In the gym, same as in life, we have to play with the cards that are dealt to us, and this saying refers to our body constitution and genetics. Yes, it is true, genetics DO play a tremendous role in one's ability to put on muscle mass, and some people are less fortunate than others. There is a name for them – hard gainers. Building some serious muscle might be harder for these folks, but it is possible, and I am about to present you with some essential tips for going from scrawny to brawny. Enjoy!
Bump up your calorie intake with the right foods
You’ve probably encountered a skinny gym goer desperately trying to put on mass by eating extraordinary amounts of food every day, but still no luck. Most of them have started this eating “regimen” because someone told them that “To get big, you need to eat big.” This idea makes sense, but some of these poor guys are stuffed all the time without making any progress because they still don’t consume enough calories.
Well, one crucial thing to realize is that more volume DOES NOT always equal more calories. For example, one big bowl of oatmeal can barely pack up 300 calories, while only 100 grams of beef contains around 250 calories. Compared by size, the bowl of oatmeal will most likely fill you up but 100 grams of beef won't. Focus on calorie and nutrient dense foods such as meats and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds).
By doing this, it will be easier to get in enough calories, along with all the necessary nutrients, without torturing your stomach. There will still be a place for good quality carbs in your life but think of them as a filler or addition to the before mentioned foods.
More time under tension sets
“Feel the burn” is a phrase constantly thrown around in the workout community, but what does it mean? This saying refers to the burning feeling that arises when your muscles spend some time under tension, for example during the last few reps in your set. This is important because that sensation indicates that your muscles are being challenged which ultimately produces progress (hypertrophy and strength gain).
The way to achieve this is to perform slower reps. As you may have noticed, the speed at which you do a certain exercise can make it easier or more difficult, and you are looking for the latter. To start, concentrate on the length of your reps and don't worry about the amount. 5-second reps would be a good beginning.
Next, try to keep a steady tempo when doing the exercise; you can even get a buddy with a stopwatch to count the seconds for you. Another vital thing is the form, and remember that you should NEVER compromise it only to get another rep. My advice would be to try this method with bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups, and eventually move on to free weights.
Get more quality sleep
When it comes to putting on muscle mass, sleep is the elephant in the room that many people neglect, overlook, or simply do not wish to accept as crucial. To clarify this point, we can start with the question – why do we sleep in the first place?
Well, sleep serves many functions all critical to our health and wellbeing. It is the time when the brain gets much-needed rest which provides us with alertness and mental clarity throughout our waking hours. Also, quality sleep is a big factor in hormone optimization without which there can’t be such a thing as a healthy body.
During the night, testosterone and human growth hormone are released, both of which are responsible for muscle growth. Cortisol, the stress hormone, gets regulated and lowered during this time as well, and insulin sensitivity gets better.
Besides this, hard gainers need to know that sleeping is the time when muscles go into the catabolic mode, therefore eating just before bed is a must if you don't want to lose any precious gains. Having a protein shake or a protein-heavy meal before slumber will prevent muscle breakdown and provide your body with much-needed nutrition.
When it comes to your workout program, think more in terms of strongman rather than a bodybuilder. “What do you mean by this?”, you might ask. Bodybuilding workouts, which are very popular with gym “bros” all over the globe, contain a lot of isolation exercises (e.g. bicep curls, triceps extensions, etc.) This can be great for some people, usually the genetically gifted kind, but for a hard gainer, it would mostly likely be a waste of time.
Strongman programs, on the contrary, are composed of compound, whole-body exercises such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups and so on. Compound movements like these produce a response in your central nervous system which promotes serious muscle gains throughout the whole body. For beginners, it is imperative to learn correct form first, before jumping into a 5-days-a-week heavy lifting program.
Some of these exercises can be overwhelming at first so if squats are too challenging start with leg presses to build up the necessary strength. Start with about 70-80% compound exercises in your regimen and over time the squat rack, Olympic bench, barbell and pull up bar will become your new favorite tools in the gym.
Worry about under-recovery instead of overtraining
Overtraining is a word that you can hear a lot among exercise enthusiasts. Some claim it’s a myth, an excuse of the weak, while others say they’ve experienced its dreadfulness. The truth is, overtraining is real…in the world of professional sports.
If you are an average Joe, who lifts several times a week, this thought shouldn't even enter your mind. On the contrary, proper recovery should be a great concern, and this is where most recreational athletes fail. People who have overtraining-like symptoms most likely don’t eat right, sleep enough or rest properly, thus they fall into a chronic under-recovery mode.
The majority will then assume that too much training is the problem, and then proceed to decrease their workout frequency and volume. This will only take decrease or diminish any possible progress. So how do you do it the right way? There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to putting on muscle, so hire a professional to write you a good program and stick to it, all while making recovery a PRIORITY. It doesn't have to be more complicated than this.
The list doesn't look too bad, right?
It will not be easy, but it will sure as hell be effective, and if you can gather some motivation to get you started, the results that you will see will keep you going.Tweet This!
If you are still having second thoughts about some of this advice, I encourage you to do more research, and there is plenty of material for that online. This is time-tested and scientific information, guaranteed to produce results if you put it into practice correctly.
It will not be easy, but it will sure as hell be effective, and if you can gather some motivation to get you started, the results that you will see will keep you going.
Author Bio: Annie Jones
Annie Jones is the main responsible behind the BoostBodyFit.com. She started off a bit on the chubby side, but went through the transformation and now enjoys the great health and looks great.