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Training Tips for Hardgainers

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Having lost touch in the past with what realty matters in weight training, I can sympathize with those people who are hopelessly lost in a plethora of opinions and getting nowhere in the gym. I have trainees asking me about the ideal speed of each repetition, whether they should squat or do leg presses, whether they should train every fifth or fourth day, whether they should do three or five sets per exercise, whether they should use supplements, whether they should divide their basic schedules over two or over three workouts a week, whether they should do medium or high reps.

These matters certainly may be relevant at the right time, but if you can't bench 150-plus percent of your bodyweight and squat and deadlift 200 percent, they are so marginal as to be almost irrelevant. There are countless novices ant intermediates who are swimming around in a sea of marginal considerations and forgetting about the cardinal considerations.

I know people who have been training for most than 10 years and still can't bend press 150 percent of their body weight, yet they debate the pro cons and nuances of this and training matter and this and that performance supplement and spend it of time experimenting in the gym I know people who have been training for more than 10 years and still can't squat much more than their body-weight for 20 reps.

These same people are always agonizing over one thing or another but never over whether they are hoisting progressive poundages in the big lifts. If you can't build yourself up with ordinary, basic exercises, traditional cheat-free rep speeds and regular food, then all the concern in the world about the other matters won't make a bit of difference to you. Too many people get caught up in the exploits of others and become veritable encyclopedias when it comes to the achievements and opinions of top competitors and well-publicized trainers.

They have amazing collections of magazines, books and videos but still can't handle respectable weights in the gym. It's all well and good to have an interest in others, but not if it prevents you from focusing on what really matters to you. Until you're able to move some fairly substantial poundages-substantial for drug-free, typical trainees, that is-you should totally ignore all other training concerns.

This may seem extreme, but it's the only sure way to avoid being distracted by secondary matters. If you spread yourself too thin over too many matters, then you won't have enough drive to achieve much in any of them. This applies to training as it does to other things in life. While a genetically gifted person or a drug user can gain well even on a hodgepodge of training ideas and or while floating from one approach to another, the rest of us can't.

For most of us getting to a 275-to-300-pound bench, a 350-to-400-pound squat and a 425-to-500-pound dead-lift involves extraordinary discipline, application and determination for a period of years. You won't get there if you can't stick to a pretty rigid and basic formula for a long while.

If you haven't yet achieved these poundage goals, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to adjust your training as follows:

Focus on doing a handful of big, basic barbell lifts-such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, bent-over rows and chins-along with some supplementary calf, grip and neck work, all with progressive poundages in good form.

» Work in training cycles, using a traditional cheat-free rep cadence without counting seconds. Do three to five sets per exercise, including warmup sets, and rest as long as you need to between sets to do justice to each.

» Train two or three times a week. Don't work any exercise more than twice a week, and limit some to only once a week.

» Eat ordinary food, drink lots of milk, and take a good multivitamin and -mineral formula each day.

» Get lots of rest and as much sleep as possible. Had I done all of this in my early years, I would have minimized distractions. I wouldn't have worried about how prominent bodybuilding figures train, and all concerns about rep speed, between-set rest time, forced reps, negative reps, compounding, drop sets and sophisticated machines would have been totally shoved to the side. In the beginning and intermediate stages of training it's desirable to be old-fashioned.

Once you're big and strong, you can move into the other domain, but not before. Even then, however, if you do venture too far into the myriad opinions about training, you risk losing sight of what really works for typical people. At least by then you should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and you should already have the development and strength that mark you as a successful hardgainer.

If you follow my suggestions, it will be one of the most important steps you'll ever take in your training.

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