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School of Hard Gains


“Work out” they said… “You’ll get big” they said… Just about any hardgainer that has put in their time has reached their respected goal weights but not without some torn hands and more F-bombs, break downs and food binges than a family reunion. Only after ordering the latest high-volume “Hardgainer” program off of your favorite athlete’s website, slamming mass gaining protein shakes and watching motivational videos on the net did you come to realize that you had only gained, possibly a measly pound of lean mass after working for months and gaining all of the bulk with none of the flare. Though most are probably still not 100% satisfied, which no one should ever be that wants to be a truck house of an individual, the work put in directly reflects itself in a hardgainer’s physique. The key here is “THE WORK PUT IN”... not just time in the gym but the work put into lifestyle, training, education and recovery.


Believe it or not… my thicker self wasn’t more than a buck twenty soaking wet when I was just a pup in the fitness realm. 12 Years ago, right around this time of year, I was a sophomore in high school with a consistent and rollercoastering weight problem, eating disorder and not a damn clue of what to do or where to go. All I knew then was I wanted to be big and strong... tough and yoked like Eddy Coan, Louis Simmons or Travis Mash in their prime. All 120 pounds of me wanted it so bad, I did what any awkward, nerdy teen does in high school… lost a bet to a best friend and joined the track team and bought some amino acids. From there, with the help of mentors, coaches and loved ones, I found myself graduating at a “hefty” 140 pounds with nothing but a 400 & something deadlift and the most awkward bench press ever. Moral of the story… 3 years of hard work, support and learning pushed me to be right around 20 pounds heavier and, from there, I would spend the next 4 years of college working and learning my way up through the 160s. It wasn’t until I started taking a more clinical approach to my personal athletics that I worked my way to my present competing weight of the 190s.


I know if I were you, I would be chiming in immediately asking “Hey, how the heck did you manage that?!”... Though 80lbs in 12 years is no astonishing feat... Quite short of telling you to go to college for exercise physiology, the following tips will assist you in your journey from lean bean to brick shithouse…


    1. Educate yourself. I’m not talking about reading up on the latest program in your favorite magazine… I’m talking clinical books and journals written by accredited scholars in the field.


    1. Learn about yourself… Journal Everything! Your food, your sleep habits, your training progression… even the junky stuff, and figure out why you feel how you feel and what may be the cause of some good days and some bad.


    1. Recover better. Don’t just eat for mass calories, drink your gallon of water and hope for the best… eat quality nutrient-dense foods in a controlled and progressive manner, hydrate well, mobilize and stretch, and get plenty of sleep.


    1. Perfect Practice makes Perfect. Execute your movements appropriately, safely and with intensity. NEVER end a program early. Efficient movement through range of motion and specialization isn’t just important for force output (directly related to hypertrophy… aka refer back to tip #1) but for joint and tendon health as well.


  1. Never shy away from asking for help… a qualified coach or trainer can see something you may be missing within your present regimen that could really speed up your progress.


The be-all and end-all of being a hardgainer is efficiency and patience. Put a hard focus on how you can make yourself better overall and don’t shy away from making big goals. Making educated, lofty goals increase the importance of accomplishing the small ones that will lead to your grand masterpiece.


TEAM USPlabs Anthony Thomas


Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning


Follow Rob, Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach and Amateur Powerlifter


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article. Content contributors are not employees of USPlabs. Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.


The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.