School of Hard Gains | The Force Awakens

December 09, 2015


“4 sets of 8-12 reps per movement at a decent weight”… These words ring in my head like the most inconvenient broken record ever… I like to call it the “layman’s method” solely because I don’t know a single individual who has smelled the rubber flooring in an exercise facility that hasn’t used this format at least once for a few years or more. In order for a hard gainer to really improve, one must start to steer away from the general population stuff and get with the bigger picture. Utilizing clinical methodology and Strength and Conditioning practices is the missing link in the growth of not only hard gainers but most of the exercise population. Programming is one of the key tools in a coach’s arsenal to foster progression in their athletes no matter what the body type. Im not just talking about throwing together rep schemes or set ranges, failure sets or drop sets… I am talking about periodized progressive strength programming, assistance work and conditioning which together all help develop an athlete into a well-balanced and ever growing machine.

Like we have established in our previous “School Of Hard Gains” articles… appropriate intensity and execution is key no matter the movement, but if the movement is not fostering change then all it will do is make you get really skilled at bench pressing what will be a pretty boring weight. Now remember… Hypertrophy (aka muscle size) is directly in relation to force output. The more progressive the force put out, the more stimulus to grow… Strength programming is highly progressive and volume based, usually focusing on periodized goals and compound absolute strength movements such as squat, bench press, and deadlift. Typical strength programs vary their intensity by controlled bouts of volume worked through prescribed weight percentage given for specific set and rep ranges either moving linearly or based off the goal (aka undulation via micro-cycles which we will discuss in a second).


The Following is an example of a linear Strength Progression:


Week 1: 65% 4 sets x 5 reps
Week 2: 70% 4 sets x 5 reps
Week 3: 75% 4 sets x 5 reps
Week 4: 80% 5 sets x 3 reps
Week 5: 83% 5 sets x 3 reps
Week 5: 87% 6 sets x 2 reps
Week 6: 90% 6 sets x 2 reps
Week 7: 95% 6 sets x 1 reps
Week 8: 1rm test


But one cannot live on strength alone… even specialized athletes must consider the smaller parts while a hard gainer does even more so for the sake of progress and symmetry; so stay tuned to next week’s School of Hard Gainers as we discuss assistance work and conditioning for mass.


TEAM USPlabs Dustin Starr


Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning


Follow Rob, Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach and Amateur Powerlifter on Twitter


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.

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