scrawny to brawny

Scrawny to Brawny – muscle-building tips for hardgainers.

The guy next to you at the gym only has to look at a set of dumbbells to pack on muscle whereas you have been religiously pumping iron for months and still haven’t gained any mass. The reason? You may well have an ectomorphic body type (that’s gym speak for a hardgainer). But have no fear, these foolproof steps will ensure you’ll add some brawn to your beach body this summer no matter what.

Undertrain: You’ve been gymming five times a week? Good for you. But working out three or four times a week should be your max. Start by training each muscle group just once a week. Although you may feel anxious about your body shrinking on your off days, this extra rest time will actually give your muscles more time to grow.

Workouts: Don’t let your workout sessions go beyond 60 minutes. Your may feel all pumped up, but after an hour your body won’t have any more testosterone or growth hormones to push your muscles any further. You’ll fit plenty of exercises into an hour if you keep your rest time between sets below 90 seconds – in other words, quit checking out the girls and get back repping!


Cardio: Hardgainers doing cardio is not a match made in heaven, so you should be trying to reduce the amount of kilojoules your body burns . This isn’t good enough reason for you to leave all the housework to your girlfriend but it does mean you should limit your cardio to short walks as opposed to sweaty spin sessions.

Exercises: Use machines for isolation exercises but otherwise use freeweights which require more muscle usage. Squats are superb in increasing mass and are a great way to track your strength progression week by week. Using lower reps and higher waits than usual will aid muscle building but never compromise form by lifting heavy weights so you can look like Mr. Tough Guy.

Diet: You can pump as much iron as you want but if you’re still eating like a sparrow you can kiss those gains goodbye – we’re talking at least six meals a day here. Preparing meals in bulk in advance of your week, as well as taking meal replacement protein shakes will save you a lot of time – and money as you eat your way to success.

Once you’ve reached your desired weight, you can always hit the rowing machine a little more often to cut some fat.

- Men’s Health online Dec ‘08