimal but do what you have to do. Whichever exercises you use, keep the focus on progression of weight.

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ammar
Posted Tue, 10/18/2011 - 16:55

for overhead press last week i put 5 kg on each side of olympic barbell and i could complete 25 reps in 3 sets, 9 +8+8 but tis week when i put 7.5 kg i couldnt even complete 5 , same goes for my squat i could easily do 7.5 on each side last week but tis week i did 9 + 7 + 5 , should i go back to old weights until i get more strenght or should i continue working on same weights till i reach 25 in 3 sets , also can i try 5 by 5 for shoulder to get some strength coz i feel my shoulder r weakest part in my body

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 10/19/2011 - 15:57

You are better off loading overhead presses with only 5 extra pounds at a time.

never go back to the old weights. Stay the course and try for more reps the following week. This is the essence of the program.

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Omar
Posted Tue, 10/18/2011 - 19:50

Now I understand that all exercises are safe as long as they're done properly. But I was wondering, if it's possible for me to use the appropriate machine for some of the exercises listed above? For example, using the lat. pull down machine instead of the overhead press.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 10/19/2011 - 16:00

No, stick to the program as designed. The exercises in the program are the most effective.

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Zach
Posted Thu, 10/20/2011 - 16:39

Hey Steve,

This question may have popped up already on this long list of comments, but I have heard by many people that some exercises need to be switched in and out every 3-4 weeks to prevent plateaus and to keep the routine fresh. I also know that you have stressed that this plan must be followed down to the last detail. So, may I cycle an exercise in and out every couple of weeks to eliminate the risk of hitting a plateau?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 16:20

That's a myth.

Progression of weight drives gains during this program. You will not need to switch anything.

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ryan
Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 01:54

Wow. Started this routine at 165 and low expectations. I thought I'd really reached an unbreakable plateau. 2 and a half months later,the scale has me weighing in at 174. Granted I threw a few extra exercises from my last routine in with the core group, but still. Its all about the diet. Thought maybe I'd balloon up with 4000+ cals a day, but I'm looking more cut than ever. I've followed the sample meal religiously for two months. I eat the same thing every day and the weird thing is, I love it! Anyways, give this one a try people. Don't half ass it and you'll see results.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 16:21

Thanks for the feedback!

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Chris
Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 16:55

2 days of 20 min HIIT on the treadmill okay with this program?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Sat, 10/22/2011 - 10:51

Absolutely.

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Janus
Posted Sat, 10/22/2011 - 21:46

Say for example, i already did 25 reps on the first two sets, on the 3rd set should I be adding weight? and how many reps should i need to do on the last set?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/24/2011 - 14:54

No. If you hit 25 reps, use the same wright for the third set and add weight the next time you perform this exercise.

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Demosouthpaw
Posted Tue, 10/25/2011 - 07:43

Whats up Steve,

So I have been following this diet to a "T" and I gained roughly 2 pounds in the last 2-3weeks. I am on a powerlifting routine, and thanks to this diet I have been hitting my numbers a bit easier than before.

*Question, I have read numerous articles stating that the proper way to bulk is to do; 2-3weeks bulk then do 1-2weeks cut and keep cycling back and forth. The theory behind this is that the body wont get used to any one diet and GH and TEST levels wont drop. What are your thoughts on this?

I am currently on my third week, I will be doing my cutting cycle for one week and then start the bulk cycle again for two weeks.

Thanks
-Jonathan

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:10

That can be a good bulking protocol for someone who isn't underweight and knows how to gain. The information in this article is aimed at individuals who have a hard time gaining and generally have fast metabolisms.

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David
Posted Thu, 10/27/2011 - 18:51

hey steve

1 question, am i suppose to follow the eating plan 7 days a week or only the 3 days i workout?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:32

7 days a week.

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marko
Posted Thu, 10/27/2011 - 19:03

I was just a little skeptical about the amount of fat in this diet. Isn't it the protein that builds the muscle? What does the fat contribute to the muscle gains?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:33

Fat does not make you fat. Excess calories makes you fat.

Hardgainers usually aren't eating enough, or find it hard to eat enough. Fat is the easiest way to add calories in this case.

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marko
Posted Thu, 10/27/2011 - 20:26

some of these foods are really high in saturated fat. i know the main objective is to gain muscle, but is eating that much saturated fat really worth it considering the risks such as blocking of the arteries and heart related risks?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:35

Saturated fat from animal sources is not harmful. That's a myth.

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jorge
Posted Fri, 10/28/2011 - 19:47

Hi Steve, I'm eighteen going on 19. I'm 5'9 ,180.I gain weight real fast but caint seem to gain any muscle. I have been attending the gym for four months, five days a week. I caint seem to pass my results from a month Ago. Is this a good eating plan for me, knowing that I have a slow metabolism?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:37

I would not recommend an aggressive eating plan for you. You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here are some articles that can help:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/building-muscle-eating-like-a-...

