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Hardgainer Q & A!

Are you a hardgainer who has trouble gaining muscle? Your questions are answered here!

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How Can I Strengthen My Legs With Hurting My Back?

I am in high school and I am looking to get better in football. In order to do this I must have strong legs because I am a Defensive end. But, when I do squats I tend to have a back trouble. I wanted to ask if you have any tips for me to strengthen my legs without hurting my back.

This is not an uncommon problem at all. Some people just simply can not Squat without problems. I did them for most of my adult life, and had nothing but consistent back problems. Once I started doing Deadlifts (description) instead of Squats, my back problems have been greatly diminished.

So, this said, yes, you do have a good viable option open to you. One if nothing else, you should at least try. But in doing these, I suggest you use a Shrug Bar. This is a bar that has a hexagon perimeter where one stands inside it to do the lifting. The advantage to this bar is that there is less need to bend forward in moving through each repetition, and there is excellent leg clearance so the bar doesn't hit the legs when going up and down. In other words, what happens is that this bar "naturalizes" the plane of motion for the lifter, allowing one to Deadlift without restriction and according to ones physical structure.

This said, I suggest you try eliminating Squats first, and then giving the Deadlift an experimental run. If you would like more information on the Shrug Bar, then visit the website of the company who sells these. Their name is PDA and their site is located at:

Can I Still Use Expired Creatine?

I am thinking of starting creatine again. I have not done any cycle of creatine since 1998, but still have the enormous container that I had purchased back then. I was wondering about the expiration on creatine. There is a date on the back of the bottle, stating Oct 00, which was a long time ago, but does creatine expire? Sorry to bother you with such a simple question but no one has been able to give me a straight forward answer.

Creatine Monohydrate is considered a nutritional supplement, and is therefore a chemical which alters over time with exposure to heat, light, etc. I'm not really sure how the "expiration date" is established by manufacturers when it comes to supplements, but there are surely some standards used in order to label their products with a maximum shelf life.

I would think that if you've kept your container of Creatine in a cool, dry, light deprived environment, its bio-activity is likely still viable. I'm going to guess that a big part of establishing shelf life for products is to perhaps take into account a consumer not subjecting the product to optimal storage. Probably somewhere in the middle of the road is where it's likely assumed consumers will take advantage of most advantageous storage conditions.

Then on top of this, just like with drugs and other food items, the FDA probably has a say on the standards, and just as an added measure of safety, a time limit is established so as to avoid any possible toxicity or bacterial contamination.

I'm NOT going to outright tell you to use the container of Creatine, but I will say that if you HAVE kept it in accordance with the cool and dry conditions I've mentioned, then it probably won't kill you to ingest it. I DO say though, "user beware". If you have ANY reservations about it at all, based on appearance, odd smell or any other negative observations, then you'll be better off to just toss it and buy a new container.

But if it still looks and smells like it did when you first purchased it, it's likely it's still viable and will act the same way in the body. Do keep in mind though, no matter how well you store this substance, it WILL over time evolve and degrade which will alter its original integrity and thereby render the substance useless. Keep in mind, one can never be too safe in these matters.

Should I Use Sports Drinks Like Gatorade?

I have a question about energy drinks. We all know about the Gatorades, Powerades, All Sports... is there really a distinct difference between them? Do you think any one is better than another?

Also, what do you think about these extreme energy drinks that are all over the place now. It used to just be JOLT, but now you've got Red Bull, AMP, X-Plode, etc. What are your thoughts on hydrating with different kinds of these fluids?

Eehhhh, I'm probably going to choke on the torches of Satan for saying this, but frankly I feel all these drinks are basically crap-ola! If there are any differences between them, I seriously doubt they're worth any significant concern. (I'm talking about the so called electrolyte drinks here.) The best bet to meet your system's chemical needs is with real, fresh juices, pure water, and a wholesome balanced diet. There is much more hype and implied need steering consumers toward these drinks than reality dictates. I've never been a fan of them. They're not a cheap source of high quality nutrients either, and most are comprised with refined sugar and salt. So I really don't see how they can be considered true "health products."

With these other class of drinks you mention like JOLT, Red Bull, etc., though I've never relied on them, I assume they're loaded with something to increase adrenal stimulation such as caffeine, ginseng or perhaps something akin. And though I'm not vehemently opposed to subtle stimulants such as caffeine, ginseng and some of the other substances available in nature, I can't clearly say I advocate them either. Too many people become addicted to things like this, and as a result too many people then ABUSE these substances/chemicals.

