Rules for Hardgainers to Live By

Rules for Hardgainers to Live By: A Guide to Bulking Up For Hard Gains

By Mike Zourdos

The following rules are designed to give you a good idea of what kind of person you want to become if you decide to start working out regularly. They will serve as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, but they do provide some general guidance.

You have probably heard the term “bulking” used a few times before. However, it’s not really something that most people consider when trying to build muscle or lose fat.

Most people think of it as just being a fancy way of saying getting bigger muscles or losing bodyfat. But there is nothing wrong with either goal; it all depends on your goals and how much time and energy you’re willing to put into them.

There are many different types of people who attempt to build muscle, lose fat, or both. Some people focus on strength training while others work exclusively with cardio machines.

Still other folks try to get leaner than ever before without sacrificing their muscle mass. And still others train only once in awhile and never exercise at all! There is no right or wrong type of program; each individual must determine which one works best for him/her based upon his/her own personal preferences and goals.

You may have begun reading this article because you’ve decided to finally start training like a real man or woman and get in the best shape of your life. Be careful, however, because the path to getting big and strong is not an easy one.

You should be sure that this is something you truly want because if you’re not committed to it 100%, then it’s not worth doing at all!

If you’ve decided that you are willing to make the sacrifices needed to become the best that you can be, then let’s get started!

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Training Hard

It doesn’t matter how great your genetics are or how much potential you may have, if you don’t train hard then it won’t matter at all. You need to push yourself in the gym on a regular basis and give maximum effort on every set, rep, and exercise.

I’ve seen too many people waste time in the gym. They go in and waste away an hour or two on the treadmill or elliptical, maybe doing a few arm curls or some other pointless exercise for a couple of sets.

They don’t gain any muscle or strength and wonder why all the time they’re spending in the gym isn’t working!

If you’re going to be in the gym, put your time to good use. Sure, warm up a little and stretch before hitting your first workout so that you don’t pull a muscle or anything else that could potentially ruin your day, but after you’ve done that, it’s time to work!

Don’t just go through the motions; squeeze every last drop of effort out of yourself on every set.

If you’re training with a partner or a group, it’s even more important that you give everything you have because the only way to make progress is to move beyond your current abilities. If you half-a$$ your workouts, you’re never going to get any better and will be stuck in the same rut for years to come.

Training hard also means being strict with your diet and not taking any short cuts. This is another place where I see a lot of people fail.

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They’re always looking for some magic formula or secret trick that will instantly allow them to succeed without having to make any sacrifices or changes to their current way of life.

This type of mentality is fine if you’re planning on being mediocre because that’s exactly what you’ll achieve. The fact is, it takes hard work to achieve anything of note in this life.

Whether it’s your career, schooling, playing a musical instrument, or training your body for a physically demanding sport, you’re not going to get anywhere without dedication and that means saying no to some of the temporary “pleasure” in your life.

You need to eat to gain muscle and eating junk food is NOT an option! Your goal should be to eat healthy foods 90-95% of the time and then have a cheat meal 1-2 times per week where you can eat anything you want.

This will keep your taste buds happy as well as make your cravings easier to deal with when they come around.

There are also certain supplements that can help you such as protein powders, amino acids, glutamine, and multivitamins. I can’t stress this enough though, SUPPLEMENTS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REAL FOOD!

They are meant to assist you in achieving your goals, not to be a miracle solution.

If you want to be big and strong, then eating big and nutritious meals had best become part of your lifestyle. This is also going to aid greatly in helping you build muscle because the more muscle you have, the more calories your body is going to burn even at rest.

Back to the supplements, there are so many out there it’s mind boggling and it seems like new products are coming out every week. You don’t need them all but here are a few basic ones that will cover most people’s needs.

Protein Powders:

These are great for post-workout nutrition as well as just having around for a quick snack between meals. Any of the major brands will work but I prefer either whey isolate or micellar casein.

