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Hardgainer Workouts


Oh great, another hardgainer article you might be thinking. But guess what, you’re wrong and here’s why. After reading literally hundreds of hardgainer articles (and losing mass while doing so), I’ve come to realise that if people spent more time focusing and complying with their training, diet and supplementation rather than reading expansive articles about how to get big and build mass, they might just actually get big. Yes, it’s important to read and understand the finer principles of building muscle, but don’t spend hours doing it. This article looks only at hardgainer workouts to gain mass and muscle.

Hardgainer Workouts for Mass & Muscle Gain

“Keep It Simple Stupid”, perhaps the best motto when it comes to hardgainer workouts. In resistance training, there are 6 variables that you need to pay attention to in order to get big known as the FERRIS Principle. Because if you want to get as big as a Ferris Wheel, you need to pay attention to these variables, which include:

1. Frequency
2. Exercise Selection
3. Reps or Repetitions
4. Rest Interval
5. Intensity
6. Sets

Hardgainer Workout Frequency

Training protocols for building mass differ between trainer’s experience as it becomes harder for more advanced trainers to build lean muscle mass. Unless you’re going for a competition though, there’s really no reason why you should train more than 5 days a week. This gives your body time to rest and it also gives you a life away from the gym. However, every so often it’s important to alter workout frequency in order to keep growing. Following is a sample weekly protocol of 4 to 5 days worth of training and remember to slot in the rest days wherever you see fit:


Workout Frequency


4 days/week

5 days/week


Chest/Triceps/Abs (Core)

Chest/Abs (Core)





Back/Biceps/Abs (Core)

Back/Abs (Core)








Hardgainer Workout Exercise Selection

You can’t get big on bicep curls alone, but some people in the gym sure do try. Here are the top 4 tips when it comes to exercise selection for hardgainer workouts:

  • Compound Exercises – Multijoint or compound exercise such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder press and rows recruit a huge range of muscles which support a greater anabolic or growth response. Perform at least 2 compound exercises per session.
  • Single Joint Exercises – Single joint movements such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg curls and extensions are essential for targeting underdeveloped muscles and support different neuromuscular activation patterns. In simple words, more comprehensive muscle development.
  • Stability – Unstable surfaces are great for activating the core, but absolutely rubbish for muscle growth anywhere else. If you’re a hardgainer, kick away the BOSU ball and the Swiss Ball.
  • Vary your Exercises – Don’t go overboard and change exercises around all the time. Simply swap 1 or 2 exercises every 4 weeks.

Hardgainer Workout Reps

The number of reps you do is an important factor for achieving muscle growth and is related to the intensity of the exercise, which represents a percentage of your maximum possible lifting weight. If you can lift a weight more than 15 times, you won’t be building mass. If you can’t lift a weight more than 6 times you’ll be enhancing your strength more than your muscle mass. Repetition speed is also a factor which governs muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth. Go slow on the eccentric phase of the movement or when the muscle lengthens and explode with the concentric phase of the movement or when the muscle shortens.

1. Ideal Repetition Range: 6-12 Reps

2. Rep Speed: 2-4 seconds down, 1-3 seconds up

Hardgainer Workout Rest Intervals

The rest interval is an often forgotten factor of training which can actually improve your gains. In general there are three types of rest intervals including: short (30 seconds or less), moderate (60-90 seconds) and long (3 minutes or more). While all three are beneficial in some way in supporting performance improvements, it is the moderate rest interval that allows for the greatest muscle growth.

TIP – If training for muscle growth, aim for rest intervals of 60-90 seconds between sets.

Hardgainer Workout Intensity

Briefly mentioned above, the intensity of a workout refers to the weight, which is referenced against the maximum weight you can lift also known as your 1RM. Most people don’t know what their 1RM is, so just make sure that you choose a weight which you can lift 6-12 times. Anything more and you’re limiting your gains.

Hardgainer Workout Sets

The number of sets of an exercise you do contributes to the total volume of a workout. The more sets that you do, the more you work a muscle but the more fatigued it will be. This can lead to poor form and potential injury. As such, it’s up to your discretion as to how many sets you do, but a warm up set with 3-4 working sets is considered ideal. This will allow enough time to fit in more exercises without making your workout sessions too long.

Hardgainer Workout Mistakes

Now that you know more about the 6 variables that affect your ability to gain mass, it’s time to put it into action. But before you draw up your workout plan, pay attention to the top 4 most common mistakes hardgainers make when creating and performing their workouts:

1. Compliance – So many hardgainers fail to gain that weight because they don’t stick to their workouts. If you can’t do 5 days a week, don’t plan to do 5 days a week as this will just decrease your motivation to comply. Similarly don’t change your workouts just because you read something in a magazine or saw someone else doing it.

2. Failure to Periodise – If you don’t challenge yourself and change your workouts around, your muscles will get used to the effects. Learn to periodise your workouts and continually challenge yourself by altering the 6 variables every so often.

3. Half Reps – Only partially completing the exercise movement can be handy when you’re a more experienced trainer. But you know what they say, halve your reps, halve your growth.

4. Diet, Supplements & Rest – You can workout all you want, but if you don’t support yourself by eating right, supplementing right and resting enough, then you’re not going to build much muscle.

Hardgainer Workout Routine

Now is the time to plan your routine following all the information you’ve just read. Or if you want to make it easy for yourself, why not check out our sample workout routine here – MrSupplement Hardgainer Workout Routine – Phase 1.

Schoenfeld BJ. ‘The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training.’ J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3.

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