No matter how hard they train, there are some people who simply cannot put on muscle. They spend hours and hours in the weight room, performing curl after curl but not achieving the physique they’re after.
First things first, you’ll need to change how you approach weight lifting in order to build mass. While bicep curls and other isolations are good for focusing on specific muscle groups, you’ll need to start doing heavy compound lifts which recruit more muscle and speed up the mass gaining process. The four lifts to focus on are deadlifts, squats, bench press and overhead press.
People who struggle to put mass on are known as hard gainers, and for them building muscle is a learning curve that requires strong knowledge of nutrition and a little bit of extra help in the way of supplements. Here are a few of the best you can take to pack on muscle and size…
Everyone who has been in a gym for any period of time is familiar with protein supplements. A natural nutrient in food, protein is responsible for building muscle. Hard gainers need to increase the amount of protein they consume – which can often be difficult due to budget or sheer appetite limitations.
A great way to increase your intake is to buy whey protein and make protein shakes with milk or water (milk is preferable if you can tolerate it as it contains more calories.) Quick and easy, a protein shake increases your daily calorie consumption without the fuss.
Creatine is one of the most extensively researched sport supplements in the world. It helps aid athletes in bursts of short, high intensity exercise like heavy lifts. This means you can lift slightly heavier during a workout, which in turn increases the likelihood of building mass due to the increased stress on your central nervous system (CNS). This then ultimately produces a greater hormone response.
Creatine also increases weight gain, at first through water retention as it pulls water into your muscle cells, which increases protein synthesis.
An abbreviation for zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6, ZMA’s are supplements available in pill form that help increase sleep quality, recovery and testosterone. They are a great way to increase your magnesium intake, as studies have found 50 per cent of Americans don’t get enough. Recovery is an important part of the muscle building process, as the growth of muscle depends on breaking down muscle fibres and rebuilding them. This makes ZMA’s valuable aids to the natural process and great for hard gainers.
Just like protein shakes, mass gainers are optional additions to your diet. While you’ll be eating normally throughout the day, increasing your calorie intake can be tough without making yourself sick through sheer volume. A mass gainer shake packs on the calories and is far easier to consume than a full meal.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are natural building blocks in the human body. They are made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are the most important amino acids for building muscle tissue. Taken as supplements, they support and assist the process of muscle growth in a similar fashion to protein powder. They help stimulate protein synthesis and help block cortisol (a hormone that inhibits testosterone.) They also have the added benefit of reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (commonly known as DOMS).
With a bit of preparation and a lot of hard work, even the hardest gainers can pack on mass and size and reach their physique goals. Devise a calorie-rich diet, stick to it and excel.