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

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.

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
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
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.
Posted on: Fri, 07/12/2024 - 04:38

A lot of these involve fewer reps and sets than wwhat I've been doing. I've been doing 6x6 at
the heaviest weight I can, and still get
minimal muscle growth but a growing belly
at 3100 calories.
I thought I had to do more not less?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2024 - 10:37

Hi Craig, there are a lot of factors that could go into the results you achieve. I am not sure what nutrition program you are following, but this training program can help you build muscle with the right diet plan. This guide may help if you need it.


Posted on: Mon, 06/24/2024 - 05:45

For the Dench press and bicep curls one week then the next do a variation of them so an inclined bench press and hammer curls the following week or just keep cycling the same program at traditional methods

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/24/2024 - 06:36

Either method works, Clint. Find the way that will suit you best.

Posted on: Sat, 04/20/2024 - 22:31

Can you do these exercises as a circuit? Only resting after the last exercise? As long as you get the prescribed number of reps in?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/27/2024 - 20:23

If you've been training a while, are in a gym that you can do that, and feel you can do it, then go for it, Shaun. However, beginners and intermediates should not do this because of how it will tax the nervous system and tire you out quicker than necessary.

Posted on: Sun, 10/29/2023 - 12:04

Will this work for skinny fat?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 10/29/2023 - 15:48

Yep. Sure will, Brandon.

Posted on: Thu, 08/10/2023 - 14:19

I am bit confused. What i understood is we have to perform 3 sets and the total# of reps are 25 so each sets for 8 reps in-order to reach total# of reps 25?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/24/2023 - 21:13

It could be any combination for the three sets as long as you get to 25 total.

10, 10, 5
9, 8, 8
9, 9, 7

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 10/04/2022 - 09:55

In response to your sample diet plan you posted, I noticed there is a lot of milk involved throughout the day, but I’ve read some articles that says three or more glasses of milk a day isn’t healthy for you. Is this true or are there exceptions depending on the individual?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/08/2022 - 17:07

I don't know if it's true or not, but my guess would be that it would be based on the individual. If you find that it bothers you, then swap it for whey protein isolate or find another protein source.

Juan Pablo
Posted on: Wed, 03/16/2022 - 15:58

In the diet, when you talk about ounces, is fluid oz or just oz weight?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/22/2022 - 18:52

Anytime the ounces is in reference to a liquid, it's fluid ounces. If it's in reference to food, it's weight.

joe freeman
Posted on: Sat, 08/29/2020 - 18:44


Can I pass the rest to start a new different set? For example when I finish the calf raise can I start the side bend without resting?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/31/2020 - 14:57

Hey Joe - I'd do the program as prescribed. If you cut the rest on exercises that hit the same body part you're going to be limiting how much weight/volume you can do on anything but the first set.

joe freeman
Posted on: Mon, 08/31/2020 - 16:00

I mean not same body part. For different body part

Brady Alan
Posted on: Mon, 04/13/2020 - 13:26

No pullups????

Jagatjeet singh
Posted on: Tue, 02/04/2020 - 09:56

I am skinny fat
Will this workout work for me

Jagatjeet singh
Posted on: Wed, 01/29/2020 - 03:28

Hey, i just want to ask
Apart from these 3 major sets of each exercise how many warm-up sets should be there and of how many reps.
Does the warm-up set should include in these 3 sets or should be a separate set

Posted on: Sat, 12/28/2019 - 15:20

Six weeks into this program and it is going well. I am still having trouble eating enough. Can anyone tell me if there is a follow on plan after the 14 weeks for continued grow/maintenance?

