Extreme Growth - Muscle & Performance

Extreme Growth

Can’t seem to gain muscle mass, no matter how hard you try? This training program is for you: It dials back the volume and amps up the intensity, kick-starting your growth when all other workouts have failed.
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Despite the old saying to the contrary, oftentimes too much of a good thing isn’t really so bad. Sure, $100 is great, but $1,000 is better. If you’re offering Super Bowl tickets, I’ll take two, thank you very much. And can you ever have too many channels on television? Not as long as there’s a clicker with a fresh set of batteries and a hair-trigger finger at the ready.

But that doesn’t mean the expression should be discarded. Take your training regimen. All too often, when bodybuilders reach a plateau, they start adding exercises to their program and spending more and more time in the gym, thinking that if they hit it hard enough and long enough, they’ll break through and start seeing results again. Unfortunately, for many hardgainers, that approach is the exact opposite of what they should do, especially when battling a white-hot metabolism that burns through calories faster than they can be shoveled in.

The key in this frustrating situation is not to lift more extensively. Instead, try dialing back the overall time you’re training, and in that shortened window, train smarter, harder and with maximum intensity. In other words, eliminate the excess from your program, get in and out of the gym, and give your body additional time to recover, rest and, most important, grow.

Less is More

To that goal, our Extreme Hardgainer Program is short and simple, cutting back to the bare minimum of exercises you need to ensure that you touch on all the important muscle groups and no more. It also relies heavily on compound moves because these are the most efficient exercises in your arsenal. They call on multiple muscle groups at once instead of just one at a time. The isolation moves, when they do appear, are saved for last as one final “burnout” set to all-out failure.

Here’s where the plan gets a little radical — at least if you’ve been a firm proponent of high-volume training and find yourself working out four to six times a week on a regular basis. For this plan, you’ll only train three days a week. The key bodyparts are broken across three sessions: a leg day, chest and back day, and shoulders and arms day. You’ll do each just once per week, inserting at least one rest day in between them.

For those of you shaking your head, doubting the effectiveness of any plan that keeps you out of the gym for that length of time, think about this: Muscle gains don’t happen as you train; it only occurs during periods of rest. If you’re constantly tearing down muscle tissue and taxing your body’s recovery ability with one hard, long training session after another, when does it have time to grow? If that doesn’t quite sway you, think of it this way: If you’ve been stuck in neutral with no new mass to speak of, what do you have to lose by giving this a try?

On this plan, monitoring your advancement is key. (In fact, on any program, it’s vital, because doing the same thing over and over again with no progress to show for it is probably what got you into this zero-sum rut in the first place.) So before you begin, take all your measurements, including your weight and the circumferences of your upper arms, chest at the nipple level, waist at the belly button, and thighs, calves and forearms at their largest point, both relaxed and flexed. Every week, you’ll want to weigh in, and every two to four weeks, you can revisit those measurements to gauge your response to the program.

The Food Factor

As much as we love this program, we’ll be the first to admit that it’s not enough. You also need to assess your diet, as that is where many hardgainers fall short. You need to be taking in ample quality calories, at least enough equal to 15 to 18 times your bodyweight daily, with protein grams in the range of 1.25 to 1.50 multiplied by your bodyweight. It’s highly recommended that you keep a food journal because people notoriously over-assess how much they think they’re eating when trying to pack on pounds. If you think you’re eating enough but you’re not growing, guess what? You’re not.

As for the program, give it at least one to two months at three workouts per week. At that point, if gains are coming but you think a bit more attention would help, you could consider the following split:

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Back and chest
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders and arms
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Repeat split (legs)

However, don’t be too quick to increase the volume. Remember, working out too often is the enemy of a true hardgainer. If you find three days a week is working well, that’s absolutely not an indication that four days will work even better. Keep a close eye on your measurements, and if you try four a week, go back to three if the gains slow or cease.

Game of Inches

Espousing the benefits of doing nothing — i.e., resting — sounds foreign to the active, athletic, goal-oriented readers who turn to this magazine for advice. Believe us when we say we understand the trepidation and the sense of laziness that come with days that don’t include a visit to the weight room. But don’t let that nagging feeling get the better of you. In the end, your body will thank you for the time you’ve given it, by stretching that tape measure in all the right places — yet another example of too much of a good thing not being so bad after all.

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The Extreme Hardgainer Program

Do each of these workouts once per week, with one to two days of rest in between. When more than one set is listed for an exercise, pyramid up the weight set to set. On back and chest day, rotate which bodypart leads off the session. Do the same when it comes to biceps and triceps on the shoulders and arms day, but always do delts first because they are a larger bodypart and best targeted when your arms are fresh.

LEG DAY

Body Part: Quads, Glutes

Exercise: Barbell Squat
Sets: 4
Reps: 15, 10, 8, 5

Exercise: Leg Press
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10*

Exercise: Leg Extension
Sets: 1
Reps:
To failure

Body Part: Hamstrings

Exercise: Romanian Deadlift
Sets: 4
Reps: 15, 10, 10, 5*

Exercise: Lying Leg Curl
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Body Part: Calves

Exercise: Standing Calf Raise
Sets: 2
Reps: 25, 20*

Exercise: Seated Calf Raise
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

BACK & CHEST DAY

Body Part: Back

Exercise: Bent-Over Barbell Row
Sets: 4
Reps: 15, 10, 8, 5

Exercise: Deadlift
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10*

Exercise: Pull-Up
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Body Part: Chest

Exercise: Incline Barbell Press
Sets: 4
Reps: 15, 10, 8, 5

Exercise: Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10*

Exercise: Pec-Deck Flye
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

SHOULDERS & ARMS DAY

Body Part: Shoulders

Exercise: Seated Barbell Press
Sets: 4
Reps: 15, 10, 8, 5

Exercise: Barbell Upright Row
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10*

Exercise: Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Exercise: Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Body Part: Biceps

Exercise: EZ-Bar Preacher Scott Curl
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10

Exercise: Dumbbell Concentration Curl
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Body Part: Triceps

Exercise: Lying EZ-Bar Triceps Extension
Sets: 3
Reps: 15, 10, 10

Exercise: Parallel-Bar Dip
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

Body Part: Forearms

Exercise: Barbell Wrist Curl
Sets: 1
Reps: To failure

  • NOTE: Every other workout, add the following core-training circuit: back extensions, crunches and reverse crunches, two sets each to failure.
  • Key: *Use the heaviest weight you can possibly handle on the final set (after pyramiding up the weight on the previous sets). If necessary, try the rest/pause technique to complete the set, pausing for five to 15 seconds between reps before continuing. †When you can no longer complete full reps, do partial reps through one-third to one-half of the range of motion until you reach momentary muscular failure again.
  • When you reach momentary muscular failure (i.e., when you can’t complete another repetition on your own with good form), have a spotter help you through three more forced reps, during which he or she gives you just enough assistance to get through the range of motion.