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December 09, 2015

Hardgainers' Bodybuilding Training

Hugo Rivera, BSCE, CFT

Mass Building Training Principles For Hardgainers

There are many mass building training principles that hardgainers need to follow in order to get results from their bodybuilding training routines. Because of the hardgainer's fast metabolic rate, not all bodybuilding routines are suitable for this type.

Mass Building Training Principles

  • Sessions should be short: 60 minutes maximum

    The maximum amount of time a weight training session should last is 60 minutes. After 60 minutes the levels of muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone begin to drop. In addition, the stored carbohydrates in your muscle cells and liver, glycogen, which is the fuel that your muscles use to contract, is depleted. If you weight train more than 60 minutes you will actually be wasting your time since you will no longer have the hormones or the fuel necessary to produce muscle growth. Continue to train past 60 minutes and you will get impaired recovery which leads to overtraining, a condition where your body does not recover from its weight training sessions. This leads to loss of strength and muscle mass.

  • The rest between sets should be kept to a minimum; 90 seconds or less

    Keeping your rest time in between sets and exercises to a minimum not only allows you to perform a prodigious amount of work within the 60-minute weight training window, but it also helps improve your cardiovascular system and most importantly maximizes the output of growth hormone; a powerful fat burning/muscle building hormone. Also, this rest interval promotes a muscle voluminizing effect in which water goes inside the muscle cells (not outside) and makes the muscles look more firm and toned. Do not confuse this with water retention outside of the muscle cells, which is what makes us look puffy and fat.

  • Weight Training Exercise should not be performed for more than two days in a row

    This is something that is very important for hardgainers. While most endomorphs can recover from a six-day per week training split, most hardgainers have a difficulty recovering from more than four sessions per week. The reason for this is because their nervous system gets very taxed after two days of high intensity weight training, so continuing to train past two days will lead to a depressed nervous system; something that in turn will prevent the body from being able to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers in order to perform a lift. In addition, with a constantly depressed nervous system, strength gains not only become impossible to come by, but also to keep; so as a result you could see your strength diminishing.

  • Sets of each exercise should consist mainly of a range of 6-15 repetitions

    There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, it has been shown that it is within this range that growth hormone output is maximized. As we already know, this is a good thing since this hormone does exactly what we are looking for (it increases muscle and decreases body fat). In addition, since you are performing so many repetitions, you get a great pump (blood rushing into the muscle) that provides nutrients to nourish muscle cells and helps them recover and rebuild faster. Finally, performing 6-15 repetitions reduces the possibility of injury dramatically since you will need to use a weight that you can control in order to perform the prescribed amount of reps. (Note: Occasional lifts of 4 repetitions will help the nervous system to recruit high threshold muscle fibers that are not activated with lighter lifting. Also, calves and abdominals may be trained at times with higher repetitions as well).

  • Training must be progressive

    Progression means one more repetition than the last time the exercise was performed or a little bit more weight if you are able to do more than 15 repetitions for a particular exercise. It is important to understand that you will not be able to increase weight or the number of repetitions every session. However, progression comes in many forms; like performing more work within the 60-minute period. The overall goal of a training routine is to ensure progression over a period of time to bring about continuous improvements in muscle tone and definition.

  • Training must be varied

    This principle is vital to ensure continuous gains in strength and muscle tone as well as to prevent boredom. Variation does not necessarily mean changing all of the exercises in your program. Variation can occur in the form of using different techniques to stimulate the muscle, changing repetition and set parameters, and even changing the rest in between sets and something as simple as changing the width of your grip placement on the bar to help isolate specific muscles. As you will soon see, in this program you will alternate between three-week periods of high volume work with three-week periods of higher intensity (heavier weights) work. In this manner, the body is stressed in a manner that allows for maximum growth stimulus. If you were to perform the same lifting routine day in and day out, the result would be staleness as a routine only works for as long as it takes the body to get used to (adapt) it.

  • The form in which you perform an exercise should be impeccable

    This is one of those things that most lifters, especially male lifters, have a problem with. By letting the ego take control, many lifters concentrate on ever increasing the weight without regards to exercise form. Not only can this practice seriously injure the muscle group being worked on, requiring surgery as a result in certain instances, but also it prevents the proper stimulation of the muscle group being worked. The reason for this is that when doing less than perfect form, other muscles come into play, taking away as a result some of the load from the muscle that you are supposed to be targeting. This practice will slow down growth and get you injured so please pay attention to exercise form.

  • Minimize aerobic exercise

    I am not anti-aerobics by any means. I love to perform aerobics by walking, riding a bike and other suitable activities in order to keep the cardiovascular system in good shape. However, what I am saying is that in order for the hardgainer to maximize results in muscle mass, aerobic activity and other outside activities such as sports like basketball or soccer, which involve a high degree of activity, need to be minimized. The reason for this is again nervous system recovery and also the fact that the hardgainer has a super fast metabolism. By performing too much caloric burning activities you will make it harder on yourself to gain muscle as you will need more calories than what is recommended in this book in order to cover your energy needs and those require by muscle growth. In this book, we will limit cardiovascular activity to a couple of times per week from 15 minutes to no more than 25.

