Q. I'm a Hard Gainer. I struggle to put on muscle. What do you suggest I do to build good quality muscle?
A. First of all there are very few true hard gainers. Many people who think they are hard gainers have unfortunately been mislead by the industry in the way that they should train, which results in them finding it difficult to gain muscle. One of us on the team falls exactly into this category - classically referred to as an Ectomorph (slim / lowish body fat levels and generally considered on the skinny side and finds it harder to gain muscle).
Most hard gainers are not training the way to maximize gaining mass. Most are doing split body parts and doing many sets and hitting their muscles hard regularly 4-6 times per week. The key for most hard gainers is not to get too specific in your training.
Don't do split body parts. Do work-outs 3x per week and each time the whole body training and restrict it compound heavy movements. So stick to squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses and chest pressing. Don't be tempted to get distracted on isolation movements. The big compound movements have a number of benefits. These include ensuring you kick up your testosterone levels 3x per week. It addresses many muscle in the compound movement and your results will improve.
Most people are told that you need to do 8-12 reps. While these are muscle building repetitions, don't be afraid to work in the 2-6 rep power range also. These are power movements where you can work with heavier weights and you will build more muscle mass this way.
Don't make your workouts last too long. Keep it short and focused. Trying to train more than 1 hour is counter productive. You want to train on some days with more intensity that other. But most of the time you need to feel good after your workout is over. If you smash yourself each and every time, you are heading straight for over training which is counter productive. Building muscle takes time. Work with weights you can managed and control and ensure you have good form and technique and can focus and target the muscles you are hitting. If you are straining your back doing your squats, you need to back off and keep good form and get the legs fired and doing your heavy lifting and not doing a "good morning exercise". Your ego can be your biggest enemy. Yes all of us who are training for gaining muscle all like the satisfaction of lifting heavier weights. Remember the focus is the muscle contraction and then the true gains will be easier to come by.
Most hard gainers have fast metabolisms. So if you are active outsider of training in the gym, it might pay to get an activity monitor to see if you are over doing it with your other activities. You may have to back off some of your other activities if you are a sports fanatic. That of course is your decision - what you want to prioritize at any given time.
Eat clean. If you eat lots of fats in your meals it will tie up your stomach for many hours just digesting that meal. It will be hours before you will even feel like eating again. If you eat cleaner you then get hungry sooner and can eat more regularly.
If you find later you have lagging body parts (like arms), we will do a future blog on ways to tackle that issue.