- Hardgainers and their special metabolism
- Principles of strength training and muscle hypertrophy - the same basis for all body types
- repetition continuum, weight, training structure - training plan for hardgainers
- Balanced nutrition and supplements for your training plan
- The training plan for hardgainers
- Muscle building for hardgainers - a path with a lot of patience
Hardgainers and their specific training requirements
Surely you have already come across the term hardgainer and possibly learned in the context that they are said to have a special difficulty in building muscle. What exactly is hidden behind a hardgainer and whether there is any truth to the claim, you can find out here. Maybe you yourself are affected by the problem of a difficult muscle build-up or even classify yourself as a hardgainer - then our guide article is just right for you! We will help you to create your hardgainer training plan.
The term hardgainer is hastily used in the fitness community for all those who, despite training and a supposedly healthy diet, obviously find it difficult to gain muscle mass. However, William Sheldon's classification of the three body or metabolic types in 1930 was about much more than that. The ectomorph body type (hardgainer) is usually distinguished visually from the other types by special conspicuous features: Hardgainers are tall and particularly slender, have a short torso, narrow shoulders and hips and, last but not least, dainty hands and feet, while arms and legs are relatively long. Their metabolism also differs from those of the other body types - it is significantly elevated, as a result of which the organism has an inefficient utilization of nutrients and energy. At the end of the day, hardgainers usually have little to no nutrients left to be put on as muscle or fat deposits. It follows that most people of this body type have a very low body fat percentage.
In another post, we have already informed you in detail about hardgainers. In the following, based on the existing special conditions of the ectomorph body type, we will go into the necessities in strength training and show that it is possible to build muscle despite all the conditions - you just need a suitable training plan for hardgainers.
Principles of strength training and muscle hypertrophy - the same basis for all body types.
Muscle hypertrophy is the increase and growth of muscle cells. It can be achieved primarily through strength training, which is done with heavy weights. Perhaps you have already asked yourself which exercise execution is actually most sensible for your muscle build-up, because often the recommendation is expressed with the registration in a fitness studio to execute three sets with 15 repetitions each. However, this is not a general rule for everyone, because the training weight, the number of exercises per workout, the number of repetitions per exercise and the number of training days per week - depending on body type and athletic goal - are completely individual.
Through heavy strength training, you inflict minor mechanical damage on your muscles and cause them to become metabolically fatigued. The structural damage stimulates the repair function of the organism, so that the proteins needed for this ensure an increase in muscle size in order to be "prepared" for the next workout - the body thus tries everything to adapt to the conditions and presumably upcoming challenges in the best possible way. Sounds simple at first and above all obliging of the own body, but unfortunately all this does not happen so fast. It requires some training and above all a goal-oriented, balanced diet. For the right nutrition we have created a separate article on the subject of hardgainer nutrition plan.
You have probably already recognized the most important statement: Even for you - as an ectomorph type - it is possible to gain muscle mass. We have already dedicated another article to the topic of how a strength athlete can build up mass correctly and, above all, as fat-free as possible.
The skeletal muscles of a hardgainer tend to be in the form of thin muscle tubes. As a result, the muscles have a more elongated surface area and less volume. Basically, the ectomorphic body type also has more ST fibers, whereas FT fibers are primarily needed for muscle hypertrophy and thus voluminous growth. ST fibers are particularly good for endurance units. But it is a misconception to now assume that strength endurance should be trained in the gym to ensure muscle growth. The hardgainer is especially encouraged to perform even harder hypertrophy training because of this fact. You recognize: A specific hardgainer training plan should be a matter of your heart.
Repetition continuum, weight, training structure - training plan for hardgainer.
In order to build mass successfully, you should create a specific training plan for hardgainers with the following recommendations:
Training structure and training weight
As a first step, create a training plan for hardgainers that consists exclusively of full-body workouts and is feasible three times per week. An idea for some variety would be to plan two training days and alternate them. Due to your increased metabolic rate, a training session should "only" have a duration of 45 to a maximum of 60 minutes, as you should stimulate your muscles but by no means slip into overtraining. Every additional minute of intense movement also means more calories burned, which you need to recover through nutrition.
Between your training days should be one to two days break, so that your body can recover sufficiently. Rest is a widely underestimated criterion, because most people don't know that muscles don't grow during training, but during the time of recovery - so you should make sure that your body reaches the phase of supercompensation. You can support the regeneration process, for example, by getting plenty of sleep, avoiding stress or taking a sauna.
