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 Tue, 12/27/2011 - 04:46
Iman Kalyan

Hi Steve,
I'm also a hard gainer but my main problem is the fat of my belly.So I want to know should I take foods full with fats like oily foods,red meat,butter,cheese e.t.c and also please suggest me some exercises to losing fat of middle body part quickly.......thanks for advance

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/27/2011 - 09:45
Steven

What is your current height and weight?

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Posted Tue, 12/27/2011 - 13:21
Iman Kalyan

I'm 20 years old .My height and weight are 5'8" & 72 kgs.Please suggest exercises with dumbbells or barbells.and also please tell me what will be the perfect size of specific individual muscles according to my height, so that I'll look best of mine.......Thanks

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/27/2011 - 14:31
Steven

Adding muscle to your frame will minimize the appearance of what little fat you do have. At this point you need to determine which is a greater priority...adding muscle or losing fat. Trying to accomplish both at the same time can be tricky.

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Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:24
Alan

Do we need to cycle the carbs intake for low and high incorporating this plan?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 12:42
Steven

No.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 23:48
john-michael

Another question. W/ the dumbbell curls, are you supposed to lift both arms simultaneously (that's what I did today) or each arm alternately? Thanks!

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:22
Steven

Either way is ok.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 23:45
Phil

I am 53 and would like to gain some mass,is this workout to extreme for my age?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:20
Steven

I wouldn't recommend an aggressive eating plan like this, but the workouts would serve you well.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 23:45
john-michael

Hi! I have a quick question about this routine. I've finished my 1st week doing it (today was day 3), and I'm just wondering about how quick it takes me to get through it. Each day takes about 40 minutes (not counting 30 minutes of cardio I do afterward). Is this long enough to bulk up and get stronger? I guess it's more about intensity than length, but it seems to me that 40 minutes of weighlifting is a bit short.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:17
Steven

Don't worry about the time. Stick to the progression plan and things will become more challenging each week, and as a result it will probably take you longer.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 19:11
Alan

Hi Steve,

When I do the squat, I found it hard after doing 1 or 2 sets since the hard barbell hurts my bone on the upper back bad. Are there any ways to avoid hurting the bone so that I am able to do more reps? Or my position is not that good?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:14
Steven

You have the bar on your neck. Lower it so that it rests upon your traps, or rests just below your traps.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 12:59
Andy

Hey! Your plan seems rly nice but I've got one question:

I'm already training for one year and usually plans for building muscles are split plans (I'm doing a 3 split currently)- so is this plan rly that good for bulking up? was just wondering cause its like the first plan for gaining mass is see that seems to be a whole body plan^^
5 exercises also seem quite few to me.

And btw thx for the nutrition tips!

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/26/2011 - 10:13
Steven

Trust in the plan. It is great for building muscle. If you are focusing on progression the workouts are very challenging.

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Posted Thu, 12/22/2011 - 19:14
marko

for the dumb bell curls is it 25 total reps for each arm or 25 total for both arms?

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 12/23/2011 - 11:15
Steven

Each arm.

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Posted Mon, 12/19/2011 - 10:59
Alan

Hi Steve,

I am definitely a skinny guy that is 5'7" 120lb. However, I do think I have a pretty visible belly and my friends think so. Shall I eat more nonfat food instead? It is the reason why I hesitate to drink whole milk but skim milk. Also, I feel really hard even eating more than 2500 calories a day.

Which kind of supplements may I have with this program? Some of my friends suggest me the muscle juice of GNC for weight gainers. Actually, I just wanna have a better shape but not too big. 135lb may be good enough for me. Shall I keep doing the program after 9 weeks or I shall do other routines?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:12
Steven

Hi Alan,

Add muscle and that slight belly will disappear. If you have a hard time eating more than 2500 calories per day focus on adding higher fat foods like whole milk, cheese and sour cream.

As far as supplements, here is a good article:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/prioritize-your-supplement-pu...

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Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 19:28
Alan

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your reply. I just bought two types of protein powder, one 100% whey and one mixed, and I would stick with them to add more calories. However, shall I avoid beer, wine and desserts like chocolates that contain relatively more fats as I really like them and I feel it easier to take them even I am full?

