Bulking is not easy. We bust our butts to put on precious muscle, but for some of us, it’s harder than others.
We’re called hardgainers. We work hard, and try to do everything that we’re supposed to do, but things just don’t come together. You work and work and the scale just won’t move. Well I’ve been there.
When I started, I weighed in at a measly 115lbs soaking wet. No that isn’t a typo, 115lbs. And for years after I started training, I was stuck. After 5 years I only got up to 138 lb. I was strong, I was lean, but I was still small. Then finally I figured out some things I was doing that were making things harder for myself.
The truth is, that’s what we all do. We unintentionally make things harder for ourselves. All hardgainers have habits that make them hardgainers. If you want to finally break through your plateaus, and put on some serious size, you’ll have to change your habits. Most of these habits revolve around food.
I can tell you, as a former hardgainer, that these habits are robbing you from the gains you fight so hard to obtain. Today I weigh 165 lb, up a full 50 lb from when I started, and 27 of those pounds are within the last 18 months. It’s uncomfortable at times, and it’s work, but being bigger is definitely worth it.
Here are the habits that are robbing your gains:
1. You Train Like Barbie & Ken
When you train do you use lighter weights? Stop it. Train like a man. Lift smart of course, but lift like a man if you want to look like one. Move some decent weight, and own that weight. If your workout calls for 12 reps, then you should be using as much weight as you can control for those 12 reps. Here’s a good rule of thumb, the last 25% of your reps (3 in this case) should be so painful that you want to stop. But don’t. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and master the weight. Push your body so hard you learn something about yourself.
2. You only train once or twice a week
Not training often enough is another common problem. I get it, we’re all busy. But if it’s important, you’ll make time for it. You’re body won’t change much if you only challenge it once or twice a week. Also, it’s impossible to get in enough volume when you only train a couple times per week. If you want to make real progress you must train hard, at least 3 days per week. Preferably 4-5 days per week.
3. You don’t pay attention to your muscles when you train
If you want a muscle to grow, you need to focus on it. Maybe you’re trying to ignore what you’re doing (because it’s unpleasant), getting distracted by your music, paying too much attention to the gym bunnies, or simply just not focusing closely on how your body is moving. These are all great way to get injured, and a great way to lose out on building a solid mind-muscle connection. That mind-muscle connection will help you contract your muscles harder, which will help them to grow. So focus on what you’re doing. Feel the muscle contract, and squeeze it harder. Arnold Schwarzenegger has talked about actually being inside the pecs as he was doing the bench press, or inside the shoulder as he was doing delt raises. Get inside the pain and show it who’s boss.
4. You stay up late dinking around on Facebook
Seriously, turn off the phone and go to bed. You can’t grow big if you don’t rest big. Sleep and recovery are extremely important. If you’re not getting a minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep per day, you won’t grow. Everyone needs a bedtime and that means lights out, turn the phone off, and go to sleep.
5. You spend too much time with people who don’t support your goals
Do you have friends that encourage you to eat things you shouldn’t, who try to distract you from going to the gym, or just simply don’t support your goals? I’m not saying you shouldn’t see them at all, but you probably need to limit your exposure to them. The truth is that some people don’t understand what you’re trying to do, and others resent you for actually accomplishing it. You need to guard who you allow to influence you. If they do not support you, or if you are unable to pursue your goals when you’re around them (you cheat on your diet, skip workouts, etc), then limit your time with them, or at least limit the topics you discuss and places you go with them. You are the average of your 5 closest friends.
6. You take small bites and eat slowly
When it comes to eating, do you tend to nibble on stuff, and make a meal last? This is a great trick for people looking to lose weight and lean down, but if you’re trying to get big, then you need to take bigger bites, and finish your food faster. Your hunger-off signals are a bit slow, so by getting more food in faster, you can eat more muscle building calories and protein before you get full. So it’s that simple, take bigger bites, and try to finish your food faster. This will help you to get a bigger appetite, which is essential to building larger amounts of muscle.
7. You skip breakfast and call it Intermittent Fasting
Skipping meals and Intermittent Fasting is one of the dumbest things you can do if you’re
trying to pack on pounds of muscle. You already have a hard time with appetite, so why would you make it worse by trying to pack more calories in a shorter time period? If you want to gain a lot of muscle, you need to get high amounts of protein and calories in as early in the day as possible. Try to get in 50g of protein within about an hour of waking, whatever it takes. Then get another 30-50g within the next 3 hours. That’s 80-100g in less than 4 hours. Do you think you can do another 100-150g over the next 12 hours? I’ll bet you can. Front load your protein and you will start to pack on muscle.
8. You only eat when you’re hungry & stop when you’re full
This one goes right along with #6. To gain muscle, you can’t just listen to your hunger signals. If you’re not hungry 30 minutes after waking, tough. Eat anyways. You’re full? Tough, finish your meal. Whatever it takes. Do you think that professional bodybuilders got as big as they are by just listening to their body’s hunger signals? Of course not. Your body doesn’t want to grow, that costs energy, that takes resources. You need to force your body to grow by killing it in the gym, then giving it all the calories it needs whether it likes it or not. You’re in control, not your body. And here’s a bonus for you, do this long enough, and your hunger signals will adapt. After a while, you won’t need to do this consciously anymore, you’ll need those 50g of protein first thing in the morning. You’ll be hungrier than you’ve ever been in just a couple weeks. Get ready for a bigger grocery bill, and bigger shirts.
9. You cut your carbs or avoid good fats
If you’re trying to gain muscle, why would you not give your body everything that it needs?
Firstly, Carbohydrates are absolutely essential to building large amounts of muscle. Carbohydrates are the primarily signaler for the hormone Insulin. Insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones your body makes. The proper stimulation of insulin helps drive protein and other nutrients into the muscle where they can be used to make the muscle bigger. Additionally, as was previously mentioned, it costs energy to grow. Carbohydrates provide the precious energy that you need to recover from your workouts and build muscle. Secondly, good fats are also essential to the muscle building process. Primarily fish oils, coconut oil, and good grass-fed butter. Fish oils help keep inflammation down, and give your body signals that help keep you leaner as you bulk. They also help keep pain to a minimum so you can keep lifting hard without having your joints hate you. And coconut oil and grass-fed butter give you an easy way to boost the calories of your meals, provide
energy you need to keep working harder and building, help your body absorb vitamins and minerals, and also provide the building blocks for other hormones, including your other most anabolic hormone: Testosterone. When you cut your fats, especially the good types of saturated fats, your testosterone eventually goes with it, along with all your gains. So keep good carbs in your diet, along with good fats and use them in smart ways to boost your calories and keep your muscle building signals optimized.
10. You take supplements with made up names
When it comes to supplements, stick with the basics: vitamins and minerals. Supplements
named hydroxy-this and nitro-that and whatnot may have their place, but they’re typically overhyped, overpriced and they under-deliver. Stick with a good quality multi- vitamin/multi-mineral supplement, a good fish oil, magnesium and Vitamin D3. Add to that a quality whey protein, maybe the preworkout of your choice, and then lots of high quality food. Supplements are meant to be exactly that, a supplement to your diet. It is impossible to out-supplement a bad diet. Stick with the basics, and nail your diet then you can start experimenting if your budget allows. But get the basics down first.
The truth is that everyone already knows what they need to do to gain muscle. The problem is they don’t know how to do it The above habits help you to actually do what you know you need to do: train harder and better, and consume more muscle building calories. Start with just 2-3 habits and focus on them for the next month, and watch the scale finally start to climb.
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