Hardgainer Guide to Muscle Growth



Worried you’re one of the ‘hardgainers’? No need to give up and call it quits, just like everyone else pounding away at the gym, you’re still capable of building muscle and strength.

A lot of guys truly believe that because of the way their genes and the way they’re programmed, they aren’t able to build muscle and strength. They fear and believe that they’re going to stay skinny and weak their entire lives, no matter how hard they train at the gym or how much they eat. 

Though it is true that some men and women have a much easier time gaining muscle growth than others do. While this is because of genetic predispositions, it’s also because of hormone levels and a few other things. But that doesn’t mean that the person is forever doomed to dealing with their toothpick arms and legs.

How to Eat and Train Right If You’re a Hardgainer

Here’s the thing – a lot of people who believe they’re part of the hardgainer club were doing two key things incorrectly. One of them was training incorrectly, while the other was eating incorrectly. Many people actually have some similar mistakes. They’re either working out too infrequently or working out way too much, so they aren’t giving their bodies the chance they need to recover, which isn’t going to result in any gains.

A lot of them are lifting too lightly and doing the wrong exercises. They don’t realize that focusing on just isolation machines and not doing things like compound mass-building movements are what’s keeping them weak. And, a big one – not eating enough on a daily or weekly basis.

If you’re a part of the ectomorph group who struggles with putting on size, that’s perfectly fine. The key is that you just have to train properly for your body type. Being naturally lean is always a leg up, because when you start lifting heavy and getting on the right eating routine, you’re going to build muscle but without putting on body fat.

And another bonus? When you want to cut down on your already-lean body fat, you aren’t going to have much trouble doing it (like the rest of us do). Plus, while some of us need a lot of muscle mass in order to look big, this isn’t the case with ectos. In fact, a little muscle for them can go a lone way. If you put on 15 pounds of muscle, it’s going to look more like 30.

Before you start shaking your head that you can’t do this – yes you can. And it can be done in as little as 3 months and up to 5. But during those couple of months you have to know exactly what you’re doing.

There are two main areas you need to focus on – eating enough of the right kinds of foods and lifting heavier weights.

hardgainer Lifting Heavy to Grow (Especially If You’re a Hardgainer)

We know that you have to eat big amounts of food in order to get big, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to put on tons of body fat, which we know isn’t your goal either. But when we use the word “bulking,” it can be hard not to have a negative view on this. A lot of people think bulking means spending days and days coming up with meal plans and consuming all food within a mile radius. We want to focus on smart bulking.

Excessive weight gain isn’t needed for the proper bulking. In fact, it should be avoided at all costs. Packing on the pounds and becoming overweight obviously comes with a wealth of health risks, as we’re all familiar with. But speeding up fat storage can seriously mess with building muscle, because it gets in the way.

As the fat levels in your body increase, your insulin sensitivity is going to go down, which is going to American College of Sports Medicine the way your body is able to burn fat. So, in turn, there’s a greater chance of that any carbs you eat will be stored as fat. This also means that intracellular signaling that’s usually in charge of protein synthesis is going to be suppressed, which results in a loss of muscles.

What you need to focus on is bulking smart by giving yourself a fair caloric surplus, so your body can keep the muscle growth up and keep fat storage down. The right kind of bulk is going to give you anywhere from .5 to 1.5 pounds of pure gain on a weekly basis.

Creating a Smart Bulking Diet Plan for the Hardgainer

There’s actually a pretty easy way you can do this. For every pound of body weight you have, eat 1 gram of protein on a daily basis. For carbs, eat 2 grams for every pound of body weight and .4 grams of healthy fats.

Wondering how much daily protein do you need to build muscle? Let’s say you weigh 150 pounds. You want to shoot for 150 grams of protein, with 300 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat, equaling out to 2,340 calories on a daily basis. This is going to be enough to keep muscle growth nice and steady.

Give this a try for 10 days to 2 weeks and step on the scale. If you aren’t seeing those numbers moving up, bump up your calories to 200 a day to see if that does the trick. Check back in 10 to 14 days and if you don’t see any results, increase your calories again. It’s all a matter of finding your body’s sweet spot, but for a majority of people, you won’t have to adjust much.

Point blank if you want to get nice and big in the fastest amount of time you can, the path to get you there are heavy weights. So step off the machines and head on over to the weights.

Targeting Optimal Rep Range for Muscle Growth

There’s pretty simple reasoning behind the focus on weights – when there’s increased tension in the muscle, there’s going to be an increase in growth. So in order to keep this growth going, you have to keep the tension high – and this comes from lifting. But the key here is continuing to add weight to the bar. Though machines are ideal for rehabilitating certain injuries, there are tons of studies and research that shows machines just aren’t nearly as effective at building strength and muscles as free weights are.

