It’s funny, but these days, with all the advances in science and technology that have been made over the last few decades, an average skinny guy has far less of a chance of ever getting significantly bigger, stronger and faster than he did twenty or thirty years ago.
Because there is far too much information out there and society as a whole has developed an incurable case of ADD.
The Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl V while training under the watchful eye of legendary strength coach, Bill Starr.
You know what their program consisted of?
Bench, squat, clean- three times per week, for five sets of five.
It aint sexy or exciting and it’s not what you watch guys do on UFC All Access.
But it’s effective for building muscle and gaining strength.
If you’re a beginner then that is the type of program you should be doing.
And don’t tell me it’s boring or ask me how long you should do it for.
Get your squat up to at least 1.5 times your bodyweight for five reps and then we’ll discuss another option or maybe add in another exercise here and there.
If it worked for the greatest team in the NFL way back then what makes you think something like that wouldn’t work now?
Ideally, before you even start that type of program, you should do a few months of bodyweight only training and be able to do at least 40 pushups before you can even touch a weight.
Again, these should consist of an upper body push, an upper body pull and one lower body exercise. No abs, no curls, no kettlebell swings, no box jumps.
If you’re a skinny hardgainer who is just starting to lift for the first time, and you hire me or join my gym, that is what you will be doing for the foreseeable future.
If you don’t like it and are more interested in being entertained than getting results I will refer you to a trainer at Gold’s down the street for a nice machine based bodybuilding program that will get your little heart pounding.
In fact, I’ll save you the money and write you the program right here for free:
Machine incline press- 4×12-15
Machine flat bench press- 4×12-15
Cable crossover- 4 x12-15
Pec dec fly- 4×12-15
Lateral raise machine- 4×12-15
Cable pushdown- 4×12-15
Rope French press- 4×12-15
Triceps kickback- 4×12-15
Leg press- 4×12-15
Hack squat-4 x12-15
Smith machine squat- 4×12-15
Leg extension- 4×12-15
Standing calf raise- 4×20
Seated calf raise- 4×20
Ab crunch machine- 4×20
Front pulldown- 4×12-15
Behind the neck pulldown- 4×12-15
Pullover machine- 4×12-15
Seated cable row- 4×12-15
Rear delt machine fly- 4×12-15
Cable curl- 4×12-15
Machine preacher curl- 4×12-15
Cable crossover “double bi’s” curl- 4×12-15
Come see me in a year. If you’ve gained more than a couple pounds I’ll shave my eyebrows and get a toupee permanently sutured on like Sol Rosenberg of The Jerky Boys.
Or perhaps you want to do what you saw GSP or Nate Marquardt do in preparation for their last fight. That looks like more fun than what those silly old Baltimore Colts did, doesn’t it?
Besides, you should really be sweating buckets and near nausea when you’re training for size and strength, right?
Ok, here’s your “fun, UFC inspired” mass building program on me, again…
Box jumps- x20
Walking lunges with heavy sandbag- x10
Towel pull ups- xAMAP
Kettlebell swings- x50
Bear crawl- x50 yards
Prowler push- x50 yards
Keg clean and press- x20
Repeat five times with no rest between sets.
Looks more fun and exciting than a few sets of five rep squats and presses, right?
You’ll be massive and inhumanly strong in no time, I’m sure.
Don’t get me wrong, the tools and exercises listed in the workout above are all very effective and I’ve used them all on a frequent basis since the early 90’s.
But if you’re a hardgainer who weighs 138 pounds and your main goal is to gain muscle and get stronger you need to steer clear of this stuff for a few years.
Stick to the big basic exercises and get progressively stronger while shoveling food down your throat every few hours. Don’t miss meals or stay up past 10:30 at night.
Do this for two years and we’ll see where you’re at. I’ve seen people go from 130 pounds to over 180 in that time frame doing just that.
Too many people want to do something completely wacked out and exciting every time they walk into the gym.
Yup… we did.
And although I would like to feign empathy for you the fact is that I have been doing rack pulls, military presses, squats and pull ups for nearly 25 years straight. Not juggling weights while standing on a Swiss Ball in the middle of rush hour traffic.
And I haven’t gotten bored yet.
If you want to be entertained book a trip to Vegas or buy the Seinfeld box set (“It’s gold, Jerry…Gold!”)
If you want results you need to get over the ADD and the obsession with doing everything you see your favorite fighter doing and realize that getting big and strong requires a commitment to short, intense training sessions with a limited amount of basic exercises.
And no, they won’t leave you drenched with sweat or sick to your stomach.
If you’ve been brainwashed into thinking those types of workouts are “too easy,” then get stronger. This will no longer be a valid complaint at that point.
To recap, for beginners (especially those who are skinny hardgainers) to get bigger and stronger they need to do the following:
• Use big, compound lifts- Squats, deads, pull ups, rows, pushups and presses
• Do an average of 3-5 exercises per workout- Usually a push, a pull and a lower body exercise. Do not add in work for the calves, bi’s, tri’s, or abs.
• Do no more than 20-25 total work sets per workout- Any more than this will only be cutting into your recovery ability.
• Train three times per week- Guys with limited recovery ability can’t afford to do more than three workouts per week.
• Limit workouts to 45 minutes, max- Anabolic hormone production peaks a half hour into your workout and is down to nada at the sixty minute mark. Cortisol production also rises during this time. Get in, hit it hard and get out.
• Limit the amount of conditioning- Again, unless you have a fight coming up in a few weeks you need to make sure you stay focused on one goal at a time. If that goal is size and strength and you don’t have the genetics of a Mr. Olympia on your side, you need to resist the urge to add in extra conditioning work.
Once you have trained for 6-12 months and made some good progress split your training up into an upper body day and a lower body day. And add a FEW exercises (but still no more than six each day).