Posted on: Mon, 10/14/2019 - 17:43

I eat very different from most people. I do not mix carbs and protein, I eat fruit alone. and eat veggies with carbs or protein. it has made my metabolism CRANK! I have loads of energy and I run very efficient. it has been a life changer for me. so... do you have any plan or know where to find a plan to eat 4000 cal a day without mixing. Also I wait 3hr after protein to switch groups 2 hr after carbs and 1 hr after fruit. I eat loads of fermented foods. I drink raw milk and eat raw yogurt. yes im a health nut and most people say its not sustainable and you don't have to do that and its true but.. to run at peak its how your body was designed to work. thanks

Posted on: Tue, 05/28/2019 - 16:18

I’m female, 5 feet two inches and 110 lbs. my coach had me at 2500 cal per day for the last two months and lifting hard three days a week and I’ve only gained 3 lbs. I’m a hard gainer but it’s because I can’t do any dairy or whey protein. I also don’t do supplements except bcaa. What do think would help me? I’ve trained before I had a dairy allergy and had no problem putting on weight.
Thank you!

Posted on: Sat, 01/11/2020 - 16:16

Can you have bone broth protein? If so, make a smoothie with one scoop, banana, frozen blue berries, and almond butter.

Oguzhan Bozca
Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2019 - 18:05

I will start this program but I have disc herniation. So I'm afraid deadlifts are a problem for me. What can you suggest as an alternative to deadlift for this routine? Thank you very much.

Hitesh Khanna
Posted on: Wed, 03/20/2019 - 23:58

Hello, what if i take full protein diet instead of high calorie diet.

Posted on: Fri, 12/14/2018 - 01:25

What would be the rest time for the sets and exercise? I rest 1-2mins

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:08

Hi Jodi,

1-2 mins is a fine rest period.

Peter Mullen
Posted on: Mon, 12/03/2018 - 05:56

Could I handle this program at age 53? Ty

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 12/03/2018 - 12:21

Hi Peter,

Depends on your ability to recover. I'd assume so, but it's best to test it our for yourself to see how you respond after a couple sessions.

Hope this helps!

Godwin Nshuti
Posted on: Sun, 06/10/2018 - 13:31

Thanks Steve it’s a very good article and it’s going to be helpful to many readers, cheers!

Posted on: Tue, 06/05/2018 - 20:02

Can you recommend numbers for us gals? What caloric intake and increase would you recommend? For example, if you hit the 25 reps, instead of adding ten lbs to the bar, do you add 5? I am only like 116 lbs, and that is AFTER three years and starting at a weight range of from 103-109 depending upon what I was eating.

Posted on: Sun, 05/13/2018 - 19:02

Due to a car accident I had to stop training mid 2005.I had both hips replaced and the doctor gave his okay so I started the 20 rep squat 20 rep pullover basic routine Then in a couple of months do a 5x5 basic routine 3x a week,basic exercises to get some strength. In your opinion is this a good idea? Need your help on this! I studied nutrition so I can make my diet and supplementation. Thank you

Arnold Gutierrez
Posted on: Sat, 05/12/2018 - 19:31

What is your opinion on the 20 rep squat 20 rep pullover full body routine. It is like the workout Super Squats by Randell Strossen, is it out dated or does it work?

Arnold Gutierrez
Posted on: Sat, 05/12/2018 - 19:20

I thought I was a hardgainer until I tried this workout and diet. It showed me how to workout gain size and strength and more important How to eat train and REST! Thank you for being true.

Andy b
Posted on: Tue, 03/13/2018 - 16:27

Im coming to the end of this plan and gained a stone and 4 pound can you recomend a follow up plan from you website.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/13/2018 - 16:59

Hi Andy,

Nice! Congrats on the progress! Feel free to continue with this program if you're still enjoying it and seeing results.

Otherwise check out our complete list of workouts here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workout-routines

Or you can try out some of our more popular workouts below:




Hope this helps!

Arnold Gutierrez
Posted on: Wed, 05/09/2018 - 14:14

I used to compete naturally in the 80's, but do to some competitores taking short life anabolics I QUITE! I have a fst metbolisim at 50 years old and this routine put on 15 lbs solid muscle. I plan to do another 3 day a week program i got in this magazine. This magazine is great.It is for the average person to look great! Thank you and stay true !

Posted on: Sun, 12/09/2018 - 02:42

25 rep x3set,9repx1,8repx1,8repx1set?corect???