And one argument that never seems to end is the whole idea of the perfect rep range for maximum growth. So how much weight do you need to use and how many reps should be done for each set. Of course there are tons of opinions out there on this. Some people recommend only a couple heavy sets with 20 to 30 high rep sets for a workout.

We’re going to tell you that there isn’t really anything unique about lifting super heavy weights when you’re keeping your workout sets around medium to high.

One study that was conducted by Arizona State University looked at 150 other studies that were based on weightlifting. They found that training with weights that were about 80% of one-rep max results in a workout.

In fact, another study that was published by the American College of Sports Medicine recommends an emphasis on heavy loading, with a 1 to 6 rep max, and 3 minutes of resting in between each set.

Ohio University wanted to get their piece of the pie, too. They had 32 untrained men lift weights for a period of 8 weeks. These men were split up into 3 different groups, where one group did a rep range of 3-5, another doing 9-11 reps, and the final group doing 20-28 reps. The groups hit the 8-week mark and guess who had more gains? The 3-5 rep range group. They showed more gains in not just muscle but strength too, more so than the other groups.

So basically, most evidence of training goes way beyond theory and studies. If you’re in the 10 to 12 rep range, you might find yourself getting stuck with development and strength. This is the time when you want to switch over to 4 to 6 reps. You’ll see a huge increase in your strength, as well as a big change in your overall physique.

While you might feel like you’re stuck in an annoying rut, if you’re going hard in the 8 to 12 rep range, you can start making progress once again by doing heavier weights but with a medium/high volume.

Don’t just take our word for it – there are a ton of well-known, respected names that are involved in this industry that feel the same way. Just to name a few, this includes people like Alan Aragon, Charles Poliquin, Martin Berkhan, and Lyle McDonald. There’s a reason why they all support this – plain and simple, it’s the best way to give you the results you want. It works.

Beating A Hardgainer Plateau

Find enough a heavy enough weight that allows you to do 4 reps but prevents you from going over 6. If you need a more defined number, go for 80% of your 1-rep maximum. Your goal is simple – go for more reps and more weight.

Wondering how to beat a plateau? A mistake a lot of people make is doing the same weights every week, for the same exact amount of reps. So you always need to work to do more reps with all weights, so you can eventually increase the amount of weights. Keep going up, up, up and you will see the results in virtually no time.

So think back to the 4 to 6 reps. It might be a struggle to do 4 once you bumped your weights up, but at some point you’re going to be able to do it, so you will go for 5. Then you will go for 6. And once you reach 6 reps you want to increase your weights. This can be anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds. Then you’re going to go through the same process again – work your way up to 6 reps. You want to keep doing this as you go along, constantly working your way up to heavier and heavier weights.

And when it comes to exercises, you really want to stride to make the most of your training. So every week, you should be doing exercises like squats, deadlifts, barbell/dumbbell bench presses and military/dumbbell presses. These are exactly the time of exercises you need in order to build mass – and a lot of it. If you aren’t doing these exercises on a regular basis, and heavily, you aren’t going to get the results you want.

The Best Protein Powder


Like we said, eating big and lifting big are the keys to getting big. Makes sense, right? We provided you with the equation you need to succeed, as well as the certain types of exercises. Follow these and you could see results in as little as 5 months. And while it might be harder for you because of your genes, it isn’t impossible at all, just like it isn’t impossible for someone who has genes that promote extra body fat to lose weight. It’s all doable – you just have to make sure you’re going about it in the right way. And that’s the way we provided. So get to the gym and skip the machines. Head right to the weights and get those big compound movements going. With the studies, name brands, and clear cut evidence of this process’s success, you’ve got nothing to lose, except those scrawny arms and toothpick legs.

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Gym Junkies Founder & Editor in Chief at Gym Junkies LLC
I’m Terry and I’m here to help you achieve your fitness goals. I truly believe anyone can achieve the figure they want with the proper guidance. Through my extensive fitness blog, top fitness videos, leading workout supplements, and top selling eBooks, I have been able to help thousands of people online lose weight, tone up and get in shape. My passion is helping people all around the world change their lives for the better.
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  1. Great article.
    A hardgainer should keep in mind that nutrition is the main key to building muscle. Gaining muscle will be tough but consistency and hardwork in both nutrition and weight training can do wonders. Don’t forget to workout with heavy compound movements for maximum muscle growth.
    Here are the best mass gainers for hard-gainers available in the market:
    Best Mass Gainer 2016

  2. […] When your body is put through overtraining for too long, the end result is muscle loss known as catabolism (breaking down of muscle tissue). This could take months to recover from. The whole belief is that you should train only one muscle group a week for recovery, which isn’t necessarily a bad concept. But, research shows that this isn’t really needed if you have some experience in muscle growth. […]


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