The Hard Gainer’s Guide to Summer

 

Summertime can be tough for lean guys. No, really.

It can be tough because everything in sight is talking about “leaning out” or “losing fat” or getting a “beach body.” And all those things are great. Except that not every body is the same, and neither are everyone’s goals. For some of us who are taller, longer-torsoed and leaner, building and maintaining muscle is a constant process, throughout the year, one that doesn’t have a “cutting phase.”

The summer months make this especially difficult, as hotter temperatures make eating more of a chore, and so do the activities that usually go along with the dog days — it’s tough to plan enough quality calories over the course of a fishing trip, a day on the jet ski, etc. Plus, the increase in heat means your body has to work extra hard just to maintain those calories in the first place.

For these reasons, and because we know not everybody is looking to simply lose weight, we have the Hard Gainer’s Guide to Summer this week — a comprehensive plan of attack for adding muscle size with the proper gym, diet and supplement strategies. We skinny guys can already take our shirts off at the beach and show some abs — we want to build some more muscle to put on display while we’re at it.

First things first: We’ll start with the diet.

EATING FOR HARD GAINERS

If you’re reading this, it more than likely applies to you: Hard gainers are classified as “longer” body types, with typically fast metabolisms, lean frames, smaller joints (narrow wrists and ankles) and narrow waists. Usually, hard gainers are longer-limbed and taller than our stockier gym friends. That’s OK — many find the “lifeguard” body type to be the most desirable. If you fall into this category, where you find that you simply can’t eat enough to ever get fat or, sadly, gain the muscle fast enough, you’re a hard gainer.

The bottom line for you if you want to add muscle is this: YOU MUST EAT. Many hard gainers make the common mistake of undereating because they don’t want to gain body fat, a reasonable concern. However, take into consideration that you are skinny for a reason! You’re blessed with a fast metabolism and the amount of calories will almost never be an issue as long as the quality of calories is premium. If you’re serious about adding muscle, your workouts will be so intense and you’ll gain enough muscle that you won’t gain significant levels of fat, and that just leaves you with the task of using food for building material. Muscle just doesn’t come from thin air — new tissue needs to come from a source. It’s food, in the form of quality proteins, fats and carbs.

Three meals a day ain’t gonna cut it anymore. It’s time to eat with a purpose and a plan. And here is that plan:

BREAKFAST (within 30 minutes of waking):

4-5 whole eggs, spinach, tomato, piece of fruit (grapefruit, orange, banana, apple, peach, etc.), 1 c milk, 1 c instant oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter.

SNACK (2 1/2 hours after breakfast)

Protein shake in milk, peanut butter/banana/honey sandwich on whole wheat bread

LUNCH (3 hours after first snack)

Tuna* or chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread, sliced apples with peanut butter, greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

SNACK (2 1/2 hours after lunch)

Two string cheeses, handful of almonds, banana.

DINNER (3 hours after second snack)

1 serving meat (lean beef — filet mignon, loin steak, etc. — salmon, tilapia, shrimp, ahi*, etc.), 1 leafy/green vegetable (broccoli, spinach), 1/2 C brown rice or whole wheat pasta OR a sweet potato/yam. Avoid white potatoes.

BEDTIME SNACK

1/2 C cottage cheese, 1 slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

*Because of potentially high mercury levels in fish, do not eat tuna more than 3-4 times per week.

There obviously is some wiggle room for variety, which is the way you want it, but the important thing is to notice the approximate ratios of proteins, carbs and healthy fats with each meal and emulate it as closely as possible.

TRAINING FOR HARD GAINERS

Next, it’s time to come up with a plan to put all that fuel to use. The goal every time you hit the gym should be hypertrophy — the increase in muscle volume. To achieve this on a lean frame, you won’t be able to simply use a generic workout plan. Like all lanky guys experience when we clothes shop, you need something a bit more custom-fitted, tailored to you. Forget three sets of 10. We need to reach deep muscle fibers, building the slow-twitch ones larger and the fast-twitch ones stronger. To do that, we’ve set up this workout plan that will not only add size, strength and endurance of strength, but will provide just enough of a calorie burn to ensure that you’re not storing up fat.

