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Nutrition, Hardgainers, Resistance Training

The Best Workout Routine for a Hardgainer

By Joe Talarico on Apr 17, 2023 10:15:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


Hardgainers are individuals who have a harder time gaining muscle mass. They usually have a faster metabolism, and get fuller of meals quicker making it hard to get those calories in. Sometimes, it can be due to improper programming, so today I’d like to focus on tackling the latter. If you are a hardgainer, and you adhere to a sound resistance training program, you will overcome any challenges you have building muscle.

Compound Exercises

This first tip applies to any person working out. You should PRIMARILY be focusing on compound exercises that hit multiple muscles at once. These are the most bang for your buck exercises that will allow you to use heavier weight, and stimulate more muscle in a given exercise than having to break it up into 3 or 4 isolated exercises. I find if a client isn’t growing, it is because they are spending all their time trying to isolate every single muscle instead of building their strength as a solid foundation first. 

Some examples include: squat, deadlift, bench press, row, and overhead press.

Progressive Overload

Have you ever seen someone randomly choose a weight in the gym and just sort of do an endless amount of reps and put it back? It might even look like they didn’t even feel all that affected by it. This happens far too often, and is a reason people don’t see their body change. If you want to add muscle, you need to send the right signal to grow. Technique is the most important component of this. This is the required stress needed to elicit growth otherwise the muscle isn’t receiving a strong enough signal.

Once technique is down, you need to make sure you are doing one more rep or 5lbs heavier than the previous week.


Newer lifters think they need to train like bodybuilders and do body part splits. This simply isn’t true. By putting ALL your lets say chest sets on ONE day means you are only stimulating that muscle once every 7 days. Science shows the muscle building signal goes down after 24-48 hours of stimulating a muscle. Given this information, why wait 7 days? You aren’t taking advantage of the muscle building signal.

Instead of trying to do all 10 sets of chest on Monday, try to spread that same workload out over 2-3 days. This will allow you to be more fresh when it comes to each exercise, as well as hit it with heavier weight while telling the muscle to grow. It will also allow for proper recovery time. Just make sure not to add more than 3-4 sets per workout.

Rest Periods

Make sure you are giving yourself ample time to recover in between sets. If you are doing compound exercises, you should be allowed 2-3 minutes in between sets as needed. That’s not to say you can’t EVER do workouts with shorter rest periods, but that it starts to train a different aspect of fitness (your cardiovascular endurance).


If you are a hardgainer, I would kick back on the cardio. You are already having a tough time putting on weight and hitting your calories. If you are doing cardio after every workout, you are making it harder on yourself by adding even MORE caloric expenditure that you’ll have to make up by consuming more. Too much cardio can also send the wrong signals contrary to your goals.


I will save this for a future article on eating for hardgainers, but you are going to need to be in a surplus to fuel all this hard work in the gym. If you are not in a surplus, it does not matter how good of a program you are following, you will not grow. This applies to anyone. Shoot for 1g/lb of bodyweight in protein to supply the muscles with the right building blocks for muscle growth, and get the remainder of your calories from carbs and fat.

By following this routine, hardgainers can overcome their challenges and achieve their desired muscle growth and physique. Remember that building muscle takes time, consistency, and effort, so stay dedicated and committed to your workout routine. 

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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