Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Mar

Dear Mark: Hardgainer

muscle 2Dear Mark,

I am 6 feet 2 inches tall. I have been eating and exercising in the “evolutionary” or “primal fitness” way for about 18 months, and I was in good physical condition prior to that. I have been lifting weights for years. I am fit and active with a low percentage body fat. My stomach is flat. You can tell that I have abdominal muscles. But here is my hang up: I can’t seem to pack on any extra muscle. I weigh in at 150 pounds. I am the ultimate hardgainer, as they say in the iron game. I’m not looking to become huge. I have a lanky, Jimmy Stewart kind of frame, and no amount of training will turn me into Arnold. But what the heck does a guy have to do to gain a lousy 5-10 pounds of muscle? — Ed

First off, keep doing what you are doing. You’re building the most important base, namely that of health and strength. Eating and training like you are, your body is able to find and develop its perfect, natural design. Ultimately, if you have low body fat, good strong muscles and lots of energy, the most important ratio is power-to-weight.

Your goal of adding a few more pounds of muscle seems doable with intensive effort. Most hardgainers can add 10-20 pounds of muscle with some work. Beyond that it gets increasingly difficult to gain and/or maintain.

Since I don’t know the specifics of your diet and lifting routine, I’ll offer some general pointers here. In terms of diet, extra protein is critical. I’d recommend at least 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass per day. If you’re older than 50, check out the Mature Muscle post from last month. In it, we mentioned research suggesting that a high protein post-workout snack was especially important for the more seasoned crowd and that high protein food might be a more effective source for the snack than a protein supplement.

I would also suggest including more healthy fats in your diet. We mentioned in the same post that fish oil, which I always recommend for various reasons, can enhance the conversion process of food protein to muscle protein. That suggestion holds for anyone.

In terms of your workout, you can always see a good trainer to ensure you’ve perfected your form. Otherwise, I don’t see any way around the necessity of lifting harder to get the results you want. I’d specifically recommend CrossFit” style work for you. That means compound movements using larger muscles, which generates human growth hormone immediately post-workout. Again, a trainer who is experienced in CrossFit can offer tips and help you take things to the next level.

On that same note of human growth hormone, it’s essential to get enough sleep. HGH is secreted during sleep, and building takes place during good old shut eye as well.

Good luck, Ed, and let me know how it goes.

Telstar Logistics Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

How much protein should I be consuming?

More of My Personalized Advice

Eating Fabulous: Fish and fish oil supplements equally effective sources of omega-3s

The IF Life: Building Muscle 101

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great suggestions, Mark.

    I would add using heavier weights and fewer reps when weightlifting. Most people know this at this point, but building bulk can really only be effectively done with heavier weights. A lot of reps (10+) per set with light weight may keep you toned, but it ain’t gonna gain you 10-20 lbs of lean muscle mass.

    I suppose CrossFit has this built into it though.

    Tony wrote on March 10th, 2008
  2. Funny timing…as I just did a post specifically on gaining muscle and then come here and see it as well. Great minds think alike! I say #1, stop using the hardgainer excuse, as that is all it will ever be. (Not trying to be mean, just saying dump that mentality first). Then work on the basics of eating protein, eating more fats (for T-levels), working out (only 2-3x a week is needed),lifting heavy with high volume/short rests (develop Type II fibers) and get plenty of recovery. Do the big things right and everything else falls around it. You can see more at my blog as well as I just went through all those things today.

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on March 10th, 2008
  3. CrossFit will build strength, but not as effectively as a pure strength routine. Check out Mark Rippetoe’s book Starting Strength (SS). Some SS type workouts are incorporated into CrossFit’s WOD’s, but generally only 1 or 2 times a week. The bulk of the CrossFit workouts are more focussed on metabolic conditioning.

    Scott Hanson wrote on March 10th, 2008
  4. There are many different ways to workout, but I like personally a mix of strength and higher reps (upto 10) such as 5×5 or 3×10. The best is a mix of them, strength one week…volume the next…or mix by body part per workout, loads of different variations. I second getting the SS book. If you are not doing either Squat or Deadlift (my vote for #1 full body exercise) to start your workout….then you are not going to get the most bang for your buck on the workouts in far of hormonal response.

