Hard Gainer

9 Muscle Building Tips for Hard Gainers

Here are 9 muscle-building tips for hard gainers.  A hard gainer is someone who struggles to gain muscle mass.  We have a whole article dedicated to building muscle for hard gainers.  In this, we will focus on tips and advice for hard gainers.

1. Eat More Calories and Get Better Nutrition

One key to increasing your body weight is by increasing your calorie intake.  This can be done by eating food rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  But keep in mind that What you eat is just as important as how much you eat.  Many hard gainers resort to cheap weight gainer supplements loaded with sugar to get their calories in.

chicken vegetables healthy pre workout food

Make whole foods base for any of your diets.  Eating calorie-dense foods such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butter, flaxseed, and more. If you still struggle after that, then you can just add a weight gainer to your daily shake.

You can Drink Good Calorie Shakes

If you are struggling to eat additional food for weight gain then you can get those calories into your body by drinking protein shakes.  The advantage of drinking a shake is that it doesn’t fill you up as easily as food does, so by drinking a shake or town every day, you can get a lot of calories in without having to add another meal.

Besides limiting foods that are complete junk, there’s only one rule you need to follow: Eat what works for you.

2. Rest and Sleep To Increase and Build Muscle Fibers


Since you are lifting heavier, you need to rest for longer. If you rest for about 30 seconds after each set, you aren’t giving yourself enough time to rest.  You need to allow your body to rest before each set, not for you, but for your body. To perform at optimal levels, you need to rest for about 2-3 minutes between each set.

Take time to rest between each set, and you will begin to see a change in your body. It might not seem like it, but enough rest is one of the keys to overcoming the hard gainer title.


woman sleeping

Property resting between reps is not the only rest you need.  You also need to ensure that you are getting enough sleep (7-9 hours) to rebuild from your workout sessions.  When you sleep, your body recovers, and you build muscle mass. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will start to break down your muscles when you next work out, since your body will be stressed.

Be sure to allow your body to recover properly by getting a restful sleep every night.


3. Stick to Basic Muscle Building Exercises

You do not need fancy exercise routines to start adding muscle to your body.  Exercises that target large muscle groups naturally help you achieve the highest gains in muscle mass.  The following exercises are what I consider core that should be part of any muscle-building routine:

  • Barbell or Dumbell Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Leg Squats
  • Military Press
power lifting

Over time you can start adding varying your routine and adding different exercises.  But you will find that this basic set of exercises will be your best friend to help you gain the most weight.

4. Balance Your Sessions with Heavy Weights and Low Reps

There is always a discussion on what is better, high or low reps for muscle gains.  This discussion is usually initiated and argued by people who do know that there are different muscle types and that depending on your goal you will choose one training regimen over another.

Based on science lower reps with high weights are the best ways to increase muscle mass for most.  Since we all have different body types and react differently to various stimuli it is best to see what works for you.

If you are not seeing results with a particular rep/set combo then alter it and find what best works for you.  Start at a low rep count and you continue to get stronger.  If you see you are not gaining weight then slowly increase the weight you are lifting.  Identify what works best for you.

5. Do Not Fear Overtraining

When you are starting out overtraining will not necessarily be an issue.  Focusing on hard workout sessions and following those with recovery sessions will keep you away from any such situation.

Hardgainers often fear overtraining because that is what they are told by others.  Some even avoid doing more than a couple of sets and limit this to only a handful of exercises.  This frame of mind could not be further from the truth.  Remember, overtraining is usually in the domain of elite athletes and unless you are working 3 hours plus a day may not be an issue for you.

Just to ensure that you are not overtraining you should focus on not neglecting your recovery, or else you will continue to be a hard gainer. You need to get between 7-9 hours of sleep and stick to that.  You also need to reduce stress in your life as it will shift your focus away from your goals.

Train hard and recover even harder.

6. Avoid Extensive Cardio (initially)

In my, opinion Cardio is one of the most important physical activities for all of Us. Cardio keeps you healthy.  If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, keep your heart healthy.  Your heart is your most important muscle and nothing helps it more than cardio.

Extensive cardio though will burn the calories you are taking to increase your weight.  Do not drop cardio completely but keep it to about 15-20 minutes of low-intensity cardio in the first month or two.  Once you see the impact of your efforts showing up as higher muscle mass then sit and analyze your routine and identify what is working for you.

cardio for hardgainers

At this time you will know better about exercise and nutrition.  So if you want to increase your cardio go ahead and do so, but increase your calorie intake to adjust for the extra burnout.

Do not drop cardio completely.  Always keep it as part of your workouts.  Cardio exercises will improve nutrient delivery to your muscles and increase your recovery time.

7. Focus on Compound Exercises (and avoid isolation exercises)

As a hard gainer, you need to focus on working out your largest muscle for gain.  Core exercises with low reps and heavy weights are the best way to gain weight and increase muscle mass.  Isolation exercises by definition will not help you to reach your goals.

Isolation exercises usually are targeted towards smaller muscles and target them individually.  Usually, you are not able to lift as much weight as you would be for compound exercises like squats.  Compound exercises help you to exercise multiple muscles including smaller muscles as well.

As you continue to grow you can slowly add isolation exercises for neglected muscles.  But starting out you want to focus more on core compound exercises.

8. Focus On Your Body Type

You cannot change your genetic makeup no matter how hard you try.  [At least not at this time as no approved therapies exist, but then again I am going off track.]

Although you cannot change your genetics there are things you can do based on your body type, that is what is given to you by God.  Do not fight what you are but focus on adapting your workout to your body type.  Hardgainers are typically ectomorphs, thus weight gains do not come easy.

human body types

Things like your height, body type, muscle fiber type ratios, muscle vs. tendon length, and nervous system efficiency impact how your body looks and how it responds to training.  Adjusting your lifestyle and training habits complemented with proper nutrition will bring positive changes to all of them and will help you add muscle mass to your body.

As an ectomorph focus on increasing your calorie intake and complement it with hard workouts with low reps and heavy weights.

9. Stay focused

If you are a hard gainer and are starting on this journey there is a long way to go.  You are in it for the longer term.  Stay patient and determined.  Do not be swayed by fad diets and gurus on the way to your destination.  There is really no shortcut other than hard work.  Although with our guide to building muscle for hardgainers the journey will be much easier.

Do not despair though, it is a rewarding journey.

You may also be interested in:

Muscle Fibers Explained: Type 1 and Type 2

Leave a Comment