To get the most out of your training session, you should focus more on basic functional exercises and less on isolated exercises. Meanwhile, even though there are machines that support basic functional exercises, you should venture more into the free weights if you can already perform the exercises cleanly. This way, your muscles have to balance and work more, which logically makes them more stimulated. Go ahead and perform four to five sets of one exercise and continuously increase the weight not only from workout to workout, but also from set to set to keep adding new, more intense stimuli.
- Training sessions of 45 - 60 minutes
- One to two days break between the training units
- If possible: use free weights (only with clean execution!)
- 4 - 5 sets per exercise with continuous weight increase
The number of repetitions you perform can be crucial for your muscle growth and should therefore be considered in your training plan for hardgainers. The best number of repetitions to use for muscle hypertrophy is six to twelve. As a general rule, fewer repetitions will result in the development of more muscle strength and more than twelve repetitions will result in the development of more muscle endurance. Of course, as with many models, these are only guidelines. You should definitely test out here which number of repetitions particularly stimulates your muscles, but - contrary to the other body types - does not lead to muscle failure, as this will drive your metabolism even more and is therefore rather counterproductive for your body. However, performing an exercise for more than 20 repetitions does not make sense in any way. In that case, it is no longer moderate to heavy strength training, so hypertrophy cannot occur. Between your sets, you should rest for 90 to 120 seconds to recover as much energy as possible.
- As a rule of thumb, 6 - 12 reps.
- Test which number of repetitions excites your muscles the most, but not to the point of muscle failure
- 90 - 120 seconds rest between sets
Even though your body is well-suited to cardio sessions with the predisposition of relatively high ST fibers, you should hold off on it as much as possible - at least in terms of your training goal of building muscle. If you're happy to do it because of the benefits to our cardiovascular system, you should limit it to once a week for 30 minutes at a casual intensity. Since you are already burning calories and working your muscles intensively through your strength training, you should not do the cardio session on the same day, but separately on one of your rest days. Consciously plan cardio training into your training plan for hardgainers so that you can also account for the performance energy expended in your nutrition plan.
- Cardio training only 1x per week for 30 minutes at low intensity.
- Do cardio training on one of your rest days - not on training days.
- Take into account the energy consumed in your diet
Balanced nutrition and complementary supplements for your training plan
A rule of thumb says that the achievement of physical goals is composed of 30% successful training and 70% targeted nutrition. Especially for you as a hardgainer, a specific, goal-oriented diet is important so that you can provide your body with enough nutrients that it processes inefficiently. Even if the fact that you can eat what you want without gaining weight is a luxury problem for others, it is understandably the biggest penalty for you and this is also where the first risk arises: to reach your calorie goal, you should by no means resort to sweet stuff and junk food. Much more important is a balanced, healthy diet that provides you with important macro- and micronutrients.
Like all other (strength) athletes, you can help yourself a little by taking supplements. Of course, they should not replace any of your meals, but especially when it comes to achieving your protein needs or ensuring a calorie surplus, they can be very helpful.
To help you get the most out of your strength training and stop underestimating yourself, try a pre-workout booster like our ESN CRANK.
Orientation for your training plan as a hardgainer
If you put together a hardgainer training plan for the beginning and make sure to use functional basic exercises, your exercise composition could look like this:
|Bench Press||3 - 5||6 - 12|
|Squat||3 - 5||6 - 12|
|Pull-ups||3 - 5||6 - 12|
|Shoulder press||3 - 5||6 - 12|
|Deadlift||3 - 5||6 - 12|
|Barbell rowing||3 - 5||6 - 12|
It's difficult to make a blanket training plan, so the previous list should only serve as a guide for you. It's best to listen to your body, how many sets you can actually perform per exercise, and whether you can get away with your workout in the 45 to 60 minute time frame. Required breaks and time for exercise performance are individual. The important thing is to find your personal repetition continuum for targeted muscle growth and also to stimulate each muscle a bit in each full-body workout, as this is the only way to ensure growth. Give it a little time and you will notice that your body will give you feedback in its own unique way.
Muscle building for hardgainers - a path with a lot of patience
As you have noticed in the course of the article, muscle building for you as a hardgainer is not witchcraft. Even if you have different natural conditions and therefore face different challenges than other athletes, muscle building still works according to the same principles that you should pay attention to.
The road will be rocky and therefore not always easy, but with enough discipline and patience you will have aesthetic skeletal muscles in a few months. Always remember what you are doing it for and stick to your training plan for hardgainers!