Follow this plan for 4-6 weeks (in four weeks, we will have the second stage of this plan), and DO NOT cheat yourself — make every workout, do every set and get every rep. Anything less than full effort is a failure! It is a four-day split, with three rest days, ample time to get both physical and mental rest before you’re back in the gym, so there are no “burnout” excuses here.

MONDAY (Chest and Back)

5 Supersets: Wide-grip pull-ups (failure)/barbell bench press (x12). Clear the bar with your chin and lower yourself all the way down; likewise, on bench, pull the bar down to your chest and, without bouncing it, drive it back up. Perfect form is the biggest key.

5 Supersets: T-bar rows (x12)/dumbbell incline press (x12).

5 Supersets: Seated cable rows (x12)/dumbbell flys (x12).

TUESDAY (Legs and Abs)

5 Supersets: Wide-stance squats (x12)/narrow-stance leg press (x12). On the leg press, keeping your feet close together, toes pointed straight forward, will target the upper leg’s outer sweep more, while a wider squat with the toes pointed slightly outward allows for a deeper, more engaging movement.

5 Supersets: Romanian deadlifts (x12)/wall sits (x15 seconds).

5 Supersets: Hamstring curls (x12)/seated calf raises (x20).

3 Supersets: Hanging leg raises (x8)/decline crunches (x10)/planks (x30 seconds).

WEDNESDAY (Arms)

5 Trisets: EZ Bar Curls (x6)/French triceps press (x12)/Reverse-grip cursl (x6)

3 Supersets: Weighted dips (to failure)/preacher curl machine (x25)

3 Trisets: Hammer curls (x10 per arm)/V-bar cable pushdowns (x20)/incline dumbbell curls (x10 per arm)

THURSDAY (Shoulders and Abs)

4 Supersets: Arnold Presses (x12)/Upright rows (x12)

Standing overhead press: 4×12

5 Supersets: Lateral raises (x15)/front raises (x15)

3 Trisets: Hanging leg raises (x10)/decline crunches (x12)/planks (x30 seconds)

SUPPLEMENTS FOR HARD GAINERS

If you’re a hard gainer, we can assume a few things about you: 1) You need a lot of calories, 2) your existing muscle mass is difficult to maintain and 3) your body naturally isn’t inclined to grow much more. None of these are complete roadblocks; rather, they’re just small speed bumps you can get over with some help. Now, we can address the first issue with the diet plan we’ve put in place, but really, you’ll need more. The supplement plan that works best for hard gainers is one that addresses the need for a calorie surplus, muscle recovery and rebuilding and even hormonal issues that aren’t as uncommon as you might think.

Absolutely, if you’re a hard gainer trying to build muscle fast, we recommend:

  • High-quality gainer shake. GAINER7, MASS COMPLEX or MASS FUZION are all effective at delivering quality calories in a hurry post-workout.
  • BCAAs. Around the clock, your body needs amino acids to prevent catabolism, where the body feeds on muscle storage for energy. Go with BCAA SPORT or IBCAA by Katalyst.
  • Creatine. Abundantly researched and shown to increase muscle volume and strength, there is no reason to pick a low-quality version anymore — it’s mostly a very affordable supplement. Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of creatine that ensures nearly 100 percent of this product goes to the muscles and doesn’t get converted into useless creatinin. N’FUZE and KRE-ALKALYN COMPLEX by VitaSport are great options.
  • Pro-testosterone products. Hard gainers are, well, hard-wired to simply not produce much muscle mass. This can be changed with more natural testosterone production. As many lean guys can attest, during puberty there was one massive growth spike where we got taller and filled out (at least as much as we were going to). Natural testosterone, which caused that spike, decreases dramatically as men get older, leading to increases in body fat and decreases in muscle  mass. We simply can’t afford that! ANITEST, ARABOL, AUGMENT, 1-XD and HGH-191 are outstanding options to get your body back to growing, the natural way.
  • Pre-workout products. A supplement that increases your body’s nitric oxide production is a supplement that will flat-out increase your workout quality, and the stronger you feel and the more endurance you have, the better your results will be. Imagine how much benefit you’d get from just two last reps at the end of a set, or from using a heavier weight. Pre-workout products like N’SANE, NOX-P3, ANX-P3, and THERMOVEX deliver more energy, both of mind and body, for the most high-quality workouts you can get. Plus, the increased blood flow means your other supplements are working more efficiently. Remember, to gain muscle as a skinny guy you’ll need to be working with heavy weights, and doing a lot of reps. Focus and energy are absolute MUSTS.

