It was an awesome deadlift workout and I was in a great mood.
“You guys wanna go grab some dinner?”
“Can’t, man. Sorry.”
“Yeah, I got plans already.”
So I was on my own. Since we’d trained an hour later the normal the last thing I felt like doing was driving home and starting to cook. Instead I stopped by a local restaurant where I had gotten to know the staff and become quite friendly with the owner. Gianni was in his late 50’s, short and stocky. Like an older George Costanza, with a thick Italian accent.
“How you a doin, my friend? I have a beautiful dish with your name on it. You gonna love it.”
“You’ve never steered me wrong. Whattaya got for me?
“A fresh, wild caught salmon, with brown rice and steamed spinach.”
“Perfect. I’ll take it.”
Gianni didn’t disappoint and the meal was pretty damn good. After I finished eating Gianni took a seat at the table and we got to talking about his kids.
“Jason, my friend, I gotta tell you this Anthony is driving me nuts. He’s obsessed now with the bodybuilding. Always reading about how to gain weight. Every day he wanna try a new protein powder or this crea-something. Then it’s the H20 or NOX or something like that. All the muscle mags are scattered all over the house…
I tell him, Anthony, ‘Why you keepa wasting my money and you still looka the exact same?’
He’s been at it for almost two years now and I no think he gain a pound.
I wish we didn’t live so far away or I’d send him to your gym.”
“How old is Anthony now?” I asked.
“Seventeen. He gonna graduate this year. They think they know everything at that age. He no wanna listen to a word I say.”
“I know how it is, my friend. Tell you what… why don’t you send him down to the gym one day this week and I’ll talk to him? I’ll set him up with a program and show him how to gain weight the right way, once and for all. I know it’s too far for you guys to make it regularly but send him one time and I’ll get him on the right path with a program he can do on his own for a few months.”
“Oh, that would be beautiful, my friend! I’ll let him know.”
“You just get back from vacation?” I asked him.
“You’re a little tan for this time of year in Jersey, no?”
“Gotta keep it fresh, yo.”
“Very true. So tell me a little bit about what you’ve been doing.”
“Well, I’ve been hitting it hard, six days a week for about two hours a session. The last few months I always end up being too hung over to get my Saturday workout in so I cut it to five days.
I do chest on Monday. Gotta start the week with that cuz chicks like big pecs. Then I do back on Tuesday, Legs on Wednesday, Shoulders Thursday and finish up with a big arm workout on Friday so they’re pumped up to go out that night.”
“Hmmm… Sure sounds like a lot of work. I know some guys in construction that are looking to hire. If you wanna do that much lifting you might as well get paid for it, right?”
“Look, your dad told me how long you’ve been doing this and you don’t seem to making much progress and gaining any weight at all, right?”
He looked a bit hurt and slinked back in his chair a bit.
“Well, I mean, I put some size on my arms. The sleeves are definitely getting tighter on these t-shirts.”
I glanced at his arms but all I could focus on was his incredibly pointy elbows that looked like they could be used to open bottle caps.
“To be honest, I’m kinda shocked your neck’s not bigger.”
“Well, you gotta have a few pounds of mousse in there, no? It’s like walking around with a helmet or a neck harness on all day.”
“Ya know, now that you mention it, I think my neck is a little bigger. But I need to get the guns up. And the pecs. That’s what the bitches like.”
“Good point. Ok, so here’s what we’re gonna do…
First of all, you’re gonna cut down your training to just three days per week instead of five.”
“What?! Why would I want to do that?!”
“Well, you’re not gaining now, are you?”
“Well, not really too much, but I was thinking maybe that was because I cut down from six days to five. You gotta stay anabolic all the time, yo.”
“Here’s the thing; what you’re doing now is too much. Trust me. You came here looking to find out how to gain weight and I’m telling you.
If you cut down on what you’re doing now your body will have a better chance of recovering and growing. Right now you’re never giving yourself a chance to do either. You can’t be in the gym five days a week for two hours and expect to gain weight. It’s not gonna happen.
You see you stimulate muscle growth in the gym but you don’t actually grow until you’re out of the gym and your body is given the rest and nutrients it needs to recover. That takes time. Something you’re not giving yourself by training five days a week for two hours.”
Anthony leaned in closer.
“Really? But that’s what it said I should be doing in all the magazines I read.”
He pulled out some of the aforementioned mags and spread them across the desk. Each one was bookmarked with workouts he’d been doing that he wanted to show me, although I would have been much more interested in leafing through the Glorious Glutes layout then seeing another one of these workouts.
“Mr. All World’s article about how to gain weight said I should be doing 15-20 sets per bodypart. I can’t get all that work done in less than five days per week.”
“Just humor me for a second and try what I’m going to recommend to you. Because obviously, Mr. All World’s program isn’t working for you right now. So let’s try a different approach. I want you do cut your workouts down to just three days a week and you’re gonna reduce your sets per body part from 15-20 down to just three.”
“I wouldn’t steer you wrong. I’ve been helping guys like you for a long time.”
He sat back in his chair and gave it some thought.
“You really think that’s the answer?”
“Definitely. And no more bodypart splits. You’re going to work the entire body at each workout.”
“Dude, that’ll take me all day.”
“Dude, it will take you less than an hour. And no more arm work either.”
“No more bi’s and tri’s?! Why?! That’s the most important part!”
“Not for now, it isn’t. Let’s just focus on some big, basic compound movements and get really strong on them. That’s all I want you to worry about for the next few months. If it doesn’t work and I’m wrong we can go back to 20 sets of arms, I promise.
Think about it like this… If you can squat 135 for 8 reps right now, what do you think you’ll look like when you can squat 275 for 8 reps? Obviously way bigger, right?