  • Training must consist primarily of free weight basic exercises

    Only free weight basic exercises provide the fast results you are looking for because they recruit the most muscle while you are performing them. Besides, the body is designed to be in a three dimensional universe. Whenever you use a machine you limit your body to a two-dimensional universe and consequently you limit the amount of muscle fibers that are going to do work. Not all machines are bad however. Some definitely have a place in our weight-training program because they allow us to isolate the muscle in a way that no free weights would allow us to do. However, our program should be mostly based on barbell, dumbbell and exercises where the body moves through space such as the dip, the pull-up and the squat. In the sections below, we will cover in more detail which exercises are the best for muscle gains and the reasons behind it.

Hardgainers' Sample Mass Building Training Routine

  • Monday: Chest/Back/Biceps/Triceps/Upper Abs

    • Superset #1

      • Incline Dumbbell Press (adjust bench to an angle of 25 degrees) 3 sets of 8-10 reps (No Rest)
      • Close Grip Pull-up to Front (palms facing forward) 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 min rest)
      Note: If you cannot perform the pull-up, then try to have your partner help you up or use a weight assist machine. Otherwise, substitute with Pull-downs
    • Superset #2

      • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets of 10-12 reps (No Rest)
      • Neutral Grip Pull-ups 3 sets of 10-12 reps (1 min rest)
      Note: If you cannot perform the pull-up, then try to have your partner help you up or use a weight assist machine. Otherwise, substitute with Pull-downs.
    • Superset #3

      • Dumbbell Hammer Curls 3 sets of 8-10 reps (No Rest)
      • Overhead Triceps Extensions 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 min rest)
    • Superset #4

      • Dumbbell Preacher Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps (No Rest)
      • Triceps Pushdowns 3 sets of 10-12 reps (1 min rest)
      • Crunches 3 sets of 15-20 reps (1 min rest)
  • Tuesday: Thighs/Hamstrings/Delts/Calves/Lower Abs

    • Superset #1

      • Wide Stance Squats 3 sets of 8-10 reps (No Rest)
      • Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 min rest)
      Note: If you suffer from lower back problems substitute the wide stance squat for a wide stance leg press (press with toes since you are working the quads).
    • Superset #2

      • Leg Extensions 3 sets of 10-12 reps (No Rest)
      • Lying Leg Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps (1 min rest)
    • Superset #3:

      • Lateral Raises 3 sets of 8-10 reps (No Rest)
      • Standing Calf Raises 3 sets of 8-10 reps (1 min rest)
    • Superset #4:

      • Bent Over Lateral Raises Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps (No Rest)
      • Seated Calf Raises 3 sets of 10-12 reps (1 min rest)
      • Hanging Leg Raises 3 sets of 15-20 reps (1 min rest)
  • Thursday: Chest/Back/Biceps/Triceps/Upper Abs

    • Modified Compound Superset #1

      • Incline Bench Press 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      • Close Grip Chins with reverse grip 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      Note: If you cannot perform the pull-up, then try to have your partner help you up or use a weight assist machine. Otherwise, substitute with Pull-downs.
    • Modified Compound Superset #2

      • Chest Dips 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      • Wide Grip Pull-ups to front 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      Note: If you cannot perform the pull-up, then try to have your partner help you up or use a weight assist machine. Otherwise, substitute with Pull-downs.
    • Modified Compound Superset #3

      • E-Z Curls 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (60 second rest)
      • Close Grip Bench Press 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (60 second rest)
    • Modified Compound Superset #4

      • E-Z Preacher Curls 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (60 second rest)
      • Lying Triceps Extensions 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (No rest)
      • Rope Crunches 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps (60 second rest)
      Note: In order to be able to finish the routine within the allotted time, abs were included in this last modified compound superset. The way this superset is performed is by doing the curls first, resting 60 sec, moving to the extensions and without rest to the rope crunches. After the crunches, rest 60 seconds and start over.
  • Friday: Thighs/Hamstrings/Delts/Calves/Lower Abs

    • Modified Compound Superset #1

      • Medium Stance Squats 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      • Lying Leg Curls 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      Note: If you suffer from lower back problems you may substitute the squat for the leg press. Since you are performing the leg press as your second exercise, then just use a close stance on this one and a medium stance on the second one.
    • Modified Compound Superset #2

      • Leg Press 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
      • Barbell Stiff Legged Dead-lifts 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (90 second rest)
    • Modified Compound Superset #3

      • Seated Military Press 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (60 second rest)
      • Calf Press 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps (60 second rest)
    • Modified Compound Superset #4

      • Upright Rows 3 sets of 8, 6, 4 reps (60 second rest)
      • Standing Calf Raises 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps (No rest)
      • Weighted Leg Raises 3 sets of 15, 13, 10 reps (60 second rest)
      Note: Use perfect form in the upright rows as sloppy form leads to rotator cuff injuries. In order to be able to finish the routine within the allotted time, abs were included in this last modified compound superset. The way this superset is performed is by doing the upright rows first, resting 60 sec, moving to the calf raises and without rest to the leg raises. After the leg raises, rest 60 seconds and start over.
Written by Hugo Rivera, BSCE, CFT

Mass Building Training Principles For Hardgainers