Myth Busters: I’m a Hardgainer

If you’re having trouble gaining muscle through strength training, it’s because IT’S HARD TO GAIN MUSCLE THROUGH STRENGTH TRAINING. It takes time, people. You’re attempting to transform your body. Give it a second! (Or really, a few weeks at the very least.)

The problem is: Going to the gym and doing a bunch of random exercises (re: following the latest training fad) is NOT going to cut it. True body change requires serious effort, consistency and, most importantly, proper programming.

But alas, there’s good news. Despite this hard reality, you are not doomed to spend the rest of your life in Puneyville! With proper targeted training, you will see results.


Most often, when someone says “I just can’t build muscle; no matter what I do”, it comes down to the fact that their training program (diet & exercise) is not aligned with their goals. For example, if your goal is to build visual muscle mass (aka “hypertrophy,” in trainer geek-speak), you need to train specifically for that.

Yet these days, with the onslaught of trends (the need to be “different” or “innovative”), people are rarely training specifically for hypertrophy. They may think they’re training for cosmetic change because what they’re doing is “popular” (among gyms and trainers), but objective science says they’re not doing it right.

Functional training, boot camp training and cross training dominate gym protocols and fitness magazines these days. And don’t get us wrong–these can all be great methods of training based on specific goals. But remember, the key to optimizing results is, again, that your program must match your specific goal.


The aforementioned programs are great for improving performance parameters. You can increase strength, along with both muscular and cardiovascular endurance; become more functional, and improve your ability to complete specific athletic tasks and drills. Great adaptations for athletes, and actually, we’re working on incorporating some of these styles into future versions of our app.

Building strength is largely about neural overload. Increasing the number of push-ups you can do, or your speed in completing an exercise circuit. That’s great for muscular endurance and cardiovascular overload, if that’s what you’re going for.

But if you’re simply looking to build muscle, then muscle overload is where you should focus the majority of your training efforts.


Despite some of the negative mainstream opinion that has arisen out of the “juiced-up, bodybuilder” culture of the 80’s and 90’s, don’t be fooled — these guys still train in ways that are optimal for building visual muscle mass. And you should take note — the science says you need traditional hypertrophy training–compound movements spliced with body-part isolation exercises–to change your actual physical appearance.

And don’t be scared of that word “traditional”. Old school doesn’t mean ineffective. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. These traditional strength training methods have stood the test of time because they are still effective. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has to say about it:

The movement and physiological analysis of the sport, and the priorities of the athlete’s sport season determine the primary goal or outcome of the resistance training program. Typically, this goal is to improve strength, power, hypertrophy, or muscular endurance. Despite a potential desire or need to make improvements in two different areas (power and endurance, strength and hypertrophy), an effort should be made to concentrate on only one training outcome per season. For muscular hypertrophy, exercises that use both concentric and eccentric muscle actions are best. Use moderate loading (70 to 85 percent 1RM) for 8 to 12 repetitions per set, with one to three sets per exercise. Advanced lifters, such as bodybuilders, may increase the load and the number of sets, and they may decrease the rest time (one to two minutes between sets). Like training for maximal strength, both single-and multiple-joint exercises should be included. Keep frequency similar to when training for maximal strength, with each major muscle group being worked one to three days per week, depending on training status.


Are you really doing the right things to build muscle? Does your training program match that goal, or are you actually training more like a performance athlete? You must adjust your training approach (exercises, sets, reps and rests) to make sure it matches your training goal. Only then will you be on your way to Rippedville.

3 thoughts on “Myth Busters: I’m a Hardgainer

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