What Makes You a Hardgainer

By definition, a hardgainer is a person who has a difficult time putting on muscle mass or gaining strength no matter how hard they train in the gym or how hard they eat. How about this?  Most lifters that believe they are hardgainers just don’t have a handle on their diet, training and recovery. Here are the most likely reasons that make you a hardgainer.

1. Overtraining

This is maybe the most common mistake that bodybuilders make and one that limits them from realizing their full potential. We have been taught that in order to succeed at certain things in life, we have to work long and hard. At weight training, the story is a little different. Well, the “train hard” part is actually true. We have to train hard as far as intensity goes – obviously if you want to get big you need to lift big weights.

The problem starts when we apply the “more is better“ philosophy to weight training. I constantly hear people say –“I don’t want to train too much, I’ll look like those bodybuilders in the bodybuilding magazines, I’ll be huge” or “If you want to look like those guys from the magazines you have to work out every day, even two times a day”.

The logic sounds just right – if you want to be perfect at something, you need more practice. If you gained 3 pounds this month doing 3 workouts and 6 sets a week, then you should gain 6 pounds by training 6 days and doing 12 sets. In reality this philosophy is not true. The only thing the extra training will do to you is burn you out and frustrate you with diminished returns.

Your main goal should be becoming stronger on the big lifts, not to see how many sets you can do or how long you can stay in the gym.

2. Undereating or Not Eating Enough

Besides overtraining, undereating is another big factor that limits many bodybuilders from reaching their goals. The largest percent of hardgainers fall in one of these two categories – they are either overtrainers or undereaters. Research has shown many times that hardgainers usually overestimate the amount of food they eat on daily or weekly basis.

Although such trainees may eat enough calories at times, they often compensate for those high-calorie days by lowering their calories on the following day or even drastically lowering the calories during the rest of the day when they ate a high calorie meal.

The simple fact is that, to gain muscle, you have to provide not only the proper training stimulus, but also the building blocks for the new tissue. This means that you need to provide sufficient calories and energy.

A  great part of the overall caloric intake should come from protein . Quantities of 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per  1lb of body mass is what you need to aim if you want to build muscle. Of course you shouldn’t neglect carbs, fats and fiber.

3. Focusing on Isolation Exercises Only

Don’t get me wrong here, isolation exercises are not bad. They are a great way to work on details and give the finishing touch to your body IF you have already built a massive and powerful physique. Until then – work on your compound lifts like bench press, overhead press, squats, deadlifts and rows.

4. Overdoing cardio

The inclusion of some cardio exercises can actually be beneficial to most of the weightlifters. It can increase your appetite, keep conditioning up, it can help improve recovery and it keeps the fat burning metabolic processes running so you burn fat more efficiently.

Too much cardio however, can hurt your strength and muscle gains. Two or three 20-30 minute, low-intensity cardio sessions a week should be ok and at the same time not too much to stop your gains.

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