This will be the first in a small mini series on the common pitfalls of self diagnosed problem children in the gym, namely;
– Hard Gainers
– Those Limited by Genetics
I shall hopefully debunk some myths with my experience and give you the necessary knowledge to overcome these barriers.
Lets get started…
Over my years of training I have noticed some common mistakes made by the supposed ‘Hard Gainers’ of the lifting world.
We all know someone who claims that no matter what they do they can’t put on any weight, be that in the form of fat or muscle.
Normally this conclusion is reached relatively quickly, by that I mean within their first 6 months of training and it’s all down to their hyper accelerated metabolism, or so they claim…. I say ask people who were always skinny how that changed once they hit 30.
I have to be honest, unless there is a scientifically proven reason why a specific individual can’t gain weight (Thyroid Problem, Hormone Dis-regulation, Metabolic Disorder etc) then the answers in my experience are relatively simple and constitute of the following:
– Not Eating Enough
– Setting Unrealistic Goals
– Over Complicating Training
– Lack Of Intensity /Training Too Much
– Under Recovering
I shall tackle all of these problems and give you simple answers for them all based on my experience.
1 – Not Eating Enough
If your goal is to add weight (muscle) then you need to be in a caloric surplus of at least 250 calories, ideally 500 would be optimal.
There are various ways of establishing your caloric needs, google is filled with calculators and equations to help you but I have always found this rather simple sum gets the calories you will require: Your body-weight in LBS x 17-19 = Estimated calories.
Example: 170 lbs Person (I have sued this with both men and Woman to great effect)
170 x 17-19 = 2890 – 3230 Daily Calories
If you’re curious to know what macro nutrients you need then use the provided simple equations:
Total Daily Calories x 0.40 / 4 = Carbohydrates in Grams 3230 x 0.4 / 4 = 323g
Total Daily Calories x 0.25 / 4 = Protein in Grams 3230 x 0.25 / 4 = 201g
Total Daily Calories x 0.35 / 9 = Fat in Grams 3230 x 0.35 / 9 = 125g
*Fibre would be 7.5-12.5% of your carbs.
These simple sums are not gospel but they will give you a good idea of the calories you will need to achieve your goal.
2 – Setting Unrealistic Goals
It would be nice if we could all add 4 stone of muscle in a month, but sadly that is not really likely to happen.
Setting a realistic goal in the gym will help keep you more motivated because you can envision yourself at the finish point. If you were to set the goal of adding 1 stone in a year then that is very achievable (basically just over 1 lb a month in weight gain).
The same approach applies if your goal is to get stronger or faster, setting an achievable long term goal with regular mini goals is essential to help you stay motivated. Remember to set a date next to your goal too, setting a date will help make you more accountable, don’t just write ‘Lose 1 stone in a year from now’ write ‘Lose one stone by 1-6-16.’.
Example: Long term goal – 14 Lbs Weight loss in 1 year. Mini goal lose 4 Lbs total every 3 Months.
3 – Over Complicating Training
This is a demon many people fall victim too (myself included).
Doing too many isolation exercises, having 9 different exercises will do little for adding slabs or sought after muscle to your frail frame, but it will potentially lead to stagnation, boredom and a complete lack of progress.
Compound Movements – Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Press, Pull Up, Farmers Walk, Ab Roll Out – Those compound movements should form the basis of your program if you’re seriously looking to add some weight. Due to their multi joint/muscle recruiting nature your body will be forced to adapt by getting stronger and adding new muscle.
*There is plenty of studies to back this up and explain about the increase in HGH, Testosterone etc but I won’t bore you with that today.
4 – Lack Of Intensity/Training Too Much
These two mistakes fall hand in hand, not only in regard ot the gym but often in life too.
If a little is good then more must be better right?
There is what’s known as a tipping point, the point of which was was beneficial becomes dangerous and can potentially lead to injury or worse (getting squashed under a barbell). I personally feel that if you spend more than 45-60min in the gym then you’re not working hard enough; it’s that simple.
Spending 2+ hours in the gym doing Drop Sets, Giant Sets or Ultra-Mega-Colossal Sets-Mark 3 if pretty pointless, the bodies testosterone levels start to decline after around 22min and by 47-60min are pretty much done for the day, which then leaves your glucocoticoids to rise which can lead to excessive breakdown of proteins (not what you need).
Aim to keep your workouts short and intense, you will see far more benefits, as my grandparents always used to say “Less is more”.
5 – Under Recovering
This problem is linked with the two of the mistakes written above.
It seems once again the theory of ‘More is better.’ takes over, when the truth of the matter is that enough is enough and more is rarely, if ever better.
Along with overdoing it in the gym another factor lined with under recovering is simple not eating enough, remember your body needs the calories so don’t be afraid to eat.
The last cause of under recovery is a lack of sleep, this is easily fixed. STOP watching TV until 2am and get to sleep. If you find you struggle getting to sleep have a meal with a hefty amount of simple carbohydrates in it, this will help increase serotonin (the happy hormone) levels thus potentially increasing Melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels whichmeans a better night sleep.
You can only train at the rate you can recover. If you’re not recovering properly you won’t be progressing to your full potential.
These mistakes are ones I come across time and again, normally when a person gets these in check they start to make some decent progress.
take it from me, I was once a self diagnosed ‘Hard Gainer’ until I started to avoid the mistakes written above.