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Craig Capurso
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Ready, Set,
Grow

Escape from Hardgainer Hell, Part 2
This workout will pack on the muscle.

Hardgainer Workout: Ready, Set, Grow!

Think the nickname 'pencil neck' was written in your genes? No way! This compound workout will pack mass on even the scrawniest hardgainers.

Confession: I hate the term "hardgainer." It's generally applied to novices disappointed they didn't gain 50 pounds of muscle in 6 months, or the skinny kid who didn't transform into Mr. America overnight. Guess what? Gaining muscle is hard. It takes time. If you think it's harder for you than most, then you better make sure that

  1. your training program is appropriate and
  2. you're eating enough food.

Many hardgainers believe more is better, so they imitate the high-volume routines of the pros they see in the muscle magazines. In reality, hardgainers just need to follow the barbell basics and eat enough food - probably more than they are now.

Simplify Your Workouts

Hardgainer

When a program isn't working, one of the first things you should do is simplify. Good training doesn't need to be complex. In fact, complex routines often impede real results.

Consider the first 15 minutes of your workouts. Which exercises do you perform? I'm not talking about general warm-ups, dynamic stretching or foam rolling. I'm referring to the first 15 minutes of actual training with working weights.

Your answer should be, "Compound lifts."

Consider this: If you had ONLY 15 minutes to train each day, what would you do? Would you bother with 12 variations of biceps curls, leg extensions and accessory lifts to fill your workout? No. You'd focus on the compound moves.

Take The Compound Challenge

Your training should revolve around the first one or two movements in your program. These moves are the most beneficial. If you put your entire nut-sack into your first movement and don't hold back, you'll be better off than the Nancys who stuff an hour with less-than-useful movements so they can pat themselves on the back.

The hardgainer needs to simplify and try this program on for size. It's one of the most effective programs I've ever used, but it's brutally tough. It's different from your usual specialized bodybuilding workout. It isn't "sexy," but it will break your hardgainer plateau.

Combined with the right nutrition and effort, this program will make you bigger, stronger and tougher than anyone at your nearest Planet Fitness. You do it right, and you could leave your puny caterpillar body behind and emerge as one bad motherf#ckin' butterfly.

break your hardgainer plateau

The Power Of One

So what is this mysterious program? The simplicity will taunt you: one movement per day. That's it. We're going to select the most productive movements possible, and then wreck ourselves with them. There will be no skipping squats and deadlifts so you can sneak over to the hack squat and leg curl. There are no excuses, no jumping things you don't like to do. Destroy one lift for the entire training session and get out.

Monday: Squat
Tuesday: Incline Press
Wednesday: Chest-Supported Row
Thursday: Deadlift
Friday: Clean and Press
Saturday: Pull-up
Sunday: Rest

"But Matt," you whine, "I don't see any biceps curls or triceps kickbacks!"

Listen, you little pansy, after you've spent 45 minutes doing rows, come back and whine again. Oh, wait, you won't be able to because you'll be in the fetal position clutching yourself. Seriously, with such a big focus on heavy, compound lifts, the little things will take care of themselves. This is the fastest way we can put on some serious size. Leave the glitter work for the prom.

Hardgainer

The "Ready, Set, Grow!" Workout

Take 3-to-6 sets to gradually move into working weight, and avoiding working to fatigue on these sets. Aim to do at least 10 (real men and women will do more) working sets of 6-to-10 repetitions. Pyramid the weight up to the heaviest you can handle for 6 reps, and then continue the pyramid back down.

Rest as long as necessary between sets. If you have the guts, add a finishing set to complete your sacrifice. Adjust the weight to about 50% of your one-rep max, and complete a set for as many repetitions as possible.

1-Rep Max Calculator

Enter Weight Lifted:
Enter Reps:
1-Rep Max:
50% 1-Rep Max:

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Follow this program for at least one month and reap the benefits. Long after you finish this program and leapfrog to another, you can still occasionally substitute a single-movement training day for your regular workout. It could be that you're short on time or want a "challenge workout." (I celebrate every holiday with a marathon squat session.) Either way, you can't help but improve with training this insane.

No longer will you stand aside for the mesomorph doing kegels in front of the gym mirror. He'll be forced to step aside, because a man is walking by.

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About The Author

Matt is the Training and Nutrition Specialist for Bodybuilding.com. He has studied Exercise Science and is a competitive strength athlete.

