Hardgainers: Cycle Your Strength And Volume To Grow!

You can try to have it all every week, but you'll end up overstretched and undersized. This 2-week plan maximizes all mechanisms of growth and delivers the gains that have been hiding!

You're not building someone else's body in the gym—you're building yours. So why are you blindly following someone else's program? If you're not factoring in your own shape, size, body type, and history, I can almost guarantee you're not achieving the results you deserve.

Take me: I'm a genetic ectomorph—aka a "hardgainer"—and it took me time to figure out how to solve the riddle of adding size. For instance, I can say from experience that training full-body workouts 2-3 times a week simply doesn't work for me. If I lift only occasionally—even with serious intensity—I won't grow.

So what was my answer? Cyclical training! I rotate my exercises, sets, and rep ranges between hypertrophy and strength on two-week rotations. The different speeds and rep ranges help me hit the full range of muscle fibers and maximize all of the mechanisms for muscle growth, while having adequate rest time to grow and recover between my workouts.

It may sound complicated, but trust me: It isn't. You can do this! Here's what you need to know.

Two Weeks, Two Approaches

The basic split doesn't change over the course of your two weeks. You hit one body part per week and simply alternate the emphasis every week, focusing on hypertrophy one week and then strength the next.

In the first week, expect a slightly higher rep range than you may be familiar with. The plan here is to boost your training volume, which will cause muscular damage and metabolic stress, two of the three major mechanisms of muscle growth. During this time, really focus on feeling the burn, getting a crazy pump, and inflicting as much damage as possible to the muscle in sets of 12, 15, and even 20 reps.

The plan here is to boost your training volume, which will cause muscular damage and metabolic stress, two of the three major mechanisms of muscle growth.

In the second week, you work in a slightly lower rep range for maximum muscle tension, the other factor involved in muscle growth. There is still plenty of volume during this week, but I arrange much of it in pyramid sets, where the reps decrease and the weight increases.

I don't use pyramid sets for all muscle groups, though. While I'll use it for chest, shoulders, and hamstrings, I keep my reps at around 12 in straight sets for my arms and quads, even on the tension week. However, I still boost the weight as much as I can from the volume week, even for bodybuilding movements like triceps push-downs.

Arms Training Triceps Heavy
Watch the video - 00:20



Cycle back and forth between these two approaches, and you can break out of the hardgainer hole.

Week 1 Volume Week

Monday: Chest and calves
1

Incline dumbbell press

3 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 15 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press Incline Dumbbell Press

2

Flat dumbbell press

3 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 15 reps
Flat dumbbell press Flat dumbbell press

3

Decline fly

4 sets of 15 reps
Decline Dumbbell Flyes Decline Dumbbell Flyes

4

Smith machine incline press

4 sets to failure (about 15 reps)
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press Smith Machine Incline Bench Press

5

Seated calf raise

5 sets of 20 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise

6

Standing calf raise

5 sets of 20 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises

7

Leg-press calf raise

5 sets of 20 reps
Leg-press calf raise Leg-press calf raise

Tuesday: Back
1

Wide-grip lat pull-down

5 sets of 15 reps
Wide-grip lat pull-down Wide-grip lat pull-down

2

Close-grip lat pull-down

5 sets of 15 reps
Close-grip lat pull-down Close-grip lat pull-down

3

Seated cable pull with rope

5 sets of 15 reps
Seated cable pull with rope Seated cable pull with rope

4

Deadlift

5 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

Wednesday: Legs (quad focus)
1

Leg extension

3 warm-up sets, 7 working sets of 15 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

2

Squat

4 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

3

Single-leg leg press

4 sets of 20 reps
Single-leg leg press Single-leg leg press

4

Lying leg curl

2 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 12 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

