Welcome to Hardgainer HQ!
Consider this your last stop on the path to swoledom.
What follows is a comprehensive guide written specifically for skinny guys and girls looking to build strength and muscle.
This guide is unique because it doesn’t just include training and diet recommendations, it also addresses the psychological pitfalls that keep most hardgainers from ever reaching their goals.
I’ve published the first couple of sections of this guide here on this page, but for access to the whole thing, you’ll need to sign up using the form below.
As a bonus, you’ll also receive the exact training routine template I use to get my hardgainer clients as jacked as possible.
Hey there, String Bean! I used to be a hardgainer just like you until I discovered the training methods I’m going to share with you today. Using these secret methods, I was able to gain 50 pounds of pure muscle in a couple short years…
Don’t stop reading! Does what I wrote above sound familiar?
So many articles are written by guys who claim that they used to be a hardgainer. As if their genetics magically changed after they started eating and following a half-decent training program.
I’m going to be straight with you right from the start…
It doesn’t work that way!
I will elaborate more on this in the genetics section, but here’s the quick good news/bad news:
Good News: You can start off very small and weak and still respond extremely well to good training and a proper diet—that’s where most of those dramatic “before/after” transformations come from. You see, many people are hardgainers in behavior only.
These “behavioral hardgainers” are people who have a lot of potential for growth, but are held back by a poor diet and/or suboptimal training. You may think you’re a hardgainer, but you could very well be a tweak or two away from an incredible physique (given you devote enough time and effort).
To find out whether this is the case for you, simply follow this guide closely and be prepared to devote years (not months) to living this lifestyle. Real progress takes real work. If you put in that work, however, you may find that you are nowhere near the hardgainer you once thought you were!
Bad News: For a true hardgainer (in other words, you’re not making dumb mistakes with your diet and training and you’ve been at this a couple years without the progress one would expect), there is no cure. Some people simply do not get the results you’d typically expect one to get from a solid training routine and diet. If you are truly a hardgainer, you will stay that way no matter what type of training you employ. That said…while there may be no cure, there is a treatment!
Being a hardgainer does not mean you can’t make progress and build a respectable physique. It just means that you can’t just work harder and smarter and suddenly start making gains like you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And you need to accept the fact that for many, many years, the average gym bro (who may or may not know much of anything about training or nutrition) will probably look more impressive than you.
Hard to stomach, I know!
Why you need this guide:
Most articles about hardgainers seem to spend more time claiming that hardgainers don’t really exist than they do actually offering up advice.
These articles tend to be composed mostly of “tough talk” that, I can only imagine, is meant as a wakeup call for us clueless hardgainers. More of the article is spent ridiculing hardgainers than it is actually helping them.
The authors will claim they “used to be a hardgainer” until they tried (enter whatever product they happen to be selling).
At the end of the day, you are just left with the following piece of advice:
Eat big and lift heavy.
It’s that simple, right?
Just like an overweight person needs to “eat less and move more.”
It may be true, but it’s not necessarily helpful because it focuses on what to do rather than how to do it.
This guide is different.
In this guide I will outline not only exactly what you need to do, but how and why you should do it. I will tell you my story, but for many of you, it will be your story as well. A story fraught with mistakes, uncertainty, and setbacks, but also one of persistence and redemption.
Just a heads up…
This will not be a short little article that you can skim through while your favorite show is on a commercial break.
If you take the time to read through this guide, however, you will be well rewarded.
Defining a "Hardgainer"
I’m actually not a big fan of the term hardgainer, but it has been around so long it is difficult to have a discussion about skinny guys/girls who struggle to build muscle without using it.
The classic definition of a hardgainer is someone who appears to have a below-average ability to build muscle and put on weight.
And that is exactly the type of person I wrote this guide for.
This is primarily because it also happens to be the exact type of person who is going to click on a guide titled, Hardgainer HQ in the first place…
But while I may be using the word hardgainer to get you in the door, I think you’ll stick around once you hear what I have to say…
Because I know you’re tired of just hearing “lift heavy and eat more.”
I know I was.
The problem with typical hardgainer advice is that it tends to be more about preventing you from making dumb mistakes that may hinder your progress, rather than being advice that is optimized for your specific situation.
