You will never grow by pushing the same amount of weight workout after workout.
If the next workout isn’t more challenging, you will stagnate.
3. Progressive Resistance
In order to achieve muscular overload, you have to increase the resistance you are lifting from workout to workout.
By adding a little bit of weight to the bar, while simultaneously decreasing the reps, you’ll be able to constantly grow your strength and keep maximum stress on the working muscle.
Intensity is all about the amount of effort that goes into your training.
You’ll get absolutely nowhere by cruising through your workout on auto pilot.
You need to bring 100% focus to each session. Your resistance level should make the last couple of reps on each set extremely difficult.
If you feel that you could pump out another 2 or three reps, you should add more resistance.
5. Time Under Tension
Time under tension (TUT) refers to the amount of time that the working muscle is put under direct stress during a training set.
The ideal length of a set to stimulate growth is 40 seconds.
This is longer than most sets typically last. Increase your TUT by slowing down, especially on the lowering part of the rep.
You should also avoid locking out at the top, as this relieves the tension.
6. Rep Range
This is longer than most sets typically last.
Increase your TUT by slowing down, especially on the lowering part of the rep.
You should also avoid locking out at the top, as this relieves the tension.
There’s been a lot of debate about the ideal rep range to build muscle.
The traditional line has been that you need to perform between 8-12 reps per set to stimulate hypertrophy.
Anything higher than that and you’ll be ‘defining’ the muscle. Go lower than six and you’ll be primarily building power.
This is another area where there is huge discrepancy.
If you follow the programs outlined in the bodybuilding mags, you’ll likely be in the gym for close to two hours.
On the other extreme are the conventional ‘hard-gainer’ programs that advocate very short, intense sessions that conserve energy and prevent over training.
Again, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
An ideal training time of 45-60 minutes will allow you to provide your muscles with enough time under tension to maximally stimulate growth without overtraining.
8. Rest Between Sets
As a hard gainer, the length of rest between sets is critical.
Most hard gainers find that their strength quickly dissipates after the first set.
Resting for the typical 60-90 seconds will not provide them with sufficient time to replenish their ATP levels for the next set.
This is especially so when performing heavy compound exercises, like the bench press.
By extending your rest period out to between two and a half and three minutes, you will be able to get much more from the next set.
Tempo is the speed with which you perform your reps. We can break the rep down into two parts; the concentric, or positive part, and the eccentric, or negative part.
Science tells us that the eccentric part is the most important for building muscle.
Most trainers perform both parts too fast. Slowing down so that you’re doing a 1-2 second concentric and a 2-3 second eccentric rep will increase your time under tension and put more stress on the muscle.
The human body is amazingly adaptable.
If you’re doing the same workout month after month, your body will become accustomed to your routine and you are likely to hit a plateau.
By changing it up every couple of months, you’ll keep your body guessing – and growing.
You don’t build muscle in the gym.
It’s recuperation and nutrition that does that.
Your workout is actually breaking the muscle cell down.
It’s when you rest that you are able to rebuild it.
As a hard-gainer, you need more rest than most.
That’s why you’ll be limiting your training to four days per week, allowing a minimum of 48 hours between working each body part.
To effectively stimulate a muscle group, you need it to be the prime mover during an exercise.
When training your chest, for example, retracting your shoulders, keeping your hips down and maintaining a slight arch in your back will maximize chest stimulation.
Isolation of the working muscle group is also why you should not allow momentum to get the weight from Point A to Point B.
13. Body-Part Order
When structuring your workout, you should start with your largest muscle groups (chest, back, legs) and then move to your smaller groups.
If you did it the other way around, your arms, calves and shoulders would be major weak links when hitting your chest, back and thighs because they’d already be exhausted.
Your workouts would suck because you simply couldn’t handle the resistance that your bigger muscle groups demand.
14. Train With A Stronger Person
It feels pretty good to be stronger than your training partner.
When the situation is reversed, however, you are constantly working to get up to his level.
Every set you spot him on is providing you with the motivation to push harder.
That’s just the kind of motivation you need in order to continue making gains.
15. Muscle Priority
We’ve all got weak body parts. Muscle priority involves working those muscle groups early in your session while you have maximum mental and physical energy.
For smaller body parts, you don’t want to use this principle to override the body-part order principle.
Instead, you should consider training your weak body part separately so you can give 100% effort to it.
Flushing is about pumping blood into the working muscle, pumping it full and supplying it with growth inducing nutrients.
To produce a flushing effect, you need to work a single muscle group within a space of time, not going from one body part to another.
Stay focused on that muscle group until it is engorged and feels tight and terrific.
17. Consistent Tension
Consistent tension relates to the speed of your repetitions.
By maintaining a consistent speed of repetition, you keep the tension on the target muscle and eliminate momentum.
This principle reminds us that muscle and strength cannot be maintained without effort.
If you regularly skip workouts, or stop training altogether, you will start to lose muscle and strength.
