Those of us who struggle to gain weight are commonly referred to as ‘hard-gainers’. I class myself as one of these, and the comments about needing to eat more (when you’re seemingly tucking loads of food away) and gain weight wear pretty thin, very quickly!
There are a few key reasons why you may be finding it hard to gain ‘good weight’ (muscle mass), which I will break down for you below:
Not eating enough calories
Being in a calorie surplus means you are consuming more calories (through food) than you are burning through daily activity (living and exercise), thus in a net gain of calories. Most people do not feel this simple rule applies to them, however, if you are training sufficiently well with weights, it almost definitely does.
If you are very lean and have always struggled to gain weight, it is more than likely you have a faster metabolism. This means you process and burn calories at a faster rate, leaving less energy for muscle gain or fat deposition. So, although you will find it easy to get lean, gaining muscle size will be harder to achieve compared to those with normal (or slower) metabolic rates.
What usually happens is inconsistency with a calorie target you set yourself; meaning that even if you surpass it on some days, for the entire week you average less than it and overall are not in a calorie surplus – so you maintain your weight. What you need to do here is to use apps like MyFitnessPal to track your calorie (and protein) intake, and ensure that over the week you average your target daily calories, and do this consistently week on week. Then track your progress properly via the instructions in this article.
Our Muscle Building Bible details calories and macros specific to your weight, body type, experience and lifestyle, so is a great place to start for anyone looking to build muscle size and strength!
Not applying progressive overload
This is the practice of increasing the total volume you lift each week, across all muscle groups, over time, in order to illicit adaptations by the body in the form of muscle strength and size.
Total volume = (sets x reps) x weight
The problem here is that most people invariably complete the same workouts, with the same weights, and the same selection of exercises, each week. Apart from training getting very monotonous and demotivating very quickly, this also isn’t ideal for muscle gain unless you are keeping an accurate and progressive log and hitting each muscle group 2-3 times per week.
Completing 3-5 sessions per week, with a focus on compound movements, ensuring you hit each muscle group 2-3 times per week is most ideal. Work in the strength and hypertrophy rep ranges primarily, and keep an accurate log of weights lifted for reference; allowing you to target a weight to use every time you repeat a training week or gym session.
The Muscle Building Bible has 5 workout weeks, used in an optimal cycle over a 20 week period, and comes with a full (printable) workout log. The workout structures and schedules are ideal for muscle and strength gains.
Advanced trainers: protein timing (and the above!)
For more advanced lifters, the above points still hold true, but protein and carbs timing are also important. This is because as your ‘training age’ (the amount of years you have been properly training/eating) increases, you have to increase and fine tune your efforts for a diminishing return on investment, unfortunately. Doing this as a new trainer will also be beneficial, but isn’t as pivotal to your progress.
Regarding protein timing, 4-5 even feedings per day is most optimal, and some studies have also suggested a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein at meals is also more anabolic than consuming less carbs with your protein (keto, paleo, low carb/high fat, etc.). The amount of protein generally suggested is around 2-2.2g per kilogram of bodyweight, so 25-50g of good quality protein per meal is a great target; with good options being whey concentrate, meat, poultry, and dairy. Vegetarian and vegan options are great too, but may require some supplementing with leucine due to having incomplete amino acid profile.
The Muscle Building Bible has beginner, intermediate and advanced sections within both the training and nutrition chapters, allowing you to ensure that even as an experienced trainer you will be making the most efficient progress possible, towards your goals!
Building muscle is a harder process than simply losing fat, because you have to consistently lift heavy enough (with sufficient and increasing total volume) in combination with the correct nutrition. To drop fat you can simply place yourself in a calorie deficit, without training or macro breakdown/timing.
If you can get your calories correct and consistently accurate and apply progressive overload to your training, then over time you will build muscle. This will be slower for more experienced trainers, and may require greater considerations to be given to macro breakdown and timing also.
If you desire an educative, effective and good value, fully comprehensive bulking guide, then look no further than our Muscle Building Bible. It cannot be beaten for the quality and quantity of the content, the support or the price, period.