Everyday I get hundreds of emails from ectomorphs or as we will call them hardgainers about putting on muscle. Because of this, I decided to create this beginners guide to help you hardgainers put on the size you are looking for.
During this article, we are going to discuss three different areas: Weight Training, Cardio, and Nutrition. Each will be critical is your quest to become a more muscular you.
Weight Training: "More Is Not Better"
That quote is perfect for all hardgainers who are actively involved in weight training.
The first mistake I see with all hardgainers is their weight training, because they are not seeing the results as quickly as they would like is that they usually fall into the trap of overtraining. They spend too much time in the gym doing countless sets and reps in the hope this will lead to better muscle gains.
The reality is that heavy compound lifts in the 4-8 rep ranges should make up the majority of all hardgainers working sets. Your goal in the gym is to maximize strength gain in each workout while always maintaining perfect form.
Using compound exercises like this is going to be best for maximizing the total work that's been performed as they will stimulate the most muscle fibers during a single lift.
Isolation exercise should not be a part of your workout program as they only focus on one muscle at a time, leading to far less than optimal results. Below is a sample 3-day workout program for a hardgainer. Be sure to take at least one day off between each workout.
Day 2: Off
Day 4: Off
Day 6 And 7: Off
Cardio is an area of wide discussion with regard to hardgainers. Some people say do it, other say don't. I don't like it when anyone regardless of age, sex, body type stops doing cardio because I think some cardiovascular activity should be in everyone's exercise program.
The reason for this is that the most important muscle in your body is your heart. If your heart is not in good shape your body will suffer physically and basic health should always come first.
Now that you understand my take on cardio, I don't want you hardgainers jumping on a treadmill at the break of dawn or going out for a 10 mile run every day.
Cardio should be done very sparingly. Just like your weight training keep it short and sweet. You want to be doing just enough to stimulate your heart but not to the point where you are eating up your hard-earned muscle.
2-3 20 min low intensity cardio sessions a week should be fine. Walking or light jogging is all that you need to do.
Eating is going to be critical because without the necessary amount of calories your body can not grow. I hear hardgainers telling me all the time that they eat so much but can't put on any weight. But yet, when I have them write down what they eat on paper they soon realize that they don't eat enough. Or, they just eat a lot on a couple days and barely eat at all on others.
If you are a hardgainer and are serious about packing on lean muscle you will have to commit to consistently eating at a surplus of healthy foods. Most trainers have their hardgainers clients start out with too much food. They tell these clients to eat 20-24 time their bodyweight in calories each day. I have found that making someone eat that amount of calories in the beginning is too extreme. Many of these hardgainers get sick of eating that many calories and quit.
What I like to do instead is start you off slowly. Introduce the healthy foods in a small surplus and as the weeks go on increase the serving sizes from there.
Check out my shopping list article to show you which foods you should chose from when you are at the supermarket.
Let's start by multiplying your body weight by 18. This will give us a good baseline to start with in our daily calorie count. After 2 weeks increase that number to 20 times your bodyweight and after another 2-4 weeks increase it to 22 times your bodyweight if you aren't building muscle mass yet.
As for nutrients, you should be eating 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% healthy fats broken up into 6 meals a day.
Below is a sample diet for a 150-pound hardgainer at the beginning of his muscle building diet:
Supplements are going to be basic for the beginner. Protein Powder and a Simple Carb Powder is all you should need at this point. I would also take a Multi Vitamin for added assurance purposes. I take Fulldose from Betancourt Nutrition once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Beginners need to focus on the basics. Once they have those down then they can worry about adding more supplements.
In the beginning all the food might seem like much but after a while you will see the scale moving, your clothes getting fuller and you will realize that this eating thing is paying off.
Remember heavy, hard, short and sweet with the workouts and lots of healthy foods during the day will give you the results that you are looking for.