Also, I tried the routine for the second day with the dips and could only do a total of 6 reps. Do you think I should use machines for weight assistance instead or just stick to the max of 6?

Finally, how many weeks shall we follow this routine and when shall we switch to the others?

I am sorry that I am quite a bit questions.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11:48
Steven

I wouldn't avoid all "unhealthier" foods. Everything in moderation.

Regarding dips, I would hang in there. Try to add one dip each week. If you keep this mindset after 3-4 months you will be very improved on dips, and it will pay off.

I would stick with this plan at least 3-4 months and longer if it is serving you well.

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Posted Sun, 12/18/2011 - 23:11
john-michael

I'm a little confused about something. This is a beginner muscle building routine, and yet the number of reps are so high that you'd have to use less weight to get through them. Isn't that counterproductive (I thought more reps at lesser weights were for toning not bulking up). Also, couldn't that lead to overtraining and/or injury for a beginner? I've been working out for about 11 months, so I'm not a total beginner, and I definitely want to get bigger, but I' a little concerned about setting myself up for failure.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:10
Steven

Re-read the workout description. You are not performing 25 reps per set. You are trying to perform a total of 25 reps fro 3 sets, which is an average of 8.33 reps per set.

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Posted Sun, 12/18/2011 - 14:27
Paulius

Hello Steve.
Ive been working out for about a year now and i found your post about 3-4 months ago and decided to follow your plan to add some weight. I got to say your plan really works since i started following it ive gained about 15 pounds. Im 28, 6'0" and about 178 lbs. I just want to know is that a good weight for my height and i should start a different program now, because im starting to notice that my waist, belly getting bigger and i do not want to be huge, just want to have a nice body.
Thank you.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:07
Steven
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Posted Sat, 12/17/2011 - 05:54
monster

hey steve, i like the idea, my question was what do i do in between the workout days? how much can i do? is sprinting and hill climbing, jumping or a 2 mile jog/run too much? how much is enough? And do we eat the same amount of calories even if it's not a workout day? thanx

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:06
Steven

Cardio for 20 to 30 minutes is generally plenty for overall health.

Eat the same amount of food on off days. Your body is trying to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.

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Posted Fri, 12/16/2011 - 00:32
Jay

I've seem to be having trouble with muscle building, and can use some advice. I'm 6' 1" and weigh 330lbs (Yes, I'm fat) and I'm trying to lose fat and gain muscle. What would be the best exercise and diet plan for me.
Use to be a wrestler but, no longer. I'm a little above novice. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:05
Steven

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eating to maximize muscle retention while cutting fat. Here are two articles that can help:

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

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

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Posted Thu, 12/15/2011 - 20:54
Simon

Dear Steve,
I currently do alot of running - 5 times a week with workouts including high intensity 400m repeats and sprints, moderate intensity long uphill runs and some low intensity stuff thrown in. Recently I have been wanting to gain muscle, and was woundering wether or not it was possible with this kind of running regime?
Cheers
Simon

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:04
Steven

You will be able to gain muscle as long as you are eating enough food.

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Posted Wed, 12/14/2011 - 22:40
Joe

Hi Steve
Do you have another Sample Eating Plan
because I normally eat school lunch.

My height is 6'2 weight 140

I'm trying to pack on muscles

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Posted Wed, 12/14/2011 - 15:55
John

hi,
I myself am a hard gainer. I have thin bone structure, slow muscle fibres and a fast metabolism so it has been hard for me so far to really increase a lot in muscle size.
I was just wondering about the logic behind this routine. from a lot of the web sites i have been on including this one, they say that in order to keep gaining muscle you have to chop and change the routine about every few weeks to make sure the muscles dont be come comfortable with the workout and to keep them on there toes per say. in this workout its the same machines and amount of reps for 3 months. i was just wondering what the reasoning for this was?
thanks,
john.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:03
Steven

There is no need to change routines every couple of months. That's a myth. For the beginning lifter progression of weight is all they will need to focus on the first several years.

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Posted Wed, 12/14/2011 - 00:54
Rush

Wide grip or close grip dips?
thanks for the great workout

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:02
Steven

You don't want the dipping handles to be too wide.

