5 Muscle Building Tips for Hardgainers


Have a hard time building muscle? Do you lift heavy, but your efforts are in vain? If you're an ectomorph or a hardgainer, your genes work against you. Lifting too often, limiting carbs, and eating too "clean" only make things worse. As a hardgainer, it's crucial to maintain a high calorie intake and emphasize compound moves like the squat and deadlift. You also need more protein and carbs in your diet compared to an endomorph or a mesomorph.

Feel confused? Here are five muscle building tips for hardgainers:

Increase Your Calorie Intake
To build muscle, you must consume more calories than you burn. Your daily calories should come from whole foods that fuel your muscles into growth. For instance, 500 calories worth of French fries are not the same as 500 calories worth of steak and rice. Fries contain nothing but simple carbs and trans fats. Steak and rice, on the other hand, provide complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Ideally, add up to 500 calories a day to your diet. Track your progress and keep increasing calories until the scale goes up.

Avoid Overtraining
Most hardgainers recover from exercise at a slower rate compared to their peers. Additionally, they tend to work out too hard or for too long, which causes muscle loss. Overtraining affects recovery time and puts stress on the body, limiting muscle growth. Crushing yourself in the gym every day can do more harm than good. If you're a hardgainer, work out less often and for less time. Get plenty of rest and give your body time to heal itself between training sessions.
Emphasize Compound Movements
Have you ever seen a skinny powerlifter or strongman? Probably not. Powerlifters emphasize compound movements, such as the deadlift, farmer's walk, and squat. They rarely do isolation work. Compound exercises are the foundation of muscle growth. These moves increase muscle size and strength, boosts testosterone production, and elevate growth hormone levels. The heavier you go, the better.
Limit Cardio
Cardiovascular exercise is good for health, but this doesn’t mean it supports your goals. This training method burns both muscle and fat while increasing cortisol levels. It also affects the production of anabolic hormones. Hardgainers looking to build muscle should limit cardio and focus on strength training. Eventually, you can go jogging or squeeze in a short cardio session once in a while, but don’t make a habit out of it.

Train Progressively
You might have heard that ectomorphs should stick to low weights to avoid stress and gain muscle definition. This is just a myth. Progressive overload is crucial to mass building. As a hardgainer, you need to lift heavy and then rest. Using the same weights for months will stall your progress. Increase the load regularly to get stronger and stimulate muscle growth.
Eat for Your Goals
Make sure your diet provides an adequate ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. Go on a clean bulk for a month or two to see how your body reacts. Consume at least two grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day, one gram of protein per pound of body weight, and 0.4 grams of fat per pound of body weight. For a 170-pound man, it would look like this:

170 grams of protein
340 grams of carbs
68 grams of fat
2652 calories

These macros should be enough to support muscle growth and repair. If you have a hard time hitting your daily macros, use weight gainers or protein powder mixed with dextrose or honey. If your body weight doesn’t change within two or three weeks, bump your calories up again.


  • Hardgainers have a fast metabolism and take longer to recover from exercise.
  • They should maintain a high carb, high calorie intake until they reach the desired weight.
  • A hardgainers workout routine should emphasize compound movements.
  • Cardio training should be kept to a minimum.