You step on the scale, and there’s no change.
You pull out the measuring tape only to find that your chest, arms, and thighs haven’t grown.
But this is more of the same, and it has been for the last several years. As much as you might try, you just can’t seem to put on muscle mass.
For hardgainers, the quest to pack on lean muscle can feel like looking for the Holy Grail; try as they might, it’s just not happening.
Are hardgainers doomed by genetics to always be small, skinny, or lanky?
In the modern-day, we know so much about how to optimize your workouts, nutrition, and lifestyle to trigger muscle growth that no hardgainer has to be trapped by the falsehoods surrounding genetic limitation.
Let’s first clear up some myths about hardgainers (especially about genetics), then we’ll dive into the best ways to train and eat to gain more muscle mass.
What is a Hardgainer?#
To understand what makes someone a hardgainer, we need to look at the three most common body types, also called somatotypes. These are determined by genetics.
Yes, more body types have been added to this list, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with the original three that were proposed by Dr. William H. Sheldon.
Endomorph: This body type is characterized by the ability to easily gain overall mass, usually a mix of muscle and fat that favors the latter. You often hear this body type called “bulky” or “thick.”
Mesomorph: Someone with a mesomorph body type is in the Goldilocks zone of physical fitness. With hard work, they tend to be able to have an easier time building muscle and losing fat. This body type is usually referred to as “lean” or “athletic.”
Ectomorph: This is the body type that hardgainers know all too well. Most ectomorphs have a difficult time putting on overall weight, but especially with putting on muscle mass. This body type is usually referred to as “skinny” or “lanky.” Many ectomorphs will complain about looking “skinny fat.”
If you fall into the ectomorph body type, does this mean that you will never be able to get any bigger?
Genetics: The Myth of Hardgainers#
Spoiler alert: There is no secret genetic gift that you’re missing to be able to build muscle.
According to Dr. Jaquish, genetic potential can be broken down into two categories: birth weight and tendon length.
While a person’s birth weight contributes to the overall size of the individual, it does NOT necessarily equate to a higher power-to-weight ratio or muscle-building potential.
Your genetics will determine whether you’re 6’8” or 5’9”, but they don’t determine your ability to build lean muscle tissue to the extent that the media has tried to claim.
You might not be able to get as huge as Ronnie Coleman or Phil Heath, but that doesn’t mean you’re trapped in a skinny body.
Those with longer tendons have a greater mechanical advantage over the part of an exercise when the muscle enters its weakest range of motion.
For example, the weakest range of motion during the traditional barbell bench press is when the bar is hovering just above the chest.
For those with longer tendon insertion points, it will be easier to bench more weight at this range.
If you have shorter tendon insertion points, there’s an easy way around this: variable resistance training.
Building Muscle with Variable Resistance Training#
The best hardgainer workout plan will focus on variable resistance training.
With variable resistance, force increases during your strongest range of motion and decreases at your weakest range of motion.
Think about the example above with the traditional barbell bench press.
When you’re holding the barbell at the top of the movement, you probably feel like you could lift a LOT more than what you put on the bar, right? So why didn’t you put more on?
Because you are limited to the amount of weight that your weakest range of motion can handle.
Maybe you’re able to bench 350 pounds at your strongest range of motion, but you can only handle 275 at your weakest.
That’s what you’re stuck with.
Variable resistance training removes this obstacle from the equation, essentially leveling the playing field for both long- and short-tendon people.
Studies show that variable resistance training triggers greater overall muscle activation, especially during the eccentric portion of the exercise. 1
It also allows for greater lengths of time under tension, another key component of muscle building.2
Perhaps most importantly, variable resistance training allows you to completely fatigue the muscle at every range of motion. Muscle exhaustion is required to prompt the necessary protein synthesis and growth hormone production needed for muscle growth.
No Weights, No Cardio
Hardgainer Workout Plan#
What’s the best way to tap into the benefits of variable resistance training?
The X3 Bar.
This elite resistance band system provides you with the best of both worlds.
By training with the X3 system, you’re able to maximize the amount you can lift at the top of the movement, which is your strongest range.
And since it’s modeled after an Olympic barbell, you’re getting more muscle activation than if you were to use a band with separate handles, similar to using dumbbells.
Breaking Down the X3 Hardgainer Workout#
Since the X3 Bar exhausts the muscle through constant tension and stabilization demands, your workouts should only last between 10 to 15 minutes.
How’s that possible?
For EVERY repetition, you are not letting there be slack in the band at the bottom and you’re not locking out at the top of the movement.
The targeted muscle will never be able to relax, ensuring the hypoxic effect needed to promote muscle exhaustion.
You’ll perform one set of 15 to 40 repetitions for each exercise. For beginners, your workout schedule looks like this:
- Monday: Workout 1
- Tuesday: Workout 2
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Workout 1
- Friday: Workout 2
- Saturday and Sunday: Rest
After a few months with the X3 Bar, your workouts will look like this:
- Monday: Workout 1
- Tuesday: Workout 2
- Wednesday: Workout 1
- Thursday: Workout 2
- Friday: Workout 1
- Saturday: Workout 2
- Sunday: Rest
- Chest press
- Triceps press
- Overhead press
- Bent row
- Biceps curl
- Calf raise
Hardgainer Meal Plan#
If you’re like most hardgainers, you’ve been stuffing yourself with no results.
There’s a good chance that’s because you’re eating the wrong things.
According to Dr. Jaquish, the only two macronutrients you need to focus on are fat and protein.
Your daily nutritional goals as a hardgainer should be to consume animal proteins that offer the potential for even higher quality essential amino acid complexes.
How much protein?#
Dr. Jaquish recommends AT LEAST one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, again, primarily from animal-based sources.
This doesn’t mean you should strive to eat five grams of protein per pound of body weight. Rather, don’t fall below the amount of one gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Best Sources of Protein#
Here are some of the best-recommended sources of animal protein that you can incorporate into your daily diet:
- Beef (steak, ground beef, heart)
- Chicken (dark meat)
- Turkey (breasts, thighs)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout)
- Eggs / Egg whites
What About Hardgainer Supplements?#
While the foundation of your diet should come from whole food sources, if you want to give yourself a nutritional edge, supplements can help.
One ten-gram serving of Fortagen provides as much usable protein as a 50-gram serving of traditional whey protein.
You can use Fortagen before or after your workouts with another serving before bed to keep protein synthesis levels elevated throughout the night.
Hardgainer Workouts Made Easy with X3#
How much time have you wasted in the weight room?
While it might seem completely opposite from what you’re used to, when it comes to workout duration, LESS is MORE.
With the X3 Bar, you only need 10 minutes to work out, but you’ll be giving everything you have during that time.
If you’ve been struggling to go up a shirt size, stop doing what you’ve always done and try the X3 Bar.
Back by the science of variable resistance training, the X3 Bar will help you achieve the physique you’ve been chasing for years.
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