“Hardgainer” is a term that gets thrown around a lot.

It typically refers to those with a “fast metabolism”, smaller bone structure and who generally have a tougher time packing on muscle size and strength.

Browse the online forums and facebook pages and you’ll see these “hardgainers” seeking out specific advice for their situation…

“What is the best hardgainer workout routine?”
“I’m a hardgainer and need a good meal plan!”
“What supplements are recommended for hardgainers?”

My advice?

Drop your “hardgainer” label altogether.

Yes, there’s no question that genetics do play a large role in determining how slowly or quickly someone can build lean muscle. And yes, it is true that some lifters will require more time and patience to build the physique they’re after.

But whether you’re a naturally gifted bodybuilder with elite genetics or you’re starting off on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, the same basic muscle building principles still apply.

You need to train hard in the gym using correct form and focus on progressive overload by adding more weight to the bar over time…

You need to create a proper calorie surplus each day that revolves around high quality sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats…

You need to understand which supplements will help to accelerate your progress and which ones to avoid…

You need to track your progress, remain focused and motivated, and stay consistent to your program over time…

Calling yourself a “hardgainer” and seeking out a specific hardgainer workout, meal plan and supplement approach is not only unnecessary, but it backs you into a corner and leaves you with the false background feeling that gaining muscle is going to be next to impossible.

Sure, you may not have been particularly blessed in the department of muscle building genetics, but so what? How does paying attention to this fact do anything to help you move forward and achieve your goals?

As with anything in life, you need to put your focus on the things you can control and forget about the things you can’t. Pre-occupying yourself with your genetic makeup is a complete waste of time, as absolutely anyone can achieve a strong, impressive, muscular body if they truly want to.

The only difference is that for some people the process may be longer or shorter. And whether you have “good genetics” or “bad genetics”, the overall structure of your bodybuilding approach is essentially going to be the same.

There really are only two primary factors to pay attention to in terms of structuring a muscle building approach that is tailored to your specific body type…

1) The first is your overall calorie intake.

In order to build new muscle tissue, you must create a calorie surplus by consuming more calories than you burn each day.

This is accomplished by finding your calorie maintenance level and then increasing it by about 15-20%. (The Harris Benedict Formula is a good way to calculate this)

As a general statement, those who are naturally skinny and refer to themselves as “hardgainers” may tend to burn through energy at a faster rate and will tend to have higher caloric needs for building muscle.

However, even this is a general statement and will not apply in every situation.

2) The second is your ability to recover from exercise.

The basic goal when structuring a workout plan that is ideal for you is to train as often as possible while still fully recovering in between sessions.

The more sessions you can perform and recover from, the more muscle building “growth periods” you’ll create and the more overall mass you’ll gain.

Those carrying the “hardgainer” label may also tend to be those with less than average recovery ability. As a result, they may need slightly less volume per workout and lower overall training frequency in order to optimize their gains.

However, this will also vary between individuals and is something each lifter has to experiment with.

The bottom line is that if you’re consistently coming back to the gym stronger over time and you don’t feel overly run down or fatigued, the overall workload is within an acceptable range.

For most people this will involve 3-5 total workouts per week hitting each muscle directly 1-2 times per week.

There are many other precise details to pay attention to when truly individualizing your bodybuilding program, but these will only advance your results by a small overall percentage.

What is the bottom line on the “hardgainer” issue?

Take the entire idea that you require a specific “hardgainer workout” or “hardgainer meal plan” and toss it out the window.

Find your individual calorie/protein/carb/fat needs, structure a workout plan that allows you to properly recover and make consistent strength gains over time, and simply move forward from there.

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