The Ex-Hardgainer Workout And Eating Plan

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

Build Muscle
Full Body
Beginner
3
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female

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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698 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sat, 07/11/2015 - 13:27
Scott

When it says 25 total reps or 20 reps etc. does that mean 25 reps each set or 3 sets with reps totaling 25?

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Posted Sat, 07/18/2015 - 15:11
Ernest Washingt...

Total 25 reps

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Posted Sun, 11/30/2014 - 19:40
Grant

Hi I'm 13 and was wondering if I should make any adjustments to the workout or diet, can I eat dirtier and or should I consume less etc.?

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Posted Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:49
John90

Hi Steve,

I'm 6ft3 I weigh 12stone, my weight never changes but I have started to go gym and I would like to look more define since I'm slim built, I would like to know with the diet plan you have suggested, Does this include what to eat before gym and what to eat after, because I do 10hr days at work, and I'm going gym about 7-8pm evening?

Kind regards John

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Posted Sun, 07/20/2014 - 10:18
Arnoldo

Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

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Posted Sat, 07/12/2014 - 12:12
Mostafa

Hi Steve,
Can i replace barbell bench press with decline push-up and dumbbell chest press with dumbbell floor press because I train in my home?

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Posted Sat, 07/12/2014 - 11:39
Mostafa

Hi Steve,
Can i replace barbell bench press with decline push-up and dumbbell chest press with dumbbell floor press because I train in my home?

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Posted Tue, 04/01/2014 - 03:50
Haytham

Hi steve , im really frustrated with my body mass , been working out on and off for about 3 years now , my body is more cut i eat alot though not like the sample of wht u showed , but anyways i have 6 packs even i eat alot , my legs r thin , pretty mascullar upper body, still thin , i gained 2.5kilos in 3 years , im 175 cm and wieght 140 lbs , been struggling for a while with no supplements to go over tht but seems supplements like wieght gainers and pumps do the trick but still not pretty good .. I do bench press 176 lbs for 8 reps not to failure ... I wont be here if i really booooooored ....

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Posted Sat, 03/08/2014 - 06:18
Rosa

I can see I'm just washing myself out and will get nowhere (although I enjoy your workout plan very much). I wouldn't be able to eat all that even if I could: I simply don't have the stomach for it, and also I can't afford that much quality food, much less for supps... I can't tolerate lactose but I can eat fermented dairy. I already do about 5 meals with 1 or two snacks on a day, depending, and I already eat a lot of fat (butter, cream cheese, olives) and carbs (I don't eat nuts though, also because they're a little bit expensive - at least around here, and for me).
Also, I can't afford to eat that much protein. I spare my protein intake throughout the day, let's say about 15 to 16 grams of protein value with each meal on workout days (half of that on rest days) times 5 meals (that totals less than 100 grams of protein, but I weight less than 50 kg. / 110lbs - I'm currently doing my whole bodyweight times 2 grams of protein on workout days. The thing is that I avoid adding more fat too or I won't be able to eat enough every 3 hours because I will be very full still...
Finally, concerning mass values on the scale, I totally relate to Gsan there! Thanks Steve!

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Posted Sat, 03/08/2014 - 06:17
Rosa

I can see I'm just washing myself out and will get nowhere. I wouldn't be able to eat all that even if I could: I simply don't have the stomach for it, and also I can't afford that much quality food, much less for supps... I can't tolerate lactose but I can eat fermented dairy. I already do about 5 meals with 1 or two snacks on a day, depending, and I already eat a lot of fat (butter, cream cheese, olives) and carbs (I don't eat nuts though, also because they're a little bit expensive - at least around here, and for me).
Also, I can't afford to eat that much protein. I spare my protein intake throughout the day, let's say about 15 to 16 grams of protein value with each meal on workout days (half of that on rest days) times 5 meals (that totals less than 100 grams of protein, but I weight less than 50 kg. / 110lbs - I'm currently doing my whole bodyweight times 2 grams of protein on workout days. The thing is that I avoid adding more fat too or I won't be able to eat enough every 3 hours because I will be very full still...
Finally, concerning mass values on the scale, I totally relate to Gsan there! Thanks Steve.

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Posted Wed, 02/12/2014 - 06:18
Sam

Hi!

My gym don't have little increment of 2.5 pounds, the min is 5 pounds, so 2X5 = 10 pounds minimum if I up the weights but U said 5 pounds up for some exercises. I suppose it is OK even though it's not optimal ?

PS: sorry for mistakes, I'm french... :p

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Posted Fri, 02/07/2014 - 06:33
Nathan

If i do wrestling practice between 2 of my off days will that affect this program and this prqctice can go from 3 hours to 3 hours and 30 minutes

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Posted Sun, 01/19/2014 - 13:39
Danny

Will eating this much fat be bad for my cholesterol levels and heart functioning . Thought things like double cheeseburgers are a no no

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Posted Mon, 01/13/2014 - 23:11
ben

Is it a miust to do the 1 x 20 (squats) on the Friday, or can we keep with the 25 reps over 3 sets of the Monday?

