Muscle Building Tips For Hardgainers

The principles of muscle building and tips to use them in your everyday routine.

November 26, 2015
Muscle Building Tips For Hardgainers

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Hardgainer, ectomorph or skinny guy - call it whatever you like, basically it's just a bad genetic predisposition.

The truth is you probably have other talents, but gaining muscle is just not one of them.

The human body is an incredibly adaptive organism.

You can still do it, here is what muscle building essentially comes down to:

- give your body a reason to build muscle

- give it the fuel to do it

Give your body a reason to build muscle

As long as your body can perform the tasks that you demand of him, there is no reason why it should build bigger muscles. Training is just a controlled way of giving your body a reason to change.

Main point:

Train to contractile failure. Perform exercises until you can't do any more.


Slow down your reps to increase time under tension. For example, focus on the negative phases of movement such as lowering yourself down slowly during pull up. Choose a tempo (2 - 4 seconds) and count.

Add isometrics. For example, get in the bottom of push up and hold the position for a couple of seconds before pushing back up. Hanging out under tension helps you put muscle at more effort with less reps.

Use drop sets. Start with the hardest exercise for a specific movement and gradually make it easier. (Hindu Push Ups followed by Pike Push Ups followed by Regular Push Ups etc.)

Always variate. Alternate sets of exercise to failure with normal sets without failure to make sure that your body never gets used to the same trainings. What about cardio? There are many different types of cardio workouts, but most of them aim to burn extra energy and/or create a metabolic after burn effect that burns energy while you rest, making it harder to gain mass. You can add a quick cardio session for active rest day, but keep it low intensity.

How does it work?

Exercises target different numbers of motor units in your muscles. Contractile failure of muscle is a combination of muscle fatigue and the number of muscular motor units activated. Research suggests that hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) is stimulated by maximal motor unit recruitment. The above suggested tips for training simply make it easier to reach the desired effect.[1]

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Give your body the fuel to build muscle

Growth happens during recovery after your training. You will increase muscle size if you provide enough building blocks.

Main point:

In general, eat more than you burn during the day. Keep your total protein intake in check.


Find your protein formula. The recommended amount of protein per meal is 0.4 grams per 1 kg of bodyweight. A basic model would be 4 meals per days with at least 20 g of protein, but you need to experiment to see what works for you.[2] Here's a list of high quality protein foods.

Create a calorie surplus. If you're not gaining muscle add calories to your diet. Count the calories for a couple of days just the get an estimate of your daily intake. Add additional 250 to 500 kcal. There's no need to stuff yourself or eat junk food. For example, nuts and seeds are full of healthy fat and have plenty of calories in small amounts.

Refuel after workout. Although the so called "anabolic window" after your workout lasts longer than 1 hour, for optimal gains it's better to follow the basic nutrition rules of post-workout meals.

Eat before going to sleep. A light protein packed meal will help your overnight recovery of muscle.[3][4] Diary products are a good choice as they contain casein protein which digests slowly during the night. Sleep affects your muscle building in other ways, too.

How does it work?

Muscle mass is a balance of protein breakdown and protein synthesis. To gain more muscle mass the protein synthesis rate needs to outweigh the breakdown. The exact timing and dosage of protein matter less than the total amount of protein ingested during the day. However, there is no evidence that eating enormous amounts of protein will build more mass. Some studies suggest that after a certain amount of protein (around 30 g per meal) a "muscle full" effect might happen after which the protein isn't used for muscle building any more.


This is not fun and games, this is construction work. Muscle building requires training to failure which is hard and exhausting. Be honest, how bad do you want it? The muscle building path is full of failures, don't give up, be determined.

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Post a comment

  • nikica 1.188 workouts (level 157)
    Great article. When I have tried to go with 2 cardio workouts a week I started to loose more weight which is not what I wanted. I wanted to loose the belly fat, but that was not possible :) HIIT trainings seemed as a better solution for Cardio workouts, although I rarely use those. I concencrate on muscle routines but tend to use the routines that have some cardio along with the muscle workouts. December 01, 2015
  • Aatu Mallat 29 workouts (level 12)
    Great post! December 01, 2015
  • komilfoo 24 workouts (level 8)
    I think doing metabolic resistance training, you exhaust the muscles more so they will grow faster. People who have trouble gaining muscle mass and eat more will be more likely to add fat, so that way you reduce that and force your body to grow the muscles instead of storing it as fat. Cardio is also good to build more endurance, so that way you will be able to train longer and harder, again, forcing more muscle growth November 28, 2015
  • madbarz 111 workouts (level 10)
    Hello komilfoo, the article is meant for people who struggle to gain muscle mass. As long as adding mass is their primary goal, most people are better off avoiding burning extra energy through strenuous cardio. Even short high intensity cardio raises your metabolism and burns more through the day when you rest. What is your opinion? November 28, 2015
  • komilfoo 24 workouts (level 8)
    Why no cardio? November 27, 2015

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