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on March 10th, 2008
  5. Mark:

    I am 55; just completed a series of sessions with a Crossfit Trainer who is certified in Olympic lifts. We worked specfically on the squat and deadlift. I now understand how my body should feel before, during and completion of each lift. Now it is up to me to work on the lifts to improve. He and I will get together in about 2 months to review form and progress. I totally endorse your comments above. FYI; I am 6’0″ and 155 lbs with 10% body fat.

    eleighj wrote on March 10th, 2008
  6. CrossFit doesn’t get you big. It may get you ripped if you eat well but it won’t get you big. Heavy lifts get you big; don’t go above 5 reps. Squats, deadlifts, presses, pull and chin ups, bench, rows, etc. should by the core of your routine.

    John Kim wrote on March 10th, 2008
  7. To Ed:
    buy a Starting Strength book by Couch Rippetoe (already mentioned). Learn those movements, exercises and principles well.
    Do them in 5×5 fashion, just bench, press, squat, clean, deadlift with some spice between (pullups, pushups, rowing etc.) if you could tolerate that.
    Slowly, slowly increase weight, every training pound or two.
    Drink gallon of full-fat milk daily.
    Report in two months or three months.

    I did exactly that 6 months ago (just gallon of milk was too much I was able to drink only 2 l daily ).

    I increased my lifts a lot – from 15 kg in press (to 60 kg) to 60 kg in deadlift (to 160 kg).
    And yes, I also gained 6 kg, not fat I mind you.
    And no, I was not beginner :) at all, two years of CrossFitting under my belt and many many years of martial arts training.

    I just want to test it, if it works and hey, it worked :o)

    Petr R. wrote on March 10th, 2008
    • It’s by Coach Mark Rippetoe

      I was looking for a book by a guy named “Couch.” :P

      Andrew wrote on July 14th, 2011
    • Petr,

      Hate to break it to you, but with your starting weights, you are a beginner..

      lifter wrote on January 19th, 2013
  8. Great comments everyone. I want to emphasize that my biggest focus is on “usable strength” or strength that applies to life. That means a strong core, good flexibility along with the strength, explosive power, quick reaction time, balance, endurance, strong immune system, good bone density, etc. etc. The suggestion of CrossFit as a paradigm (although a lot of other programs will fit) is because it embodies a great deal of these. On the other hand, getting as big as you can for the sake of getting big is more in the realm of body-building. Nothing wrong with that either – it’s just that BB often does not leave you with other “real life applications”. I referenced a study in the post above that looks at maximum HGH output post-workout and it seems that the CrossFit style (do a lot of work in a short period of time using compound moves) provided the max HGH.

    I raced at 5’10” 142 pound for 15 years. Since I no longer do much cardio (and none for several months) I maintain 165 and 8% body fat via my lifting and eating program. I work pretty hard to maintain that. I suspect if I really amped up my routine and calories, I might be able to get another 10 pounds of muscle…but it could easily come at a cost: higher chance of injury from lifting heavier weights (I PRed my bench at 275 last summer and it messed with my shoulder). So I ask myself, what’s the point? Sure, on a bet I could get there, but it would probably be temporary anyway – so I settle into a body weight and a routine I like, that takes little time, that keeps me +/- 2 pounds for the past 10 years.

    As is the case with many skinny guys like Ed, I would bet that the routine is just that: routine. Increasing the efforts during workouts, with maybe more rest (days)in between, coupled with dietary changes, will probably do the trick.

    Mark Sisson wrote on March 10th, 2008
  9. CF won’t get you big? My husband wasn’t small when he started and has since outgrown half the shirts and jackets he owns due to stresses on the shoulders and arms, and it hasn’t been a year yet. He’s not bodybuilder-huge, but it’s certainly put on that extra 10-20 pounds of muscle if not moreso. (Hard to tell since the fat’s also come off.)