Amino Acids:

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These are the building blocks of protein and especially important if you’re trying to gain size. Some people aren’t able to process the complete proteins in food so these can really help with that.

The two main ones to look for are glutamine and arginine.

Glutamine: The most abundant amino acid in the muscle and one of the most important for muscle growth and recovery.

Arginine: Another important one for muscle growth and a major player in the entire nitric oxide process. This is why arginine has become very popular lately as people have been looking for ways to boost natural nitric oxide production.

Glutamine and arginine can be found either stand-alone or in most of the popular pre-workout formulas these days.

Glutamine can also be found in normal proteins but if you have trouble digesting them then just get a glutamine supplement. I’ve never had any luck with it though as it always seems to make me sick so I just get my arginine elsewhere.


While nutrition is important, megadosing on vitamins and minerals does nothing for you and in some cases can do more harm than good if you’re getting more than your body needs. A good multivitamin, like Centrum, is all you need.

Fish Oils:

These are very important for your general health as well as for your joints and cardiovascular health mainly. They also play a major role in your muscle building process.

Look for the brand Nordic Naturals as they have great quality products and reasonable prices.

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Getting enough rest is just as important as eating right and if you don’t get enough sleep your entire body will suffer greatly. Everyone’s “need” for sleep is different but most people need at least 7-8 hours per night to function properly.

When I first started lifting, I thought that I didn’t need as much sleep and could get by with only six hours. What a mistake that was!

Not getting enough rest will not only hinder your strength but it can also affect your mind to the point where you feel tired all the time no matter how much rest you get.

If you’re working out and trying to add muscle, you’re going to need all the rest you can get so make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Get a good nights sleep

Tips for Gaining Muscle

Alright, you’ve got your diet and training program set up, now here are a few extra tips to help you gain that muscle faster. I’ll try to keep this section short but some things are just important!

Rest and Relaxation are Important:

I can’t stress this one enough. When you’re trying to grow new muscle tissue, your body is going to need all the energy it can get and if you’re constantly stressed out or not resting enough, it’s going to divert much of that energy to things like worrying or physical activity instead of building muscle.

So find ways to relax and make sure you get plenty rest.

Stick to the program: This one can’t be stressed enough. The second you start screwing around with your training or diet is the second you start losing gains.

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You’re working too hard in the gym to screw around and if you aren’t then you soon will be! If you need variety in your workout then by all means switch up your exercises every couple of months but changing things up too much and you’ll never see the gains you could have. I’ve heard that even 10 minutes of rest can boost your energy levels enough to help your body grow.

Warm Up Properly:

I can’t tell you how many times I see guys jumping right into a heavy weight and going right into their exercise for the day. They save their entire energy for the last set and then push it with a lot of help from adrenaline.

Get Plenty of Sleep: As I mentioned previously, getting a good 8 hours of sleep is essential to growth. The longer you go without it, the more your body thinks it’s in “survival mode” and that it needs to conserve energy rather than build muscle.

This can be counteracted somewhat by eating lots of meat but you’re not going to get as much growth out of that alone. So make sure to get your sleep! Guess what, that’s the worst thing you can do! You’re letting your body slowly warm up to the weight and then expect it to perform without injury.

I’ve made a habit of always starting off with lighter weights and just going for a minimum of 20 reps (and often more) to get my muscles warmed up properly. After a few weeks of warming up you’ll be surprised how much your strength increases on those first few lighter sets.

Stay Positive: This one is a little different from the rest but if you’re constantly negative you’re never going to see optimal results. If you go into every workout thinking that you’re going to fail, then you probably will.

If you think your diet isn’t going to work, then it probably won’t. It may sound cliche but it’s essential to staying motivated and positive on what you’re doing. If something starts to become unenjoyable, then change it up!

Vary Your Rep Range:

I’ve noticed that a lot of beginners (and sometimes not so beginners) fall into a rep scheme pattern where they do the same thing over and over again. This is the worst thing you can do.

