I had been skinny my whole life. I later found out they call people like me “Hard Gainers.”
My Sophomore year of high school, I was 5 feet tall and weighed less than 140 lbs. I hit a huge growth spurt during my Junior year, and by the time the year was done I was close to 6 feet tall…and I probably weighed 150 lbs.
Looking to bulk up, I began hitting up the gym three times a week. When I got to college, I enjoyed the All-You-Can-Eat freshman meal plan, worked out 3-4 days a week, and failed to put on more than 5 lbs. After four years of college, many different workout plans, and eating the right stuff (or so I thought), I had managed to get all the way up to 160 lbs! Woohoo. I was still skinny as a rail.
After college, I moved out to San Diego, and really got serious about trying to build lean muscle. I figured if I was going to spend all this time in the gym, I should be getting results out of it! I had a new workout plan, a new diet, and a new outlook on life. I very quickly learned that 80% of my problem revolved around the diet.
I simply wasn’t eating enough…all the protein shakes in the world couldn’t help me, because my metabolism burned through that protein before it could be used to build muscle. Because I was so active (running, surfing, basketball) my body never had enough nutrients to bulk up. Well, I made a conscious effort to change my entire routine, and within 30 days, I managed to put on 18 lbs! (Now, I DO NOT recommend putting on weight this fast, it’s not healthy).
A good portion of the weight I put on was fat, meaning not all 18 pounds were 100% lean muscle. I would have certainly rather gained all muscle, but it’s practically inevitable when trying to put on big amounts of weight in a short amount of time that some of the weight gained will be fat, which is okay. After four years in college of struggling to gain any weight, I was more than okay with a few pounds of fat along with muscle in this short time span.
For those of you looking to kick start your body into crazy growth, I’ll detail exactly what I did for a routine and diet. Please remember, the reason I can eat so much and only add muscle is because I’m one of those lucky (or unlucky) people blessed with the metabolism of a cheetah. This was accomplished three years ago, and since then I’ve become more knowledgeable. This is just a “diary” of sorts to what I did exactly to go from 162 lbs to 180 lbs in 30 days. Now that I’m older and wiser, I would recommend a healthier approach.
So, keep reading at your own risk for my exact diet and exercise routine.
Please note: this is one of the first articles I wrote for Nerd Fitness, and I would recommend a healthier diet and exercise routine to any future clients.
I am a picky eater. I don’t like eggs. I don’t like fish. This means my options for protein are severely limited, as these two sources are the best in the business. Because protein is the building block of muscle gain, it is an absolute necessity. I knew I needed to eat at least 30 grams of protein every 3 hours. I ate 6 times a day, so I had at least 180 grams of protein every day. Yeah, this is a lot of protein. It works.
However, all the protein in the world won’t help a skinny man unless he eats complex carbs and healthy fats for energy. Without these things, the body will break down the protein for energy…and no muscle will get built.
Here is my normal routine. I didn’t change much, because I’m a creature of habit. The more of a routine you can get on, the better your body can process it, the more efficient you will be. Also note, I was working a job 5 days a week where I had to be at the office at 6:30AM, hence the early start time. For the rest of you, just adjust the time to whenever you wake up. NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST!
6:00 AM (Meal 1)
Two cups of 1% Milk (200 calories, 24g carbs, 16g of protein)
4 Scoops of Muscle Milk Collegiate Edition ( 580 calories per serving, 40g of protein, 89 grams of carbs…it’s not the best thing for you, however, when you need INSANE amounts of calories very quickly and cheaply, you have to do what you can)
9:00 AM (Meal 2)
Met-RX Big 100 Colossal Bar – Super Cookie Crunch (420 calories, 32 grams of protein, 43 grams of carbs. It’s the calories, protein, and carbs that I needed). Working my job didn’t give me access to a kitchen, and I couldn’t take lengthy breaks, so I had to find ways to eat a lot of calories quickly and easily.
12:00 PM (Meal 3)
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce (Angel Hair Pasta, Prego Sauce, A LOT of Ground Beef – calories, protein, carbs…sensing a trend here?)
3:00 PM (Meal 4)
Two peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread (decent amount of calories and carbs, 20 grams of protein)
4:30 PM -Workout, Surf, or Relax, depending on the day
6:00 PM (Meal 5)
Two cups of 1% Milk
4 Scoops of Muscle Milk Collegiate Edition ( 580 calories per serving, 40g of protein, 89 grams of carbs) Tons of carbs and protein again, IMMEDIATELY following my workout. This is when you need it the most…your muscles are destroyed, and they need to be rebuilt. Your body is tired, it needs to be refueled. The carbs will refuel the body, the protein will rebuild the muscles. Everybody is happy!
9:00 PM (Meal 6)
Two 90% lean ground beef hamburgers cooked on the George Foreman Grill, and a BIG glass of milk. Protein and carbs before bed. When you sleep, your body isn’t expending energy, so it can use those nutrients to just build muscle. Note, if you eat like I did, and don’t work out, you WILL get fat. When you constantly exercise, your body will need all the nutrients it can get to get bigger and stronger.
As you can see, I drink a LOT of whole milk.