    Maybe he’s just a genetic freak…

    LabRat wrote on March 10th, 2008
  10. Mark, couldn’t agree more, but hey Ed asked for it :o)
    I also like CrossFit for it’s diversity, playfulness, intensity and results etc. But once in a year I only lift weights ala Rip’s Starting Strength training.

    Petr R. wrote on March 10th, 2008
  11. I’m a “hardgainer” too. Being a hardgainer means you probably have more type I muscle fiber (slow-twitch) than type II (fast-twitch). This changes the weightlifting dynamic a little bit.

    Having more type I muscle fiber means your body will respond more quickly to slightly higher rep strength exercises. Also, you’ll find you have faster progress if you focus on one group at a time. Work your whole body out, but hit your focus muscle group first (when you’re still fresh and able to really dish it out).

    Work out one day, rest the next—don’t get into a habit of lifting every single day as that will only hold you back. Do your target muscle group first in your workout—and make sure you hit TOTAL MUSCLE EXHAUSTION. I can’t tell you how many people have no idea how to do this. If you can figure out how to hit complete exhaustion (and recover appropriately, like Mark said), you’ll gain muscle. Don’t ever go to the gym just to move a bunch of weight around.

    Where the type II guys aim for 6 reps, you use a weight where you hit complete exhaustion at 8-12 reps of the same lift. When you can do a certain weight 12 times, up the weight to an amount you can only do 8 times. Work with that weight until you can do it 12 times (reaching complete muscle exhaustion for the first set every time). Then start the cycle over again.

    Be patient! Think months not weeks. Get a lifting buddy who will egg you on, and then keep at it until the two of you see the results in the mirror.

    Trust me on this. I was still weighing about 125-130 when I first bench pressed 185 using this system.

    You already know you’re not a fast-muscle builder, so don’t lift like one.

    P.S. Avoid machines and stick with free weights, you’ll save yourself an injury.

    P.P.S. Pain in joints or bones is not good—that means you’re injured. Ice it asap.

    Caloi Rider wrote on March 10th, 2008
  12. Thanks so much, Mark, for your thoughtful post answering my question, and thanks to the many others who joined the thread with valuable comments and suggestions. You’ve given me several insights on how to alter my approach and improve my results. I really appreciate the advice and encouragement.

    Ed wrote on March 10th, 2008
  13. <i<make sure you hit TOTAL MUSCLE EXHAUSTION

    I just want to make sure I’m getting this right. This is advice geared towards who want to add weight in the form of muscle, correct? I ask because I’ve read of lifting regimens in more than one case where they advise against training to failure (assuming that means the same as exhaustion–if not, please explain the difference). I’m training for functional strength that will hopefully last a lifetime. I’ll be quite happy with the “wiry but strong” look.

    Dave
    DaveGetsFit

    Dave C. wrote on March 10th, 2008
  14. It’s been said by others, but I want to stress again that a lot of people are confused with what results they really want.
    I can pretty much guarantee that if you want people to notice you have been hitting the weights; the formula is simple. Work chest and tri’s Monday till exhaustion, Legs and stomach to exhaustion on Tuesday, Back and bi’s till exhaustion on Wednesday. Rest Thursday and Friday hit everythng till exhaustion. Do this for 4-6 months religiously and you will have what you wanted. You will also have a very tired existence, full of colds, free-radicals roaming, cortisol soaring and a great set-up for multiple injuries nagging you for years to come. But hey, at least you’ll look like you throw some massive weights around. ;-)
    I’m allowed to rant, AS I DID IT for 2 YEARS like this.
    There are better ways! Trust me. Go for functional strength, allow your body to adapt, and grow. it wil happen. But it could take 3-4 years, not many people like hearing that.

    Marc

    tatsujin wrote on March 11th, 2008
  15. Dave,

    I don’t have tons of research to back up what I’ve written. All I have is my personal experience and observations—admittedly anecdotal evidence. Take it or leave it.