OTHER TIPS FOR HARD GAINERS

  • Stay hydrated. Shoot for at least a gallon of clean, cold water a day. It will take the stress off your body in the summer heat, allowing it to concentrate on the ultimate mission you’re giving it: to build muscle! Plus, with the increased calorie intake and supplements, your liver and kidneys will thank you for keeping the system hydrated. On top of this all, it helps digestion, helps keep the body’s tissues healthy and ensures a flushed system that won’t bloat the body.
  • ALWAYS have snacks on hand. If you’re stuck in an office, running errands, or going on a trip, be prepared. Don’t let a lack of nearby food sidetrack your mission. Bring along jerky, string cheeses, fruit, trail mix, a shaker cup and Ziploc full of PRO7, whatever — just have food handy. You HAVE to eat. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll miss healthy meals — it’s nearly as bad as missing a workout.
  • Pre-cook. Most guys who need to eat a lot suffer the pitfall of being unprepared, especially if they live busy lives. Well, most of us have a least one day a week off — use that day to prepare for all seven. Cook up a week’s worth of chicken breasts and put it all in tupperware for salads, to mix in with pasta or beans, or even just to eat alone as a snack. Do the same with broccoli or squash, or even sweet potatoes and pasta. My fridge looks like I’m storing rations in preparation for a natural disaster — in a way, that’s exactly what I’m doing!
  • ALWAYS eat a complete breakfast. You are most susceptible to muscle-wasting at the only time you can’t do anything about caloric intake — while you sleep. Do not let it continue when you wake up! Even if it means waking up 30 minutes early to account for the time to make breakfast, you have to eat this meal.

The Women’s Perfect Plan: Friday (Lower Body 2)

OK, ladies — you asked for it, and we’re delivering: a Perfect Plan catered just to your goals of shedding body fat,  improving muscle tone and addressing problem areas.

We understand there are a lot of confusing aspects of supplements and training, and that’s why we’ve put together this split. Follow it for four weeks, supplementing with the recommended products at the times given, and the guesswork will be totally removed for you — all you have to do is follow the instructions and keep your diet right (stop in to NUTRISHOP to get a FREE diet analysis if it’s not there yet)!

All workouts will focus on high reps, muscular endurance training and getting a cardio effect — don’t worry about “bulking up,” either. Many women have this concern, but women produce about 1/10th the testosterone men do, and a sensible diet will not provide the calories necessary for huge muscle gain. With that said, train away!

THE PERFECT WOMEN’S PLAN: Friday (Lower Body)

As directed (label instructions):

  • DETOXIN — A potent supplement to cleanse the system of harmful waste and toxins that cause floating and excess fat and water retention.
  • HER ESSENTIALS — A blend formulated to improve hair, skin and nail quality.

Upon waking:

  • LIPOCOR — A natural, complete lipid replacement that will help your body burn unhealthy body fat. Also take with lunch and before bed.

30 minutes preworkout:

  • THERMOVEX — For a thermogenic boost that assists with fat loss while increasing natural energy. An uptempo workout is perfect for this product, as it works hand-in-hand with its effects.
  • BCAA — For catabolism prevention and to force your body to burn fat for fuel during your workout. Also for muscle preservation.

THE WORKOUT

Warm-up: Two sets of 15 jumping jacks, then 40 total seconds each of  foot-over-knee hip stretch, side lunges, hamstring and quad stretches.

5 Supersets: Front Squats/Lying Hamstring Curls, 20, 15, 12, 10, 8. So, first superset is 20 squats, immediately followed by 20 curls; second is 15 and 15, and so on.