Just that I find it extremely difficult to do 20 reps in a row!

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Posted Sun, 01/12/2014 - 03:59
Baljinder

Hi Steve,
I m 20yrs with 5'11'' height and 60kg weight little skinny guy. M doing bodybuilding workouts from 1.5 year but took long weekends break inbetween. Can I again start and follow this workout? because this without will help me with my eating plans or should I start with beginners workout?
Thanx

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Posted Tue, 01/07/2014 - 00:23
Jerome

So do i do 3 sets of 8 reps to reach 25 reps?
or can i do 12,8,5 to reach 25 reps?

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Posted Wed, 12/25/2013 - 14:47
Richard

Iv been on this diet and exercise routine now for one week and a half . and with your advise on carb cycling ,I was cutting my carbs in half and upping my protein per half carbs on my none exercise days. When I stated I had a body fat/muscle ratio of 10.2/42% @ 182lb. Now I have a fat/muscle ratio of 14.5/35% . That was on a diet of 3900 cal . on zig-zag cal- carb cycling approach. I feared this would happen with only exercising 3 days a week. I even added a couple of exercises to Monday first day and a 10 min. cadio on all days ( cardio was not figured into workout time) to get me to a 45minute workout taking only 30 sec. breaks between sets.

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Posted Sat, 12/21/2013 - 22:45
Richard

I was only on a 2400 cal diet and working out 6 days a week working different muscles each day some 2 times in the week ,like abbs, legs, chest , And Iv been doing reps to failure, Iv been doing a cardio warm up first for 15 min. then lift weights for 45 min. Is this 3 day routine better and if so can you explain why ?

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Posted Sat, 12/21/2013 - 13:37
Richard

hello Im 55 yro. 184lb. 2@ 6'-2" I have a resting metabolism of 1723. Iv started my caloric intake slowly and now Im up to 3612 cal.on a ziz-zag approach and I must say I have I recover much faster and now have the gas to get through my whole routine. now this weekend im off for 2 days should I cut my carb level down on rest days ? I don't see any positive benefit in loading up on carbs that go to fat if no exercise. Im on a 40/45/15 ratio.... Any help here would much appreciated.

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Posted Thu, 10/24/2013 - 23:01
Johnny

Hey Steve. I've been in the gym for about 6 months not with no results. I'm a hardgainer, no weights been added. MY diet plan sucks, tried supplements still nothing. Can you give me a list of supplements to purchase, what to say and stuff? I'm still a newbie and desprate lol. I pretty much get lots of chicken, beef, white rice everyday because my mom owns a restaurant. I mostly eat 4 times a day, I even weigh my food too. Still nothing please help. Thanks

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Posted Thu, 10/24/2013 - 12:59
carl

What about forearms?

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Posted Thu, 10/24/2013 - 11:57
blake

Hi Steve,
Please tell me which workout routine should I do when I finished this workout routine?? ?

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Posted Sat, 10/19/2013 - 21:23
adam

Hey Steve Shaw, can you please explain to me the logic behind the eating 4000+ calorie plan? I mean world it not vary per person if I were say 5'6'' and 110Lbs vs someone who was 6'3'' and 250+Lbs. I mean 4000 is just too much for some lightweights is it not? correct me if I am wrong but should the larger men not be eating more than the smaller men?

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Posted Sat, 10/19/2013 - 15:10
blake

How to do 25 reps in 3 sets?

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Posted Sat, 10/19/2013 - 15:05
blake

How much muscle can I gain in this 90 days?

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Posted Mon, 10/14/2013 - 13:22
Andrew

Steve,
I have found all the information that you provide a great source of help. However, I have one question. I am trying very hard to put on muscle mass, and am consuming over 4000 calories a day. I do also want that six pack of abs, but when is it realistic to start working towards that goal?

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Posted Wed, 08/28/2013 - 12:09
John

I'm looking at the meal plan, and with basic healthy ingredients it looks great. However I'm nervous because it has such a high amount of protein that hemorrhoids might be a problem. Is there enough fiber in the diet to prevent that? Kinda gross I know but...

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Posted Fri, 08/16/2013 - 02:23
Vandan

Hi Steve,

I am 6'-190 pounds and want to tone up my body. I also have some lower belly fat which I want to get rid of. Should I choose this routine or https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/3-day-whole-body-toning-worko...?

Thanks,
Vandan

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Posted Thu, 08/08/2013 - 13:37
Tony

Hi

I'm jogging 3 miles 4 times a week. I'm wondering if this weight training will help me burn fat?