    Maybe you can get away with not going to muscle exhaustion, but going to exhaustion (often at much higher reps) seems to work for me.

    When I was younger I used to do as many push-ups as possible right before I went to bed. I got rapidly stronger and noticeably more muscular over a period of only six months (that winter I wrestled in the 110-pound weight class, so you can imagine how small I was before). Then I got into bench press and set a goal to put up 185. It actually took me a few years, and it only happened when I incorporated a set where I would max out with 105 pounds each week (I got up to 35 reps with that weight).

    I suppose if I were to amend my advice above, I’d recommend that my fellow scrawny guys go for even higher reps with lower weight (again, that’s what type I muscle fiber responds to best), but it’s the pushing for one more rep—whether that constitutes failure or not—that produced the strength for me.

    These days, I’m more into mountain biking than weightlifting. My regimen nowadays (which does not involve visiting the gym) consists of squats with 45-pound water storage jugs in my kitchen (2-3 sets of 50), chin-ups at the local playground, clap push-ups in my living room, stadium stair sprints, some plyometrics, and lots of cycling/mountain biking otherwise.

    When I had my bodyfat checked this past fall, I had 8% bodyfat (my all-time low was 6.6 in 2004). But I should mention, I’m also not gaining muscle like I used to—I currently weigh only 135 (I’ve been as heavy as 155).

    If you really really want strength, quit your desk job and become a concrete laborer—and I know this from experience as well.

    Caloi Rider wrote on March 11th, 2008
  16. Dave,

    Training to failure simply means you can’t do another repetition with that weight while maintaining good form. Failure could be the 75th push-up or the third squat at 275. Whichever regimen you choose, your goal is to convince your muscles that they are not yet strong enough to complete the task. Given rest and nutrition, your genes will express themselves by increasing strength, and/or size and/or endurance depending on the different weight/rep/set variables. If you want more sinewy tone, I’d say go with the lower weights, higher reps for now…plus you won’t get injured. But you still fight to get that last rep done. If it’s too easy, your muscles say: that was too easy, no reason to waste valuable energy getting stronger…I can already do this.

    Don’t overthink this.

    Mark Sisson wrote on March 11th, 2008
  17. Forget training to fatigue or failure or whatever else. The reason you can’t gain any reasonable muscle mass lies in your diet.

    In order to BUILD MUSCLE, you HAVE TO (and I mean this is an absolute must!) consume more calories than you expell. Yes, this means you have to go on a weight gain diet!

    Simply enough, muscles CANNOT GROW without a calorie surplus! Muscular hypertrophy occurs only when a calorie surplus is presented to the bodybuilder. You see, when you weight train, small micro-tears are produced throughout the muscle, and alongside an adequate diet, these tears are somewhat “filled” with new muscle tissue. Try to imagine the excess food you consume turning into muscle.

    Furthermore, a calorie surplus means you have to expell LESS calories than you intake. This is why you are unable to put some meat on your bones DAVE, you mountain bike! This kind of long endurance activity only diminishes muscle tissue and does not encourage hypertrophy in any which way.

    To start off, monitor your daily calorie intake. From there on, add on another 300-500 calories a day. Now, I’m not saying your not going to gain a little bit of fat with this diet, because simply enough, you are. Suck it up until you have gained a desired amount of muscle, THEN, burn it off.

    Oh no, we’re not done yet. Don’t think that you can get away with just eating another fruit rollup bar and thats it. YOU HAVE TO EAT PROTEIN! If you do not get over 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a day, you will not see any gains in muscle. Infact, you will only lose muscle. This means get a complete protein source in each of your meals.

    This new diet will also require 5-6 meals a day! Yeah, 5-6! You see, proteins (amino acids) only stay in the blood system for 3 hours maximum, and then, it is stored as fat. During this time, the amino acids are supplied to muscles in order to promote hypertrophy. Though it isn’t completely neccessary, this way of eating has many positives:
    1) No storage of fat
    2) More gains in muscular strength and size

    With the rest of the calories not mentioned, try to focus on starchy carbs and healthy fats. Nothing more, nothing less.

