Are You A Hard Gainer?

Hard Gainer

Are you a “hard-gainer”? Here is how you gain muscle.

Let me start off by saying, if you are not a hard-gainer, and you are not interested in the woes of someone not being able to gain weight, stop reading this now.

Most likely hearing how to put on muscle quickly will just piss you off…especially if you are looking to lose fat, or slim down.

No one likes to hear about skinny problems, when they are trying to get skinny, which I will share with those that are trying to lose fat, how I got hundreds of clients to lose fat and keep it off, next week.

Back to the hard-gainers…

  • I remember working really hard to get strong and build muscle in high school.
  • I am talking in the gym every single day, and often twice a day.
  • I was under a heavy barbell, pressing it away from my chest three times per week.

I was standing in front of a chipped mirror in our high school weight room, during weights class and often after school as well, trying to curl the coveted quarters (25 pound standard weights) on each side of the barbell.

And I was pretty strong. At 152 pounds soaking wet, I could bench 225 for a few reps.

I wish I could say I was squatting and deadlifting with the same fervor, but I would be lying to you and to myself.

I trained legs, it just happened when I felt like it, and I only felt like it a few times per month.

Some of you might agree or at least understand my choice about training lower body, because training legs can be a real struggle, especially when progressive overload demands that you increase the weight, when the weight was already heavy to begin with.

You might also agree with reducing leg training, because the muscles in the mirror speak much louder than the muscles of the lower body. A bicep bulging or a pectoral muscle flex is much cooler when you are ready to jump in the shower, than a quad flex…or at least that is what I thought.


The problem was that I was taking major and crucial components out of the muscle-building formula.  Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle) and the biochemical and hormonal scales tipping toward anabolic states when we train more of our body’s muscle tissue versus less.*


If you abstain from legs, you are missing half of your metabolic and biochemical engine from a muscle gaining perspective (as these tissues will help my body create the stuff: hormones, etc.) that will enable muscle growth, otherwise known as hypertrophy.

Once I embraced this concept after active duty in the Marine Corps, I started gaining a pound or three of lean body mass every month, until I tipped the scales at…well, it wasn’t just training my lower body.

I needed, and you will need a full body hypertrophy training program. Also I needed, and you will need to drastically change your mindset and nutrition.

In active duty Marine Corps, especially as an enlisted infantryman, it was extremely difficult to have a solid caloric regimen, and the needed equipment on a daily basis (I wasn’t a tanker like Arnold Schwarzenegger…he would bring his weights out to his training with him inside of the tank). The life of an infantryman is training out in the “field,” deployments, running, rucking, physical training, ranges, and looming tests and inspections.

Not an excuse, just the reality of an infantryman’s life. I still made it to the gym religiously when I wasn’t training out in the field or deployed. But I started to realize my caloric consumption was highly correlated with my weight gain and weight loss.

Maybe I am a hard gainer, and maybe I just need to eat more (like a lot more than I thought).

Well, eat more I did, and that combined with next-level-leg training (along with my other upper body training that I loved doing), and a mindset of consistent fanaticism–with a pinch of masochism, I tipped the scales at 230 pounds from a Marine Corps departure weight of 172 pounds in just three years.

That is not my weight now, and my goal is no longer striving to be the biggest and strongest guy in the gym (there is something to be said fro speed, endurance, strength-to-weight ratio, and not having to eat so many dang calories).

I also found healthier and healthier ways to consume enough calories for growth. In the beginning, it was calories at any cost, which is a dangerous precedent for short-term health, long-term health, GI tract, and energy levels.

Another part of the this story is that I have worked with hundreds of skinny, hard-gainers, and every single one that implemented consistent leg training with their muscle-building regimen, increased their caloric intake (dependent on each person’s body mass, goals, and current nutrition), and adjusted their mindset, reached their goals of gaining muscle. Even if it took time. **Hint-It all takes time. Time is the great equalizer.**

Here is a free playlist that breaks down hypertrophy even more:

Dr. Andy Galpin Explains Hypertrophy & Living.Fit Show Interview

Here are muscle-building programs that I recommend (get them all with our full access membership):

Full Access Membership

Yours in Transformation and Success,

Author 

Aaron Guyett, CSCS, TSAC-F, FRAs, FRCms

Education Director for Living.Fit

* Velloso C. P. (2008). Regulation of muscle mass by growth hormone and IGF-I. British journal of pharmacology, 154(3), 557–568. https://doi.org/10.1038/bjp.2008.153

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