Welcome to my world….I am a classic example of a ‘hardgainer’ or someone with an Ectomorph body type. I’ve been called stickman, string bean and bean pole most of my life. Let’s put it this way, when I graduated from high school I weighed 120 pounds and was 5’7 and when I took my shirt off in public, people often mistakenly thought I was a pre-teen girl….not so good for the ol’ self esteem! I was picked on/bullied throughout middle school and a little in high school and had a terrible experience through it all. Believe me, I was REAL happy to be done with school. I often look back at the reasons I decided to travel rather than go to college after high school. I didn’t think about it much for many years, but now realize that it was directly related to my horrible experience in school. In my early twenties I began to fill out and from that point, I decided to dedicate myself to improving my body.
I have spent the last 16 years exercising and the last 13 as a trainer. I’ve seen and done a myriad of exercise programs claiming to bulk you up, get you ripped, add 30 pounds of muscle, etc. Some have been helpful, but most have not. Some of you may even remember Cybergenics Phase 1 training from back in the early 90′s. It was based on complete and total muscle failure..interesting concept.
Anyway, I have spent my adult life trying anything and everything to add weight and muscle to my frame and prior to taking a desk job several years ago, had a VERY tough time with it. I could eat literally anything I wanted and burn it off quickly. My walk around weight was about 150-155 pounds and I am almost 6 feet tall. I know there are a lot of guys out there in the same boat as I was and are struggling to gain weight and keep it on. Now, I’m not offering up any groundbreaking scientific research on how to do this, but I am going to share my insight as to how to add muscle mass and keep it on. If this sounds like you, then here are some tips for hardgainer training:
- If you are killing yourself in the gym and aren’t gaining weight, stop. Take a week off to let your body rest. Resist the urge to go back, you CAN do it!
- Take an honest look at what and how much you are eating. Log it and keep great records of it. This is the obvious key to gaining weight and/or lean muscle. 90% of people I meet or train have no idea how many calories they are eating. This is absolutely critical if you are trying to add lean mass.
- Change your exercise routine which probably consists of something you read online that day or the ever popular chest/arms/shoulder workout every day. No, no, no.
- Focus on compound exercises like deadlifts, pullups, and presses and for God’s sakes, TRAIN YOUR LEGS! Doing heavy squats the proper way is THE best way to add mass to your twiggy frame. I know you hate training legs, but you gotta! Don’t be another one of those guys who looks like Lou Ferrigno up top and Olive Oil down below. You can’t wear jeans forever…
- Intensity, intensity, intensity. You get it….good
- Eat like the blueberry pie eating fat kid from ‘Stand By Me’.Well, not really, but you do need to eat like a horse. It will depend on your weight and metabolism among other factors, but you should plan on eating every 3 hours. That’s everyday.
- You all know what quality foods are (chicken, fish, whole grains, blah blah) so choose them instead of that juicy triple whopper. Add a meal replacement shake if you are having a hard time eating enough. If you are training hard and eating right, you should be adding weight. You will need to manipulate your calories to find what is working for you.
- Get 8+ hours of sleep and drink a ton of water. You know this of course…
- DO NOT MISS MEALS!!! This will kill your progress and you will soon be losing that hard earned muscle.
- Be consistent. If you plan on keeping your very hard earned muscle, you have to keep training hard (change your workouts every 4 weeks, or your body will adapt) and eating well.
- Stick with it! As soon as you take your foot off the gas, your muscle will be gone faster than Tiger Woods’ sponsors.
I hope at least one skinny person reads this and can benefit from it. Please feel free to ask questions or email me. I have a ton of stories and have gone through the gaining/losing cycle multiple times.