    From my experience as a hardgainer, about 50% of your gains lies in your diet. The other 50% is your routine and resting habits (8 hours a day!). This does’t mean that if you exercise well and rest properly, you will gain 50% as much muscle. NO! Without any of these critical factors, YOU WILL, WITH NO DOUBT IN MY MIND, FAIL.

    There isn’t much that I can say about the routine itself that nobody else knows. My only concern with you all is your rep ranges…

    1) If you want to become stronger…
    KEEP YOUR REP RANGES WITHIN THE 1-6 REP RANGE

    2***) If you want to build muscle AND gain strength…
    KEEP YOUR REP RANGES WITHIN THE 8-12 REP RANGE

    Why? It is in this rep range that most micro-tears in the muscle are produced. This, in turn, means much, much more muscular hypertrophy.

    3) If you want to increase muscular endurance with no strength gains and minimum muscle gains
    DOING MORE THAN 15 REPS IS IDEAL FOR YOU

    I do not know what else to say :P. I gained 16 LB of PURE muscle mass in 12 weeks by doing the above. How did I figure this out? I was searching around one day and found a site which I still use today… http://www.gain-weight-muscle-fast.com
    Probably the best website in existince.

    Moiz Rauf wrote on March 20th, 2008
  18. I apologize for the unorganized structure and messy typing. You still get the point, right?

    A few other pointers before you start…

    -Take a good look at your diet, and fix it.
    -Workout within the 8-12 rep range without going overboard on the sets.
    -Gradually increase the amount of weight lifted or resistance week after week.
    -Allow two days for recovery before working the same muscle grouping again.
    -Do not workout more than five days a week, three being preferred.

    I know all this seems like alot, but I didn’t come here to give you the easy way out…

    Moiz Rauf wrote on March 20th, 2008
  19. Wow! Great read. Thanks for the info. I actually recently started my own Bodybuilding blog specifically for HardGainers. Hopefully you can check it out at http://www.hardgainersguide.com!

    Jason wrote on June 5th, 2008
  20. Interesting answer. I had never heard of CrossFit unitl now.

    Hard Gainer wrote on January 20th, 2009
  21. It has NOTHING to do with your form, or “lifting harder” in the gym. Ahhhhhh I CRINGED when I read that. No offense Mark, I agree with MOST of your advice, but telling a hard-gainer to “lift harder” is just piss-poor. What do you think he’s doing??? Going in the gym and consciously deciding to only give it 85%?? I bet good money he’s giving it 100% week after week after week and is simply unable to gain despite his best effort.

    I suspect that because that was me. 5’11” 155 pounds my entire adult life despite 10+ YEARS of lifting weights. I just could NOT GAIN muscle for the life of me.

    I finally figured it out. You have to ABSOLUTELY STUFF YOURSELF. To the point that it HURTS. To the point that you slip into a food coma after most meals and take a nap. Don’t be afraid of getting fat. Taking fat off is the easy part…. just follow Mark’s primal blueprint style of eating. The fat will fall right off. But for a hardgainer to grow, you HAVE TO EAT. You have to STUFF yourself.

    Once I finally figured it out, and STUFFED myself 4-6 meals a day, I grew. I went from 155-200 in under a year. I became the strongest I’ve ever been in my life at age 34. Deadlift went from sets at 175 to sets at 245.

    It’s NOT form. It’s NOT effort. It’s NOT even lifting to failure. During that entire run from 155 pounds to 200 pounds I never lifted to failure. I stopped one rep shy. Lifting harder is NOT the problem. YOU HAVE TO EAT.

    To that end…. I was unable to eat enough following a healthy, natural diet. Because your natural “I’m full” mechanism kicks in when it’s suppossed to on a diet of natural foods. So what I had to do for the one year bulk cycle is START with natural foods and then when I was full, switch to junk. Chicken and Brown rice until I’m full, then a big-mac. Or a couple slices of pizza.

