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

The eating plan is generally for underweight individuals who have a hard time gaining weight and muscle. You would be better off using a more moderate eating plan. Here are 2 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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brandon
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 15:19

I do the above lifting full body plann every other day (3xperweek) sometimes i don't take the extra day off.

Then i do the 50min of jump rope/burpies/pushups/pylos as well most days

Then on days in between i do the Cardio day i run sprints 10x30sec w 1:1 rest ratio-then 5min run then 5x12 box jumps with 5x12 jump burpies 30min-then 10sets abs 5x10 reverse leg raises 5x10 decline situps- 3x1min plank/side planks w/ 5x20 pushups/60rep mountain climbers.

I also bike 45min -1hr a day commuting.

I am 6'2"@140 w/4%bf
I am wondering if this is overtraing w/weights and i should switch to you program or go to the PDH program.
My goal is 160 with same low BF

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 16:16

Days off are required in between workouts.

You need less cardio and calisthenics and more food and heavy lifting.

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brandon
Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 16:25

so what plan should i do
The PDH has me doing 5days a week should i do your full body plan

How much conditioning should i cut back to?

And i should cut back weight lifting volume?
I always want to do more

Thank you steve

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 14:18

Right now if muscle building is a primary goal I would limit cardio to 3 sessions per week of 20-30 minutes.

At this stage you should keep training simple. You don't need the PHD-4. You would be better off with a 3-4 day muscle building system, like the one in this article.

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Nic
Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 13:22

Can I do Sit ups on a daily or just the two scheduled days?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 14:19

You can perform them more frequently but they will provide very little benefit.

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jorge
Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 17:09

Thanks a lot Steve.

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brandon
Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 17:47

Thanks, on your program is that the limit of volume you would do ?
So no other conditioning sessions (sprints/burpies/pushups) would be recomended?
I do a session of 1min jumprope/1min burpies/1min kickboxing circuit that last 30min is that max cardio recomended?

I also do 30sec sprints with 30sec rest 10sets then 3x12 box jumps 5x20 pushups 3x12 burpies- that last 25min.

I also ride a bike for commuting 45min a day.

So would you recomend your program? I am once again 140 @ 6'2" so i know I should be more?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 16:40

I do less volume then this as an advanced lifter.

Other conditioning is not needed. This is a muscle building workout.

I only recommend this program if you want to get big and strong.

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john
Posted Thu, 11/03/2011 - 21:01

I would like to start this program and see the results. I prefer to workout at home but i am limited to how much weight I have for my dumbells. If I reach a point where I should be adding more weight which I do not have am I able to push to do more reps in a set to substitute for adding weight? or would it not work as well and i should buy more?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 16:44

Hi John,

You will need to get more weight, or to get a gym membership. Progression is the key to success with this program.

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Sam
Posted Thu, 11/03/2011 - 23:13

Hello,

Is it possible to use this routine if I get more cardio then you recommended?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 16:46

What goal are you trying to achieve by adding more cardio?

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Sam
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 17:34

I'm on the soccer team so I wont be able to meet the cardio requirements... should I just wait till my season is over?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 17:46

No, you can start the program. As long as you are eating enough you will be fine. My main concern was that you weren't trying to lose weight.

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Sam
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 20:15

Ok then, thanks!

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brandon
Posted Fri, 11/04/2011 - 19:15

Thanks again steve,
So as an advanced lifter w/10 years of lifting and conditioning you still recomend using this? At 140 @6'2" i know i am underweight but i don't want to loose alot of my definition so following this will the gains be mostly muscle?

I am 29 and most of my muscle was gained while going through buds- I got up to 165lbs of all muscle but was probably eating more than 4000cals back then. I was then wounded overseas and after spending three months in a hos bed I shrank to 125 and have never been over 140 now.No limitations though.

Thanks again

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:32

Hi Brandon,

You will gain some fat on this program, but most of it will be muscle. You will lose definition.

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Warren
Posted Sat, 11/05/2011 - 12:16

Hi,

This is cool. Finally found something that's about adding muscle vs losing weight.

I've been trying to add some pounds and been really difficult. For the past 60-70 days. I've been eating
4 eggs and oatmeal for breakfast. Protein bar mid-morning. Steak burrito for lunch. Nuts and banana for afternoon snack. Chicken salad for dinner. + Protein shake and omega 3 . I go to the gym about 4 times a week. And after doing all these, I've only put on 2 pounds.

Does this sound right? Should I eat more or something different on my meal plan? Please help me find out where the problems are.

Many thanks,

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:39

What is your age, height and weight?

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Warren
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 21:28

I am 35, 5'9 and 156lbs

Thanks,

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 12:53

I think a pound per month is an excellent rate for you right now. You could certainly up the calories by 300 per day. That can help. Just watch the scale to make sure your body is responding well.

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Adam
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:26

I'm a little confused on the deadlifts...you state above "15 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you deadlift." So is the rep goal 25 or 15?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:40

It was a misprint. It should have read 15.

Fixed. Thanks!

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Adam
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 15:43

Thanks for the clarification Steve.

Sorry for the duplicate post.

Take care,

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Adam
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:33

Hi Steve,

I'm a little confused to the deadlift part of your article. Above you state "15 rep goal. When you are able to perform 25 total reps for 3 sets, add 10 pounds to the bar the next time you deadlift."

So is the deadlift rep goal 15 or 25?

Thanks,

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Ryan
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:55

Hi steve,
I was just wondering how you find the time and good will to help so many people. You're a good man.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:41

I work for M&S as the content manager.