5 Supersets: Leg Press/Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, 20, 15, 12, 10, 8.

3 Supersets: Walking Lunges x 30/Calf Raise drop set, 30, 20, 15. Your first superset will be 30 walking lunges, followed by a drop set of calf raises, where you’ll start with a weight you can do for 30 reps, strip off some weight and do 20 reps, strip off some more and do 15, all without rest. That’s ONE superset, so repeat it three times.
  • Immediately after your last calf raise, have a serving of BCAA to prevent muscle wasting.
Cardio: 20 minutes treadmill or elliptical at a jogging pace.
Post-workout (within 30 minutes):
  • PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS: To quickly repair muscle tissue and aid recovery.

The Perfect Women’s Plan: Thursday (Upper Body)

OK, ladies — you asked for it, and we’re delivering: a Perfect Plan catered just to your goals of shedding body fat,  improving muscle tone and addressing problem areas.

We understand there are a lot of confusing aspects of supplements and training, and that’s why we’ve put together this split. Follow it for four weeks, supplementing with the recommended products at the times given, and the guesswork will be totally removed for you — all you have to do is follow the instructions and keep your diet right (stop in to NUTRISHOP to get a FREE diet analysis if it’s not there yet)!

All workouts will focus on high reps, muscular endurance training and getting a cardio effect — don’t worry about “bulking up,” either. Many women have this concern, but women produce about 1/10th the testosterone men do, and a sensible diet will not provide the calories necessary for huge muscle gain. With that said, train away!

THE PERFECT WOMEN’S PLAN: Thursday (Upper Body)

As directed (label instructions):

  • DETOXIN — A potent supplement to cleanse the system of harmful waste and toxins that cause floating and excess fat and water retention.
  • HER ESSENTIALS — A blend formulated to improve hair, skin and nail quality.

Upon waking:

  • LIPOCOR — A natural, complete lipid replacement that will help your body burn unhealthy body fat. Also take with lunch and before bed.

30 minutes preworkout:

  • THERMOVEX — For a thermogenic boost that assists with fat loss while increasing natural energy. An uptempo workout is perfect for this product, as it works hand-in-hand with its effects.
  • BCAA — For catabolism prevention and to force your body to burn fat for fuel during your workout. Also for muscle preservation.

THE WORKOUT

Warm-up: Two sets of 6 push-ups, followed by two sets of 6 assisted pull-ups. Concentrate on perfect form and range of motion.

3 Supersets: Barbell Bench Press x 15/Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldowns x 15.

3 Supersets: Lateral Flys x 15/Planks, 30 seconds.

3 Supersets: EZ Bar Curls x 15/Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Presses (15)
  • Immediately after your last tricep press, have a serving of BCAA to prevent muscle wasting.
Cardio: 20 minutes treadmill or elliptical at a good pace. Try to get 2.5-3 miles in this time.
Post-workout (within 30 minutes):
  • PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS: To quickly repair muscle tissue and aid recovery.

The Women’s Perfect Plan: Wednesday (Abs and Cardio)

OK, ladies — you asked for it, and we’re delivering: a Perfect Plan catered just to your goals of shedding body fat,  improving muscle tone and addressing problem areas.

We understand there are a lot of confusing aspects of supplements and training, and that’s why we’ve put together this split. Follow it for four weeks, supplementing with the recommended products at the times given, and the guesswork will be totally removed for you — all you have to do is follow the instructions and keep your diet right (stop in to NUTRISHOP to get a FREE diet analysis if it’s not there yet)!

All workouts will focus on high reps, muscular endurance training and getting a cardio effect — don’t worry about “bulking up,” either. Many women have this concern, but women produce about 1/10th the testosterone men do, and a sensible diet will not provide the calories necessary for huge muscle gain. With that said, train away!

THE PERFECT WOMEN’S PLAN: Wednesday (Abs and Cardio)

As directed (label instructions):

  • DETOXIN — A potent supplement to cleanse the system of harmful waste and toxins that cause floating and excess fat and water retention.
  • HER ESSENTIALS — A blend formulated to improve hair, skin and nail quality.

Upon waking:

  • LIPOCOR — A natural, complete lipid replacement that will help your body burn unhealthy body fat. Also take with lunch and before bed.

