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

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:28
Steven

Without knowing the workout routine I am hesitant to comment.

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Posted Sun, 11/20/2011 - 02:33
Marambe

hi steve,
can i build my triceps with this program?

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:28
Steven

You will build every muscle group with this approach.

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Posted Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:20
Erik

Hey so the workout plan looks pretty solid, however I was wondering if it would be wise to split this into a 4 day workout plan where I'd go Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri.? I'm about 5'9" 126lbs and I'm looking to gain weight with this but I'd like to be able to go to the gym more than three times a week.

Thanks Steve.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:25
Steven

Hi Erik,

Do not split the plan. Run it as designed.

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Posted Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:57
Cam

Hi Steve,

I know you specifically said "do not change the exercises in this workout" but I tried to perform Side Bends at my gym yesterday but they are very annoying to do because I need to use a very heavy weight (80 lb. dumbbells) in order to hit the 30 rep goal and my grip gives out before I can hit 8-10 reps. Also, I dont even feel like the exercise is working my core/obliques. Would you recommend a different exercise, or should I just keep work at the Side Bends? Thanks!

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:22
Steven

I would use some straps and stick with 80 pounds for 3 sets of 10 for a while. Add 5 pounds to the dumbbells every 3 months or so.

I find that with exercises like this I don't need to get aggressive with progression of weight. A little goes a long way.

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Posted Wed, 11/16/2011 - 21:27
gonzo

Hey steve, I'm starting the workout plan on monday and I'm really excited to see how it works. Seems like great results are coming from it but i was wondering, im lactose and tolerant do u know anything that can be substituted for the milk? Would soy milk work just as well or do u know of anything better??

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:38
Steven

Foods like almonds and cheese are good options. Cheese has little to no lactose.

Soy milk works too...

Whatever helps you get your calories in that is relatively healthy.

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Posted Sat, 12/03/2011 - 11:24
Killa Cam

I'm lactose intolerant as well and before I started this routine and eating plan I mostly just avoided consuming too much of any dairy products. However, I started using the Lactaid pills (to help with the intolerance) when drinking lots of milk, eating yogurt, drinking protein, etc... and its helped me greatly. Went from 6-7 bowel movements a day to more like 2-3. Follow the directions, but I take a pill pretty much every time I eat dairy now.

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Posted Wed, 11/16/2011 - 20:43
Caleb

This workout sounds great, can i do it and get a hot sixpack? also i am 15 and i want to look pretty buff in 7 months! can i do it? or am i to young

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:36
Steven

No sir. This is a muscle building workout. The six packs are chiseled after the muscle is built.

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Posted Wed, 11/16/2011 - 09:24
Lynn

Hi I'm 55 years young 155lb and cant get past this weight tring to build muscle. been hitting the gym everyday -Mon - FRI for just about a year not much improvment i am stronger but the size is not there. from reading i guess i have not been eating enough, i dont want to gain fat, if i am working this hard can i eat all day ? accourding to your what you have suggested this is excatly waht i need to do. any advice for a guy my age ?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:34
Steven

Well it "might" be wrong undereating, but it also might be from a lack of progression.

Do you push yourself in the gym for more reps and wight on the bar frequently?

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Posted Tue, 11/15/2011 - 20:46
Tyler

Hay I'm only 15 so do I still eat 4000 calories or not as much and how long before I see results and will this workout get me ripped and what types of food should I eat but no eggs I hate eggs.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:33
Steven

Right now I would simply concentrate on learning the lifts, improving your form and eating properly. If you are still growing or underweight then you will want to max sure you're gaining some weight.

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

You can do the plan. My point was to make sure you work on form as much as possible and feel comfortable before getting too aggressive with adding weight.

I did not advise to undereat nor lose weight. Concentrate on eating enough food, and eating somewhat healthy.

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Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 22:23
Tyler

So what ur saying is dnt start the workout just practice the liftes? Also are you wanting me to not eat much like lose weight, I'm 5'6 and 147

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Posted Tue, 11/15/2011 - 20:39
Walter

I am not a big fan of deadlifts at all. What workout can I substitute it with?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:28
Steven

There is no substitution. Learn good form, build confidence, and continue to use them.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 10:01
Steven

You won't. You will need to get more weight.

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

Alright, I believe you, but the thing is, they're only 8 pounds. If I were to use these, how could I use them to reach full potential?

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Posted Tue, 11/15/2011 - 15:46
Elliot

Hello Steve

I'm 6'0, 132lbs and I'm 23 with a small frame body and a superfast metabolism. But I have a couple quick questions to ask about strengths and the diet.
First off, I'm very lactose to milk. I can't drink it without having to run to the bathroom every two minutes. It seems that milk is a perfect way to get in calories and protein, especially with added protein supplements. What do you recommend as an alternative for my situation?

And as for strength, how can I tell the difference between a muscle gaining workout and a strength training workout, as I'm working out?

I feel dumb for asking these questions but I feel like I've come to the right place.
Please advise.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:26
Steven

Cheese is a good option. It has little no no lactose. Almonds are great too.

"And as for strength, how can I tell the difference between a muscle gaining workout and a strength training workout, as I'm working out?"

They are pretty much the same workouts the first year or two.

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Posted Fri, 01/30/2015 - 06:00
Nicholas Hopkins

What would the warm up sets ...reps be for this workout please. ....want to get going

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Posted Tue, 11/15/2011 - 15:06
Patrick

Would there be anyway to add Power cleans to this? Possibly as a warmup to deadlifts?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:23
Steven

As a warmup, but don't make them taxing to the point where they detract from your workout.

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Posted Mon, 11/14/2011 - 01:20
Toby J

What is the rest time between sets?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:22
Steven

Rest up to 2 minutes between most sets, and longer if need be for heavy, taxing sets of squats and deadlifts.

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Posted Mon, 11/14/2011 - 00:00
John

Hi Steve, I am 17 (I turn 18 next month) and I don't want to intake any protein supplements/creatine/supplements"." for personal reasons, such as, side effects. May you suggest any whole food/snack options/meal plans to replace taking any supplements at all?

Thanks,

John

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:21
Steven

Whole milk, cheese, almonds and Greek yogurt are great protein snack foods.

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Posted Sun, 11/13/2011 - 23:33
Jake

I am 18 and 145 pounds, thanks dad. i have a hard time gaining muscle. is this a good plan for me? also, could taking Pink Magic be a good idea for better results?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:20
Steven

This program is a great choice. As far as testosterone boosters they are not really needed at your age. You have plenty of natural testosterone.

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Posted Sat, 11/12/2011 - 20:23
Blaine Beaird

Just wanted to say I'm excited to start this program cause I need to put on some muscle weight. I'm 6'4 and about 190 lbs. My goal weight is 225. My question is do I need to eat the same amount of calories on my days off from lifting or do I need to keep the calories the same? Also can I use grape juice in this plan such as to mix it with creatine to use as a pre-workout energizer?

Thanks so much!

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:19
Steven

Hi Blaine,

Yes, same calories on off days.

Grape juice with creatine mixed in is a great addition.

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Posted Sat, 11/12/2011 - 10:50
Nic

When I do the dumbbell curls do i stand or sit?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:17
Steven

Either way is ok.

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Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 15:44
brandon

So if I bike every day for about 45min to one hour total, should i still schedule HIIT sessions?
Like a jump rope/burpies routine, or sprinting?

I have lifted like i said for 9 years but no real gains, just lean muscle , 6'2" 140 @5%bf

After lifing if I do 10 x12 burpies-jumps-/kickboxing for 20min should that count as cardio and i do nothing the next day,

Sorry for the post but i have trouble understanding if i am doing to much to sabotage muscle gains.

Thanks

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:17
Steven

Try this eating approach with your current cardio and watch the scale to see if you are adding weight. If not, add 500 more calories per day.

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Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 14:50
Allen

I have been trying to gain weight and build muscle, I am only 146 pounds and 5'5. How well would this system work for me? If not, do you have any recommendations? I am just needing to find a good plan for me.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:16
Steven

This is a solid choice. Give it a try.

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Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 11:23
Eren

hi i am not able to do tricep dips yet whats another exercise i could do to built myself up to doing dips ? cheers

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 13:07
Steven

Close grip bench press would work.

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Posted Thu, 11/10/2011 - 04:19
Luby

Steve,

I'm a 48 year old male who is looking to get back into weight training after roughly 10 years away from it. My goal is two fold. I want to put the muscle mass back on while I lose the extra 70lbs I have been carrying around for too long. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that I should get the muscles back into regular training before I start to expect alot from them. Having said that, in your honest opinion, would this be the best workout for my stated purposes or could you suggest another one that may work better? I am getting frustrated and confused by all the choices out there and I feel you would be well equipped to steer me in the right direction. Thank you in advance for your time.

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 13:02
Steven

I would take about 4 weeks to "get used to" the weights before getting too aggressive. Allow sometime for your body too adapt to working out.

This would be a good workout choice, but if you're trying to lose weight I would probably recommend eating somewhere around 2000 calories per day for starters.

Most any workout will serve you well. Pink something simple, like this, and something you enjoy. As long as you are pushing yourself little by little you will make good progress.

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Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 17:56
brandon

Thanks steve,

So this would be better than 4-5days per week split for me (like PHD or Something llike 531)

Also since the total rep goal is 25- then over three sets one should aim for about an 8 rep max? so say 9, 8, 7-8?

The cardio recomended? does it matter if it is HIIT or steady state, AS i do at least two HIIT sprint or pylo sessions, but i also ride a bike for commuting 45min a day.

Thanks

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 12:59
Steven

It's better if you have no track record of building muscle and are relatively thin.

As far as reps, don't limit a max. Do as many as you can on each set, stopping a set when you feel you may fail on the next rep.

Cardio...doesn't matter. Do what you enjoy. Just not too much, especially if you are thin.

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Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 08:26
Daniel Owens

I am a 21 year old man, and I have been following this workout for three months now In that time i have gone from 72kg 12% bodyfat to 76kg 17% bodyfat, this is a large increase for me, however I am worried that if I keep on this program I will continue to Gain fat. Should i start looking at moving to a cutting phase now or is 17% bodyfat nothing to worry about. Thankyou for your help.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:57
Steven

How has your weight progression been going in the gym? have you been moving up in weight at every opportunity, and pushing yourself on all sets?

If so, I would probably drop the calories down to 3500 for a month and see what happens.

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Posted Wed, 11/09/2011 - 16:43
Daniel Owens

yes ive been making steady strength gains, Thanks for your help.