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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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Bob
Posted Tue, 11/22/2011 - 11:32

Your program us great !!!!!! :(

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brandon
Posted Tue, 11/22/2011 - 23:15

Steve,

Given that I am at 3%BF (really the DOC measured it today) and have lifted for 9 years is a full body plan such as this still the way to go to gain about 15lbs of lean mass. I want to get to about 165lbs @ 6'2" and about 6-8% bf. I am 140 right now.

I do a 30min HIIT (sprint session w/ jumproe and burpies 20min sprinting 10min) about twice per week. Is twice per week max amount recomended-i also ride a bike every day for transportation.

And do you always recomend taking the two days off instead of running the program every other day?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:36

Yes this plan is perfect for you.

2 days of cardio shouldn't be an issue as long as you are eating enough.

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Edward
Posted Fri, 11/25/2011 - 09:42

Alright Steve,

I have just completed 5 weeks of this routine. I have gained 9Ibs in that time and increased the weight steadily in all excercises. The thing is my muscles dont seem to be getting any bigger at all(neither is my waistline). I took measurements and nothing has changed much since 5 weeks ago but yet the scales are telling me I have added weight. I just cant figure it out? I am determined to stick with this programme though I would Just like to see where my extra weight has been added. I will measure again in January and hopefully something will have grown bigger by then. Cheers

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:38

What was your weight and height when you started the plan?

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Edward
Posted Fri, 12/16/2011 - 05:20

Steve,

I am 5ft 9in. weighed 178 before I started and weighing in at 189 now. Still enjoying the routine all the same.

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Josh
Posted Fri, 11/25/2011 - 22:59

Steve,

Thanks for the program. I just finished my first week. I had one question... for bench press am I able to do inclined or do you mean just a flat bench press. I didnt see it specified.

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:38

Use flat bench if you can.

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john
Posted Sat, 11/26/2011 - 11:03

"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"
Steve,
I've done the first week and i love it. but due to a miscalculation (called EGO) I loaded the bench press heavy on monday and only did 4,4, and 5 reps - 13 total!
On week 2, should I stick with that and just try for more reps, or since i'm so early in the program, should I go down by 10 lbs or so and be closer to the 25rep total?
Thanks and I really appreciate this workout!

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:39

I would drop the weight by 10 pounds and see how it goes.

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Jonathan
Posted Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:03

Hey Steve,

I'm doing this routine at home, but I don't have adequately weighted dumbells. Are there excercizes using barbells that can be used as substitutes?

Thanks

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:42

For rows and presses I would simply use barbell rows and incline presses, if you can.

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Tyler
Posted Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:38

Hay Steve can you please answer all these questions in one email, ok I'm 15 and 147 and 5'6 so do I need to lose weight first or just start the workout because I want to get ripped and how many calories should I eat I don't think I should eat 4000 since I'm only 15 and will this get me ripped in 90 days, also I have some amino fuel should I take it be for I workout or at all or what? Thanks

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:44

Hi Tyler,

I do not recommend dieting at your age. Spend time building muscle. it will help build a stunning physique.

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Ryan
Posted Mon, 11/28/2011 - 10:36

How much weight would you recommend adding when you hit your goal? 5 to 10lbs?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:45

10 pounds for squats and deadlifts and about 5 pounds for other lifts.

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ryan
Posted Mon, 11/28/2011 - 20:44

Hello, I used to power lift and I really like this workout . My main concern is I am not traditionally a hardgainer. I am 5'11 205lbs at 22% body fat. Would like to cut down to about 14% eventually. Do you suggest this workout with the objective of weight loss and muscle gain? Would it be more adventagious for me to eat less calories or change nothing? Thank you for your insight.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:52

This workout plan would serve you well, but you will need a precise eating plan. Here are some articles I recommend:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/your-go-to-guide-for-cutting-f...

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

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Mike
Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 15:22

I`ve been following this program only for 2 weeks now but I feel like there is a lack of tricep work. I know Bench press and dips work tris but is that enough? Thanks!

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:54

Yes, it's plenty. Follow the plan. Adding strength on these lifts will give you plenty of arm size.

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Andrew
Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 22:09

This should do the trick.. my diet sucked because i barely ate anything in fear of getting fat but honestly i think "im too fat" all the time. it makes me afraid of food, but at least now I have a meal plan. i was rattled when my gains stopped after a month but no surprise to me that's why i'm here lol :|

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Jaren
Posted Wed, 11/30/2011 - 05:27

i like the workout im feeling the burn after two workouts, i feel like the diet plan is simple and do-able. i just wish the excercises you had on the workout routine had more information on the workout itself (deadlift, bench press, squat etc. etc.) you say you need to follow good technique but there is no guideline for what good technique is. it would be cool if your could better specify, perhaps, on those links in paticular.

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nic
Posted Wed, 11/30/2011 - 13:11

What happens if I hurt my knee and cant do the squats? What should i do?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:56

Without knowing the extent of the knee injury I am hesitant to comment.