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Posted Tue, 12/13/2011 - 22:45
Ivan

Not that I'm doubting that this workout doesn't work, has anyone tried it and has worked in 3 months? Thanks in advance for your help.

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Posted Tue, 12/13/2011 - 20:42
Benjamin

Im hearing a lot of comments about not being able to eat the required amount of food or calories. Ill let you know by my own personal experience that it is truely possible to eat the required amounts as set forth. I was 6'0" at 138lbs. I also thought eating this amount of food was absurd at first. I began wieght training and my body naturally began craving food much more. This in itself will give you 1000 calories alone that your body will desire. Trust me. As you eat more and more your body will adapt to wanting to eat the same amounts and get hungy more frequently. I used to never be able to eat for at least 2 hours after I had woken up. Now im waking up, starving, and not be able to fall asleep until I eat again. Hope this helps.

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Posted Tue, 12/13/2011 - 15:18
Brad

Hey Steve,

Thanks for the workout. I am 21, 6'6" and roughly 185 lbs. I have a few questions for you.

1) It is clear that you are stressing the quantity of calories and putting less emphasis on the specifics of the diet. However, would focusing on those specifics benefit this workout? I've done some research and have observed that a common diet breakdown is 40% carbs 30% fat 30% protein. I know that many people will have enough trouble just consuming the 4000 but as a classified "hardgainer" I have been on diets where the intake was 6000. I know I will be able to reach the 4000 goal daily, but is there benefit in breaking down these categories into percentages above? If so what breakdown do you reccomend?

2) I play basketball roughly 3-4 time a week. Not every workout is strenuous but each does obviously include cardio. Will keeping the basketball routine affect my lifting even though it is mostly cardio/legs? Should I eat more calories to compensate for those lost on the basketball court?

3) What is a good healthy goal for me to reach in 6 months while following this plan?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:00
Steven

Hi Brad,

1) Ratios are really not needed as long as the food intake is balanced. You certainly could count every gram and percentage out food but quite frankly it's a huge waste of time when bulking aggressively.

2) Not if the diet is in check and you are eating enough.

3) 10-15 pounds of weight gain would be a good goal.

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Posted Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:53
Rod

Hi Steve, can I firstly say that you a great mentor I have read loads of books, articles over the years but nothing has made changes a quickly as your routine. I am looking forward to when I am no longer a beginner and can 1 of your intermediate programmes.

I haven't trained in years and since then I have lot all my strength and gained several pounds but am making great gains in muscle mass. The dumbbells at the gym I use only goes up to 30kg and I can now do 3 sets of 12-15 reps with this weight when doing dumbbell rows.

My questions are
1. Now I have maxed out on the Dumbbell rows should I do lat pull downs or another day with bent over barbell rows for training for width?

2. If you think I should do lat pull downs should I do lat pull downs or assisted pull ups?

3. As I am no longer a hard gainer is it possible to tighten my stomach at the time as doing this routine

Thanks in advance your fan
Rod Whyte UK Trainer.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:57
Steven

Hi Rod,

1) Do you have access to cable rows at the gym? If not you are better off performing more barbell rows or assisted pullups rather than lat pull downs.

2) Assisted pullups are a solid choice. Better than lat pulldowns in my opinion.

3) You certainly could try. here is an article that can help:

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

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Posted Tue, 12/13/2011 - 00:19
Simon

Hey Steve,
I currently do alot of running - 5 days a week, some high intensity stuff like 400m repeats and sprints as well as lower intesity longer 8-12k up hill stuff and moderate intensity stuff thrown in . I have been told that I am unhealthy thin and need to pack on some muscle! I was woundering if this would be possible with my current running regime.
Cheers
Simon

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:54
Steven

You should be able to gain weight as long as you stick to a more aggressive eating plan like the one presented in this article.

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Posted Mon, 12/12/2011 - 19:38
Jonathan

For 3 sets for total reps of 25, should I use a pyramid of 12,8,5 or how should I break it up?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:49
Steven

You perform as many reps as you can per set, stopping each set when you feel like you may fail on the next rep.

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

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?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 12:46
Steven
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Posted Fri, 12/09/2011 - 10:59
Jack

<<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?