Light-Bulb Moment: Size Matters
Ice hockey is a sport of balance, fleetness and, yes, size. High school student Nathan Williams had everything going for him but the size part, and after one obliterating body check too many, he decided to do something about it. “I was a sophomore and weighed all of 110 pounds,” says Williams, now 20. “I was getting killed out there, which wasn’t hard to do. I needed to be stronger and, of course, bigger.”
Taking what he had learned through magazines and in a school weightlifting class, Williams hit the gym. He created his own workouts and focused on dynamic, sport-specific moves like woodchoppers and lateral lunges that he thought would improve his game. His speed and agility on the ice improved dramatically, and as a glorious side benefit, he finally gained some muscle. “By the time I was a junior, I was up to 135 pounds,” he says. “My senior year I was 140, and I made the varsity team and was assistant captain.”
Though the end of high school also spelled the end of hockey for Williams, he kept up his lifting, gaining 10 more solid pounds for an all-time high of 150. For those doing the math, that’s 40 pounds in only four years. Not too shabby.
Light-Bulb, Part Deux
All was smooth sailing for Williams … until it wasn’t. “One day after a workout, I hopped on the scale and had dropped down to 138 pounds!” he says. “I got mad and decided I needed to start counting calories. I hadn’t really been keeping track of my food intake, but I realized that in order to keep my size, I would have to eat more food more regularly.”
Though his atomic metabolism would incinerate just about anything he consumed, including junk food, Williams was careful and diligent about his nutritional choices. He made balanced meals and carried his food with him to college, noshing between classes and at the library. “I shot for 4,500 to 5,000 calories daily,” he says. “That translated to about five to six solid, healthy meals and several protein shakes a day.” Extreme, yes, but it worked: Williams was back up to 150 pounds in short order, and there he stayed.
But a hardgainer’s struggle is never over: Williams is still on the size train, working toward his goal weight of 160 pounds. To keep progressing, he hits each bodypart twice a week in the gym, taking one full day off from training on Sundays, and prefers a rep range of six to 12. “Higher reps give you definition and lower reps add mass,” he says. “Sometimes I max out for fun, just to see where I am in terms of strength, but most of the time, I stick to the six to 12 range.” He is also keeping up with his super-sized 5,000-calorie diet.
Though he is currently focused on the business of getting bigger, Williams would be open to competition. “I’m strong for my size and have squatted 415 before, so I might try powerlifting,” he says. “But I also have friends who bodybuild, so I might go that route. And since I’m only about 2 percent body fat, it wouldn’t be hard to diet down for a show. I’m not sure yet what I want to do, but at this point, anything is possible!”
Nathan’s Advice for Hardgainers
- The best moves for gaining mass are compound, complex motions that use a lot of muscle groups at once. Things like squats, lunges, deadlifts and bench presses should be workout staples.
- Hardgainers need to eat a lot. And I mean a lot. If you can’t stomach all the food or don’t have time to make it and eat it, find a weight-gainer shake you like.
- To make steady gains, change your workout every four to six weeks. If you do the same thing all the time, your body adapts and you stop progressing.
- Writing things down can really help you make gains. I write down everything — my goals, how long I want to take to reach them and every workout I do each day. That way you can see your progress on paper as well as in the mirror.
- I eat fat at night. It sticks to me better and helps me gain size more quickly if I eat cream cheese or peanut butter before bed.