4 Ways for Hard Gainers to Build Muscle

People join gyms for various reasons.  IHRSA is an organization which tracks global and domestic trends within the health and fitness space.  

A 2021 study compiled a list of why people join a gym:
– 44% are there to be fit and in shape.
– 42% are there to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
– 34% are there to build muscle.
– 28% are there to relieve stress.
– 25% are there to have exciting experiences.
– 33% are there to lose weight.

The list continues, but what I found interesting is that although more people join a gym to be fit, stay healthy, and build muscle, the vast majority of articles on the internet focus on weight loss – which only affects 33% of the gym going population according to this Statista poll.

One client in my gym recently asked me, what was the best way to build muscle and gain weight.  I know this may sound cliche in today’s obesity epidemic, but there are people out there that we call ‘hard gainers’ who are struggling to change their body the way they’d like.  Here’s a list of 4 things hard gainers can do in order to gain weight.

1. Resistance Training
Resistance training is of the utmost importance when trying to build larger muscles.  The SAID principle states that your body will react to the specific adaptation of imposed demands.  In other words, your body will get strong, and you will build muscle as you progressively overload the system.  Since we want to grow, and our muscles grow outside of the gym during rest, I’d recommend 4 days per week of weight training with heavy, functional, compound movements.  These will give you the most bang for your buck.

2. Sleep 
The impact of sleep on muscle building is undeniable.  A recent study showed that people who slept less than 5.5 hours per night had 60% less muscle mass than those who slept 8.5 hours per night.  The 8.5 hour group showed a 40% increase.  Sleep helps release protein building amino acids in the bloodstream at a faster rate and helps muscles grow larger and faster over time.  Sleep also helps release growth hormone during REM sleep which aids in muscle tissue repair and recovery.  One of my favorite strength coaches Stan Efferding, puts it best, “If you wake up at 4am to do cardio after only 5 hours of sleep, you’re stepping over $100 bills to pick up nickels!

3. Nutrition
In order to gain weight you must be in a caloric surplus.  You must eat more than you expend.  How much more?  Nutrition is VERY individualized but as a general rule of thumb this is how I would start.

A. Current BW x 12 = Daily Caloric Need 

then take 

B. Caloric Need (A) x 1.15-1.25 = this would be a calorie range for a bulking target.

This is a VERY basic formula which would need to be adjusted by a coach weekly.  But it’s a starting point.  Here’s an example below:

A 200 pound man would need 2400 calories per day for maintenance (200×12)

For bulking this 200 pound man would need between 2760-3000 calories per day.

I’d also add that when bulking and trying to build muscle, I’d aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.  In this example, the 200 pound man should aim for 200g of protein daily.

4. Ditch the Cardio
Cardio is great for the cardiovascular system, but it is catabolic in nature – i.e. breaking down muscle tissue.  When trying to gain weight, excessive cardio is your enemy.  While general movement is still a must for all humans to remain healthy, the way I’d navigate this is as follows.  Walk for 10-15 minutes at a brisk pace after each meal.  This will serve as your “cardio”.  It will help aid the body in digestion as well as regulate insulin secretion.

In short, if you’re looking to gain weight it’s imperative to be systematic and deliberate in your approach.  Lift weights.  Sleep as much as you can without getting fired or divorced.  Eat all the calories.  Not really, but eat more, especially protein, and lastly ditch the cardio.  This is a very basic game plan but one that I’ve seen work for people over the years.

I’m always here to chat.  If you want some help, book a call with me here.

– Coach Chris

Start here

Book a free intro today so we can learn all about you, your goals and how we can help you reach them
Free Intro