Thursday: Biceps and Triceps
Superset
1

Barbell curl

4 sets of 15 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

Dip

4 sets of 15 reps
Dips - Triceps Version Dips - Triceps Version

Superset
2

Preacher dumbbell curl

4 sets of 15 reps
Preacher dumbbell curl Preacher dumbbell curl

Cable rope push-down

4 sets of 15 reps
Cable rope push-down Cable rope push-down

Superset
3

Hammer Curl

4 sets of 15 reps
Hammer Curls Hammer Curls

Seated Triceps Press

4 sets of 15 reps
Seated Triceps Press Seated Triceps Press

Friday: Shoulders and abs
1

Dumbbell shoulder press

2 warm-up sets, 2 working sets of 15, 2 dropsets of 10 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2

Seated Lateral Raise

3 sets of 15 reps
Seated Side Lateral Raise Seated Side Lateral Raise

3
Seated bent-over dumbbell raise Seated bent-over dumbbell raise

4

Barbell Shrug

4 sets of 15 reps, dropset on the last set
Barbell Shrug Barbell Shrug

5
Abs Abs

Saturday: Legs (hamstring focus)
1

Standing Leg Curl

5 sets of 15 reps
Standing Leg Curl Standing Leg Curl

2

Lying Leg Curls

5 sets of 15 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

3

Seated Leg Curl

5 sets of 15 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

4

Straight-legged deadlift

5 sets of 15 reps
Straight-legged deadlift Straight-legged deadlift

5

Leg Extension

5 sets of 15 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

Sunday: Rest


Week 2 Tension Week

Monday: Chest and calves
1

Incline dumbbell press

3 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press Incline Dumbbell Press

2

Flat dumbbell press

4 sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
Flat dumbbell press Flat dumbbell press

3

Decline fly

4 sets of 10, 8, 8, 6 reps
Decline Dumbbell Flyes Decline Dumbbell Flyes

4

Smith machine incline press

5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press Smith Machine Incline Bench Press

Triset
5

Seated calf raise

5 sets of 15 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise

Standing calf raise

5 sets of 15 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises

Leg-press calf raise

5 sets of 15 reps
Leg-press calf raise Leg-press calf raise

Tuesday: Back
1

Wide-grip lat pull-down

2 warm-up sets, 3 working sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
Wide-grip lat pull-down Wide-grip lat pull-down

2

Close-grip lat pull-down

3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
Close-grip lat pull-down Close-grip lat pull-down

3

Seated cable row (rope)

4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Seated cable pull with rope Seated cable pull with rope

4

Deadlift

3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

Wednesday: Legs (quad focus)
1

Leg extension

3 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 12 max reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

2

Smith Machine Squat

5 sets of 12 reps
Smith Machine Squat Smith Machine Squat

3

Leg press

4 sets of 20 reps
Single-leg leg press Single-leg leg press

4

Lying leg curl

2 warm-up sets, 4 working sets of 12 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

Thursday: Biceps and Triceps
1

Barbell curl

4 sets of 12 reps
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

2

Dip

4 sets of 12 reps
Dips - Triceps Version Dips - Triceps Version

3

Preacher dumbbell curl

4 sets of 12 reps
Preacher dumbbell curl Preacher dumbbell curl

4

Cable rope push-down

4 sets of 12 reps
Cable rope push-down Cable rope push-down

5

Hammer Curl

4 sets of 12 reps
Hammer Curls Hammer Curls

6

Seated Triceps Press

4 sets of 12 reps
Seated Triceps Press Seated Triceps Press

Friday: Shoulders and abs
Saturday: Legs (hamstring focus)
1

Standing Leg Curl

4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Standing Leg Curl Standing Leg Curl

2

Lying Leg Curl

4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

3

Seated Leg Curl

4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

4

Straight-legged deadlift

5 sets of 15 reps
Straight-legged deadlift Straight-legged deadlift

5

Smith machine lunge

3 sets of 12 reps per leg
Smith machine lunge Smith machine lunge

6

Leg Extension

3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

Sunday: Rest