Rules for the Hard Gainer, Part Two — Six New Steps to Packing on Mass

TAGS: Joe Defranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards, higher frequency training, pack on mass, Loaded Carries, hard gainer, bodyweight exercises, Chris Tutela, muscle damage, training split, compound lifts, gain weight, hypertrophy

column-gray-032715

In part one of this saga, I discussed the eight rules every hard gainer should abide by in order to make real gains in the gym. My intent with that article was to simplify all of the confusion that leads to true hard gainers never making any real progress.

Today, however, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the topic. Now that you have been training consistently and making some real progress, I want you to understand how to further your gains and take your training to the next level. So here’s a quick refresher on my original “Eight Rules for the Hard Gainer” article:

  1. Get strong.
  2. Follow the progressive overload principle.
  3. Track your weights.
  4. Don’t train to failure.
  5. Keep workouts 60 minutes or less.
  6. Set goals.
  7. Recover.
  8. Eat big.

If you haven’t read the first post yet then check it out here before going any further.

If you’ve been following these guidelines since I wrote that article then I’ll bet that you’ve made some pretty significant progress in your training thus far. However, when I recently went back and read it, I noticed some holes that needed to be filled. I want to show you exactly how you can create a program that will pack mass on any true hard gainer out there, assuming that you already mastered and follow the eight rules listed above.

Now that you are already stronger, tracking your weights, avoiding failure, setting goals, keeping workouts under 60 minutes, recovering properly, and eating a fuck-ton of clean food, you are ready to take this a step further. So here is a list of my six new and improved rules for the hard gainer!

1. Use compound, multi-joint lifts.

If you’re a true hard gainer you can’t waste your time on machines and merely isolation exercises. Here’s why.

First off, using big, compound exercises involves more than just one muscle group. Let’s look at a deadlift for example. The deadlift involves your traps, lats, low back, abs, glutes, hamstrings, hands, and forearms. A pec fly involves…well, the pecs. See my point? If we are going to limit the time we spend in the gym due to the added hormonal effect of a shorter workout, we need to focus on the exercises that give us the biggest bang for our buck, not the ones that give us the best pump.

Second, big lifts require much more work from the entire body. As a result of their efficiency, they will enhance the production of hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone. If you can train in a way where you can produce higher amounts of test and HGH and train more muscle groups simultaneously, wouldn’t you do it?

Take advantage of these big movements and their variations and get good at them. Continue to focus on improving your one, three, and five-rep maxes to be sure you’re making steady progress. Squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, rows, military presses, bench presses, lunges, and their different variation, as well as bodyweight exercises like pistol squats, dips, and push-up variations are the primary compound movements you should be focusing on.

A post shared by Chris Tutela (@chris_tutela) on

2. Get strong in a hypertrophy rep range.

One of my eight rules in my last article was to get strong. I created that rule because most hard gainers have a poor general foundation of strength and typically get caught up doing sets of 10 with a weight that is too light to stimulate a good enough training effect. Now that your foundation is laid and you’re moving some respectable weight, it’s time to focus on getting strong in a hypertrophy rep range. Let me explain. One of the best ways to pack on mass is to move a heavy weight for higher volume. For instance, if you can handle 185 pounds on a bench press for a 10RM, your goal should be to use 190 pounds for 10 reps the following week. After you accomplish that, shoot for 195 pounds. The more weight you can handle (with perfect form) for more reps, the more mass you will potentially develop. So, what is a hypertrophy rep range, you ask? Shoot for three to four sets of eight to 12 reps, but you can occasionally throw in some higher rep sets of 15 to 20 on big movements like squats and deads. Now, let me make it clear that this certainly does not mean that you should stop trying to improve your absolute strength. I still want you to take my first article into account and always have a goal of getting stronger, especially on the big lifts. However, since you have already developed a solid foundation, you can incorporate these higher rep sets as back-off sets on the big lifts, and focus on getting stronger on sets of eight to 12 on your accessory work.

3. Train with a higher frequency.

Hard gainers respond better to a higher frequency, meaning you’ll see better results by training a particular body part more frequently throughout the training week. This can get a little tricky if you’re going way too hard and not recovering properly from your last training session. If after a few weeks you’re still sore as shit after your workouts and feel tired and weak all of the time, you probably have to reduce some of the volume. Remember that recovery is a big key to growth. From my experience, I have seen the best results from hitting each muscle group twice per week. You can even go as far as three times per week if you’re doing full body workouts, but I prefer the former. My favorite training split is a four-day per week split where you will hit an upper body day on Monday, lower body day on Tuesday, then another upper body day on Thursday and lower body day on Friday. Joe Defranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards program is still one of the best I have used for myself and other hard gainers I have worked with. If you haven’t checked that out yet, it’s set up something like this:

    • Monday: Max Effort Upper

 

  • Tuesday: Max Effort Lower

 

 

  • Thursday: Upper Body Repetition

 

 

  • Friday: Lower Body Repetition

 

 

Since you’re a hard gainer, don’t worry so much about the dynamic effort days that are also suggested in different versions of that program. For now just stick to the higher volume days. When you follow a split like this you will hit each body part twice per week, first with more intensity (percentage of your 1RM) then with more volume, which really gives you the best bang for your buck. With that, you’ll simultaneously focus on building strength and size.

4. Carry heavy shit.

Loaded carries should absolutely be a staple in your routine. Carries like the farmers walk will pack on slabs of muscle from head to toe. They are one of my favorite ways to train the core since you they also add thickness on the traps and forearms, along with developing your grip. Do them! Anywhere from three to five sets for 30 to 60 seconds or for a specified distance.

A post shared by Chris Tutela (@chris_tutela) on

5. Slow down the eccentric.

The eccentric phase, or lengthening of the muscle, is where more muscular damage occurs. Your body needs to respond and adapt to this damage to the muscle, which is how growth is stimulated. Slowing down the eccentric phase to three to five seconds will not only train the muscle more efficiently but will also create more muscular damage. In turn, that can lead to more muscular growth.

Many hard gainers don’t focus on this phase at all, which is a big mistake. Work in some sets with a specific eccentric tempo where you are focused on lowering the weight between three to five seconds. You don’t have to keep the eccentric this slow all the time, but definitely work it in periodically. Just make sure that you keep an eccentric phase of about two seconds on the majority of your exercises all the time.

6. Consistency is key.

Are you ready for some earth-shattering, scientific, innovative, top-secret shit?! If so, disregard this section. My last but definitely my most important rule is one of the most obvious, yet overlooked concepts when it comes to getting jacked.

And that is to train consistently!

Groundbreaking, I know. But although this seems like common sense, it is one of the most commonly made mistakes. Most people just aren’t consistent enough to see the gains they want. Some may train for six months, then take two months off, then on again for four months and off for three.

If you want to pack on strength and mass then you better be in this for the long haul and focused on making steady progress over years, not just weeks and months. Because that is how you make real progress. Now, I don’t want to go on a tangent about not being a lazy schmuck, but don’t be a lazy schmuck. Do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t miss your training sessions and you will see results.

Following these six new guidelines will absolutely take your gains to the next level. I have seen it over and over again on myself, my clients, and people I’ve worked with over the years, and I know it will do the same for you.

If you have any questions feel free to drop a comment below or shoot me an email at info@tutelatraining.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you guys!

power-racks-home2

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...