For many years there has been widespread concern for those who can never make the gains that they dream about.
As much as they want to build serious mass, look jacked, and count the X’s on their shirt size, they can’t achieve the results that have long been desired.
These people are known as hardgainers.
If you ask them, they have started to give up and settle for that lackluster physique they see in the mirror every day.
We at M&S know what you’re going through, hear your concerns, and are here for both advice and support.
We know all too well that you’re passionate about building muscle and have already performed rep after rep, eaten enough food to feed a small village, and looked at every major supplement out there.
Moving forward, take these tips and put them into action, so you can match your extreme effort with sound strategy.
Then, maybe you'll finally achieve the results you've always wanted.
Don’t Just Want It. Want It Intelligently.
More times than not, motivation is the what most hardgainers can’t grasp. They don’t see the immediate results they hope for and give up quickly. You can’t just think “I want to get big” and randomly try to make that happen.
Just like any other plan, motivation needs a strategy. So pay attention to what is here and you will be glad you did.
1. Measure Your Success
You can’t start a GPS without putting in a destination. You also can’t succeed with developing your physique unless you know what success actually is. That means creating goals that are measurable. Don’t just say you want to have big arms. Decide that you will add two inches to your arm size in three months.
Don’t just make it a goal to shop in the big and tall section. Tell yourself that you will increase your shirt size from a medium to a large in 12 weeks.
Come up with your own ways to measure the results and create as many ways as you can. The more goals you have, the more you can succeed which will keep you motivated to work harder and reach higher.
2. YOUR Goals
If you’re doing this to please someone else or because you’re seeking approval from others, then you’re doomed to hit a wall. Other people can’t do this for you and even if they could, they probably wouldn’t. The only way you will succeed is if you do all of the work.
Therefore, it should make sense that you are the judge and jury of whether you succeed. This isn’t being selfish. It’s being self-responsible which is essential not only for fitness but for life. Don’t be concerned about this being all about you. Embrace it.
3. See It & Achieve It
If you’re reading this before you train, I want you to try something for me. Sit back, close your eyes, and take yourself to the gym. Create a virtual reality experience with your mind right now. What are you wearing? What are you training? How do the weights feel as you perform your reps? Think about every detail possible for a few minutes.
Now that you’ve mentally went through your training session in your mind, you’ll find that the workout itself will be easier than usual. Why? Because as far as your brain is concerned, you’ve already done this. It’s prepared to send the messages to your muscles that it’s go time.
Dan Gable, arguably the greatest amateur wrestler ever, trained with weights. He would visualize the workout before he trained and again after he finished, comparing how he felt. He did this throughout his entire career which he felt was vital to his success on the mat.
Don’t Just Train. Train Methodically
We have all heard the jokes and likely made them ourselves. We “pick things up and put them down”. At the very basic level, that might be true. But this mindset also means you also will work to change yet remain the same. Simply going into a gym and mindlessly lifting weights isn’t going to cut it. Want to make real gains in the gym? Keep reading.
4. A Game Plan Matters
Many of you reading this are likely sports fans. Have you ever seen a good team play and just randomly do their own thing? Of course not. They have a plan that they stick to. So should you. M&S has many great training articles here from some of the best experts and athletes in the world and there are more coming.
Take some time to find a plan that you feel would coincide with what you’re wanting to do. As a hardgainer, a weight loss program likely won’t be for you, so search for a program that focuses on building muscle and strength. Commit to this plan and become a master of it so that when you train, you spend less time thinking and more time doing.
5. Prepare With Precision
When it comes to preparing, I’m referring to what you likely know as “warming up”. 10-15 reps with a bar or light weights isn’t warming up or preparing. You want to make serious gains? Then prepare like it. Commit 15-20 minutes to preparing for the iron assault that is about to take place.
Do some low intensity cardio to get the blood flowing. Perform some reps of various band movements for the entire body. Stretch everything thoroughly and include isometric positions as well. Then focus specifically on the area you’re training.
Do an isolation movement for a couple of light sets with the goal being to feel the muscle working. If you perform 20 reps but only feel the muscle working for 8 of them, that won’t be good enough. Don’t count the reps. Make the reps count. Then after you’ve prepared thoroughly you’re ready to clang and bang.
6. Arrive, Train, Leave
Training on its own won’t be good enough for anyone and that includes hardgainers. Recovery is essential. When you recover, your muscles are rebuilding. This is what you want if you’re a hardgainer. This is how you will build that long desired mass.
The more time you spend in the gym, the less time you’re spending recovering. If you can’t get the job done in 45-60 minutes then you’re spitting in the wind. Focus on the task at hand, train as hard and as smart as you can without wasting time and then get the heck out of there. Get some food in you and make sure you sleep soundly every night.
You MUST pay as much attention to what you do after you train as what you do when you’re in the gym. There is no getting around it.
Don’t Just Eat Big. Eat and Supplement Smart.
We’ve talked about your motivation and covered the training. Now we need to discuss your nutrition and supplementation. These are the calories and ingredients that are going to help you maximize what you do in the gym so this is important. As a matter of fact, if I was to rank them I would say this is the most important aspect of the hardgainer puzzle.
7. Supplement Wisely
Supplements are awesome. I’m a big fan of them and I have quite a few on my shelf. They provide extra support for the food you’re eating every day. They are also capable of supplementing your nutrition by filling any nutritional gaps you may have.
At the end of the day, they can make up about 5-10% of your overall fitness success. While the percentage is fairly high, your supplementation efforts will be wasted if you don't have a good diet in place or if you're taking the wrong kinds of supplements.
Find some supplements you’re interested in, check out the ingredients, the labels, and customer reviews. If you’re spending money on supplement X, you’ve got to make sure it is something that will help you obtain your goals.
8. Not Just Food, The Right Food
I’m guessing that you don’t just want to gain 30 pounds. You likely want to gain 30 pounds of muscle. Whether it’s 30 or something else, the point is if you want to build muscle, you can NOT just eat whatever you want and lots of it for the sake of taking in calories. You’ll gain excess fat which you don’t want.
Focus on quality sources of protein like chicken, tuna, egg whites, salmon, and greek yogurt, among others. Great carb sources for hardgainers include fruits, oats, quinoa, and rice. Vegetables are a must and you also need good fats which can be found in fish and nuts. Once again, you can check out other great articles on nutrition here at M&S.
9. Water, Water, Water
If you remember anything from this article, make sure it’s this. You absolutely must drink water and lots of it. Your entire body, from your brain to your toes, depends on water. Staying hydrated maximizes your body’s potential for success.
Water helps your muscles while you’re training so you won’t cramp, it helps your digestion system process your food properly as well as helping you get rid of waste, and it supports every other function your body does whether you train or not.
One gallon of water a day at minimum is necessary for hardgainers. This will help you stay hydrated throughout the day, maximize your effort when you’re training and sweating, and will help your food and supplements digest so you recover faster.