    You will have to make that sacrifice and allow crap into your diet for the length of your bulk cycle. And you will have to sacrifice your flat stomach and get fat. Once you hit your bulk goal, switch to all natural foods, keep those calories UP, keep lifting, and AVOID CARDIO AT ALL COSTS. The fat will come right off just by switching the diet to natural foods (which will also by default lower your overall calories). Go back to eating until you are full, not stuffed and the fat will fall off. I’m telling you from EXPERIENCE as a former 155 pound skinny guy, this is the ONLY way to do it. EAT, EAT, EAT.

    Fixed Gear wrote on May 8th, 2009
  22. Fixed. Thank you for your passionate response. I appreciate the time you took to elaborate on how you did all this. And for me, it once again opens up the discussion as to exactly WHY we undertake gargantuan efforts to pack on a bit more muscle. I’m not disagreeing one bit that you can add mass by eating tons of food (and lifting weights AND cutting back on cardio). But I have said here many times (and will have to start adding more to this philosophy) that for a PBer, it’s going to be largely about functional strength and long term health. Packing in the calories – especially the junk – may result in an increase in mass, but I’m not so sure that mass adds much beyond looking, well, more massive in a t-shirt. I’m totally convinced that artificially pumping up muscle volume through high carb intake, insulin manipulation and other metabolically expensive methods probably carries detrimental health considerations as well. MDA is not a bodybuilding site, but a source for information on how to get stronger, burn more fat, have more energy and live a healthier, longer life.

    I remember Tim Feriss telling us how he gained 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days (or something to that effect). Bullshit. Can’t be done. He stuffed his face and artificially pumped cell volume by using nutritional parlor tricks. Have you seen him recently? No way he kept much of that on. Why? Too metabolically expensive and it’s aboring lifestyle. He’d have to stuff his face to the point of discomfort at nearly every meal. So he’s gone back to a size closer to what his genetic optimum would be.

    FixedGear, I’m not suggesting that your choice was wrong or that your advice won’t work for most hardgainers. It’s just that for my loyal followers here, things like power-to-weight ratios, functional strength, immune system management, and insulin mitigation probably take precedence. I would hope anyway.

    Thanks for this. It makes me rethink the WHY more than the HOW.

    Mark Sisson wrote on May 9th, 2009
  23. Thanks for the great post. Some very good ideas are presented. I have friends who would love to know these pointers to help them kick start their goals.

    Jason Price wrote on February 18th, 2010
  24. Alot of the time genetics can work against you. Having an ectomorph bodytype can be frustrating and even moderate exercise can cause weight loss.

    If you want to keep up the fitness without compromising lean muscle a good way to exercise is by using interval training. The only other real way to put on muscle mass is to lift big and eat big.

    weight training routines wrote on March 12th, 2010
  25. Putting aside the good question of WHY and dealing only with HOW…

    I agree about the caloric surplus. But I’d eat exactly the same composition of foods described in the book, and on this site, but just eat a bit more, mostly in the calorie-dense meats, eggs, etc.

    I would never advise stuffing for either health or appearance reasons. Unless one has been imprisoned in a penal colony, and is chronically undernourished, bulking like this is bad.

    I agree that when eating healthfully, as recommended here (as doing this burns fat wonderfully), but it is a tad harder than the “see food” method. But it is the only way that makes sense, and one must simply get a bit more creative and consistently disciplined in their dietary approach. It does work, however.

    A small surplus (1-2lbs consistently added per month is a LOT) is all that is needed—in chewable food if possible—in protein drinks and maybe some Extra Virgin Olive Oil shots, if already eating enough and no gains are forthcoming.

    In my experience, after one “bulks” and then “cuts,” nothing was usually accomplished except temporary (sometimes permanent) fat gain, hormonal disturbance, and increased inflammation, followed by a return to where one began. (Oh, you *will* look bigger in thick clothing but fatter when lightly dressed.) I’ve seen trainees gain and lose the same pounds so often that it is laughable.

    It is true that bulked lifters can lift more resistance, but this is due primarily to leverage advantages (altered muscle pennation angles) obtained by the mostly added fat and water. This has been known for a long time but is rarely mentioned.

