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
- your training program is appropriate and
- 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
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 all your effort into your first movement and don't hold back, you'll be better off than anyone stuffing 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.