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Mikesullyy

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Mikesullyy

Wow. I'm not really a hardgainer but I checked this out for curiosities sake. Very different from anything I've ever heard.

Jul 9, 2012 6:55pm | report
 
dmstr23

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dmstr23

Wow this program sounds brutal. I think your body will need a serious rest after a week of this routine.

Jul 9, 2012 8:13pm | report
 
raysprad

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raysprad

This is just what the doctor ordered! I was thinking about doing a month of nothing but compound moves.

Jul 9, 2012 8:21pm | report
 
malcolm84

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malcolm84

Hey raysprad, so in your experience is it good to just do one movement for the amount of reps and sets as described in this article or should i add other compound excercises to this routine and do less sets? been trying to do a compound routine but haven't really tried one yet. sorry to bother with this question

Jul 10, 2012 12:11am | report
raysprad

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raysprad

I've had good results not necessarily doing just compound moves per-said but doing one exercise per muscle at half the reps listed here. But that was also pushing it to the max and upping weight each time so things didn't get easy or I got used to it. What compound ones I have killed it on are very effective as their say here at not only hitting the intended muscle(s) but improving how well you do on other exercises as well.

Either way though you can't go wrong when combining intensity and heavy lifting, the stress forces your body to grow. And no worries mate, if I can help ya out just hit me up.

Jul 10, 2012 10:02am | report
malcolm84

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malcolm84

thans ray, i appreciate the help. will give it a try.

Jul 10, 2012 6:47pm | report
KenSandberg

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KenSandberg

I'm curious. This looks interesting.

Jul 9, 2012 8:25pm | report
 
pumpingdude

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pumpingdude

yeah, i think i will give this a try, i seriously need to bulk up and do more compound stuff

Jul 9, 2012 11:10pm | report
 
CrazyAssasin

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CrazyAssasin

Nothing about rest b/w setsbut I recon 2 - 3 mins because these are heavy lifts

Jul 10, 2012 3:03am | report
 
jwethall

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jwethall

Interesting concept. Basically 3-4 days a week you work back, legs 1 day, and a mix of shoulders and chest for 1 day.

I'd say look at this article for putting on size:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/hardgainer-nutrition-how-to-eat-for-maximum-muscle-growth.html">http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/hardgainer-nutrition-how-to-eat-for-maximum-muscle-growth.html

As for training, keeping compound movements in your training regiment is a must when putting on size, but you also need to hit the muscle from every angle possible to stimulate the maximum amount of muscle fibers and thus maximal growth.

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Jul 10, 2012 10:09am | report
 
infinitylies

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infinitylies

i saw saturdays routine and laughed, seriously how many people are gonna manage that amount of pullups.....?

try 3 or 4 compound exercises with one working set of a 6RM then rest pause hit it again, then try negatives, that one working set will be enough if you hit it right, not tons of sets,,,but if you still got more rest up drop the weight and go again.

Jul 10, 2012 6:30pm | report
 
Muscle Mania Matt

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Muscle Mania Matt

If you fatigue, simply use a band or a chin assist (or something) and keep going.

Jul 11, 2012 9:14am | report
dutch30

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dutch30

I've done whole workouts to just pull ups. The amount of mass it added to my back was insane (for me). Now I can start with a 25 lb strapped to me on my first two sets of 6-8. Than no weight, than I start adding weight to help me, when I get to about 100 lbs and can no longer do a pull up, it's been a good workout. and probably about 80-100 reps total. one to two min rests between sets.

Sep 18, 2012 10:45am | report
DWalsh335

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DWalsh335

if you don't think you can do then get in the gym until you can....i agree completely with you dutch30 pull ups are awesome, and their the best bodyweight exercise for someone to do. Great back builder

Jan 22, 2013 9:38pm | report
Rekz

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Rekz

This workout looks really different in a good way. At the moment using Ronnie Coleman get huge program,
wouldn't mind changing up to a routine like this for a month, will best results be obtained by this bulking or cutting ? Any comments much appreciated.. :)

Jul 10, 2012 7:01pm | report
 
alextimberlake

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alextimberlake

It looks like to me that you have 4 straight days of lifting your back, reverse deltoids and biceps. Chest supported rows, deadlifts, clean