Andy b
Posted on: Mon, 01/29/2018 - 06:47

I realise in the plan it says not to swap any workouts,
But really cant get on with the bent over row can you recommend one which is a close second. THANKS

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:03

Hi Andy,

Any row variation will do the trick. Simply pick one you feel you are comfortable doing: dumbbell row, cable row, machine row, etc.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:51

Do I continue eating 4000 calories on rest days? Or take in less carbs?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/19/2018 - 11:42

Hi Ian,

Find your calorie needs here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

If you're trying to put on size and are a hard gainer, add 300-500 calories to that number and aim to eat that amount each day, even on rest days.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2017 - 10:36

What if I can't increase wheight in the exercises for more than 3 weeks, should I stayeb on the same weight or drop the weight.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2017 - 09:00

Hi Ahmed,

Yes, if you cannot increase the weight while maintaining proper form, remain at the same weight until you are able to perform all of the prescribed reps with perfect form.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Sun, 12/03/2017 - 21:26

can you do this for a full year instead of 3 months?
also im 15 and a half is it okay for me to do this workout plan?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:59

Hi Brandon,

Yes, absolutely. Feel free to perform this program for as long as you are seeing results. It is an excellent program to begin with. Focus on nailing all of the exercises with perfect form prior to worrying about adding weight to the bar.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:56

Hi, lets day i do 1st set with 10 reps, 2nd set with 9 reps and 3rd set with 8 reps. Total = 27 reps. The weight between sets should increase or remain the same?

Ex: 1st set = 20kg 2nd set = 20kg 3rd set = 20kg ??

Posted on: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 05:48

The weight between sets should remain the same but the next time you do that lift (the next session) you will add the appropriate amount of weight, is what I am gathering.

Posted on: Sun, 04/30/2017 - 12:48

I hate saying I'm a hardgainer because you all say the same thing "you're just not eating enough or working out enough" so here it is iam getting back into the gym and need help...these macro calculators are a joke for me.

4years ago I started working out 6'5" 170lbs
I started slow learned a lot and tried everything.
I had personal trainers. Worked out 6 days a week. Tried all sorts of work out programs, splits,2adays, compound lifts...8week,12,16 week programs yada yada. I gained but plateaued quickly...it's addictive and I wanted more...I did meal planning and your typical macros. I didn't break that plateau and labeled myself a hardgainer, they said eat more and train harder,like you. I'm extreme... like obsessively insane 100% all in when I am in. They said eat more till you gain train harder till you gain.

I ended up with a diet like this

In the am 1500 kcal 60g protein, homemade gainer that consisted of oats nuts flaxseed meal peanut butter, bananas, milk

2.5hrs later 50 gr protein chicken or fish or steak with 45 gs carbs pasta,rice, or bread, and a blended raw vegetable shake(spinach,kale,Brussel sprouts...etc) with bcaas.

2.5 the same meal but with a fruit shake

2.5 the same meal but with a veggie. Shake

2.5 preworkout and 60gs fast whey, and 50gs fast carbs bcaas among other things

Intra workout shakes

Post workout 50 gs protein and fast carbs with a host of magical supplements

Come home juice fruits and veggies, eat the same meal again but with a fruit shake.

Another gainer shake before bed with zmas bcaas and all the other crazy stupid supps, and vitamins.

By the way I went as far as researching every ingredient in prework outs and buying them separate and creating my own that prolly cost 10$ a scoop

With snacks and all the other crazy stuff all combined I ate,never cheated, and tracked over 8000kcals A day, 450+g of protein, I don't even remeber how much carbs and fats. Along with 500$ a month in supps I didn't list them cause it's too much and you already know them all. The only thing I didn't try was roids...but I almost did.

The point is I put every ounce of effort into working out and gaining. Watch what you tell folks cause They said over training was impossible but it's not.

I lost 7lbs of fat, and gained 35lbs of muscle in one year. I also gained, insomnia forearm splints, joint pain, impingements. I took time off cause shoulder pain and a fear of a torn rotatorcuff, also life got in the way and I took a job working 88hrs a week.

I am back now and my life will let me workout like that again but I need to separate the wheat from the chaff

I don't want to go crazy again. What is a true hardgainer to do I need a better set of macro goals! Can you help?