The Hardgainer's Guide To Building Muscle

by Nader Qudimat
Updated October 25, 2023

If you've ever been labeled a "hardgainer," you know the uphill battle of trying to pack on muscle.

You eat, you lift, but the scale barely moves.

This guide is your one-stop-shop for breaking through those barriers and finally achieving the muscle gains you've been chasing.

We'll dive deep into understanding your body type, optimizing your diet, and choosing the right training programs and supplements to get you on the fast track to a beefier you.

How To Build Muscle As A Skinny Hardgainer: Quick Answer

To build muscle as a hardgainer, focus on consuming more calories than you burn and follow a structured, progressive training program.

Prioritize protein intake and consider supplementing with creatine and whey protein for optimal results.

My Hardgainer Journey: From Skinny To Muscular

I was that skinny guy who could eat anything without gaining a pound. Sounds like a dream, right?


Being a hardgainer feels like a curse when you aim to build muscle.

I tried every workout routine and diet plan, but the scale barely budged.

The Turning Point

I realized I was doing it all wrong.

I needed a different approach focused on compound lifts, proper nutrition, and adequate rest.

So, I educated myself and revamped my entire strategy.

Training: The Right Way

I ditched the isolation exercises and adopted a structured training program focused on compound movements.

These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, allowing for greater activation and growth.

Nutrition: More Than Just Calories

I also revamped my diet, focusing on nutrient-dense foods fueling my workouts and aiding recovery.

I started tracking my macros and ensuring I was in a caloric surplus.

Rest: The Forgotten Element

Your muscles grow when you rest, not in the gym.

I got at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep and incorporated rest days into my training routine.

The Result

Fast forward to today, I've successfully transformed my body, weighing 200 pounds.

It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

The Takeaway

Being a hardgainer isn't a life sentence; it's just a starting point.

With the right approach, you can overcome your genetic limitations and build a proud physique.

Understanding Body Types

Knowing your body type is like having a roadmap for your fitness journey.

It can guide you in tailoring your training and nutrition to your unique physiology.

Let's break down the three primary body types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph.

Ectomorph: The Lean Machine


Fast Metabolism: One of the blessings of being an ectomorph is a fast metabolism.

You can eat a lot without gaining weight, which is great for enjoying various foods.

Quick Recovery: Ectomorphs often find that they recover quickly between workouts.

This allows for more frequent training sessions, which can be advantageous when gaining muscle.


Difficulty Gaining Weight: The flip side of a fast metabolism is the struggle to gain weight, both in terms of muscle and fat.

This can be frustrating when you're trying to bulk up.

Limited Strength: Ectomorphs may find it challenging to gain strength as quickly as other body types.

This can be a hindrance in workouts that require lifting heavy weights.


For ectomorphs, the focus should be on calorie-dense foods and compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups.

One study suggests that higher calorie intakes and reduced cardio can benefit muscle gains.

Mesomorph: The Natural Athlete


Easy Muscle Gains: Mesomorphs have a natural advantage in building muscle.

Their bodies respond well to training, making it easier to see gains.

Versatility: This body type is well-suited for various sports and physical activities.

Whether it's strength training, endurance sports, or anything in between, mesomorphs can excel.


Weight Gain: While mesomorphs can gain muscle easily, they can also gain fat if they're not careful with their diet.

Overconfidence: The ease with which mesomorphs gain muscle can sometimes lead to overconfidence, neglecting proper training and nutrition.


A balanced approach works best for mesomorphs.

They should aim for a mix of cardiovascular exercise and strength training, along with a balanced diet rich in protein and complex carbohydrates.

Endomorph: The Powerhouse


Strength: Endomorphs excel in activities that require power and strength.

They have a natural ability to build muscle and can excel in powerlifting and other strength-based sports.

Durability: This body type is often more resilient, with a natural ability to withstand intense physical activity.


Prone to Fat Gain: Endomorphs must be extra cautious with their diet as they are prone to gaining fat.

Limited Endurance: Cardiovascular activities can be more challenging for endomorphs, affecting their performance in endurance sports.


For endomorphs, the focus should be on regular cardiovascular exercise to keep fat gain in check, along with strength training to take advantage of their natural ability to build muscle.