30 minutes preworkout:

  • THERMOVEX — For a thermogenic boost that assists with fat loss while increasing natural energy. An uptempo workout is perfect for this product, as it works hand-in-hand with its effects.
  • BCAA — For catabolism prevention and to force your body to burn fat for fuel during your workout. Also for muscle preservation.

THE WORKOUT

Three Giant Sets: 8 Hanging Leg Raises/12 Decline Sit-Ups/8 Twisting Crunches (to the left, down, to the right is one rep)/30 seconds plank

3×15: Kneeling Cable Crunches

8 x 20 seconds: Side planks (4 sets per side)

  • Immediately after your last plank, have a serving of BCAA to prevent muscle wasting.
Cardio: 15 minutes of HIIT, with a 2:1 ratio of high intensity to low intensity. Basically, you’ll do five consecutive “sets” of 1 minute at full sprint, followed by one minute of a fast run, followed by a moderate-paced jog for a minute.
Post-workout (within 30 minutes):
  • PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS: To quickly repair muscle tissue and aid recovery.

The Women’s Perfect Plan: Tuesday (Lower Body)

OK, ladies — you asked for it, and we’re delivering: a Perfect Plan catered just to your goals of shedding body fat,  improving muscle tone and addressing problem areas.

We understand there are a lot of confusing aspects of supplements and training, and that’s why we’ve put together this split. Follow it for four weeks, supplementing with the recommended products at the times given, and the guesswork will be totally removed for you — all you have to do is follow the instructions and keep your diet right (stop in to NUTRISHOP to get a FREE diet analysis if it’s not there yet)!

All workouts will focus on high reps, muscular endurance training and getting a cardio effect — don’t worry about “bulking up,” either. Many women have this concern, but women produce about 1/10th the testosterone men do, and a sensible diet will not provide the calories necessary for huge muscle gain. With that said, train away!

THE PERFECT WOMEN’S PLAN: Tuesday (Lower Body)

As directed (label instructions):

  • DETOXIN — A potent supplement to cleanse the system of harmful waste and toxins that cause floating and excess fat and water retention.
  • HER ESSENTIALS — A blend formulated to improve hair, skin and nail quality.

Upon waking:

  • LIPOCOR — A natural, complete lipid replacement that will help your body burn unhealthy body fat. Also take with lunch and before bed.

30 minutes preworkout:

  • THERMOVEX — For a thermogenic boost that assists with fat loss while increasing natural energy. An uptempo workout is perfect for this product, as it works hand-in-hand with its effects.
  • BCAA — For catabolism prevention and to force your body to burn fat for fuel during your workout. Also for muscle preservation.

THE WORKOUT

Warm-up: Three sets of 10 jumping jacks, with quad, hamstring and lunging stretches for 30 seconds each. Then, follow up with foot-over-knee hip stretches, three sets of 10 seconds per side.

5 Supersets: Squats/Leg Press (20, 15, 12, 10, 8). So, the first superset would be 20 squats immediately followed by 20 leg presses; the second would be 15 and 15, and so on.

Seated Hamstring Curls 20, 15, 12, then 5×5.

3 Supersets: Romanian Deadlifts (20, 15, 15)/Walking Lunges (25). So, first superset would be 20 deads followed by 25 walking lunges; the last two sets would be 15 and 25.
Finish off with three burnout sets of squat jumps — go to total failure (the point where you simply cannot get out of the bottom part of the squat) on each set.
  • Immediately after your last squat jump, have a serving of BCAA to prevent muscle wasting.
Cardio: 20 minutes treadmill or elliptical at a moderate pace. Two miles in this time would be commendable after legs day.
Post-workout (within 30 minutes):
  • PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS: To quickly repair muscle tissue and aid recovery.
  • A banana, or other piece of high-sugar fruit (ripe melon, grapes, fig, etc.) to help replenish glycogen stores quickly.

The Perfect Women’s Plan: Monday (Upper Body)

OK, ladies — you asked for it, and we’re delivering: a Perfect Plan catered just to your goals of shedding body fat,  improving muscle tone and addressing problem areas.

