How to build as a hard gainer

What is a Hard Gainer

Is Hard Gainer a thing?

A hard gainer is a person who practices bodybuilding but finds it challenging to develop musculature regardless of the amount of effort put in. The opposite of a hard gainer is an easy gainer.

For someone struggling with weight loss, ectomorph body type is a dream. Blessed with a small bone size, long limbs, ectomorph’s scarcely put on weight, as they have a super-efficient metabolism that burns extra calories without a fuss. However, there is a twist in the story, when they pursue bodybuilding dreams. Building muscle for the hard gainers is difficult, as their super-efficient metabolism works against them, but with a plan, in place, they can overcome the challenges.

As compared to mesomorphs and endomorphs, hard gainers have to struggle at each step of bodybuilding. Should they give up the pursuit of muscles? Of course not, here is a plan in place for hard gainer muscle building, which will help the thin and lanky guys make friends with their active metabolism to build muscles.


Muscle building for hard gainers, like any other body type, will revolve around the three parameters of eating, sleeping and exercising right. You will require the strength to push the limits and train harder, along with eating clean. In order to gain muscles, ectomorph’s or hard gainers should remain in a calorie surplus situation, avoid cardio and emphasize on protein and fat intake.


In order to qualify as a hard gainer, you must have trained regularly for 6 months without any noticeable change. Life is difficult for such people because they continue to train month after month, without any result.

  1. Progressive overload to build muscles

When ectomorph’s include progressive overload to train their muscles, they challenge muscle fibers to grow gradually so that they adapt to the exposed stress, recover from the effect and grow stronger. When the muscles grow bigger and firmer, they are challenged with increased weights during the resistance training. The keyword here is gradual. The whole process works to adapt the body to the challenges rather than pushing it through the heaviest set in one go because then the body will be unable to adapt.

  1. Train with heavier weights

Training for a hard gainer involves choosing heavier weights vs lighter weights. You should keep your reps in the range of 5-10. To build muscles, you’ve to tackle heavier weights eventually, but it has to be done gradually. Ectomorph’s need to go slow because if they are pushed with heavy weights right from the start, their body will not adapt to the stress accordingly. Hence they need to start with lower weights but more volume. This will enable their body to grow in the muscle size. As their body adapts, they can move to heavier weights.

  1. Do compound lifts

What’s the best workout for a hard gainer? In the ectomorph bodybuilding routine, compound lifts are more important than isolation exercises, like dumbbell curls. Do compound lifts, as these exercises use of more than one major muscle group at a time, whereas isolation exercises engage only one muscle group. Since compound exercise recruits a larger muscle group primarily and smaller muscle groups secondarily during lifts. The best exercises for you are squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, dips, rows, bench press.

  1. No cardio for hard gainers

Cardio is to enhance fat burn, but the ectomorph’s need not worry about it because it’s least of their concern. Therefore, hard gainers can safely avoid cardio.

  1. Rest longer

Ectomorph’s need to rest longer during their training sets. They need to aim at 2-5 minutes of rest to allow their nervous system to recover from the stress of training. Get plenty of sleep.


The fundamental principle of hard gainer nutrition is to know how to eat for maximum muscle growth. Gaining weight requires a plan and the eagerness to stick to it with dedication. Start with writing down your meal plan that you will never deviate from. Ideally, you should eat every 2 to 3 hours. Your first meal should be immediately after waking up and your last meal will include protein-rich foods at bedtime.

  1. Get in a calorie surplus

While the workout is just one aspect of building muscles, nutrition is another more significant aspect. A diet error takes you two steps backwards in muscle building. Nutrition for ectomorph’s requires to stay in a calorie surplus situation, but the problem with most ectomorph’s is that their super fast metabolism will burn this surplus quickly. So eat a lot !!

  1. Eat enough proteins for muscle building

Protein intake is absolutely essential if your goal is to build muscle. Protein is the building block for tissue growth and repair, and without this, you will not be providing your body with the tools it needs to grow new tissue! If you want to increase your muscle mass then you must be in a consistent calorie surplus. You need to eat proteins, double your body weight in pounds in a day by gams of protein. (For a 200 pound man, the protein consumption should be 400g in a day) This formula is arguable but I believe in doubling my weight although some will suggest less. This is for a hard gainer. You may have to start lower and strive to go higher as your adapting to eating more and more.

