Gaining muscle when you're a "hard gainer"


The plight of the ectomorph male tends to go unheard or even ridiculed. Comments like, "You're so skinny, you're so lucky, I wish I could eat whatever I wanted" are the bane of a man desperately trying to gain mass's existence. We don't consider skinny to be a compliment, feel lucky to be the smallest guy in the gym or enjoy force feeding in order to gain a modicum of muscle. So with every shirtless celebrity magazine cover telling us how to get huge biceps, shredded abs and a chest broader than a barn door in as little as 30 minutes a day or supplement companies peddling a myriad of concoctions with little evidence to prove their efficacy, what's a guy to do?

If your goal is to gain lean mass, don't listen to the creepy guy in the locker room with back acne and a fanny pack full of roids because it really comes down to 3 simple components. First, accepting your bodies limitations. I can't stress how important it is to set realistic and sustainable goals for yourself. If you're 5'8 and 145lbs like me, you may never be 200lbs, but that doesn't mean that in time you can't gain that 5-20lbs of muscle you want. So don't waste all your time wondering why you don't look like your favorite fitness model and focus on building a body that you are proud of! Because unless you're going to quit your job and work out twice a day for a year straight while eating only chicken, brown rice and broccoli... it's not happening.

So with that psychological aspect out of the way you can now focus on the task at hand, getting yoked! The single most important factor for gaining mass as a hard gainer is your diet. You can lift weights 24/7, but if you're not eating to sustain that level of intensity you will only lose weight. Now, this IS NOT an excuse to eat pizza andcheeseburgers, commonly referred to as "dirty bulking," in the name of #gainz. What you need is a calorie count conducive to lean gains because you can only gain a half a pound of lean muscle per week and 2lbs per month. This requires a strict calorie and macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) count comprised of healthy calorie dense foods. With the right ratio you can gain lean muscle mass and simultaneously lower your body fat percentage.

Once your diet is dialed in you get to the fun part, pumping iron! One of the most common mistakes made by men, other than a refusal to ask for professional advice, is to repeat the same lifting routine indefinitely. Four sets of 10 with the same weight you've been benching for a decade or the same order of movements. You need to be mixing up your weights, movements and splits often and lifting with intensity. The most important things to keep in mind when trying to gain mass are movement order, form, rep range, tempo and consistency!

1. You want to stick with larger multi joint "compound movements" at the beginning of your workout when you are fresh, before going into isolation movements. 

2. Maintaining proper form is imperative for proper movement execution and injury prevention. That means packing your shoulders, keeping your head and chest up and bracing your core all in order to maintain a straight spine.

3. The optimal hypertrophy rep range is 8-12 reps. This gives you the benefit of higher volume, but with heavier weight. This allows you to get a better pump, tear more muscle fiber and gain strength as well.

4. Tempo is the big one for most guys. How often do you see guys with too much weight cheating to lift it? The truth is they might as well not be lifting at all. Tempo is how much time your muscle stays under tension, the longer the better. You want at least a 6 second rep range from start to finish. Think of that as 3 Mississippi up and 3 down. This tears the most muscle fiber and helps to develop greater balance and control over the weight.

5. If you aren't consistent with your diet and training you will never reach your goal. It's that simple. 

It may seem overwhelming and it will take time, dedication and a great deal of patience, but gaining mass really is as simple as proper nutrition, lifting and above all else consistency. There is no secret workout, supplement or fitness personality that holds the only key to Gainzville and there is no substitution for hard work.