We understand there are a lot of confusing aspects of supplements and training, and that’s why we’ve put together this split. Follow it for four weeks, supplementing with the recommended products at the times given, and the guesswork will be totally removed for you — all you have to do is follow the instructions and keep your diet right (stop in to NUTRISHOP to get a FREE diet analysis if it’s not there yet)!

All workouts will focus on high reps, muscular endurance training and getting a cardio effect — don’t worry about “bulking up,” either. Many women have this concern, but women produce about 1/10th the testosterone men do, and a sensible diet will not provide the calories necessary for huge muscle gain. With that said, train away!

THE PERFECT WOMEN’S PLAN: Monday (Upper Body)

As directed (label instructions):

  • DETOXIN — A potent supplement to cleanse the system of harmful waste and toxins that cause floating and excess fat and water retention.
  • HER ESSENTIALS — A blend formulated to improve hair, skin and nail quality.

Upon waking:

  • LIPOCOR — A natural, complete lipid replacement that will help your body burn unhealthy body fat. Also take with lunch and before bed.

30 minutes preworkout:

  • THERMOVEX — For a thermogenic boost that assists with fat loss while increasing natural energy. An uptempo workout is perfect for this product, as it works hand-in-hand with its effects.
  • BCAA — For catabolism prevention and to force your body to burn fat for fuel during your workout. Also for muscle preservation.

THE WORKOUT

Warm-up: Two sets of 6 push-ups, followed by two sets of 6 assisted pull-ups. Concentrate on perfect form and range of motion.

3 Supersets: Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press, 15 reps (per arm)/Seated cable rows (15). It’s OK to use very light weights, but make sure your last 3-4 reps of each set are a challenge. You want to get to 15, but they should be tough.

3 Supersets: Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press x 15/Planks, 30 seconds.

3 Supersets: Alternating Bicep Dumbbell Curls x 15 (per arm)/Tricep V-Bar Pulldowns (15)
  • Immediately after your last pulldown, have a serving of BCAA to prevent muscle wasting.
Cardio: 20 minutes treadmill or elliptical at a good pace. Try to get 2.5-3 miles in this time.
Post-workout (within 30 minutes):
  • PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS: To quickly repair muscle tissue and aid recovery.

The Perfect Plan: Friday (Arms)

We’re removing all the guesswork from exercise and supplementation this week. Your goal: Adding muscle mass and tone, cutting body fat and increasing strength. We have the workouts to address all these, and the supplements and according plans to make them matter most. Follow them EXACTLY for four weeks, and notice significant, real results.

This is The Perfect Plan. No more questions, no more excuses, no more confusion. Your only instruction with this plan: “Take as directed.”

THE PERFECT PLAN: Friday (Arms)

90 minutes preworkout

  • ANX-P3. For vasodilation and blood flow to increase workout strength, endurance and power.

45-30 minutes preworkout

  • BCAA. To prevent catabolism during intense workouts, forcing your body to use fat as energy.
  • N’FUZE. To increase muscle mass, size and strength.
  • NOX-P3. To stack with the ANX-P3 you took, achieving the best possible pump for your workout.

THE WORKOUT

Do a quick superset to warm up: 10 pushups, followed by 10 pull-ups.

5 Tri-Sets: 6 straight bar curls/12 overhead triceps presses/6 reverse grip EZ bar curls

5 Supersets: 12 Incline dumbbell curls/20 rope pushdowns

3 Trisets: 15 bench dips/25 light machine preacher curls/10 dips

Abs: 3 Trisets: 8 hanging leg raises/15 crunches/30 seconds plank

  • Immediately after your last plank, have a serving of BCAA.

Cardio: 20 minutes of continuous-pace running, for about 2.5-3 miles.

Immediately after:

  • BCAA. To again prevent catabolism and help your body preserve its muscle mass.
  • Whey isolate/hydrolysate protein (PRO7, FORZAPRO). A complex protein blend for ultimate recovery.
  • N’FUZE. For increased muscle mass and recovery.
  • MASS FUZION. An immediate, fast-acting glycogen replenisher to help build muscle mass.
  • GLUTACOR: A glutamine supplement for optimal recovery and immune support (important, especially after leaving the germ-filled gym).