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Hardgainer-Guide to weight training - how to gain muscle and strength

Updated on February 9, 2015

You can't gain weight?

Skinny guys usually say that they can't gain weight no matter what they do. They can eat how much they want without gaining 1 gram of either muscle or body-fat. They call themselves "hard-gainer". This might be true if you don't know enough about how your body works and what the reasons for being skinny are.

You might have read a lot of articles on the internet telling the same thing.That you probably do not eat enough, They claim that you have to eat 3000, 4000 or even more calories every day to gain some weight. Well fortunately that's not true. Usually those articles try to sell you some kind of protein shake, weight gainer or other supplements because everybody knows that eating that much calories day by day with proper food isn't really possible for most of us.

Now forget all of that. You don't have to eat like a bear to gain some muscles. Even bears probably do not each that much.

SO WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR YOUR SKINNY BODY?

Not exercising enough. It is as simple as that. Why would your body keep your muscles or add new ones, if you do not use them regularly?

Now there are other reasons too but let's focus on the exercising part first.


We already said that you have to use your muscles, all of them, but how? These are the 3 basic types of workout:

1. Cardio : Jogging, biking, swimming, walking etc.

2. Conditioning: circuit workouts , shadow boxing, rope jumping, sprint intervals, hill sprints etc.

3. Weight training : Pushing, Pulling, Lifting of weights

Now if you want to gain weight, you have to concentrate on weight training. But adding some conditioning and cardio work has also great benefits for your health and physical appearance.

How often to train?

Well hard-gainers usually need more rest between intensive workout days, so aiming for 2-3 intensive weight training sessions a week is the best option

How long to train?

Again, the best way to go is to have short and intense workouts, aiming to stay in the 45-60min range per workout including Warm-Ups and cool downs.

Which exercises to choose?

Since you have to keep your workouts pretty short, using basic compound movements, which train more muscles in less time, is the way to go.

What are these basic compound exercises?

1. a) Squatting exercise : Back-Squat, Front-Squat, Goblet-Squat

1. b) Lifting exercise : Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Single-Leg-Deadlift

2. a) Vertical Pressing : Military Press, Dumbbell Overhead-Press, Handstand Press

2. b) Horizontal Pressing : Bench Press , Incline Bench Press, Decline Bench Press, Push-Up

3. a) Vertical Pulling : Chinup, Pullup

3. b) Horizontal Pulling : Bent over Row, One-arm dumbbell row

Each exercise You are going to do 3 basic moves alternating between the a-Moves and b-Moves every workout. If you want you can add some additional exercises after these basic Moves. But do not do too much.


  • 3-7 : strength gain with some muscle gain
  • 8-10 : muscle gain with some strength gain
  • 11-14: muscle gain with some strength endurance

The lower rep-ranges focus on strength as you can see. And you should focus on that. As a hardgainer you have to build up some strength first. Muscle gains will come with your increase of strength.

So here is a basic workouts:


  • rep and sets : 3x6 ( means you do 6 reps, pause , then 6 reps again, pause and a last set of 6 reps)
  • pause : you should aim to pause no longer than 90 sec between each set and no longer than 3 mins between each exercise
  • warm-up : do some arm circling and shadowboxing for 5 mins to warm up.

Sample Workout Split A/B (with barbell):

Workout A:

  • warm up 5 mins
  • 2x 5 bodyweight squats (warm up for back squats)
  • 3x6 Back Squat
  • 2x5 Push ups (warm up for bench press)
  • 3x6 Bench Press
  • 3x6 Bent-over Row
  • Plank: 2x30 (core work)
  • Superman: 2x30 (core work)
  • cool down

Workout B:

  • warm up 5 mins
  • 2x5 light Deadlift (warm up for deadlift)
  • 3x6 Deadlift
  • 2x5 Push ups (warm up for military press)
  • 3x6 military Press
  • 3x6 chin-ups
  • leg twist: 2x15 (core work)
  • leg raise : 2x10 (abs work)
  • cool down

If you do 2 workouts a week, do workout A on one day, rest 3 days, do workout B, rest two days.

sample : Monday: workout A Friday: workout B

If you do 3 workouts a week, do workout A and B alternated with at least one day of rest in between.

sample : Monday: workout A Wednesday: workout B Friday: workout A

next Monday: workout B next Wednesday: workout A next Friday: workout B

Should i do cardio/conditioning?

I think it would be beneficial to add at 2 cardio sessions into your weekly workout schedule. They shouldn't be too long or to intense, because that would hurt your recovery. 2 or 3 20 minute jogging/biking sessions a week would be good for your overall health.

samples: Monday: weight training workout A

Tuesday: rest

Wednesday: 20 min jogging in the morning or evening or both

Thursday: 20 min jogging in the morning or evening

Friday: Workout B

Saturday: rest

Sunday: a Walk in the park

If you do 3 weight training sessions a week, i do no more than 2 cardio sessions.

And what about eating?

Now as i said you don't have to eat like a bear. But eating like a chicken isn't going to help you either.

Here are some nutritional rules for you:

  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. Don't eat Junk-Food, because you think they're going to make you gain weight
  3. eat at least 3 Full Meals a day
  4. Eat some protein with every meal ( lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cottage cheese are good protein sources)
  5. Eat some veggies with every meal ( salads, broccoli, anything that is green and natural)
  6. Eat enough carbohydrates, especially on workout days
  7. Eat some fruits, but not too much
  8. Don't skip meals

If you do all this, you don't need any expensive supplements or whatever. And if you try to push really hard every workout, follow the nutrition guidelines, get enough rest, you'll see improvements in your body composition pretty fast.



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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 3 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Some useful points here. I'm glad you clarified at the end that you do need to eat sufficient in order to grow. It's about getting the balance right. A good heavy workout routine. Enough calories with a balance of each of the macro-nutrients. And plenty of rest and sleep, and not expending too much energy on other pursuits.

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