19. Range Of Motion
Beginners are often taught to perform each rep through a full range of motion, pausing at the top to reset for the next rep.
When you do that, however, you provide a second or two when your muscles are given relief and the stress has been taken off the target muscle group.
That is why you should stop the rep just short of lockout to keep constant tension on the muscle.
20. Warming Up
Every workout needs to begin with a dynamic stretching warmup.
Arm circles, windmills and bodyweight squats are all examples of dynamic stretches.
Dynamic stretching does an effective job of reducing muscle tightness, increasing the body’s core temperature and improving the range of motion around the joints.
It also prepares your body for the specific demands of the activity that you will be performing during your training or competition.
You should also perform a warmup set of every exercise with an unloaded barbell or very light dumbbells.
The Best Ectomorophic Hardgainer Diet
How Many Calories Do I Need?
There’s a whole lot of confusion about how to eat to build muscle.
A lot of it stems from the desire to get big AND cut at the same time.
As an ectomorphic hardgainer, though, that is not on the cards for you.
So, forget about getting a washboard stomach and set your focus solely on packing on slabs of lean mass.
This is good news because it dramatically simplifies the equation.
When you concentrate on getting big, it all boils down to one thing – caloric balance.
Your goal each day must be to take in more calories than you consume.
So long as those calories are the right type, you’ll keep yourself in an anabolic muscle building state.
In order to figure out how many calories you need to take in to put yourself in a surplus state, here’s a simple formula to follow . . .
Current bodyweight in kilos X 24
Current bodyweight in pounds X 0.45, then that X 24
This calculation will give you the number of calories you should take in each day in order to meet your metabolic needs.
In other words, it will allow you to sustain what you’ve got right now.
Of course, the last thing you want to do is to day the same.
That’s why you need to take in more calories than you need to maintain yourself.
How Many More Calories?
We suggest taking 300 extra calories per day.
That will work out to about an extra 10% of what you’re eating now.
That doesn’t sound like much, but, over the course of a year it will deliver an extra 109,500 calories per year.
That is a whole lot of muscle building nutrition!
Taking in just 300 extra calories per day means that you won’t be force feeding yourself.
Stuffing yourself – even with ‘healthy food’ – is metabolically inefficient for digestion, absorption and transport of nutrients.
So, to figure out how many calories to consume each day, simply add 300 calories to the total that you calculated earlier.
But I’m Already Eating Tons of Food
More than likely you’ve been down the eat big to get big road before – with disappointing results.
If you’re like most guys, you’ve followed the traditional ‘bulking’ protocol, where you simply overfed yourself.
The problem is that you have not yet trained your metabolism to support the extra calories.
Simply stuffing more food in will result in many of those calories leaving the body undigested or being stored as body fat.
Unless you give your metabolism time to adjust to a gradual increase in calories, you will not achieve an anabolic state.
You’ll simply be getting fat – and feeling stuffed.
Junk Food VS Healthy
We’ve already established that weight gain essentially comes down to your daily consumption of calories.
Take in a few more hundred than you burn each day and you will gain weight.
Whether that weight gain is fat or muscle, though, depends on what the food you eat looks like.
If your eating regimen sees you regularly heading down to Burger King, you won’t be doing your body any favors.
It’s the processed carbs that are the major issue.
They’ll lead you on an insulin spiral that will make you fatter, more lethargic and less likely to work out with the intensity you need.
Junk food will fill you up with empty calories that do not supply the nutrients that your trained muscles need to grow. Only real food will do that.
By real food, we’re talking about lean proteins, healthy fats and fibrous and starchy non-processed carbs.
How You’ve Been Told To Eat
There are a ton of hardgainer plans out there that will tell you that you’ve got to go crazy on your food intake to overcome your fast metabolism.
Recommendations of 1000 or more extra calories per day are common.
Then there are those protein junkie programs, such as ‘Gallon of Milk a Day’ (GOMAD) that promise a ridiculous gain of 25 pounds of muscle in 25 days.
These types of bulking protocols will certainly allow you to put on weight – but none of it will be muscle. Instead, you’ll end up bloated and fat!
Concentrating on adding scale weight (bulk), rather than lean mass
Not monitoring caloric intake beyond the requirement to ‘eat like there’s no tomorrow’.
Not worrying about macronutrient breakdowns (carbs, fats, proteins)
Eating too much junk
Not doing cardio
Gaining Fat VS Muscle
Gaining fat is easy – just ask the millions of obese people that share the planet with you.
The only problem is that, no matter how you dress it up, fat is ugly. You have no right purposefully putting it on your body.
Gaining muscle, however, is excruciatingly difficult – and especially so for a hardgainer like you.
That can cause you to want to take shortcuts so as to get that scale weight up, like diving into a no-holds barred bulk up program.
Don’t do it – you’ll only end up with a skinny-fat body, making you even less likely to want to take your shirt off at the beach.
As a hardgainer, your inability to put on weight can be a source of envy to others. People who merely have to look at carbs to pile on the fat may actually wish that they had your metabolism . . .
