When we think
of body builders, many of us think of the pros-people like Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Art Atwood, and Jay Cutler. Many of these people
got to where they are today by spending five or six days a week
at the gym and training for hours per day. They publish their
workout routines in magazines and books, and the rest of us follow
them religiously in the hopes that someday we, too, can look like
them. And when we fail to make the kinds of gains they made, most
of us just try harder.
But is it
really possible to follow a pro's workout routine and get the
same results? For many of us, it's not. And that's not because
we don't work hard or aren't doing the exercises correctly-it
has to do with our genetic makeup.
You may have
heard the term "hardgainer" used to define someone who
supposedly has trouble gaining muscle. But people who are hardgainers
don't have an unusual amount of trouble; it's the pros who are
are actually normal. A small amount of the population is born
with a genetic gift; these people can put on muscle easily and
quickly with frequent high-intensity workouts. Many famous body
builders are born this way. However, experts estimate that 60%
to 95% of the population-depending on who you ask-does not have
this particular genetic gift. That means most of us are, in fact,
don't gain muscle like pros do. A genetically gifted person
can work out for six to eight weeks with an intense routine, and
can see immense muscle gains. A hardgainer-that's most of us-can
do the same workout for the same period of time and see only slightly
improved muscle tone. This is why so many people get frustrated
trying to follow the same workout routines the pros use.
tell if you're a hardgainer. The only way to tell for sure
if you're a hardgainer is to look at the type of results you see
after working out for a long period of time using a "conventional"
training regime-or one that emphasizes weight training more frequently
than three days a week. Are you seeing major results? If you're
doing everything right and you're not seeing discernible muscle
and strength gains, you're probably a hardgainer.
to overtrain when you're a hardgainer. When you overtrain,
you push your body beyond its ability to recover. If you train
too hard, you're not making gains-you're just wearing your body
down. You may actually see a decrease in the amount of weight
you can lift if you overtrain. Genetically gifted people can train
extremely hard before they reach this point, but most of us can't.
seeing only small results with a conventional routine, it may
be because you're working your body too hard. Try cutting back
the number of days per week you spend at the gym, and reduce the
amount of sets you do per body part and reps per set.
more with hardgainer workouts. Most pros recommend hardgainers
perform a full-body workout, rather than targeting specific muscle
groups on different days, and that they only go to the gym two
times a week at most-some suggest once every four to five days.
The time between workouts is essential to allow your body to adjust
to the workout.
hardgainers are encouraged not to add too much weight too quickly.
Add a small amount of weight consistently instead. Add too much
too soon, and you won't be able to maintain your form in the exercise.
Even worse, your muscles will get tired sooner and you may actually
wind up lifting less over the duration of the set than you could
if using lighter weights.
workouts emphasize intensity cycling. Intensity cycling is
a method recommended for hardgainers to give their bodies maximum
recovery time. In a routine that emphasizes intensity cycling,
you'll do a lighter workout for three to five weeks to prepare
your body for a heavier, growth-oriented workout for the next
six to twelve weeks. In general, if you train at your highest
intensity at all times, you'll always overtrain eventually. When
you do this, you'll hit a plateau. Hardgainers must reduce the
intensity of their workouts to break through plateaus.
workouts focus on whole-body exercises. For hardgainers, it
can take years of performing exercises that target multiple muscle
groups-exercises like squats, lunges and dead lifts-to build up
a solid muscular foundation. Only after a hardgainer has succeeded
in building that foundation is he ready to target specific muscle
groups to sculpt the body.
have different diet needs. Hardgainers tend to have a fast
metabolism. If you've determined you're a hardgainer, you may
want to eat more fats and carbohydrates than is typically recommended
for body builders. While it's usually recommended for body builders
to eat twelve calories for every pound of body mass, some hardgainer
diets suggest as much as 24 calories per pound. Hardgainers are
sometimes encouraged to eat as much as 50% carbs, with the rest
split between healthy fats and protein; compare that with the
40% carbs, 40% protein and 20% healthy fats recommended in a typical
body building diet.
can make astonishing gains in weight and muscle mass, and they
can have the same sculpted physiques that genetically gifted body
builders have. But for the hardgainer, the process can take longer.
If you're a hardgainer, don't just follow the routines the pros
use; talk to a trainer and design a routine targeted to your body.
If you do, you're sure to see better results.
Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body
Building Resource which provides articles on weight training,
nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.