Positivity, confidence, and persistence are key in life, so never give up on yourself.
If you’ve been reading this blog since 2019 (hats off to you, OG Reader!), you might remember “Hardgainer, Now What?”, an article I published in January 2019.
Over two years later, I decided it was high time to revamp the original post, tackling the topic from a new perspective:
What are some key aspects of training and nutrition, which hardgainers typically struggle with, and which could have a dramatic impact on your physique?
First of all, a hardgainer is someone who thinks they struggle to build muscle or to put on any weight at all. They usually look like the typical “skinny kid” and believe they have “bad genetics” for muscle growth.
I view myself as a hardgainer and, at some point in my bodybuilding journey – and sometimes to this day – I’ve had all three of the issues I’m going to cover in this article.
What’s more, over these past years working as a coach, I noticed that many clients who wanted help building muscle, were facing similar hardships.
So I’m going to share:
Ready for the brain gains?
Hardgainers’ Problem No. 1
You’re not eating enough.
In general, you need to fuel your body with enough energy in order to build muscle.
If you’re serious about your physique goals, eating in what’s called a caloric surplus will be the best way to make sure you’re actually adding muscle mass to your frame.
Here’s why: Calories are energy, so a “caloric surplus” is a “surplus of energy”.
The balance between the energy you eat and the energy you burn over a period of time, will change your body size and weight.
With an energy surplus, you’ll be eating more energy than that which you burn and need to maintain your current weight. As a result, you’ll gain weight. If you add resistance training to this equation, some of this extra weight is going to be muscle.
The problem for a lot of self-professed hardgainers is that, not only are they not in an energy surplus… They’re often eating slightly less energy than required to even maintain their current weight, or the bare minimum.
And, since you need to be eating at worst at maintenance calories and at best in a slight caloric surplus in order to build muscle, undereating isn’t doing you any favours!
Undereating can be accidental or done on purpose.
When my clients experience accidental undereating, it’s usually because they don’t have a big appetite and they aren’t huge fans of food, so they might forget about eating or feel like they fill up quickly.
If you forget to eat, create a meal schedule, set alarms on your phone so you don’t forget, and prep meals to take to work, school, or anywhere you might not have easy access to food.
If you fill up easily, opt for food options that pack a high amount of calories and are easy to digest, so you won’t feel stuffed, such as:
Training and eating both play an important role in a muscle-building endeavour.
For some, training is the hard part. For you, it might be eating. Get your diet sorted, and your physique will thank you for it.
Hardgainers’ Problem No. 2
You’re not training hard enough… or you’re training too hard.
There are three fundamental components to muscle growth:
If one of these elements is compromised, your gains will be compromised, too.
Take a hard look at your training and lifestyle: Are you focused on feeling each muscle do the work? Or are you just moving as much weight as possible from A to B because you like to think you can lift really heavy?
Are you stopping a set because you’re close to failure? Or are you stopping because your program says to do 12 reps, even though those reps felt really easy?
Are you sleeping enough, eating enough, managing your life stress, and taking enough rest days? Or are you hitting the gym seven days a week “because gains, bro”, undereating, sleeping a couple of hours per night, and snapping at your mum because you’re always stressed?
Hardgainers’ Problem No. 3
You have unrealistic expectations.
I’m 100% guilty of this. I’m a trainer, so I should know better, right? And yet, I can’t help comparing myself to others all the damn time.
So I don’t blame you.
Like me, you care about your physique goals and you want results now.
What’s more, social media does a wonderful job of showing us pictures of elite-level bodybuilders at peak leanness as though that’s an “average” physique to aspire to, or a healthy body composition to maintain year-round.
Unfortunately, noticeable physique improvements take years of hard training and recovery management, so expecting visible results on a regular basis is only going to make you feel frustrated at best, and to make you abandon this journey at worst.
Anybody with a respectable physique, whether they compete in bodybuilding or simply enjoy the process of sculpting their body, has been chipping away at it for at least a decade.
So you need to re-evaluate how realistic your expectations are if
My personal biggest mistake is comparing myself to bodybuilders I admire, who have been training for over 10 years, whilst I’ve only been in the iron game for three years.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be ambitious, or that your current circumstances will never change and be better suited to heftier goals. However, nipping your comparison urge in the bud and coming to terms with what’s realistic for you right now, is going to help you get better results and, most importantly, enjoy the process a lot more.
If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it for longer. If you stick with it for longer, you’ll build more muscle. A win-win situation indeed!
Now you know the three biggest hardgainers’ problems I’ve experienced and seen my clients grapple with.
If you can relate… That’s good news!
It means that you aren’t cursed with the worst hardgainer’s genes, as you might have thought, and that you can make strides in your physique-changing endeavour with some simple tweaks to your current approach.
May you make the best gains!
Which one of these issues have you had? Share it in a comment!
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
Want to work with me? Check out my services!