  1. Get ample carbs to build muscles faster

You should understand that adding fast food, processed food as sources of carbohydrates would not be the correct idea. You can get a healthy option by choosing low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates instead of moving towards junk food. Good sources of muscle building carbohydrates are beans, oatmeal, potato, sweat potato, rice, pasta, whole-grains. Carbohydrates not only provide you energy but also pump your muscles, somewhat similar to creatine. You need carbs to grow !Carbs are important for muscle building because they’re protein sparing, which means the body looks to glycogen for energy instead of breaking down muscle tissue for energy. Consuming carbs post-workout can prevent muscle loss and help repair muscles.

  1. Get good fats

There is an important muscle-building chain reaction here that begins with healthy fats. The so-called “good” fats in your diet—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—increase levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. HDL leads to increased production of growth hormone, which in turn triggers more amino acids. These building blocks of protein are essential for building muscle tissue.

  1. Drink your calories

Mass Gainer is an option supplement for a hard gainer, as it enables you to get in a calorie-surplus situation. Most importantly, it provides you measured calories, so you know exactly, how much extra you are having in a day. Although real food is your best option supplement can aid a hard gainer having trouble eating

Start slow and give your body time to adjust to extra calories. You do not want to jolt your body by doubling your calorie intake. Most probably, your body will refuse to absorb the additional foods and you too will get tired during the process. Go slow and steady, because bodybuilding requires patience and perseverance.



Great read brother. Need to up my fats and lower rest time. I love the low rest time pump action though lol.


There is a balance to find with each individual. I train fast and need to slow down my self. Hard to kick old habits.


This is good. I wish this was me. I am a hard loser :joy: Of weight that is :facepunch:t2:

But been doing low carb per EXOs advice and have lost 12-15lbs. I only do carbs post workout.


Bro look into the vertical diet I have it and will upload when we have the ebook section. In there Stan talks about post meal walks. Bro they work!?! I’ve gained on it and seen buddies lose so much weight on it. Do a ten minute walk post meals like someone owes you some money and their ten minutes up the road. I’m telling you it works man.

Also for those that need help getting cups of rice down a day get some dextrose and add some into the rice cooker as it’s cooking. Love some dextrose.


So then so you add a little extra water?


No I haven’t noticed having to add water. If I’m making 2 cups of rice I’ll add 4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of dextrose. Adds a sweet flavor if you add to your coffee or sweet potatoes. It helps with saliva production.


Got my post mixed up while driving but this snapshot in the wrong post.


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As a super hard gainer this is 100% on point. It took me years to realize that my “eating to grow” and what I actually needed to eat to grow was very different.


All a learning curve and finding what works for you. For me it’s just past what I want to eat and what I need to eat to actually grow. Yeah at times I go Homer Simpson on some chocolate donuts or some oatmeal cream pies with peanut butter on top but most of the time I’m on point.

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Great read. I have been reading “Hard gainer Solution” and the workouts are somewhat similar other than the longer rest between sets. It’s basically supersets as fast as possible. The whole workout should only last 45-60 minutes, Most of them don’t really use the same muscle group. ex. Last night my first SS was 5x5 squats and bench press so heavy but not overwhelming. Most of the other sets are more in the 10-15 rep range, maybe one exercise with 20. Each workout is different so your muscles never get used to one thing.


I’m a hard gainer. The keys for me is extra rest and eating well over my BMR. Hard gainers also notoriously have high metabolisms. I needed to read something like this when I first started… lifting heavy but getting nowhere. I’m well over 6 ft and packing on weight has always been a struggle. If I can pass on anything to anyone who struggles with putting on mass it’s read this and eat until you’re uncomfortable. Rest, lift, repeat.


Slow and controlled reps; e.g. explosive then slow on the negative. I target rep ranges between 15- 18 reps and love century sets. You get that volume you want and crawl out of the gym lol

My coach drives for that intensity too, when he says let’s go he means it lol