Jul 10, 2012 8:15pm | report
 
Muscle Mania Matt

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Muscle Mania Matt

The "back" is not one muscle; it is a large group of muscles that have different functions. While there is some carryover (just as there would be on your "front", which most people have no problem training consecutive days), it shouldn't be a problem. You have a vertical pull, a horizontal pull, a hip dominant pull, and an explosive hip dominant pull (which shouldn't fatigue, I only want you to clean the first rep). If you can't handle that workload, your back is probably lagging. Most people do as much volume just for their pecs as they do for their entire back (erectors, rhomboids, lats, traps, etc). In that, the majority of bodybuilding routines are imbalanced. For every horizontal pull, there should be a horizontal push. For every vertical pull, there should be a vertical push. If someone has trouble with this, they aren't over-training; their posterior chain is under-trained. If that's you, that is no problem. Change the order, sub an exercise. The point of the article isn't that the specific exercises, volume, or training order are holy; it's that most people who fail to progress aren't eating enough and are spending most of their training time doing things that are unproductive.

Jul 12, 2012 9:13am | report
zack23basson

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zack23basson

Want to try this and would like to now should I really do Barbell Incline Shoulder Raise as working-sets and only do Barbell Incline Bench Press for warm up? Or can I just stick to Barbell Incline Bench Press for the entire workout?

Jul 11, 2012 12:39am | report
 
OfMiceAndBen

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OfMiceAndBen

No they should all be Barbell Incline Bench Press. This was a typo which is now corrected on the page above. Our apologies for the confusion, and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Jul 11, 2012 8:44am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

This seems like a good idea for beginners. I probably do about 10 sets of squats every leg day, @$$ to floor, and I still have to hit about 8 sets of heavy leg presses, hacksquats and lunges. My legs are really hard to fatigue.

Most of this looks like a back workout. Interesting concept but I don't think its what my body needs.

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Jul 11, 2012 9:27am | report
 
Muscle Mania Matt

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Muscle Mania Matt

Yeah jwethall, this probably isn't up your alley, but it isn't aimed at people who have already done so well as you. This is aimed primarily at those who are struggling and never built on their fundamentals. Regardless, you could still apply this concept. 10 sets is a minimum. I too squat daily; usually twice depending on the program I am running. If you can follow the normal parameters easily, then simply alter them, such as I mentioned in my "challenge" workouts. It might be using the Tabata method (front squat 135 for 4 minutes, on and off), 20 rep routine with heavy weight (your around my size; you should be able to squat at least 405x20), etc. My normal squat sessions have 12-20 sets of doubles or triples. Use your imagination.

Jul 12, 2012 9:23am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

wow thats a lot of squats! You don't get overtrained? I usually have to move to something else after about 10 sets because my lower back is wasted at that point and I've injured it before (rehab was a beast, not doing that again). I need something to bring out more striations in my legs so I might try the front squats for 4 min. I don't go heavier than 315 anymore for back squats, I just make sure I go very deep and slow and contract hard through the concentric motion.

So if I can't make it to 20 reps with 315, would you recommend rest pauses for 10-15 seconds until I hit 20? Any lighter than 315 and my legs don't feel it. Also, front squats are more quad specific, should I hit those toward the end as a burn out maybe? thanks for the advice.

Jul 12, 2012 9:43am | report
Muscle Mania Matt

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Muscle Mania Matt

Yeah, I've run into lower back issues occasionally (I think we all get there at some point).I usually just switch to a different squat variation (front, olympic, belt, etc). If you wanted to try a grinder, there are (for fun) methods you could try. I mentioned Tabata above. I've never met anyone that doesn't come out of that ready to face plant. I've got a video on the site going through it (http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/video-christmas-day-squat-till-you-drop-a-thon.html).
Your a more advanced guy, a lot stronger with a lot more muscle than most. Also, while for advanced bodybuilding you can make a great argument for slow, controlled reps, my reps are always done explosively for maximum motor unit recruitment. If you are fighting back issues, I would recommend a lot of accessory work involving hip extension (hip thrusts, pull throughs, RDL, good mornings, etc). Include single leg training, and I heavily recommend belt squats.

Jul 12, 2012 11:24am | report
Marksson94

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Marksson94

Looks like its very easy and fun workout to follow but there should be isoltion movements aswell who can target muscles the compunds cant touch! Back is taking a beating and were is the Dips? they are a favourite! other than that it sounds good :)

Jul 11, 2012 3:08pm | report
 
Shifisu

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Shifisu

"but there should be isoltion movements"

You haven't read the article have you?

Jan 18, 2013 10:31am | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 66 Comments

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