Top Tips for Hardgainers
Published: 10 November 2017
Building muscle isn’t easy – but if you’re a classic ‘hardgainer’ it can be even tougher. Forging an impressive physique is as much an art as it is a science.
Just showing up at the gym and going through the motions isn’t going to cut it if you want to pack on muscle. Even if your gym has all the latest commercial strength equipment You have to put 100% into each and every session and leave everything on the gym floor.
There are some fundamental principles that you can apply to your training to help you progress and grow.
Here are 7 key things you can use in your training…
1. Perfect Your Technique
Technique is paramount if you want to achieve real results in the gym.
Going into a gym and training with your ego and throwing weights around with reckless abandon might seem like the right thing to do…but it’s not.
If you cannot feel the muscle working that you are trying to train, then your technique clearly needed some attention.
Focusing on perfecting the technique on each exercise and maximizing every rep is the quickest and most efficient way to begin building muscle.
2. Select the Right Weight
If you want to make consistent progress, then selecting the right weight for each set is important.
Lift too light and it will not stimulate growth; lift too heavy and form will breakdown and you will probably struggle to feel the muscle working properly.
The weight you select determines everything you’re able to do in a set.
Fail to pick the correct weight and you won’t be able to adhere to the recommended temp, sets, reps and rest in your training programme.
Yes, the weight you lift should be challenging, but it should still mean you can maintain perfect form to stimulate the muscle properly, while remaining injury free. Finding a gym with a great range of dumbbells will allow you to move up and down in small increments.
3. Understand the SAID Principle
This ones from leading Sydney personal trainer Russel Lee, If you’ve not heard of the SAID Principle, it’s one of the most significant training concepts you need to know.
What does it stand for? ‘Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand’. Basically, this principle stats that your body will improve at its most optimum degree when solely focusing on a specific training type or fitness goal rather than training for multiple goals with different training types at the same time.
You won’t get the physique of a bodybuilder if your weekly workout plan includes swimming, boxing, running and eating salad.
It’s important that your goal matches up with the workout and diet most effective for achieving that.
4. The Importance of Time Under Tension
If you’ve not considered Time Under Tension before, now is the time to start applying it to your training.
Basically, it describes the duration in seconds that the muscle is placed under tension by controlling a weight through a full range of motion during each rep and set.
It is dictated by the tempo of each rep as well as the number of reps in a given set.
Tempo is often shown in a workout programme as a four-digit code – such as 4010. It looks baffling, but it simply displays the number of seconds you need to take on each portion of the lift – the lowering phase and any pause after that, then the lifting phase and any pause following that.
The total time under tension is the sum of all the reps along with the eccentric and concentric movements plus the time at the top and bottom of each rep.
So, for example, the 4010 tempo mentioned earlier performed on the bench press for 10 reps would mean five seconds per rep x 10 reps = 50 seconds time under tension.
Optimal time under tension to build muscle is anywhere between 40 and 70 seconds.
That’s why just going in and blasting out 10 reps at a pace of one rep per second will mean you’re just not getting enough time under tension to stimulate the growth you want.
5. Always Follow the ‘Progressive Overload’ principle
Progressive overload is an absolute fundamental principle in building muscle and strength.
Rob Garner from online personal trainers Ultimate Performance say that
“this means continually increasing the stress or demands on the body to continually make progress in muscle strength, size or endurance.This training principle should be at the heart of everything you do in the gym.”
Progressive overload means gradually increasing the volume, intensity or frequency in training over time to constantly challenge and stimulate the muscle.
Fail to keep challenging your body with new and increasing stimuli and you will never grow or improve.
Your muscles will respond and grow to training stimuli, but for further gains you need to put further demands on the body.
You can do this by manipulate a number of strength training variables to achieve this growth.
There are three mechanisms of hypertrophy that must be used and applied in order to build muscle, these are:
6. Increase the Volume
You might have heard about ‘volume’ in the gym before. It’s simply the total amount of work performed during the whole workout.
It is easily calculated by multiplying the load of the exercise by the number of seats and reps performed.
So, as an example, a 100kg bench press for 5 reps over 5 sets would be 2,500kg performed.
To keep growing muscle and progressing in the gym, it’s crucial to increase the demands on this muscle by increasing volume over time.
7. Sets and Reps
There is no ‘perfect programme’ or ideal rep and set scheme to follow.
Generally speaking, there’s an inverse relationship between sets and reps – the more reps you do, the less sets you’ll perform (3-4 sets x 12 reps). Conversely the less reps you perform, the more sets you will do (5 sets x 5 reps).
There is no magic muscle building rep or set scheme – it’s very individual to each person and depends on a host of factors from genetics, recovery, stress, muscle mass, nutrition and many more.
So long as progressive overload principle is followed, volume is gradually increased and you are getting stronger, you will see results from a periodised, well-programmed combination of set and rep schemes.
If you’re starting out, between 3-5 sets with a rep range of 6-12 is a good place to begin. Over time you will get stronger and your nervous system will become more efficient, so you can increase the weight and decrease the number of reps and bump up the number of sets you perform, particularly with compound exercises.
For more tips and advice on packing on muscle for hardgainers check out this in depth piece here https://upfitness.com/en/article_posts/bodybuilding/training/77-ultimate-tips-hardgainer-needs-build-muscle