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A lot of people have been asking what kind of routine a Hardgainer should be following. A good rule of thumb to be successful in any pursuit is to observe what the masses are doing...and do the opposite.

I'm not the author or originator of these ideas. I'm just passing on, expounding upon, developing, etc. the ideas and methods of people such as Stuart McRobert, J.C. Hise, Brooks Kubik, John McCallum, Randall Strossen, Arthur Jones, and others. Also, the specific routines are not necessarily to be used exactly as written. What do I mean by that? They are only ideas of how a routine can be put together. They CAN be used exactly as presented, but they could also be reviewed and individualized to meet your specific needs and goals.

The Hardgainer requires abbreviation in routines. He cannot tolerate exercise well. He must build the tolerance to exercise. He must start with the minimum of exercise to grow in ability to add exercise and intensity. This is not a reason to "pump and tone" instead of work hard. It just means one must be judicious in developing and implementing routines.

Hardgainers should work out no more than 2 times every 7-10 days. Exercises like the squat or deadlift are best worked only once every 8-10 days. Compound movements are all that's required for the Hardgainer. Time and recovery energy must not be wasted on "finishing" exercises like cable work, leg extensions, concentration curls, laterals, calf work, etc. The body must be strengthened and trained as a unit.

Stabilizing muscles and attachments must be toughened and strengthened to allow for increasing loads. A set of legs trained on leg press or extensions will not develop the hip and low back strength necessary to support a heavy overhead press. The Hardgainer will be required to work very hard to achieve strength. He will have to do the lifts the pumpers hate to do. He will have to breathe hard (a lot).

An abbreviated routine presented in Super Squats looks like this:

Bench Press 2 x 12
Squat 1 x 20 (these would be the dreaded "breathing squats", not a low weight/high rep move)
Pullover 1 x 20
5 minute rest
Bent over rows 2 x 15

The goal would be to adjust the weights for each exercises, so that you had to fight for the last reps. Terminate each set only when you cannot do another rep in good form. In other words, train to positive failure. You would want to add weight or reps each workout.

You could alternate these two (as presented in Brawn)

Bench Press


Seated shoulder press
Deadlift or stiff deadlift

You could use a 2 x 8 (set x rep scheme), a 1 x 12, or a 3 x 3.

These routines might be done every 6-8 days. If you just did the 20 rep squats, you might wait 8 days till you workout again. If you do bench press and stiff deadlifts, you might be good to go in 5-6 days.

You would have to keep a training log to keep track of the various poundage you use from routine to routine. You could vary the rep schemes, but it might be easier to keep them all relatively the same from routine to routine. That way you could keep track of progress and up intensity as required.

It's probably best to avoid advanced high intensity techniques. If you do them, do them very sparingly. High intensity can sap gains if not monitored closely. This includes high intensity techniques such as negatives, super slow, rest pause, etc.

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