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Hilmi
Posted Sat, 10/29/2011 - 07:40

I would like to ask, is there any difference in doing double dumbbell rows and barbell rows?? And uh can I use inverted rows instead?? Because I feel more comfortable with it.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:37

Barbell rows are a superior exercise. I advise following the plan as designed. Many exercises feel more comfortable, but they sacrifice effectiveness.

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Gio krazii
Posted Sat, 10/29/2011 - 20:22

hey i play varsity football ..i am a defensive player. and want to know if eat enough food.. do i need to take protien shakes ?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:38

You don't need protein shakes as long as you eating enough daily protein.

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Justin
Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 04:20

I am 6'4" and weigh aboout 227. I am trying to burn fat and get to about 215. Is this type of workout helpful with that. I read you should gain muscle first before losing weight, is this true?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:39

This workout is a great choice. It is generally better to build before losing fat, but if you consider yourself overweight to begin with, you can train hard and spend a couple months losing a few pounds.

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Ithan Sokol
Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 16:38

2 questions:
1. Is it a good idea to take creatine during this workout as well or no ?
2. Also, I want to try and follow this diet plan as sufficiently as possible. I have whey gold standard protein. Would you say it's definitely necessary to get the casein protein powder as well??

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:46

1) Absolutely.
2) Not a necessity. You can certainly eat any protein source that's convenient.

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Ithan Sokol
Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 16:45

one more question!
in between which of those two meals do you recommend to do the work out ?? and do i have a meal right before my work out and a shake right after? or how does that work

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:48

You generally want to workout in between large meals so that you are not entering a workout feeling full. I generally recommend a snack, then workout 60 to 90 minutes later, and post-workout having a large meal.

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Ithan Sokol
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 00:12

Ok i always thought to have a shake right after the work out then a big meal like an hour or so after but I'll do that instead. Thanks

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Kevin
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 05:59

Steve

First Off, ur work out sounds great and I will be starting it this week. Second I really dont think its as confusing as a lot of these people are makign it out to be. Anyway thanks in advance.

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riju basu
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 06:42

hi i am 6 ft tall and my weight is 65 kgs only and my age is 25 .
how can i put weight and muscle . pls help me.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 11:49

Follow this workout and diet approach.

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brandon
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:48

Steve sorry but i posted this in wrong area
Thanks steve,

So if I reduce my current full-body routine

A1) Squat 1x6,5x5

A2) bench 5x5, 2x10

b1) romainian deads 5x7-8

b2) decline close grip bench 5x6

c1) Rows 5x8

c2) tri extensions 4x8

d1) curls 5x6

d2) shoulder raises 3x10

e1) close grip pull downs 3x10

e2) calf raises 5x8-10

diamond pushups 5x15

abs 10 sets

Will your routine be a better option or should I go to something like PDH-4 5days a week

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 15:26

Are you performing each of these exercises 3 days per week?

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David R
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:54

Hi Steve,

First off thanks for this great workout plan and the support you give us all with your replies.

My question for you is, is this plan good for anyone (not just hard gainers)?

I started weight training about 3 months ago (I was on Shaun's 3 Day Split) and have gained almost 25 pounds. (15 pounds of muscle, 10 pounds of fat). I think I have plateaued lately as my weight has been fluctuating between 186-188.

I don't think I'm a hardgainer per se, but my metabolism is pretty fast. Will this work out help me start gaining again?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 15:27

This is a very good plan, even if you're not a hardgainer. Combined with a good eating plan you will make great progress.

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brandon
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 19:10

Steve,

I alter the exercises( incline instead of flat bench-deads instead of back squats then static lunges instead of RD deads) I try and do same volume though so around 40-50 sets per session then abs then i was doing up to 50min of burpies/conditioning as well.

I was wondering if this is way to much/should i do your routine or go to a split like PDH-4. And if i need to cut out all other exercise to maybe two conditioning sessions per week?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:10

You are performing far too many sets per workout. Also, without seeing your entire program it's hard to comment further...

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Daniel
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 21:52

Why is it on Friday, you only have 1 set and 20 reps for squats?

is that a typo?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:11

No, not a typo.

20 reps squat sets are brutal. Give them a try. You won't need anything else.

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Nic
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 12:50

Obviously I can't eat what you've reccommended daily everyday. I have been doing what I can though. I love the workout plan. Not sure if I am a Hard gainer though. I am 5'9" 220 pounds. I have been working out for 9 weeks, two on this plan. My question is this, Do I still have to eat 4000+ calories a day if I am already " big" to my standards? And if so, could you outline for me How much of What I need to consume, i.e. protein 40 grams, carbs 30 grams, etc?

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