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Help! I'm a Hard Gainer

by jeff denson

So you're a hard gainer? Congratulations, join the club!

This is the oldest excuse in the book for why someone is getting poor results (Hey, I've even used it myself), but rarely the true reason for their poor results. The reality is most people are hard gainers. In fact, very few people are easy gainers. Easy gainers exist, but they are rare. Most people have average genetics. So what? Okay, you screwed up and didn't choose the right parents to be a champion athlete or bodybuilder - Now what can you do? What you can do is quit making excuses and build a great body. True, without great genetics you'll never be Mr. Olympia, but you can still have the body that others dream of. It takes great genes to be a champion. To look great just takes hard work and dedication.

"It takes great genes to be a champion. To look great just takes hard work and dedication."
-  OSHIIT Philosophy

Take bicycling for example: One of the most important measures of a cyclist's ability is how much power they can sustain while pedaling. This is measured in watts. The upper limit for highly-trained cyclists is the ability to sustain about 500 watts of cycling power. This is about what Lance Armstrong is able to do. NASA did a study some years ago and concluded that with proper training most healthy male adults could sustain 450 watts. That means that an average healthy male with average genetics can obtain 90% of what the world's best cyclists can do. Think about that. The average Joe can achieve 90% of what the genetically-gifted elite can do. And of course if you attend bike races, you'll see this. The winner will finish with a pack of local wannabes right on his tail. They're only about 10-15% off the winner's time. It's that last 10-15% that separates the world champions from the guys you'll never hear of.

A second example: Sprinting. The world record for the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds (held by Usain Bolt). Most healthy adults males can train to run it in 12 seconds or less. That means the average person's genetics put him within about 80% of what is genetically possible.

So what does all this mean? It means that to be a champion, you need great genetics. But with average genetics you can achieve 80-90% of what the elite can do. Would you be happy with a physique that was only 80% as good as the champions? I think most people would be okay with that. Even with average genetics you can create a really good physique. True, you may have to work harder (and smarter) and watch your diet more than the handful of people who are genetically gifted. But why should that stop you?

Besides, your genetics only set the upper limit of what you can achieve. Most people never even come close to reaching the upper limit of their genetic potential. And if you haven't reached your genetic limit, than it's really irrelevant what your genetic limit is or whether you're a hard gainer or not. Your genetics are not what's stopping you from progressing. It's something else.

If you're not getting the results you want, it's more likely your diet and workouts that are the problem - Not your genetics.

Me at age 6. Look at those biceps! You could clean your teeth with those toothpicks! I was the second smallest boy in my school. I graduated high school at 5 foot 9 inches tall weighing about 120 pounds. These are not the genetics of a gifted athlete. I am your classic hard gainer. I have to fight for every pound of lean muscle I have.

The reason I'm writing this is because people regularly tell me I must have really good genetics and that they could never achieve what I've done. Then after listening to them describe their workouts and eating habits it's obvious why they can't achieve similar results. What they're doing has no hope of ever achieving great results. Even if they had superior genetics they wouldn't achieve much the way they train and eat. To get great results you must work hard, work smart, and eat right. This is especially true for hard gainers (i.e. average people).

To get great results you must work hard, work smart, and eat right.

Building a physique and getting fit requires:

  • Proper Workouts
  • Adequate Recovery
  • Proper Nutrition
  • Average or Better Genetics

I see people doing ineffective workouts, not allowing adequate recovery (i.e. working out way too much), eating like a spoiled child (candy, pizza, soda), and with average genetics. When they get poor results, what do they blame? You guessed it, their genetics. It isn't their genetics that's the problem. Even with great genetics, they would have no hope of overcoming their other bad habits.

Of course when I try to explain what I do and why it works for me (and also works for everyone else who does it), they usually give one of two responses:

  1. "It wouldn't work for them" - How they could possibly know that without even trying it is beyond me though.
    -- or --
  2. "It's not how they like to work out" - Look, I don't work out that way because it's fun, I do it that way because it works. It you want to have fun, stay home and play your Wii Fit and build your Wii muscles. If you want to build a physique, do an effective workout.

So they continue on with their hopeless workout regimen and continue to falsely accuse their genetics for their lack of results.

You can't change your genes, but you can give them a damn good run for their money.

It's easy to make excuses and create roadblocks for yourself. Don't let the excuse of bad genetics be your roadblock. So you may never be a champion - Get over it. That's no excuse for not building the body you want.

If you have average genetics, that is you are a typical hard gainer, then you must get everything else right. It's not easy, but it is doable. If you're not willing to do what it takes to build the physique you want, that's fine, but put the blame where it belongs - ON YOURSELF!

It's time to quit making excuses, work hard, work smart, eat right, get really fit, and create a fantastic physique!

doctorAs with any nutrition or exercise program, always review them with your doctor to ensure that they don't interact with or are contraindicated by any medications or medical issues you may have. If you haven't trained for a while, start out slow and go easy. If you are pregnant, have diabetes, blood sugar problems, or any heart issues, you shouldn't do this program as it is very strenuous.
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