Each body type comes with its own set of challenges and advantages.

Understanding these can help you tailor your muscle-building approach, making your journey more effective and enjoyable.

Training Programs: Your Blueprint For Muscle Building

Training programs are the backbone of your muscle-building journey.

Choosing the right one can make the difference between success and stagnation.

Let's delve into the right and wrong ways to approach workouts and how to maintain consistency.

Beginner Programs: Your Starting Point

Compound Movements: If you're new to the gym, focus on compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, offering more bang for your buck.

Progressive Overload: Start with challenging but manageable weights, and aim to increase the weight or the number of reps each week.

This principle of progressive overload is crucial for muscle growth.

The Wrong Way

Ignoring Form: Lifting heavy weights without proper form is a recipe for injury.

Always prioritize form over weight to ensure you're effectively targeting the muscle and not putting undue stress on your joints.

Skipping Rest Days: Your muscles grow when you rest, not when you're lifting.

Ignoring rest days can lead to overtraining and hinder your progress.

Advanced Programs: Taking It To The Next Level

The Right Way

Variety: Once you've mastered the basics, introduce new variables like supersets, drop sets, and varying rep ranges.

This keeps your muscles guessing and helps break plateaus.

Periodization: Advanced lifters should consider periodization, a training structure that changes up your workout routine at specific times to keep your body on its toes.

The Wrong Way

Sticking to What's Comfortable: It's easy to stick with what you know, but this can lead to stagnation.

Don't be afraid to shake things up and try new exercises or training methods.

Ignoring Weak Points: We all have areas where we're stronger and areas where we're weaker.

Ignoring your weak points can lead to imbalances that may hinder progress and injury.

How To Stay Consistent

Consistency is the key to long-term success in any fitness program.

Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

Set Achievable Goals: Unrealistic goals can be demotivating.

Set achievable milestones and celebrate when you reach them.

Track Your Progress: Use a training log or an app to track your workouts.

This keeps you accountable and allows you to see your progress over time.

Find a Community: Whether it's a workout buddy, an online forum, or a fitness class, a community can provide the extra motivation you need to stay consistent.

By approaching your training program thoughtfully and structured, you can maximize your gains and make your hardgainer status a thing of the past.

Consistency: The Underappreciated Workhorse Of Muscle Building

You know how some people seem to be at the gym all the time but never look any different?

That's often because they're inconsistent with their workouts or nutrition.

Consistency is the secret sauce that can make or break your muscle-building journey.

Why Routine Matters

Having a set routine is like having a good playlist for a road trip.

It sets the mood and keeps you going.

When you know exactly when you're hitting the gym and what you'll be doing there, it eliminates the guesswork and the excuses.

Keeping Yourself Accountable

Gym Buddies: Ever notice how you're more likely to attend a social event if you know someone is waiting for you?

The same goes for the gym.

A workout partner can give you that extra push and make the gym feel less like a chore.

Online Squads: Social media isn't just for food pics and memes.

There are tons of online communities where people share workout tips, progress pics, and even some much-needed tough love.

It's like having a whole team of cheerleaders in your pocket.

Mind Over Matter

We all have days when we'd rather binge-watch a series than hit the gym.

It happens.

The key is not to let one off day derail your entire routine.

Think of your mind as a rehearsal space.

Visualizing your workouts or the physique you're aiming for can make the real deal feel more achievable.

Treat Yourself, Don't Cheat Yourself

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

Setting up small rewards for hitting your milestones can give you something to look forward to.

It's like giving yourself a high-five.

Rest Like A Pro

Rest days aren't for the weak; they're for the wise.

Your muscles need time to repair and grow.

Think of it as downtime for your body's construction crew.

Active recovery activities like stretching or light swimming can keep you moving without stressing your muscles.

By making these strategies a part of your life, you'll find that consistency becomes second nature.

And once that happens, those hard-to-achieve gains will become much more attainable.

Nutrition: More Than Just Calories

Nutrition is the cornerstone of any muscle-building journey.

It's not just about eating more; it's about eating right.

Let's break down the key components.

Macronutrients: The Big Three

There are 3 macronutrients you should know about:

Proteins: The Building Blocks

Proteins are the bricks and mortar of your muscle-building house.