And the only way to make those kinds of strength gains is to eliminate all the excess bullshit.”
“Oh, I don’t squat, yo. Leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls. That’s how I do.”
I glanced toward one of his magazines and locked in on the picture of Jamie Eason’s ass while praying for the strength to surge forward with the conversation.
“From now on you squat. That’s your lower body exercise; that’s it. You won’t gain without it so there is no discussion to be had. Squats and deadlifts are the cornerstone of a good weight gain program.”
“Okay, okay. So what do I do? What’s the workout?”
He grabbed a pen and opened up his notepad.
“You get any hot chicks coming in here or what? Some big booty bitches in spandex n shit?”
“Yeah, but I keep them all in the back on lockdown. Listen, you gotta stay focused on what I’m about to tell you. You’ll be getting plenty of hot chicks in a few months if you do this right.
You’re gonna do just three exercises per day for three sets of 5-8 reps.”
“I thought 8-12 was the growth zone.”
“Higher reps have their place when you get stronger and are more advanced, but most hardgainers and beginners always do better sticking in the 5-8 range. Going above that will be a waste of time for now. Not to mention the fact that it can be dangerous because your smaller stabilizer muscles will give out before your bigger prime movers. That increases the injury risk on exercises like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses.”
“Do a bunch of five rep warm up sets and work up to a starting weight that you can do for five reps with perfect form. If I held a gun to your head you’d be able to get it seven times. So it should be a good hard set but not to failure, where you actually miss the attempt mid rep.
You never want miss a rep or come close by doing those extremely slow, grinding reps that take 10 seconds to complete.”
“Oh man, I always go to failure. They said that was the key to building muscle. Grow or die, right?”
I cupped my face in my hands and wondered why I didn’t order those Bob Ross painting videos like I wanted to back in the late 80’s.
“Most times I even have a training partner help me do 3-5 additional forced reps. They said the intensity always has to be high.”
“Holy shnikes. We gotta get you on the right track here. Stop doing that ASAP and do what I told you. Stop 1-2 reps shy of failure. Hard and heavy but never slow and grinding. Got it.”
Now, you’re gonna stick with the same weight until you can get three sets of eight reps with it. At that point you increase the weight by 5-10 pounds and start back with five reps, sticking with it until you can get eight. Simple enough, right?”
“Got it. Sounds too easy, though.”
“That’s the point. If you make it too complicated it’s bound to fail. Simplicity is the key to success.
So on one day you’re going to do the following exercises-
Incline press (with the bench set to no more than 30 degrees)
1 Arm Row
The other day you’re going to do these three exercises-
And that’s it.”
“What about the third day?”
“There is no third day. We’re gonna start with two. You’ll rotate them A-B style. So the first week you do A,B,A on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the following week you do BAB on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Run that just as I have it laid out for at least six weeks with no deviation and no questions asked. Make progress at each workout by adding weight or reps. If you’re smart you could probably milk the gains on this for twice that amount of time. In that case some fractional plates would come in handy. Eventually we’ll add a third day and tweak some things. But not until absolutely necessary.”
“Got it. Man, this is way different than what I was doing. I hope it works.”
“I promise it will. As long as you eat and sleep enough. I want you eating three big meals per day.”
“What about six? I thought I was supposed to stay anabolic and stoke the furnace. Gotta eat 6-7 times per day. That’s what everyone says.”
“One of the reasons skinny guys don’t gain isn’t always because they aren’t eating enough. Sometimes it’s because they aren’t digesting properly and absorbing enough of what they actually eat. Most ectos have too much nervous energy and are kind of hight strung, stressed out dudes.
Eating all day like that causes too much digestive stress and never gives your system a break. Cut down from six meals per day to just three and double your quantities in each. This will improve your digestion.
Not only will this work better but you won’t be seen as such a Tupperware toting douche by the rest of society. Removing that huge diamond studded cross necklace would go a long way also.”
“Ah come on, you don’t like my bling, yo?”
“Ahhh… so anyway, you’re going to have one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.
On training days eat 2-2.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight and on off days eat 1.5-2 grams per pound. Look to gain one and a half to two pounds a week for the next eight weeks. After that we’ll aim for one pound. When you slow down we’ll probably have to bump up the calories a bit.
Focus on eating organic beef, chicken, fish, brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats and fruit. Veggies are awesome for health purposes and getting lean but for the next two months they don’t have to be a major focus because they take up too much stomach volume and won’t allow you to eat as much as you need to. Just have a big spinach salad for dinner after you’ve eaten your protein and carbs. That’ll cover your need for greens for now. When you finish every meal have two tablespoons of olive oil.”
“Okay, what about supplements? I was taking NO2 and hyper fast creatine and…”
“None for now. Just focus on eating right. The only thing I’d suggest would be a post workout shake. Take it immediately after training and then eat a huge meal an hour later.”
“So that’s it? I shouldn’t do any supersets? No supplements? No forced reps? I don’t know, man, this is kinda hard to believe. I just can’t see how it’s gonna work. Seems too simple.”
“Exactly. The simpler the better. Just do it exactly as I said for a minimum of six weeks then we’ll add a third day in. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night.”
“Oh, I’m good with that. I get at least six hours.”
“Whoa, six hours? That’s not even close to enough. You need eight, minimum.”
“Dude, I’m in my prime, I’m gettin at hoes n shit. You know how it is.”
“And are they gettin back at you? Randomly friend requesting hot girls on FaceBook doesn’t count. Get to bed by 10:30 or 11 at the latest, every night and come see me in six weeks.”
“Aight, yo. I’ma trust you on this.”
“That’s all you need to know about how to gain weight for now. Do it right and you’ll be a new person in three months. I guarantee it.”
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