If you’ve devoted countless hours to the gym, tried every workout under the sun, experimented with countless shakes and diet plans, and still have trouble building muscle, you are a hardgainer. Many hardgainers give up after years of toiling with no appreciable gains in muscle mass, and it’s easy to understand. Why would you continue doing the same thing if you aren’t getting results?
Luckily for those of us who’ve had difficulty achieving greater muscle mass, an innovative lifter named Scott Abel has devised a new method that promises results. Abel is a a veteran bodybuilder who has coached thousands of clients to success. A few of his hardest working clients were also the least improved, so he endeavored to solve the puzzle of the hardgainer to help his clients and keep his reputation.
Scott discovered that people resistant to putting on muscle with standard heavy lifting routines responded amazingly to a completely overhauled approach. With less muscle failure and more repetitions, hardgainers all over have been benefiting from this new paradigm.
If you’ve had trouble gaining muscle mass, here are 10 of the best tips for you to make the biggest gains of your life. Warning: This advice will contradict mostly everything you’ve heard about weight training.
1. Train with fewer reps and lighter weights
Low-weight volumes and high repetitions lead to the greatest hypertrophy (enlargement of cells) by pumping more amino acids into muscles.
“Maximum strength training methods, with their high intensity of resistance, but low volume of work, do NOT elicit substantial muscle hypertrophy. Therefore a higher volume of work — greater than six reps and with multiple sets — are both needed to ensure a critical concentration of intracellular amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis,” Ph.D. David Behm said in Abel’s book, The Hardgainer Solution.
Try alternating with sets of five and 20 reps in the same workout, but never reach the point of exhaustion.
2. Train five to seven days a week
Training with Abel’s “Stimulate, don’t annihilate” mantra will enable you to recover quickly enough to continue muscle stimulation throughout the week without tissue damage.
3. Train with different combinations of ranges and planes of motion
Using push-ups for example, the Abel method would call for three to five variations of feet placement along with quarter, half, and full range of movement for complete stimulation. This enables you to “feel” the specific work being done to your muscles, which enhances your focus and efficiency of movement.
4. Focus on full-body workouts
Research has shown increased neuromuscular stimulation enhances muscle growth. So the greater involvement of your entire body in a given exercise, the more coordination and subsequent integration of neural activity you’ll achieve.
Whole-body workouts also reduce the load on any particular muscle so that you can increase your reps for greater stimulation. Some whole-body exercises include:
- Squat jumps
- Dragon crawls
- Medicine ball throws
- Plyometric box jumps
5. Don’t push to exhaustion
Pace your workouts so that you can stand comfortably without needing to sit. The more oxygen you have in your system, the faster you will be able to recover. Keep track of your oxygen debt and remind yourself oxygen is the key to your recovery.
6. Focus on undertraining
Yes, you read that right: undertraining. Those who have trouble building muscle are typically motivated to train harder and harder for the lack of results, so a more Zen-like approach is called for. If you’ve had trouble putting on muscle, undertraining will allow you the recovery time needed to actually build muscle. It sounds strange, but test it out for a month and be amazed by the results.
7. Commit to a warm-up before each workout
The quality and efficiency of your warm-up will always lead to how optimized your workout will be. Aim for a seven- to 15-minute warm-up focusing on hips knees and shoulders, wrists, elbows, and ankles. Reach, bend, twist, pull, rotate, and sway to synchronize your nervous and muscular systems. Stretch after your workout.
8. Take time off
If you’re working out five to seven days a week, taking a week off every 10 to 12 weeks won’t kill you. In fact, you’ll be better for it. Think of it as long-term recovery.
9. Eat small but frequent meals throughout the day
Metabolism is a huge aspect of gaining muscle, and to stoke the metabolism, you have to eat sufficient calories. Incorporate more calories into your meal along with protein to supply the necessary energy and amino acids for your repeated high-stimulation exercises.
If you are a hardgainer who has tried the low-to-no carb diets and intermittent fasting, you can thank me now for the delicious corn chips and potatoes and rice you now get to indulge in.
10. Supplement with coconut oil
Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil have shown promising results for boosting metabolism and promoting muscle development. Supplement a tablespoon of coconut oil with each meal to boost your testosterone and support muscle gain.