Tips for Hardgainers
I would consider myself a "hardgainer". A hardgainer is someone who struggles to put on mass - fat or muscle. I spent many years as a teenager struggling to try and put on weight. Recently, I have received many e-mails and messages from individuals who would also be considered hardgainers and are looking for advice to put on muscle. Below is a list that I have compiled of tips and tricks, but also things to watch out for if you are looking to put on some mass.
1. Increase Your Calories
This is probably one of the biggest problems many people face when trying to put on mass. If you struggle to keep your weight up, chances are, you have an extremely fast metabolism, and/or you lead an extremely active lifestyle.
I suggest searching online to find a good estimate of your "resting metabolic rate" and then adding calories on top of that every day in order to build mass and gain weight.
2. Lift Heavy!
Some workouts may have you aiming for high repetitions with low resistance. This may give you a short-term "pumped" feeling because your muscles will be engorged with blood, but that is only temporary. Instead, you will want to be moving some pretty heavy weights/resistance in order to properly promote muscle growth.
Hypertrophy (muscle cell growth) occurs best in the 6-12 repetition range, although if you can hit 12 reps on an exercise, you are best to increase your resistance next time around.
3. Forget About Muscle Confusion
By designing your workout regimen to change from day-to-day is smart as you want to allow proper recovery for your muscles being worked. If you work your chest and back on Monday, you certainly should not work them again until at least Wednesday. Having said that, do not get too crazy with the idea that more "muscle confusion" must be better. Sure, you may have sore muscles more often as you are attacking them in different ways constantly, but muscles grow and adapt based on repetition.
Your workout weeks should be the same for 3-6 weeks in order for your muscles to adapt and grow to the stimulus being applied to them. You may not get as sore in weeks 2, 3, or 4 as you were in week 1, but don't think that that means you aren't improving!
4. Progressive Overload
Related to #3, you need to continually challenge and stimulate your muscles to grow. Each and every workout that you do (assuming you recover properly) will stimulate growth and repair so that your muscles return bigger and stronger than they were before, so you should therefore increase your workload the following week. By increasing either your resistance or number of reps (staying within the 6-12 rule) you will continue to 'overload' your muscles every time.
5. Don't Waste Too Much Time/Money on Supplements
I use supplements because they are convenient, but the truth is, whole foods are ALWAYS a better option. If you can, spend your money on cuts of lean meats/fish and eat, eat, eat. Protein supplements and bars are fine in a pinch, but can oftentimes give you plenty of other undesirable ingredients.
6. Use Your Large Muscles
Many bodybuilders use concentration exercises that work on individual muscles at a time. They do this because they can get plenty of "help" from the *ahem* "products" that they take to pack on muscle where and when they need it. Most bodybuilders also have the affinity to build muscle from superior genetics, so forget about that. If you wish to build some serious muscle, you need to work your large muscle groups to increase testosterone production. These include: your back (use chinups/pullups), chest (pushups, chest presses), shoulders (overhead presses), legs and glutes (squats, lunges).
7. Set Realistic Goals
Without the help of anabolic "aids" many of us will never achieve body-building-type success that some may strive for. Instead of setting goals that may be too far-fetched, focus on goals that are attainable - be realistic.
8. Extra Weight to Carry
For those athletes out there, remember that putting on mass means that you just have all of that extra weight to lug around as well! Adding mass can be beneficial to some athletes (linebackers, wrestlers, etc.) but weight gain may not be desirable for all. Athletes that rely on speed and agility for success (soccer, basketball, hockey) should focus their goals on speed, performance, and strength rather than size that you can maximize your performance without having to lug all of that extra weight around.