When I was younger I remember coming across the word "hardgainer" in most bodybuilding magazines. I would often wonder what exactly was meant by this word. Soon I discovered that it was a term that referred to those unfortunate souls that could not put on any mass, no matter how hard they tried. This explanation made me confused. I mean most people in the gym that I worked out in never seemed to make any progress did that mean that they were all hardgainers?

The answer is obviously no! Most people fail to use proper scientific training and rarely work hard, thus never making any progress. This term hardgainer is often used by most of the lazy trainees to mask their lack of motivation. Always remember one thing; you cannot call yourself a hardgainer before you begin to work out. You must have trained regularly for at least 6 months without any results before you can call yourself a hardgainer. Having said that I do agree that there are a few real unfortunate souls who are truly hardgainers. These guys train month after month and rarely see any muscular growth.

If you are unfortunate to be such an individual, then I can understand how frustrated and lonely you might feel. Why lonely? It is so because there is very little concern for such souls. All over the world billions of dollars are spent on research to find out how to tackle the obesity crisis, but very little is spent on helping hardgainers. The little research or help that is available is provided by dedicated websites like Jyoto.info, a few supplement companies and some magazines. It is truly a lonely world for hardgainers in terms of getting help.

Types Of Hardgainers

I personally believe that there are two types of hardgainers. One is the self proclaimed type and the other is the real hardgainer. To ensure that you are not an imaginary hardgainer check your training log and lifestyle carefully. Are you:

  • Training regularly with sufficient intensity?
  • Doing exercises with proper form?
  • Training with mostly compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, etc?
  • Eating highly nutritious foods throughout the day?
  • Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night?

If you have answered no to any of the previous questions then you just imagine yourself to be a hardgainer. On the other hand if you have answered yes to all the above questions then you need help! You can then truly be classified as a hardgainer and will have to work very hard to see any mass gain.

The Top 3 Incorrect Tips For Hardgainers

Now, if you have been reading about how to add mass for a hardgainer, I am sure you must have come across a lot of advice from different individuals. Some of the advice given is correct, but a lot of advice that is given is rubbish. Let me share some popular advice that is given to hardgainers that I believe is wrong.

1. Train Infrequently

Often I read "experts" advising hardgainers to train infrequently to gain mass. Sometimes it is recommended that anything more than 2 sessions a week will be counterproductive. The reasoning for this advice is that hardgainers get overtrained very easily and thus find it hard to put on any mass if they train more than 2 days a week. I am sure that you must have heard this advice often.

Let me assure you that training less and less frequently is not the solution to your problem. You see, when you train it is the hormonal change in your body that creates physical changes. Thus when you engage in an intense weight training session your body's testosterone and growth hormone levels will increase and create an environment for growth. This rise of hormones is not a permanent effect. It will be there for a short time and then go back to normal if you do not train again. Now as a hardgainer your body's anabolic hormonal profile cannot be great. Thus if you train infrequently your hormonal profile will not be elevated often enough to facilitate growth. Anything less than 3 sessions a week is too little to cause any significant muscle growth for a hardgainer.

In fact, I will even say that it might be a better idea for an easy gainer to train infrequently than a hardgainer. An easygainer is supposed to add mass with very little effort, right? Thus it might be more suitable for easygainers than hardgainers.

2. Be A Couch Potato

This is another very popular piece of advice that is given. What is basically told is that hardgainers should not do anything that is even the least bit strenuous outside the gym. If they do so then their body will not be able to recover from the gym workout to add any mass. Now I do understand that adding marathon runs in the morning to your intense weight training sessions in the evening is not conducive for muscle growth, however being a couch potato is another thing altogether.

A little bit of activity outside the gym will actually help the muscles recover faster and better. This will help you work harder in your next session, which obviously means faster results. A good way to recover between sessions is to actually work out. No, not heavy all out sessions, but some light sessions to improve the circulation between muscles for a faster recovery. Read this excellent article by Mike Mahler on how to use workouts to recover faster—Enhance Recovery By Working Out.

3. Train To Failure All The Time

This is one of the most overrated principles in bodybuilding. Training to failure is a great principle, but only if done infrequently. Training to failure on all your working sets is a surefire way to burn yourself out soon and be overtrained enough to forget about any muscle growth. Use training to failure occasionally to get best results. On most occasions stop 1-2 reps short of failure to improve your strength and physical appearance.

7 Ways To Break The Curse

So now that you know what you should not do, how about what you should do? Well keep these points in mind and blast through the hardgainer curse:

1. Stop Believing That You Are A Hardgainer

First of all you need to stop telling yourself that you are a hardgainer. I know that it is hard to do with the frustration due to your lack of progress. However you must realize that unless you believe in yourself you will not make the best effort possible to bring about changes in your body.

2. Train Frequently To Maintain A Suitable Hormonal Profile

Train ideally 3-5 times a week to get the best results in mass gain. Keep 1-2 sessions light for recovery. Remember that anything less than 3 sessions a week is not ideal and will not help much in gaining mass.

3. Train Progressively

Using the same weight for months is not going to cause a change in your muscle size. This rule applies to all whether they are easy or hardgainers. The weight that you lift needs to be increased with time.

4. Apply Good Form

This is another principle that applies to everyone and especially to hardgainers. Training with improper form will not only increase the risk of an injury but will also fail to work the intended muscle groups properly to add mass to your body.

5. Get 7-8 Hours A Sleep A Night

This is a critical factor if you find it hard to put on mass. Partying till 4 in the morning and barely getting 4 hours of sleep every night is not going to help your cause. Skipping sleep for late night TV is also not a good idea. Good quality sleep is essential to help your body recover and build muscle size.

6. Learn To Overfeed Your Body

If you are failing to put on mass then learning to overfeed your body becomes crucial. You should eat more than what you burn to add mass. Never believe anyone who tells you that you can add mass even if you consume less than what you burn. If that were true then I guess we could study such cases to solve the food shortage problems of the third world countries.

7. Use Dietary Supplements

I generally do not recommend supplements at first to any client. However if you have been failing to add mass for awhile then you need all the help that you can get. In this case using supplements is a good idea to promote growth in your body. Of course using supplements does not give you the permission to follow a poor diet. A good diet is a must even with the consumption of supplements.

Sample Hardgainer Routine

Now it is time for a sample routine that you can follow to break through the dreaded hardgainer curse. Try the routine mentioned below:

  • 3-Days-A-Week Routine: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Do the 2 workouts alternately
Workout A
Barbell Squat
2-3 sets, 8 reps
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Upright Barbell Row
2-3 sets, 8 reps
Standing Military Press
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Barbell Shrug
2-3 sets, 10 reps
Workout B
Barbell Deadlift
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Weighted Pull Ups
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Lying Triceps Press
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Barbell Curl
2-3 sets, 6 reps
Standing Calf Raises
2-3 sets, 20 reps


You will need to experiment and find out for yourself if you are responding better to 2 or 3 sets for an exercise. So try this routine to grow big and do not forget to follow the important points like progression in weight being lifted, etc, to get the best out of the routine. Forget about telling yourself that you are a hardgainer, it is time to tap into your muscle building potential.

About the Author

Arnav Sarkar

Arnav Sarkar

Like you I too am a fan of a fit and healthy lifestyle. It is this love for fitness that compelled me to become ACE certified.

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