And unfortunately, rather than taking the advice as a general guideline, many hardgainers will take it as law: “Lift heavy” becomes only lift heavy, and “eat more” becomes “any time you stop making gains, eat more!”
In reality, a person is not simply a “hardgainer.” Instead, he or she falls somewhere along a spectrum of potential in regards to putting on size and strength. And each person has a unique training history, contraindications, leverages, preferences, and specific strengths and weaknesses.
Should each of these people follow the exact same advice?
A hardgainer is more than capable of making progress when he is given the proper tools.
But, if you just throw him into a gym and tell him to just “eat a bunch and get strong,” it’s not going to go too well.
If, on the other hand, through experimentation and careful planning this person is given a plan that is optimized for his individual needs and preferences, you’ll find that he will start making progress.
It’s almost like maybe that’s what everyone should be doing, regardless of their perceived genetic potential…
And that, perhaps, is the real danger of the term, hardgainer.
It causes you to stop thinking of yourself as an individual person, and instead attributes you with an arbitrary title that tends to come with low expectations and over-simplified and dismissive training recommendations.
I’ve written this guide to give you the tools and guiding principles you need so that you can modify and adapt your training to suit your needs. I don’t want you to have low expectations—you can make progress and build a great physique—rather, I want you to be realistic about the difficulties inherent in the process.
I will be making some specific recommendations (things that I’ve noticed that seem to work best for people like us), but I want you to treat these recommendations as a starting point, not rigid rules to be followed blindly!
I’ve always been a pretty skinny guy. When I started resistance training the summer before my senior year of high school, I weighed 120 pounds at 5’11” (my current height). And I wasn’t a lean skinny either—no abs or crazy vascularity; no muscle definition. Just soft and small with a prominent rib cage that stuck out.
I spent the first couple of months in the gym making absolutely no progress at all: I didn’t change my diet, and every session at the gym was a random hodgepodge of curls, chest flys and some sloppy sets of pullups.
After I wised up a bit and did some research, I came across some pretty sound advice:
- – Focus on compound movements
- – Lift heavy
- – Give your muscles time to recover
- – Don’t do excessive amounts of cardio to help “lean bulk”
- – Eat enough to gain weight
So, I started following a low volume strength routine and I began tracking my calories and protein (turns out I wasn’t eating very much after all).
I finally started making progress, but eventually things ground to a halt. Once I had passed the beginner stage and moved onto more intermediate levels of strength, my progress slowed dramatically.
But that’s supposed to happen, right?
Everyone talks about the magical “newbie gainz” that one experiences in the first year or two of lifting, so it’s only natural that once I had passed that beginning stage that my progress should slow down…
Looking back, however, I can see that my progress hadn’t just slowed, it had almost stopped completely. I was spinning my wheels trying the same thing over and over again.
In spite of this lack of progress, I stubbornly stuck to the plan because I was a “hardgainer,” so I had to follow “hardgainer advice,” and gains were supposed to be, well…hard!
I’m not proud to say that I spent the next 10 years in this limbo state between beginner and intermediate. I had managed to put on about 20 pounds, but I still didn’t look like I lifted weights.
I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t making progress; it seemed like I had tried everything…
I spun my wheels through various bodybuilding splits cut from magazines.
I wasted money on overpriced supplements and weight gainers.
I blamed my genetics.
I blamed my gym’s lack of equipment (if we just had a Nautilus Pullover machine, I just know my lats will start growing!).
It wasn’t until I decided to stop and take a critical look at my lifestyle, training, and nutrition, that things started to change.
For the first time I did some real research and finally stumbled upon some good, evidence-based sources of information: Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon, Layne Norton, & Bret Contreras, to name a few.
Here’s what I discovered:
While I was definitely doing some things right, I wasn’t doing enough of the right things at the same time.
While more genetically gifted individuals may be able to get away with less-than-optimal approaches to training and nutrition, a hardgainer cannot!
So I used my newfound knowledge to take my training and nutrition to a new level, and guess what happened?
I made more progress in one year than I did in the nine preceding years combined.
Since then, I’ve become a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and have made it my mission to help as many skinny guys and girls out of that same situation as possible!
I’m still not the biggest or strongest guy at the gym, but I’m the biggest and strongest version of myself that I’ve ever been.
And this isn’t even my final form.