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Mike
Posted Fri, 12/02/2011 - 03:32

Does this exercise provide enough tricep work? I`ve been adding a tricep exercise to the 3rd day each time i`ve done this so far.

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:57

Yes, it provides plenty of stimulation for the entire body.

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yahya moosa
Posted Fri, 12/02/2011 - 03:55

hey steve thx for this programme i have been using it for a month and i can see my quad getting huge but there r some weeks when i am just stuck on same weight and cant improve , is this normal , also i want ask i am really bad at dips til i progress in dips can u advise me another exercise that helps me become better in dips faster , do dips use more tricep or chest muscles ? and thx again for this great workout , i never got these huge quads in my life ever before ))))))))

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:08

How many dips can you do per set?

Congrats on the leg gains!

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grant
Posted Fri, 12/02/2011 - 10:41

how long would it take if i stuck to the diet and workout before i'll see the visual affects.?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:13

You can make excellent gains in a year's time. If you stay persistent it wouldn't be uncommon to add 15 pounds of muscle mass, which is a lot.

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Killa Cam
Posted Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:21

For Squats on Fridays, if following this routine, are you supposed to do all 20 reps in one set as it is listed? Just verifying that there isn't an error.

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:14

Yes, one set.

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Ziggy
Posted Sun, 12/04/2011 - 21:12

Hi Steve,

I am 5' 10" tall and weigh 140 lbs. I have some belly fat that I hate. I have been working out regularly for the past 2 months (upper body on Tuesdays, lower body on Thursdays and running 45 min on Mon-Wed-Sat). I have also been on a calorie restricted diet (1350 calories per day) during this time. Although my body fat came down (22 % to 17 %) and visceral fat (from 5 to 3) have come down I feel I have not gained a lot of muscle.

What would happen if I start the 4000 calorie diet? Will all of my body fat percentage come back up? I want to reduce my body fat under 12% to not have any softness in my belly. Would you recommend that I still try this regimen?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:19

You would gain some fat. This is an aggressive plan to help hardgainers. My onyl comment is that you need to refine your goals. If you want a lot of muscle mass you must at some point be willing to eat properly so you can gain.

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Graeme
Posted Mon, 12/05/2011 - 09:12

I really like the meal plan! I've been looking for something simple and effective and the other 4000 calorie recipes I find just seem too tedious to keep up with.

Thanks Steve.

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:20

You're welcome!

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Rick
Posted Mon, 12/05/2011 - 16:10

So it's better to do fullbody workouts 3 times a week rather than split routines?

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:21

For a hardgaining novice, yes.

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Stephanie
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 00:13

I'm 6'1'', 137, female, and looking to gain weight, specifically for pole vault where i need full body strength. should i change anything being a girl or will this work out the same since it's about progression? Also, it's off-season and i eat about 3200 calories and about 3800 during the season. my school schedule gets in the way but i try to snack as much as possible

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Steve
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:22

I would definitely stick with your eating plan. You know what is working for you.

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Joe
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 19:23

I am fat. Will the 4000 calories a day make me fatter? Is there anyway I can reduce the caloric intake?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:35

This program is for hardgainers who are typically underweight. I wouldn't recommend eating 4000 calories per day if you are overweight. What is your current height and weight?

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md
Posted Thu, 12/08/2011 - 11:37

hi steve, would this workout tone and create a better shape if the calories were decreased and cardio was added? basically im looking to do a fullbody workout that will help me achieve tone. I started at 12 stone 6 months ago and am now 13.4 stone, 6 ft 1. Or would you recommend that i continue to pile on the calories and do this workout. im at a difficult stage where im confused about my goals!

thanks

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:38

Toning comes from fat loss and building muscle. This workout and eating plan is for hardgainers who do not need to lose fat.

At your height and weight I wouldn't necessarily consider you a hardgainer. Focus on one goal at a time...building muscle or losing fat. Hard to do both at the same time.

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Matt
Posted Thu, 12/08/2011 - 23:11

Thats a massive amount of food dude!
People like me - ie desk workers - would get fat eating that no mateer what.

Be careful how fast you put on weight, you can get fat before you know it - and it can take a while to realise its happened. - Steve makes a great point in another article about length of time we should bulk for - 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.
getting fat is not fun!

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:40

Just want everyone to keep in mind one important point...

This eating plan is for hardgainers who are typically underweight, have fast metabolisms and have a hard time gaining weight. This is not a generic template meant to fit everyone and anyone.

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Jack
Posted Fri, 12/09/2011 - 10:59

<<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.>>

This is the only part of this plan I am not clear on. Are the warm up sets in addition to the refular sets? How much is an appropriate number of warmup sets?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:41

Warmup sets are not included. A good warmup will involve several non-taxing sets, ramping up in weight.

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Jaren
Posted Sat, 12/10/2011 - 20:25

last time i was deadlifting i hurt my back. can i get some tips on how to better do it? or perhaps something to replace it with?

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Steve
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:46
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