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Jacob
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 19:37

How long should our breaks be in minutes or seconds after doing each set????

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:44

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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Seb
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 22:36

Hi Steve, In my 2nd week of the program and am really benefiting from the simplicity of the plan and the aggression with weight increases. Really easy to incorporate into a busy schedule with only 3hrs of training a week! I'm training real well but am having some problems with the eating but I feel like I am gradually getting better in that respect.......anyway, my main concern is the % of weight increase for each exercise. I'm 5-9 and fairly skinny and have just completed a 20kg barbell curl level (for example). The problem is in my gym the barbell goes up in increments of 5kg so I'll be 25kg next week, I worry these 5k differences are too big a jump and i'll be facing times where I cannot perform the next level! What do I do here? Do I carry on with the weight I can already lift or do I do less reps of the next stage? I'm not trying to be negative and say that I won't just lift the weight but am not too confident that in 4 weeks from today I will be curling 40kg and in 6 weeks 60kg!

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:48

If you simply can't move to the next level and perform any reps I would add 10 reps to the goal total, and then when you reach it, try the next barbell.

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Tom
Posted Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:02

Steve,

I've been following your workout and eating plan for 5 weeks now. I’ve seen great results both in the numbers that I am lifting and in the weight gain. I’ve been eating 4,000 clean calories a day and have gone from 205 lbs to 215 lbs in 5 weeks (2lbs/week). Given that I am 6’2 I am pretty happy with getting up to 215 lbs. My question to you is should I keep going with the 4,000 calorie diet given that I have been improving on every workout (I track my numbers in a spreadsheet) or can I begin a cut, lower my calorie intake and still follow this routine? My goal is to put on lean muscle and cut my body fat to under 10%. Really to just have a nice athletic build and to be able to withstand the wear and tear of being a keeper in soccer. Thank you for posting this great routine and meal plan. IT REALLY WORKS!!

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:51

Right now you are gaining 2 pounds per week. I would suggest dialing the calories down to 3200 for a month and see how that works. Ignore any weight changes the first week. Eating fewer carbs over all might result in a bit of initial water loss.

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Tom
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 10:59

I will give that a try for a month and will follow back up with you. Thank you!!

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Scott
Posted Tue, 11/08/2011 - 20:02

I've read the avg workout should last no more than 45 minutes and the avg rest time is 2 minutes between sets. There are an avg of 15 sets in your workout plan per day which I calculate equals exactly 45. That is good. However, would you feel it is useless to make use of the rest time to do things like push ups or pulls ups before the next set of Squats, Bench Press, or etc? Will this program still build a wide chest/back, create abs, strong calves, and traps? I wish more people were posting their results with this program. Regardless, I am printing it out and going to give it a shot for a while. I'm ready for heavy lifting big gains.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:55

If muscle building is a goal, do not perform any other exercises between sets.

This program will add a lot of muscle mass over the entire body, but it will not give you abs. Abs come from fat loss.

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Scott
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 19:19

Thank you Steve & sorry to trouble you again. Just trying to get a handle on my training sessions so I can justify all this eating and not blow up like a jiggly balloon instead lol.. I feel like you're telling me I can't have abs and muscle at the same time. Am I just looking into the wrong workout? Could you point me to a workout that will help me build muscle and lose body fat at the same time? I'm mostly interested in compound exercises and Reverse Pyramid. Or is it just dependent on how much I eat? Could I just follow this program and increase or decrease the calories somewhat like bulking and cutting?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 12:56

What is your current age, height and weight? That will help me with suggestions.

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Scott
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 17:21

Cool, thanks.. I am 27, 5 foot 7 inches and fluctuate between about 135-140 lbs currently

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Steve
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:14

Right now your best bet is to build muscle, then after you have the body you want, lose the excess fat.

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Alan
Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 11:48

Steve, this is the problem I struggle with. As I am only 5'7" 120lb but still having a visible belly, it makes me hard eating a lot and seeing my belly expand. Also, I really love beer, wine and desserts. Shall I get rid of them to get a 6 pack?

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Scott
Posted Wed, 12/21/2011 - 10:36

I can say that I've stuck with it for 7 weeks now and as long as I eat big and lift big I gain weight by don't gain much body fat. I just look bigger, stronger. I'm going to keep going like this for a few more weeks before I cut back on food a lil.. I'm eating very clean!

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Alan
Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 00:11

Thank you for your helpful comment, Scott. As we have similar concern and situation, you really give me so much confidence to keep eating! Are you able to get some abs muscles now?

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Scott
Posted Sat, 12/24/2011 - 11:32

Not much going on in the ab world, but not looking terrible either lol was hoping to wait til February to cut back on food a lil and see if I can pull any abs out for spring/summertime.. I have a very stubborn belly I think from years of being such a couch potato and computer nerd :/

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Alan
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:22

I do think it is hard as the stubborn belly has developed for such a long time! I think I gotta reduce my fat intake as well as I love desserts.

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Daniel Owens
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 08:26

I am a 21 year old man, and I have been following this workout for three months now In that time i have gone from 72kg 12% bodyfat to 76kg 17% bodyfat, this is a large increase for me, however I am worried that if I keep on this program I will continue to Gain fat. Should i start looking at moving to a cutting phase now or is 17% bodyfat nothing to worry about. Thankyou for your help.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:57

How has your weight progression been going in the gym? have you been moving up in weight at every opportunity, and pushing yourself on all sets?

If so, I would probably drop the calories down to 3500 for a month and see what happens.

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Daniel Owens
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 16:43

yes ive been making steady strength gains, Thanks for your help.

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