Ectomorph Bodybuilding: 10 Hardgainer Myths That Must Die

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The term hardgainer has been used and abused over the years. Yes, it’s a description usually reserved for the skinny ectomorph types who find it difficult to gain even the minutest amount of muscle, but that’s where the truth stops and the lies, misunderstandings and myths begin.

Related: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph Calculator

You’ve undoubtedly heard many of these so-called myths a time or two at your local lifting establishment. Sure, many of them have their merit along with years of experience and history behind them but they’re not entirely universal and are worth a different perspective. Let’s look at some of the more common myths surrounding hardgainer life under the bar.

Ectomorph Bodybuilding Lies

Lie #1 – You have to lift with low reps

Lifting heavy in the low rep territory has been gospel when it comes to packing on the beef for decades. It’s tough to argue the advantage heavy weights have. They challenge your raw strength in order to progress toward bigger, stronger muscle. But there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.

Progression in strength is arguably one of the best ways to pack on muscle – this much we know. But in the science circle fatiguing muscle is the actual trigger for increasing muscle size (hypertrophy). To optimally train for muscle size, shoot for the hypertrophy rep range of six to 12 reps. This rep range shifts the stimulus from strength gains to optimal size gains.

Ectomorph

Lie #2 – You should only use multi-joint exercises

Using the big, compound-oriented, multi-joint exercises is yet another staple in the hardgainer training diet. Using these big moves allows you to use numerous joints to lift bigger weights. Bigger weights used in the hypertrophy rep range will yield bigger muscles. But there is room for a few single-joint exercises for several reasons.

When it comes to training optimally you may find that you need to add a few tricks to your training bag. Whether it’s pre-exhaustion (single-joint isolation move before a multi-joint move) or the fact that you want to squeeze every last ounce of power out of a weak body part, single-joint training shouldn’t be shunned.

Lie #3 – You must fully rest between sets

Rest is one of the most influential factors toward training results. Here, I am referring to the rest in between each set. The longer you rest, traditionally thought, the stronger you will be on your next set. It has been said that hardgainers, since they all want more strength, need ample rest between sets in order to lift maximally.

Hypertrophy, on the other hand, requires shorter rest periods of 90, 60 and even 30 seconds in order to induce muscular fatigue. Hardgainers would benefit greater from less rest between sets which will also allow them to perform more sets in a certain amount of time. More reps, sets and shorter rests will allow more work to be performed in a unit of time. This offers more opportunity for muscle growth.

Lie #4 – You must progress every workout

The progression axiom is constantly on the mind of the hardgainer. The intense desire to drive more weight up and/or increase the amount of reps performed is at the forefront regarding getting bigger. But by using simple math this mentality is a bit misguided.

If you were to realistically progress each and every workout you would reach pinnacle numbers in every lift in short order. The body isn’t a machine. It doesn’t progress in a nice upward-bound line perfectly cruising toward your ultimate goal. It ebbs and flows.

The bottom line is; think of your progress in a real life perspective. When you hit plateaus think of them as a pause in your journey and stick through it until you are up, back and running again. Gut it out.

Leg Press

Lie #5 – You must bench press, squat and deadlift

This goes right off the heels of lifting big to get big and using those compound, multi-joint movements almost exclusively. The bench press, squat and deadlift are amazing lifts. They hit all the bases when it comes to covering your body with strength and muscle. Also referred to as the big three these exercises allow you to use some pretty massive amounts of weight and are considered staples of any program.

Here’s the twist: In order to build a balanced physique complete with proportions, a V-taper, flaring shoulders and all-around muscularity you’ll need more angles and variety in your routine. Even powerlifters use more than the big three to help develop their strengths. Embrace angles and use a number of multi-joint and isolation lifts to pack on the meat.

Lie #6 – You must always train to failure

Pushing the iron is an addictive game. Going to and sometimes past muscular failure is required to stimulate the type of growth you’re after. The attempt to recruit every muscle fiber you possibly can requires extreme measures and momentary muscular failure is one way to get there.

But achieving failure day-in and day-out isn’t realistic. Over time your central nervous system will become overtaxed and you will end up burnt out. This is especially true if you are constantly performing the big three lifts in addition to others.

The solution? Go all out for four to six weeks and then either take a few days off completely to heal up or back off from the intensity and volume for one week. Stop all of your sets just around two to three reps before failure. This way you will have held on to your progress while giving your body a chance to catch up with recovery.

Lie #7 – You must train infrequently

Since the threat of overtraining is always looming over the heads of hardgainers infrequent workouts are often recommended. This is thought to promote sufficient rest and recovery to give ample time for muscle growth.

But as a hardgainer an insanely fast metabolism is usually the culprit prohibiting you from making fast gains. Take advantage of this. A faster metabolism means you process food faster which can, done correctly, enable you to recover quicker. Don’t be afraid to train most days of the week. Hardgainers can tolerate more frequent training.

Lie #8 – Rarely use any intensity techniques

With the thought of infrequent training drilled into your head hardgainers are also warned not to use too many intensity techniques for risk of overtraining. Overtaxing with these specialized techniques such as rest/pause, strip sets and compound sets, is believed to hinder recovery.

Intensity techniques aren’t reserved for the advanced, genetically blessed bodybuilders. They are perfect to use to bust thorough plateaus, shore-up weak points and spark a little more motivation in your workouts. The only thing to keep in mind is to use only one new technique at a time. Taking on too much at once will only confuse you as to what worked and what didn’t.

Lie #9 – Never partake in activity outside of the gym

It’s another staunch rule for hardgainers not to get too physical outside of the gym. The belief goes on to posture that any extracurricular activity will only drive your muscle gains into the ground never to reach their full potential. You must save all extra energy for rest and recovery so you can grow as big and strong as possible.

Wow, when you read it like that it just sounds ridiculous. First of all, extra activity outside of the gym won’t put a dent into your gains from the gym just as long as you aren’t bailing hay for ten hours per day. But then again, that may just benefit you. Secondly, have fun in life. Don’t be a slave to the gym. Let it be a part of your life, not your whole life.

Lie #10 – Never break these rules

Finally, hardgainers are sticklers for rules. Never to bend and never to break the rules they feel the need to blindly adhere to them without much forethought. They feel if they waiver at all from the straight and narrow all will be lost.

Don’t listen to the noise. Go ahead and train often, use plenty of sets and reps, use many angles, move quickly with little rest, use plenty of techniques and have a life. If your goal is to build your ultimate physique then learn to love to train and stop labeling yourself a hardgainer.

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Name: Brad Borland

Bio: Starting out as a scrawny 125 pound kid at 6’ 2” I took up weight training at the tender age of 14 and ended up a 220 pound competitive drug-free, natural bodybuilder several years later. Now armed with both knowledge and muscle I have helped countless individuals domestically and abroad.