Your body gets used to what it’s doing and there is no growth from it. Keep switching it up and keep your body guessing or it’ll take the path of least resistance and not work as hard.

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Stay on top of your physique: If you start to notice lagging in certain muscles, hit the weights hard for that body part and lagging muscle group. For example say you’re doing a push workout (like bench press) and you really feel it in your triceps but not so much your chest, then the next time you do that workout, concentrate on making sure you feel it in your pecs.

This is known as “targeting” a muscle group. That way you’ll make sure every part of your body gets hit.

Take Weekends Off: Listen, we’re not getting any younger and if anything our bodies need to rest more now more than ever. Take your weekends off from the gym and spend it with family, friends, or just relax.

I guarantee you’ll have more energy and be ready to work all week. Also it’ll help to clear your mind during the week so you aren’t burnt out and can keep your head in the game.

Don’t Worry About Others:

This is a mistake I see beginner and intermediate guys doing, they try to keep up with guys that are way beyond their level of fitness. This will only bring misery and unhappiness in the gym.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again. A beginner will start lifting with a more advanced friend and they try to keep up. The problem is the more advanced guy has been doing it a lot longer and besides just having stronger muscles, their body is used to the exercise. That isn’t to say you can’t try to keep up, but your body isn’t going to react the same or as quickly. This will lead to frustration and eventually quitting.

If you’re a beginner don’t try to keep up with an advanced guy or even intermediate. You’ll just end up burning yourself out and getting discouraged.

Start off slow, take your time, and enjoy the journey because it’s a long one.

Workout at the Right Time:

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This isn’t something I see too often but it completely disregards everything else I mentioned before. Some people like to workout right before going out to party or go out completely wasted.

This can lead to serious injury and is completely irresponsible. I’m all for letting loose every now and then but if you’re going to do this make sure you have a ride home or that you’re with someone trustworthy because if you get hurt and end up in the hospital your parents are going to have a field day with this.

Stay Active:

Just because you’ve started a new fitness routine doesn’t mean that you have to be a hermit. Quite the opposite actually.

You should try to be more active in general. This will help with your endurance for the gym and make sure your body can handle the workload. Walking or biking instead of driving can make a big difference and increase your overall activity for the day.

If you’re able, try to play a sport or at least be active in some sort of way. I know when I was in High School I was much more fit than when I wasn’t playing football.

There’s just something about being active that can make your whole day better. Don’t just sit around all day and then go to the gym, be active throughout the day and use that energy during your workouts.

Find a Friend to Workout With:

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Last but not least, find someone to workout with. Having a workout buddy not only makes the time go by faster but it also holds you more accountable.

Most people are less likely to skip out on a workout if they know someone is waiting for them. Also there have been studies that people lose more weight and keep with their workout routine better when in a group.

I hope this guide helps you get started on your new journey to a fitter, healthier you.

Remember there is no such thing as impossible, and always look yourself in the mirror and ask “Is what I’m doing going to get me closer to my goals?”

If the answer is no, then make the change and do what needs to be done.

Good luck and most of all have fun!



Emile currently serves in the Navy and hopes to become a SEAL. In his spare time he runs and works on keeping in good shape.

Check out his profile to see his progress and to follow along on his journey.

If you found this article helpful, please give it a thumbs up. If you have any questions or would like to add something, let me know in the comments section!

Tagged under: beginner,fitness,workouts, Navy,seal,seals,article,guide,new,beginner,workout,tips,motivation,emile higgins,chris higgins

Sources & references used in this article:

Is Being a Hardgainer a Myth? by J Maxwell –

Tag Archives: healthy eating by ROB SULAVER –

Best Lifts for Each Muscle Group. EMG (Electromyography) by EZ Standing –

Living Large: The Skinny Guy’s Guide to No-Nonsense Muscle Building by V Del Monte – 2016 –

5 Studies to Fire Up Your Diet by D Shugart –

5 Studies to Fire Up Your Diet by TJT Morris