HACKS FOR HARDGAINERS - International Protein


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Are you giving it all your all in the gym, only to find that your net results in terms of muscle gain are, to say the least, disappointing? If you’re measuring your progress in terms of ounces rather than pounds of muscle, you need to seriously reassess what you’re doing. Let’s take a look at some hacks that will get you out of the hardgainer rut so you can start seeing some real results for your hard work in the gym.


Before we get to the hacks to help hardgainers, let’s address what it actually means to be a hardgainer. A lot of people who classify themselves as hard gainers do so as the result of having unrealistic muscle gain expectations and not training the right way. They may be coming to the gym regularly, but, unless they are specifically training to build muscle, they will be disappointed. 

If you are spending more than a few minutes in the cardio room before hitting the weights then you are probably compromising your ability to train with sufficient intensity to build muscle. Unless you are consistently putting the nutrients into your body that will fuel your muscles and provide the nutrients for muscle repair and building, you will, likewise never add the muscle tissue that you desire. 


It’s a person who, even though he or she is training smartly and intensely for muscle gain and following a caloric surplus diet that is high in quality protein, is unable to gain muscle. 


Whether you are a hard or an easy gainer is often related to a person’s somatotype. This is a classification that is used for human body shape. There are three somatotypes:

  • Mesomorph
  • Endomorph
  • Ectomorph

A mesomorph is naturally muscular. He puts on muscle easily and the type of weight that gets added is typically lean muscle weight. Even before stepping into the gym, a mesomorph will show a quite impressive degree of muscular development. Phil Heath is an example of a mesomorph. 

An endomorph will also put on weight easily, but that gain is likely to be fat rather than muscle. An endomorph generally has a round, soft look to his physique. The metabolism of an adult endomorph is usually slower than that of a mesomorph, making it harder for him to burn off stored body fat.

An ectomorph is most likely to be a hard gainer in the muscle building department. This person generally has a thin build and a light frame. Despite eating a tonne of food, he finds it hard to gain weight. His hard work on the weight room floor generally has him looking more like an endurance athlete than a bodybuilder. His muscles may be defined but they lack the roundness and bulk that you see on a mesomorph. A typical example of an ectomorph’s physique was Kobe Bryant who had a muscular, but lean non bulky look to his body. 

An ectomorph may be just as strong as a mesomorph. He may even be doing the exact same training program. But his body shape and structure just won’t allow him to add the muscle bulk that he is after.



So, you have identified yourself as a hardgainer. Does that mean you should pack up your gym bag and forget about this whole bodybuilding thing?

Hell, no!

There are plenty of hardgainers – even ectomorphs – who have built outstanding physiques. You’ve probably heard of Frank Zane, right? Zane was a classic ectomorph, yet he went on to develop a physique that many believe was the pinnacle of male physical perfection. 

As a hard gainer, you need to accept that you’re not going to end up looking like Ronnie Coleman. But you can still build yourself a damn good physique – even though you’ll have to work harder than the guys with more genetic potential.



The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you are training optimally for muscle growth. You need to do sets in the heavy range, pyramiding down to multiple sets in the 6-8 range. In order to be able to do justice to those sets, you must also give yourself sufficient rest between sets – up to 2 minutes between each set. Constantly challenge yourself to add weight to the bar while maintaining proper form. 

You should also limit your cardio when you’re in the gym. The fewer calories you expend on non weight training activity, the better. Limit your workouts to 45 minutes to an hour. Make it your goal to get in, work the target muscle to exhaustion, and then get out. Your workouts should consist of 3-4 sets per exercise and no more than 4 exercises per body part. 

Training twice per week on every body part is probably going to be too much if you are a hard gainer. Stretch training each body part out to once every five days instead of every three or four.



Your muscles do not grow in the gym. It’s only when you rest and recover that the muscle building process is able to kick in. As a hard gainer, your rest and recovery is more important than for the average weight trainer. The key to recovery is sleep. You cannot afford to be getting five and a half or six hours of sleep a night and expect to make gains. 

Get into the habit of sleeping 7-8 hours every night. Establish a set night time routine that includes winding down in the evening, keeping your bedroom technology free (that includes your phone!) and maintaining a cool, quiet, dark sleeping environment. 


Next, give serious attention to your diet. The bottom line on eating for hardgainers is that you need to be ending each day with a caloric surplus. Make sure that those calories are made up of high quality proteins, carbs and healthy fats

A great way to get the right nutrients into your body in the right proportions is to take a mass gainer supplement. International Protein’s Extreme Mass has been formulated to meet the needs of hardgainers. It makes it a lot easier to get the volume of food into your body that you are going to need in order to fuel mass gains. Extreme Mass is highly concentrated in calories. Mix it with full cream milk rather than skim milk or water to get those extra calories. 

Be sure to increase your caloric intake gradually. Slamming your body with a sudden increase in calories will create havoc with your gut and digestion. Instead, progressively add an extra 20 grams of cereal to your breakfast, meat portion and rice content. Over time, those extra portions will add up.



Consistent application of the day in day out habits that build muscle – training, rest and nutrition – is the key to making muscle gains for everyone. If you are  a hardgainer, though, you have absolutely no room for inconsistency. One thing you can do to monitor that consistency is to get a journal and record everything – your workouts, your sleep and what you put in your mouth. When you see yourself becoming inconsistent, pull yourself up and get back to what you know you should be doing!


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