    Lift hard with basic barbell movements in a rep range of 5-10. Eat a bit more—Primally—until you notice a *gradual* gain in weight. Nap if possible, and always sleep like a baby. Put the same discipline and planning into eating (properly) and sleeping as you do with training. Genetics takes care of the rest.

    Roy wrote on April 22nd, 2010
  26. I would pay attention to too much training – training too long or too frequently. Testosterone peaks 30-45minutes into a workout, so you want to get your workout done in that time 3-4 days a week. Cardio fitness is important but too much will interfere with weight gain also. Get plenty of sleep 8-10 hoursa a night for full recovery. Id also pay attention to how the food you eat affects your hormones. Drinking Alochol & consuiming soy are bad for hormone levels. You can also rais ehormone levels by upping your Zinc intake and/or by taking some tribulus.

    Wade McMaster wrote on August 22nd, 2010
  27. Great post!..You need to be looking after your body as you build muscle lose fat at the same time. There is important things you have to catch up on, so you know exactly what your body can take.

    hardgainer wrote on November 8th, 2010
  28. To build bigger muscles, do your heavy compound movements and also add in high repetition movements with a lower weight. To increase muscle size, accumulative fatigue is important. Short rests between sets and high reps.

    Jeff wrote on November 12th, 2010
  29. Hey Mark,
    I just stumbled across your site and think it’s awesome. I’m going to go back and start reading from post 1 but thought I’d mention how valuable I found it.

    I like the recommendation to use compound exercises and would also recommend having the personal trainer discuss proper supersetting. I find it’s an awesome technique to build muscle fast and really shock the body. I usually recommend it to most clients of mine who are ready for a serious workout.

    Keep up the good work,
    Sam

    Sam Timmins wrote on December 1st, 2010
  30. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

    larry blair wrote on February 13th, 2011
  31. one woman’s perspective…(and easiest of all) – change your notion of ideal body type.

    Strong and lean is way more attractive to me than big and bulky. Most women I know feel this way, while most men I know think they need to bulk up to be more attractive to women.

    erica wrote on March 10th, 2011
  32. Yea Mark I agree with a lot of what you say… You have to increase calories enough to pack on the muscle. Like you said protein and fish oils are important. I have also been starting to realize that if you are a hardgainer it is important to consistently take a good joint complex, especially if you are lifting heavy weights. You want to keep those joints and ligaments in good shape.

    Hardgainer wrote on May 25th, 2011
  33. I’m 42 and have been a life long “hardgainer” too. There have only been two times in my life when I was able to gain weight, once was about 12 years ago when I was taking an SSRI called Paxil. I went from 155 to my all time highest weight of 173. (I’m 6’2″) I was on Paxil for about a year but went off of it my weight dropped back to the 150s. Eight weeks ago I started taking high quality fish oil (800mg EPA & 400mg DHA every day) along with a multivitamin & magnesium glycinate and I’m gaining weight again! My appetite has definitely improved. My appetite has always been greatly affected by my mood so I think the improved calmness/mood from the fish oil is responsible. Or maybe like the article says it helps with muscle building. In any case, I hope these gains continue. Last time I weighed myself I was 162lb and I was literally maxed out at 158lb before this no matter what I did.

    Mike wrote on December 10th, 2011
  34. Appreciate the tips Mark, thanks

    Chris wrote on August 28th, 2012
  35. Dear Mark,

    You say you are a hard gainer, if so I guess you are on 5-6000 calories a day? If not….then stop making excuses, eat big, lift big.

    lifter wrote on January 19th, 2013
  36. I gained **62lbs** using Rippetoe’s and Bill Starr’s 5×5 programs, and I am the ultimate hardgainer. If I could do it, you certainly can too, Ed.

    Good luck – here’s my full guide on gaining weight and muscle using 5×5 programs:

    http://freshbeetle.com/home-exercise-equipment-full-body-workout/

    Regev wrote on June 7th, 2013

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