Aim for lean sources like chicken, fish, and plant-based options like lentils and chickpeas.

Carbohydrates: The Energy Providers

Carbs are your body's main source of energy.

Opt for complex carbs like whole grains and starchy vegetables to fuel your workouts and aid recovery.

Fats: The Hormone Helpers

Fats often get a bad rap, but they're essential for hormone production, including hormones like testosterone crucial for muscle growth.

Think avocados, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon.

Vitamins: The Little Helpers

Vitamins like C and D not only boost your immune system but also aid in the muscle recovery process.

Don't underestimate these little guys.

Minerals: The Catalysts

Minerals like zinc and magnesium act as catalysts in various bodily functions, including muscle contraction and relaxation.

They might be trace elements, but their impact is anything but small.

By focusing on both the right supplements and a balanced diet, you're setting the stage for effective and sustainable muscle growth.

Supplements: Your Secret Weapon For Gains

Supplements can significantly benefit your muscle-building journey, particularly if you're a hardgainer.

They can help you meet your nutritional needs and push you extra during workouts.

But it's essential to know which ones are genuinely beneficial.

Essential Supplements: The Must-Haves

When it comes to muscle building, some supplements are almost universally recommended for their proven benefits.

These are the ones you'll want to consider adding to your regimen.

Whey Protein: The Quick Fix For Protein Needs

Whey protein is the MVP of quick and efficient protein sources.

It's rapidly absorbed, making it a fantastic choice for post-workout recovery.

Research shows that whey protein can significantly accelerate muscle repair and growth.

Creatine: The Strength Booster

Creatine is the supplement you'll want on your team when you're aiming to increase your strength and power.

It's excellent for enhancing short-term energy bursts, which can be a lifesaver during those challenging final reps.

Studies have confirmed that creatine can improve both strength and muscle mass.

Mass Gainers: The Caloric Boost

Mass gainers can be a convenient way to increase caloric intake, but they're not always necessary.

You can easily whip up a homemade smoothie with oats, banana, and whey protein to get a substantial amount of good calories and macros.

It's all about getting that extra energy in a nutritious way.

What To Avoid: The Supplement Traps

Supplements can be a minefield of misleading claims and confusing labels.

Here's what you should steer clear of.

Proprietary Blends: The Mystery Mixes

Proprietary blends are the enigma of the supplement world. You don't know what you're getting, and that's a problem.

Always choose supplements that are transparent about their ingredients.

Unnecessary Fillers: The Useless Extras

Some supplements are all sizzle and no steak.

They promise the world but are filled with useless ingredients like sugar and artificial additives.

Always read the label to know what you're putting into your body.

By being selective with your supplements and focusing on what truly works, you can give yourself a significant edge in your muscle-building efforts.


What is a hardgainer?

A hardgainer struggles to gain weight and muscle mass despite consistent efforts in diet and exercise.

How many calories should I eat to gain muscle?

Aim for a caloric surplus of 250-500 calories above your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

What type of training program is best for hardgainers?

A structured program focusing on compound movements and progressive overload is generally best for hardgainers.

How important is protein for muscle growth?

Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Aim for 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Can supplements help me gain muscle faster?

Yes, supplements like creatine and whey protein can aid muscle recovery and growth.

How many rest days should I have per week?

Aim for at least two weekly rest days for optimal muscle recovery and growth.

Should I do cardio while trying to gain muscle?

Moderate cardio can be beneficial, but excessive cardio can hinder muscle growth.

What are some high-calorie foods that are good for bulking?

Foods like avocados, nuts, and fatty fish are high in calories and good for bulking.

How long does it take to see noticeable muscle gains?

It varies from person to person, but you can generally expect noticeable gains after 6-12 weeks of consistent training and proper nutrition.

Can I gain muscle without gaining fat?

It's challenging but possible. The key is to eat a slight caloric surplus and focus on protein-rich foods.

Bottom Line

Building muscle as a hardgainer is no easy feat, but it's far from impossible.

You can overcome your genetic predispositions by understanding your body type, eating in a caloric surplus, and following a structured training program.

Don't forget the importance of rest and the strategic use of supplements to give you that extra edge.

Stick with it, stay consistent, and the gains will come.

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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