Then they wouldn’t have to worry about that spare tire around their middle.
But you’re not worried about putting on extra fat. You are desperate to pack on some muscle!
That makes your fat metabolism a challenge. In fact, it makes it downright infuriating.
So, why is your metabolism such a challenge?
The following 5 key factors go into determining the speed of your metabolism . . .
Hormones – the levels of and interactions between thyroid, insulin, grehlin, cortisol and leptin.
Digestion – our unique digestive system determines how much of certain nutrients actually make it through the digestive process
Appetite – hunger regulating hormones often make it difficult for hardgainers to work up a decent appetite
Activity Level – skinny kids tend to be more active, which means they’re burning more calories throughout the day
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – this relates to the calorie burn from all the incidental activities that make up our day.
The weird thing is that, when you up your caloric intake, your body will increase its non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
This rate differs among individuals.
And guess what? It’s at its highest rate amongst hardgainers.
The Ideal Way To Eat
So, enough of the theory – let’s zero in on the ideal way for a hard-gainer to eat to pack on mass.
You’ve already got your caloric total for the day – your maintenance level plus 300.
Here’s how those calories need to be broken down:
Break your meals down to a macronutrient ratio of 40/40/30, meaning that you should eat 40% protein, 40% carbs and 30% healthy fats.
20-40% of those carbs should be fibrous carbs, with the rest being starchy carbs.Your protein sources should focus on animal meats, followed by fish, nuts and seeds
Below we’ve provided charts that list the best foods to eat in each macronutrient group, along with the suggested serving sizes.
UNCOOKED QUANTITY (grams)
UNCOOKED QUANTITY (grams)
UNCOOKED QUANTITY (grams)
Steel Cut Oats
There are certain supplements that, when combined with the eating and training you’ll be doing, will maximize your growth.
We know how expensive supplements can be, so we have boiled it down to the absolute essentials that will maximize your growth potential while minimizing fat gain.
The human body was meant to eat real food, so do not go overboard on protein powder
Make sure to get your post workout shake into your system within 20 minutes of working out
Consistency is the key to effective supplementation
Organizing Your Diet
The key thing each day is meet your caloric and macronutrient goals.
In terms of how it is absorbed in to your system, the timing of those calories doesn’t really matter.
However, as a hard-gainer you probably don’t have the greatest of appetites.
That will make it pretty tough to get in your calories from three meals.
That’s the reason that you should spread those calories out over the day – it will be easier for you to digest smaller, more frequent meals.
We suggest 4-6 meals, spaced about three hours apart.
Here’s a template to give you an idea of what your daily eating might look like . . .
Your Daily Nutritional Template
Now you can eat 2-3 big, infrequent meals each day or you can eat 3-6 smaller frequent meals, it does not matter.
But for you guys, it's probably better to stick to frequent, smaller meals as it's hard to get giant meals down and yet meet our calorie requirements.
The key here is to find what works for you.
Eating 7-8 times a day is nearly impossible for most of us but personally I have found 4-5 times to be ideal for me.
Here's an example diet you could follow. And also you can always switch out some foods for something else.
Like instead of steak, you could have chicken or eggs (both very valuable sources of protein).
Protein / Fiber
Rolled oats with 1 scoop whey protein
Protein / Fruit / Nuts
Tuna / Apple / Walnuts
Protein / Starchy Carb / Vegetables
Steak / Sweet Potato / Green Beans
Protein / Fats
2 hard boiled eggs / Avocado
5-15g BCAA's, 5g Glutamine
Protein Shake with skim milk and 5g creatine monohydrate
Protein / Strachy Carb / Vegetables
Chicken / Brown Rice / Carrots / Broccoli
Casein Protein Shake
How Much Weight Can You Gain?
The reason that so many guys throw in the towel on this whole muscle gain thing is that they’ve been fed unrealistic expectations.
You know by now that 25 pounds of muscle in 25 days is out there in la la land.
But, as a hard-gainer, so is 5 pounds in 25 days.
More realistic for you is between one and two pounds of lean muscle gain per month. That’s between 12-24 pounds of mass in a year of real, fat free, visible mass.
If you’re 170 pounds now, imagine what a transformation being at 194 with the same body fat level would make.
That is what you need to set your sights on.
I don't expect you to understand and get everything right from the beginning.
Everyone starts from step one.
No one is born an expert at bodybuilding nor do they step foot into the gym as the hulk from day one.
Everyone has a story. And yours starts here.
You will continuously get advice and they may sound better and they might as well be, or they might be pure bro-science, it doesn't matter because if you stick to the basics and what works, you will make progress.
Never stop asking questions, always keep striving to the next level.
I'd love to hear your success stories, your achievements and what you're struggling with.
This is what we strive for, and what pushes us to continously create content like this.
Forged by the iron and cold steel, Nader takes his knowledge and hulks it up into this site.
Having to be stuck as a 110lb skinny guy in the early days, he has had no choice but to keep improving himself until he cannot.
Click here to check out his 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation