You’ve seen them in the gym. The guys, no matter how hard they train, just can’t pack on any muscle. They spend hours lifting weights and they don’t seem to gain any strength or muscle mass. For a prospective weight lifter that spends long hours in the gym, this can often be quite frustrating.
Do you find it difficult to get stronger, and are you also having a hard time building muscle? If you answered yes to either one of those questions, then you may be a “hard gainer” as well.
One way to help determine if you are a hard gainer is to take a look at your genetic body type. These are the 3 widely accepted body types:
- Mesomorph – fit, muscular, athletic and strong physique
- Endomorph – pear shaped, slower metabolism, sometimes overweight
- Ectomorph – skinny, lanky, and struggles to gain muscle mass
These body classifications are pretty straight forward. If your body type falls into the ectomorph category, you may tend to be a hard gainer, and will frequently struggle to gain strength and size. Don’t worry. There is hope for you.
Tips for Gaining Muscle Mass
For a hard gainer, what you eat and when you eat is very important. Instead of eating 3 large meals in a day, you should attempt to eat 6 to 8 smaller meals throughout the day.
For best results, you should consume at least 20 calories per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need to eat 3000 calories throughout the day. However, not all calories are created equal.
A large percentage of calories should come from protein. A common rule for hard gainers is to take in 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per body weight daily.
Protein shakes are often an effective method to help pack on the muscle. The best time to drink protein shakes is first thing in the morning, post workout, and right before bed. You can find quality protein powders, and pre-maid shakes at your local health food market.
For most of your protein intake, remember to eat whole food sources, such as fish, turkey, and chicken.
When you eat carbs, try to get them from quality foods such as oatmeal and whole wheat breads.
Your body also needs healthy sources of fat. Some good sources of fat, eaten in moderate quantities, are peanuts, olive oil, and flax seeds.
Many hard gainers believe that they need to work out more to get stronger and to gain muscle mass. Unfortunately, that theory has caused many weight lifters to actually stunt their progress and often slows down the growth process of the body’s muscles.
There are two inherent problems with overtraining. The first issue is that the body requires adequate time to rest and heal after training. If you don’t get enough rest between workouts, your muscles will retain too much lactic acid. This ultimately inhibits your muscles from growing.
The second problem with training too much is that it frequently results in overuse injuries. A well-rested body is less susceptible to injuries that are often associated with excessive training.
A few common symptoms of overtraining are the following:
- Trouble sleeping
- Overuse injuries
- Feeling fatigued throughout the day
- Lack of appetite
Another thing to keep in mind if you are trying to add muscle is to limit your cardio. Although cardiovascular exercise is important, if you do too much, your body will burn fat as well as muscle.
Remember to get plenty of sleep. If possible, you should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Hard Gainer Training Routine
A hard gainer trainer routine should last no more than one hour. Most exercises will be compound multi-joint movements. You should try to increase the weight during each workout.
The following routine is based on a 5 day split. It’s important to rest a day between workouts.
Legs and Back:
Squats – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Lat Pull Downs – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Chest and Lower Back
Bench Press – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Dead Lifts – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Shoulders and Arms:
Military Press – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Tricep Push-Downs – 3 Sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
Perform this routine for at least one month before switching it up. Also, remember to keep the routine progressive by adding weight during each workout. This simple routine, along with a proper diet and plenty of rest will significantly increase the chances of meeting the muscle-gaining goals of a hard gainer.