We’ve all been there. At one point in our lives, we were skinny specimens looking to make some sweet, sweet gains. Fast forward a couple of years and now we’re jacked beyond recognition. Well, at least some of us are. For those who aren’t, you’re a transformation story waiting to happen — thick or thin.
First, we’re going to discuss what kind of nutrition a hardgainer–or skinny bro–needs to focus on in order to start adding on the slabs of muscle.
Bulking Nutrition 101
No one person is the same as the next. Period. What works for you might not work for the bro standing next to you, and vice versa. With that being said, I’m not going to detail a one-size-fits-all diet plan. Instead, I’m going to lay out some general knowledge of the diet work.
An essential nutrient needed for muscle cells to repair after a workout. Ever wondered why protein is recommended as a post-workout nutrient? Because you want to get those amino acids into the bloodstream as soon as you possibly can to put a stop to muscle catabolism and to repair your muscles.
As a hardgainer, your primary goal should be to limit catabolic responses to muscle tissue as much and as often as you can. Once you limit the breakdown of muscle tissue in your body, you will slowly begin to see an increase in muscle mass. This can be achieved by either consuming enough protein during the course of your day and/or by supplementing with BCAA.
Protein recommendations vary from one person to the next and also depending on your other macro intake. If you’re ingesting a lot of carbs, then your protein intake doesn’t have to be as high. If you’re going low-carb, then your protein requirements go up a bit. However, I wouldn’t suggest that hardgainers go low-carb, simply because carbs are a good source of energy and allow you to consume a moderate amount of protein.
So, for those consuming in excess of 300 grams of carbs a day, I would suggest you consume about 1 – 1.3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For those of you consuming less than 300 grams of carbs, I would suggest you consume between 1.3 – 1.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
As mentioned above, carbs are a great source of energy, especially when you don’t have to concern yourself with fat gain.
Timing your carb intake is an essential component as much as any other when working towards progress. Myself, I’m not a big enforcer of consuming carbs with breakfast, or any time before a workout, if I’m being completely honest with you. I only consume carbs post-workout — and a lot of it, too.
For hardgainers, however, I would suggest they consume carbs throughout the day. Along with that, I would also suggest that they consume the majority of their carbs–and calories–after they’re done smashing the gym. The reason I recommend such an approach is because when you train with weights, your muscles release something called “glucose transporters.”
When you ingest carbs after your workout and the sugars are pushed into the bloodstream, with the help of insulin, those glucose transporters take all that sugary goodness and transport them into you muscle cells — filling up your muscle glycogen stores.
My carb intake recommendations for hardgainers would be anywhere between 1.5 – 2.4 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.
I’m not going to give out recommendations for fat as fat helps with hormonal functions. However, the only suggestion I have for fat is to be sure that your consumption thereof is more than 60 grams per day or 20+ percent of your daily caloric intake.
Training for Size
In this training program, we’re going to focus on the three power movements: squat, deadlift, and bench press.
The reason we’re focusing on these three lifts is simple — because they work.
This program will be of a progressive nature, meaning that each week you’ll progress in weight, and every fifth week will be a “light” week to allow for your body to somewhat recover. You could take the fifth week off entirely, but it’s not recommended.
The progression should be that of small increments. However, increase in weight can be more on the deadlift and squat than on the bench press.
Weekly increments for deadlifts and squats should be between 5 – 10 pounds, and increments for the bench press should be 3 – 5 pounds a week.
Keep in mind: When reps become fewer in numbers, that means you should increase the weight, ad even though the reps in the warm-up sets go down, the weight should still be relatively light but heavy enough to feel.
** = superset, *** = dropset.
Day 1 – Deadlifts
Deadlifts – 3 warm-up sets of 10, 8, 6 reps. 5 working sets of 5 reps
Bent-Over Barbell Row – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
Underhand Pulldowns – 4 sets of 12, 12, 10, 8 reps
Dumbbell Pullover – 3 sets of 15 reps
Day 2 – Shoulders, Triceps
Standing Barbell Press – 3 warm-up sets of 15, 15, 12. 4 working sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Barbell Upright Row (wide grip) – 4 sets of 15, 12, 12, 15 reps
**Seated Side Lateral Raises – 4 sets of 12 reps
**Bent-over Lateral Raises – 4 sets of 15 reps
Close-grip Bench Press – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Seated Overhead Press w/ DB – 4 sets of 15, 12, 12, 15 reps
***Cable Pressdowns w/ Rope – 2 sets starting at 20 reps
Day 3 – Squats
Squats – 3 warm-up sets of 10, 8, 6 reps. 5 working sets of 5 reps
Walking Lunges – 4 sets for 20 yards
**Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 15 reps
**Lying/Seated Leg Curls – 4 sets of 12 reps
Glute Bridges – 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps
Day 4 – Calves, Biceps
Donkey Calf Raises – 3 warm-up sets of 15 reps. 4 workings sets of 20 reps
Standing Calf Raises – 5 sets of 15 reps
Seated Calf Raises – 3 sets of 12 reps
High Pulley Cable Curl – 2 warm-up sets of 20 reps. 4 working sets of 15, 12, 12, 20*** reps
Preacher Curl – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 15*** reps
Close-grip Barbell Curl – 3 sets of 15 reps
Day 5 – Bench Press
Bench Press – 3 warm-up sets of 10, 8, 6 reps. 5 working sets of 5 reps
Parallel Bar Dips – 4 sets of 12, 10, 10, 8 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 6 reps
Incline Dumbbell Flyes – 4 sets of 12, 10, 10, 8 reps
***Cable Crossover – 2 sets starting at 20 reps
There you have it, the hardgainer bulking program.
Remember to take your diet as seriously as your training and you will find success. Gaining muscle is not easy process, especially not if you are a hardgainer. But stay motivated work hard, and you’ll see the results.