The Ultimate Hardgainers Guide to Big Muscles

This article is specifically targeted at all the hardgainers out there who never seem to be able to make any muscle gains no matter how hard they try or what they do. This is the hardgainers guide to big muscles to follow.

As a hardgainer, growing big muscles seems like a virtual impossibility, but I know from first-hand experience that if you put the work in by training smart, eating right and getting plenty of rest, you won’t only put on muscle, you can also put on a truckload of muscle. But yes, it’s going to take some time and a lot of hard work. So if you’ve got the time and don’t mind some hard work, let’s get down to business.



I first started training hard and heavy when I was still a teenager and fortunately for me, I had a number of top bodybuilders in my circle of friends who gave me advice on the best ways to train and helped teach me the importance of a quality diet.

Most importantly, I learned from the beginning that consistency builds muscle, consistently eating, training and resting. I can’t stress enough how vital consistency is in those three areas.

Although I was a relatively skinny kid and a typical hardgainer, I managed to gain and then maintain over 100 pounds of extra muscle during my first 8 years of bodybuilding, so I know firsthand you can go from a hardgainer to an impressive size bodybuilder with consistency and persistence.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way, let me tell you, I’ve had numerous injuries over the years. But luckily for me, none have been serious enough to stop me from training and maintaining a muscular physique now into my 40s.


I’m not going to ramble on about everything I’ve done in the gym over the years or bore you with all the mistakes I made along the way. I’m going to get straight to the point and tell you what you need to do to leave your hardgainer days behind and start growing some quality muscle immediately.

The first thing you need to do is start eating, and I mean eating bodybuilder style. You can completely forget about the idea of getting fat, that’s of no concern right now if you’re a hardgainer or in other words, you’re skinny just like I was when I began. Your primary mission is to start shovelling food down your throat every chance you get.


If you’re naturally only a light eater, I’d suggest beginning your new diet by continuing to eat your usual breakfast, lunch and dinner but from now on, you’ll drink a protein shake with 2 scoops of protein powder, a banana and blend it all together in skim milk in between your three regular meals. So this way, you’ll eat three meals and drink three meals every day. This is a great way to begin.

If you can’t afford the protein powder, just drink a litre of skim milk with your favourite flavouring like chocolate in between meals. I say skim milk, not full cream milk, as it’s much easier to digest. Full cream milk tends to make you feel a bit lethargic or tired after drinking it.

As your body gets used to this amount of solid and liquid food, eventually, you can eat another solid meal and cut back on one protein shake. Or if you’re up to it, you can keep drinking three protein shakes and still eat four solid meals per day. That’ll be even better.


The food you want to eat in your daily meals is a good size serving of protein in the form of beef, chicken, fish or eggs, plus a good size serving of carbohydrates like rice, pasta or potatoes. Too much bread will make you fat, but if you’re the classic hardgainer, bread is okay for you.

For breakfast, it’s best to start the day off with some fibre, oatmeal or muesli are both excellent forms of fibre and can be eaten with milk. After the oats, I like to eat some eggs or an omelette with toast.

The rest of the day, I stick with either beef or chicken with each meal, but occasionally, I’ll eat canned tuna or some fresh fish.

The diet is in no way complicated, it’s just about eating consistently. If you can get six meals in every day, you’re on the right track to grow muscle. So three meals plus three protein shakes will be an excellent way to start.


Now comes the training part. If you’re a hardgainer, let me stress from the beginning. Training for hardgainers means ‘less is more’. By this, I mean you only need to train three times per week and only train each body part once every week.

For all the hardgainers out there who are training 5, 6 or 7 hours or more per week in the gym, the reason you’re not making any progress is because you’re training way too much. Most professional bodybuilders don’t even train that much in the off-season when they’re bulking up and trying to add strength.

Ideally, hardgainers who want to build muscle fast should limit their time in the gym to no more than 3 x 1-hour weight training sessions per week. I’d separate these workouts into the following.



  • 3 sets x 10 reps barbell bench press
  • 3 sets x 10 reps dumbbell incline press
  • 3 sets x 10 reps flat dumbbell flyes


  • 3 sets x 10 reps shoulder press
  • 3 sets x 10 reps dumbbell side laterals


  • 3 sets x 10 lying triceps extensions
  • 3 sets x 10 tricep pushdowns



  • 3 sets x 10 reps stiff legged deadlifts
  • 3 sets x 10 reps lying leg curls


  • 3 sets x 10 reps seated leg extensions
  • 3 sets x 10 reps squats
  • 3 sets x 10 reps leg presses


  • 3 sets x 20 reps standing calf raises



  • 3 sets x 10 reps T-bar rows
  • 3 sets x 10 reps long pulley rows
  • 3 sets x 10 reps wide grip lat pulldowns


  • 3 sets x 10 reps standing barbell curls
  • 3 sets x 10 reps seated dumbbell alternate curls

Train for 1 hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday following the basic routine above. Choose a weight for each exercise that allows you only to complete the full 10 reps per set. You want to be using a weight that for the 8th, 9th and 10th rep it is a real struggle to get the weight up and down.

Also, it’s imperative to keep changing the order of the exercises around each week. So on Monday for chest, you might do barbell bench presses first on week one, and then on week two, you might do the dumbbell presses first.

You can also use different bench exercises each week like use the incline bench one week and then use the flat or decline bench in the following week.


It’s difficult to give you numerous alternatives in a written form, but if you see a bodybuilder or someone who looks like they know what they’re doing, go and ask them for help, that’s what I did in the beginning. And nowadays, when a beginner asks me for help, I’m always happy to share information.

Bodybuilders might look a bit intimidating sometimes, but usually, they’re good guys, but do wait until they’ve finished their own set before asking them for help and don’t interrupt them whenever they’re working.

Bodybuilders take their training seriously and in turn, they will take your question seriously as well and often do their best to help you.


One more thing I need to mention is making sure you get plenty of rest and at least 8 hours sleep per night. If you follow the three-day training routine above, there’s no need to exercise on the other four days per week if your primary goal is to gain muscle.

If you do want to exercise on the days you’re not working out in the gym, I’d suggest taking a 45-minute walk each day. But if you exercise much more than that, it’ll be difficult to gain much muscle in the beginning,  since you stimulate your muscles when you’re in the gym but you actually do all your growing while you’re resting.

So remember, in terms of eating to grow muscle ‘the more you eat, especially protein and carbohydrates, the quicker you will grow’. However, when it comes to the weight training, ‘less is more’.

Training three days per week and hitting each muscle group only once per week is the fastest way to see results, I know it because I’ve done it, and if you stick to the basics, you can do it too! Good luck, I think it’s time to eat.


Anthony Hill

When you put together the sum total of my 30 years of bodybuilding training, the contests, the vast array of diets I have experimented (tortured) myself with as well as the experiences I have been through with various training partners in the gyms I have trained in all over the world, it’s been a great ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do lots of personal training for private clients alongside my day job. For a few years during my 30’s, I moved to Asia and worked as the Fitness Manager and head personal trainer at one of Thailand’s leading gyms in Bangkok. Learn More

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