Ultimately, what happens is health problems arise and these agents which could possibly be deemed as useful, are given a bad rap across the board. By the way, I'm NOT including ephedra or any of its cousins here. This herbal dragon is in a class by itself. There have been WAY TOO MANY incidents of abuse with this stuff (ephedra or what's known as ma huang), and therefore, to make a long story short, here's my position.

I feel that the best way to reach ones goals through the use of "substances" is to structure a diet which is nutrient dense. This means fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and all the wonderfully nutrient rich foods of the plant kingdom.

It's important to keep in mind, "drink producers", supplement manufacturers, and most of the other shady sales agents surrounding this wonderful endeavor called weight training (and sports activities in general) have one objective in mind; to make money, and LOTS OF IT! What's MY objective? Simply to make sure that people get honest, sensible and practical information. And for any of you regulars that come here, you KNOW how much I'm charging for my advice.

What Time Of Day Should I Lift?

Is there a BEST TIME OF DAY to work out to get the biggest gains? I know that I tend to have more energy and feel stronger in the middle of the day. But I do train in the morning or in the evening as well. This is all dependent of what I must do that day, like work.

In any case, would the morning be best as my muscles have all day to feed on protein that I am consuming, or the evening because I would be going to bed only hours after I train, or do I target the middle of the day when I feel the strongest?

Just wondering if there maybe some science behind this question... many thanks!

This is a good and valid question. There may be a time of the day (and I believe this is what you were hinting at...) when physiologically and chemically, the body is most responsive toward gaining. Going on this assumption, I have to say though there is a range of considerations when it comes to optimizing training results, and the first and foremost is the training itself. And not only that, but how HARD one exerts effort in that training.

The bottom line to all this is it's really best to train when you have time to do so adequately. And taking this a step further, it would be best when you have the highest energy level. Each individual has his or her own best time of the day when energy is at its greatest level, and this would really be the best time to be able to train. It's more critical to put in intense efforts to stimulate growth than most other components of your training program. Of course all the other factors carry great importance, but without the bedrock of fierce, intense training, all the other things which comprise a program are not of much value.

Generally speaking, it would probably be best for most people to train early in the day on an empty stomach. Energy levels are likely highest, and then throughout the day, devotion to nutrition can be met without digestive interference. What's also important to realize is that most muscle growth takes place during rest times and when sleeping. What's really important above all though, is as I've indicated, the training itself. We're living in the "real world", and we have to do things the best way we can according to our schedules, our responsibilities, our temperament, and our energy levels. When this can all be balanced out as best as possible within reason, then we've done the best we can and no one can expect more.

You sound like a determined trainee; so as long as you put in the effort, do it consistently, and use good, sound common sense, you will make headway with your training. And that's what matters most!

How Can I Finally Build My Glutes?

I have no problem gaining size and strength in my upper body and legs. The place I have the worst problem is in my glutes. I don't have any! I've done squats, dead lifts, straight legged dead lifts, leg presses and lunges.

When doing heavy lifts I usually do 4 sets of 5 - 6 reps every 5 to 7 days. Once they developed, but then they disappeared again, and I've never gotten them back. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for your help.

My first 'off the cuff' reciprocal question to you would be, "Why do you want to increase your glute size?" Most people are concerned with keeping this in check, and aren't all that interested in making this an area of focus. They just sort of let it happen naturally, if it's going to happen at all.

I can't clearly say what you're doing wrong. There's a range of potential problems as to why you're not reaching your desired goal. Typically, if one does all these basic movements you've mentioned as you yourself have done, the coincidental effect is one of increased rear end size. Though the hyped potential of this happening has often been greatly exaggerated to the point of shying people away from heavy leg work, there is an amount of truth that an increase can and does take place. It's just a natural result of working the legs when doing full extensions which bring on solid positive and negative contractions. This unavoidably forces glute involvement within the these movements.

Some things for you to consider evaluating are your diet (for adequate calories and protein), your exercise form (to assure you're getting full stretches for your movements on each rep), your sleep and as to whether you're getting enough, and finally, your session volume and intervals of rest days between workouts.

I would carefully and decisively scrutinize these areas as a starting point. My thinking is that if you were once able to achieve what you were satisfied with, granted nothing has changed so dramatically physically or chemically for you, you SHOULD be able to repeat the result.

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