I’d say the most important meals are Breakfast (you spent all night using the previous night’s meal to rebuild muscle…breakfast will get the body started on the same path. Plus, at this point you won’t have eaten for 7 hours), the post workout meal (this is when your muscles are broke down and desparate for nutrients), and right before bed (when you sleep, it’s prime muscle building time!)
This workout is not for a beginner. In fact, looking back on my routine, I think it was far too complex and could have been done much easier (just concentrating on presses, squats, deadlifts, pull ups, and chin ups). Now, if you are going to attempt a workout like this, I fully recommend training with a partner, or having a personal trainer to help you out. You build the most lean muscle and are most efficient when you are taking each exercise to the verge of muscular exhaustion (where your muscles literally cannot do one more thing). Obviously, attempting this with squats, dead lifts, and bench presses is EXTREMELY dangerous unless you have somebody to spot you, help you complete the final rep. etc.
Secondly, I did a LOT of Supersets. A superset is a time saving device in many cases, and in my cases, it was used to develop my muscles more completely. Here is wikipedia’s explanation on supersets. When you read my exercise log, look at each exercise, and see what it’s superset with. For example, I superset a normal bench press exercise with push ups on an exercise ball. This means, I will do a set of bench press, followed IMMEDIATELY by 10 push ups on an exercise ball. Because you’re already worn out, and doing this exercise on a ball, it will be difficult to stay in balance…you’ll feel a lot of twitching in your chest as you try to do those push ups. This is because your chest has to use every little tiny stablizer muscle to stay in balance. These exercises will solidify each muscle, and help promote strong healthy growth. After the 10 pushups, I would wait approximately 2-3 minutes between restarting the “circuit” with the next set of bench presses. In those 2-3 minutes, I highly recommend stretching the muscle you are working out. What else are you gonna do, sit there for 3 minutes anyways right? Stretch out those muscles.
Looking back, with a few years of fitness experience under my belt, I’d simplify this routine considerably, chopping out some of the supersets as they seem like overkill and my muscles were getting beyond overworked I think. Still, I’ve reproduced the exact routine I followed for those 30 days just to show you what I did exactly to get the results I did.
Monday (Chest and Biceps)
- 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm up – jumping jacks, other exercises to get the body warmed up.
- 2) Bench Press – 1 warm up set, 3 sets – 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps – increasing weight by 10 lbs each time. Aim for exhaution on each set.
- Superset the Bench Press with pushups (3 sets of 10 reps) on an exercise ball – up and down slowly (works your stablizer muscles)
- 3) Barbell bicep curl – 1 warm up set, 3 sets (10, 8, 6) – increasing weight
- Superset with Dumbell hammer curls standing on one leg (3 sets of 10 reps, light weight) – again, for stability.
- 4) Incline Bench – Dumbell Press (3 sets, 10, 10, to exhaustion) – same weight for the first 2 sets, 80% weight on third set, go until you can’t do anymore.
- Superset Incline Bench dumbell presses with dumbell flys on an exercise ball.
- 5) Incline Dumbell Bicep Curl 3 Sets (12, 10, 8 )
- Superset with one legged rope curl (3 sets of 10)
- 6) Core Exercises (v-sit ups, superman extensions, side planks, etc.) and STRETCH, especially the two muscle groups you just worked out…they’re all broken down and contracted…stretching them out will allow them to breathe, and get started more quickly on the road to recovery (and increased size).
Tuesday (Shoulders and Legs)
- 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm-up
- 2) Squats – 1 Warm Up set, 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
- Supset the squats with 1-leg Romanian dead lift with dumbell. Hold the weight in the same hand as the leg that’s still on the ground (right hand, right foot on ground). Do one side, then other – left hand, left foot on ground
- 3)Shoulder press – Dumbells (1 warm up set, 3 sets of 10, 8, 6)
- Superset with side lateral dumbell raises (3 sets of 10), do this on one foot
- 4) Lunges – Dumbells on each side 3 sets of 12, 8, 6 reps
- Superset with one-legged body weight squats. I never knew how hard you could work yourself without weights until these exercises…BRUTAL.
- 5) Front shoulder dumbell raises (3 sets 10, 8, 6 reps)
- Superset with back shoulder raises 3 sets of 10 reps
- Stretch, v sit ups, supermans, leg raises.
Wednesday – Surf, Run, REST
Thursday – Back and Triceps
- 1) 5 Min Treadmill Warm Up
- 2) Deadlift – 1 warm-up set, 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
- 3) Close grip bench press – 1 warm-up set, 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps
- Superset with Dumbell skull crushers on an exercise ball
- 4) Wide grip Pull-ups (overhand grip – palms facing away)
- 7) Rope pulley tricep pull downs 3 sets, 1 leg (10, 10, 10)
- Stretch and Core Exercises
Friday- Surf, Run, RELAX
Saturday – OFF
Sunday – OFF
So there you have it. This is the routine I followed religiously for 30 straight days, and I put on 18 lbs. Its not for the inexperienced, and I had a spotter at ALL times. Having somebody spot you, allowing you to safely work each muscle to exhaustion will create the most size gain. My bench press increased by 30 lbs, my squat by 50lbs, and my deadlift by 30lbs.
Looking back, it was a typical bodybuilder-style workout, and due to the volume of calories i was consuming, it’s no surprise I put on all of this weight. These days, I eat much cleaner, train much simpler, and still have success.