Your help much appreciated

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Posted Tue, 08/06/2013 - 16:26
Mak

Hi Steve,
I'm 26, 6'2", 180 lbs. I've always been thin and working on changing that. I've been working out the last couple of months with little to no gains so i'm going to give this a try. I'm going to have a hard time consuming 4000 calories/day though! Any links to healthy high calorie recipes? Also, what time of gains can i expect to see per week?

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Posted Wed, 07/31/2013 - 19:06
Elliott

When should you eat

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Posted Wed, 07/31/2013 - 19:05
Elliott

When should you eat

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Posted Sun, 07/28/2013 - 23:23
Evan

Hi Steve,

I've recently found I might be intolerant to dairy (its in every meal for your plan!) - what would be a good food to substitute these during the day?

Thanks a lot for this plan - it really helps me. I'm new to all this and this is a good aim for me after I get accustomed to the gym and eating 5 meals :)

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Posted Mon, 07/22/2013 - 14:13
Sage

Hey so I got a question so are the reps split in 3 or do you so 25 each set?

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Posted Sun, 10/20/2013 - 08:10
blake

Hey sage,
You should do 25 reps in 3 sets

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Posted Sun, 07/21/2013 - 06:12
Tommy

Is the Overhead Press the only shoulder exercise in the program ? If so, is that enough for an entire week ?

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Posted Fri, 07/19/2013 - 21:14
Sage

So I got a question so is it 25 reps each set or 25 reps totals divided into 3 sets?

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Posted Wed, 07/17/2013 - 12:46
SlimJim

I am very tall (6'5") and have trouble with squats and deadlifts. That said, I am going to just start super light and work on form (trouble keeping my back straight at the bottom). I have read abou taller athletes doing trap bar deadlifts and starting slightly above the ground. Is this not reccomended for any reason?

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Posted Tue, 07/09/2013 - 19:56
Pablo

Hi Steve,

Awesome plan! I am really enjoying it. Since I am a BJJ practitioner, I do much more than 30 min of cardio a day - I do at least 4 hours of BJJ a week. I really want to gain muscle weight, but I cannot train any less BJJ than I do. What do you recommend?

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Posted Sat, 06/29/2013 - 17:14
Joe Bawden

I have shoulder trouble and dumbbell bench seems only to exacerbate it, is there a substitute you would suggest, regular bench is fine but dumbbell for whatever reason is injurious to my right shoulder.

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Posted Wed, 06/19/2013 - 22:48
John

hey Steve, I'm 47 and have been lifting on and off for about 20 years. I'm in decent shape now but was wondering if a workout routine like this would be good for a guy my age trying to pack on a little muscle and gain some strength.

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Posted Thu, 06/20/2013 - 17:06
mnsjason

Hey John! This routine should work for your goals, and I'm sure you are already aware of how important diet is during training. Just make sure you're getting plenty of rest and eating well, and you're set.

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Posted Fri, 05/24/2013 - 09:31
jw

Hi, I would like to lose fat and gain six pack abs while also gaining muscle, how should I do it?

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Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 07:01
rabih

h
Hello Steve

So your saying 25 reps total,so how i divide it for 3 sets? 10 . 8 . 7

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Posted Mon, 04/29/2013 - 08:42
Oscar

Hey Steve, I like this routine. I think I will get on it starting today.

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Posted Fri, 04/26/2013 - 16:58
Randy

Steve,
I need to gain weight and this looks to be the program for me. I have just a couple questions.
Overhead press: do you prefer/recommend behind the neck or from the front for this program?
Calf raise: by whichever variation do you mean seated vs standing?
Weighted situps: flat or decline?
I currently use the manta ray on squats. Any opinion of that, bad or good?

Thanks!

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Posted Thu, 04/25/2013 - 02:06
jay

I'm looking at getting back to the gym. I've been out of the gym for over 6 months (due to lower back injury). Would you recommend this program given that I've been physically inactive for a long time? Is there a better program I should follow before I get into this one? Or?

The article attracted me, because during my time working out in the gym, I felt very much like a "hard-gainer".

Thanks for the advice in advance.

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Posted Tue, 04/23/2013 - 07:11
John

I am going to get started on this program now but I have a few questions first. I have not lifted in six weeks and have gained some body fat. Should I go through a fat burning routine before I start the diet and weightlifting program? I am about ten pounds over my normal body weight I would guess.

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Posted Mon, 04/22/2013 - 13:23
John

Hi, i have a question to make... My goal is to get from my current 6'2 148 pounds to something around 180 pounds. Is this routine the best/fastest way to go ?

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Posted Mon, 04/22/2013 - 13:20
John

Hi Steve, i have one question, my goal is to improving from my current 6'2 and 148 pounds to something around 180pounds. Is this routine the best/fastest way to go?

Thanks