Hardgainers, Listen Up: 10 Rules to Build Muscle Fast

Hardgainers, Listen Up: 10 Rules to Build Muscle Fast

The scrawny mindset is a way of looking at your body and the world. Here's the bad news:

It ensures failure.

It makes you feel small and weak. Not only when you?re in the gym trying to gain muscle, but even when you're just out living your life.

But with so many options available today, it's hard to decipher what's good and what is B.S. And when it comes to building muscle, it can be even more difficult to land on a training program and diet plan that's right for you.

Unfortunately, the frustration of slow or non-existent muscle gains leave many people stuck in the skinny mindset for the rest of their lives. Consequently, they never build the body they want. They remain small and weak.

I don't want that for you. And I know deep down, you don't want that for you either.

But with the mindset shift and a sound approach, you can side-step the scrawny mindset and unlock the beast within, build muscle and finally have the physique you've dreamed of.

For thousands of people, building muscle can seem damn near impossible. If you feel like you're one of them, this article shows you how to prove that it can be done in 10 straightforward tips.

How to Build Muscle Fast

Rule #1. Shift your mindset

Genetics do play a role. However, if you've been dealt a hand that you're not happy with, it doesn't mean you have to fold and settle with what you've got.

In order to break the skinny mindset, it starts with the muscle between your ears. There are two mindsets that Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset has popularized.

Fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their natural aptitude and intelligence is fixed. They have a ceiling to their progress. Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they correlate errors with a lack of ability which they feel they cannot change.

They shy away from challenges because it might reveal their weaknesses. With a fixed mindset, you believe nothing can be can be changed by your actions or behavior. People with a fixed mindset rely on "natural" talent and do very little, and often times don't do anything to improve their skills or capacity. If success can't happen perfectly and immediately, the one with a fixed mindset won't even bother investing into such a venture.

A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone.

Growth mindset. Those with the growth mindset on the other hand think that intelligence is malleable and can be developed through effort and education. They believe that they can improve by seeking out learning opportunities. Mistakes they make provide feedback and don't define them as failure.

Challenges energize them instead of driving fear into them. With a growth mindset, people know that it takes time for potential to bloom. Above all else, they value learning how to improve their intelligence and capacity.

A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort.

To illustrate this the comparison, take a look at this study from Carol Dweck:

"Who would pass up a free opportunity to improve their life success? At the University of Hong Kong, everything is in English. Some students are more fluent than others, and this can have a big impact on their success. As students arrived to register for their freshman year, they were asked if they would take a free course to improve their English skills if the university provided one.

It turned out that those with a fixed mindset were not very interested, and those with a growth mindset were absolutely interested. This is a perfect example of how the fixed mindset turns people into non-learners.

The fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is a starting point for change, but people need to decide for themselves where their efforts toward change would be most valuable."

The students with the fixed mindset neglected to receive any help that was proven to boost their success rate because they believed that their intelligence was fixed.

Do you have a fixed mindset about your ability to build muscle? Have you fallen to believe that there is nothing you can do to change your physique? If so, it's time to shift into a growth mindset.

The first step in breaking the scrawny mindset, is believing that it's possible.
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Rule #2. Prioritize the basics in the gym

In sports it's easy to look at complex movement patterns like an inside-out crossover dribble in basketball, throwing a mean curve ball in baseball, or a quarterback throwing a tight spiral between 3 defenders and understand that it takes years of practice to be able to do something like that. Hours of effort and endless repetitions of the fundamentals are required to execute these movements effectively.

The same theory should apply to strength training. Starting with the fundamentals and practicing with loads that allow you to progress safely to make long-term gains without injury or adopting any negative movement patterns would be ideal.

Unfortunately, the microwave society we live in has influenced newbies in the gym to believe that mastering the basics won't have any impact on their arm size, quad development or washboard abs. Instead, they choose to follow a complex plan that is too advanced in hopes to expedite their progress. The desire for fast results gets the best of them and ultimately, they never make any progress.

If you've gone through a similar cycle of starting a plan, and getting frustrated or confused in the midst of it all, it's time to return to the basics.

Cut through all the noise and commit to the success formula that has worked through the ages: commit to long-term training goals that are grounded in the staple lifts like the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, pull up and dip.

Invest time into your strength, and do the work to meet some benchmark strength standards. The following is a general target guideline for those wants to get big and strong, but who may never have any interest in competing in a strength sport.
  • Pull ups: 15 (strict)
  • Dips: 15
  • Bench Press: 250 pounds
  • Squat: 315 pounds
  • Deadlift: 405 pounds

Rule #3. Supplement with the basics

To make consistent muscle and strength gains, you've got to supplement smart. Assuming that you've got a diet that is based on whole foods that allows you to be in a surplus, a periodized training plan based on your goals, and your micronutrient intake is taken care of (zinc, Vitamin D, magnesium, Multi-vitamin) here is a basic list of supplements every lifter should have in their gym bag:


Creatine is one of the most researched supplement performance aids on the market. It's your primary fuel source for short, explosive, high-intensity movements and it's been shown repeatedly to increase overall strength and muscle gains compared to training alone.

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BCAAs & Leucine

In order for protein balance to arrive in a positive state after strength training, the amino acid leucine must be consumed. Studies show that it's leucine isn't supplemented, protein balance may remain negative.

Leucine is a unique branch chain amino acid with its ability to stimulate mTOR, the the primary muscle building pathway in the body. In fact, leucine is about 10x more powerful in inducing protein synths than any other amino acid.

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Want to have better workouts? Have some caffeine beforehand. Research shows that caffeine improves strength, muscle endurance, and anaerobic performance, and it can also get you out of that morning slump if you lift in the mornings.

If you're not into having crappy training sessions, then there are a few items in addition to caffeine that have been proven to help: citrulline, and beta-alanine. And you can find both of them in the pre-workout drink MTS Clash.

Protein Powder

Whey protein has a superior amino acid profile in comparison to other powders derived from casein and soy. This is due largely to the fact that whey has a superior amount of leucine per serving that enhances protein synthesis.

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Marc LoblinerRule #4. Build muscle on a budget

When you decide it's time to quit being small, you're going to have to eat. A lot. There's no getting around that fact. You'll have to stock up on healthy whole foods along with your supplements.

But there might be one obstacle: It's expensive.

And you aren't sponsored by Whole Foods Grocery store. That means you have to buy your own stuff.

Getting crafty is something you've probably overlooked in the past when you were strapped for cash and trying to make epic gains at the same time. With these practical tips, those days are gone. You'll no longer have to decide whether you buy a tub of protein powder or the overpriced steak at the designer super market.

Hunt down deals

Know where to look for good deals. With a little effort and research, you can escape the local grocery store that over-charges for everything.

Hit a butcher shop

With the overwhelming amount of grocery stores popping up that typically offer low quality, farm raised products, butcher shops have gotten lost in the midst. However, you can still find a hole in the wall butcher shop that offers high quality meat at a fraction of the cost compared to your local grocer. Google search your home town and find a butcher shop.

Head to a farmers market

The obvious secret is to get up early enough to get the best selection on fresh produce, fruit, nuts and dried meats. If you go often enough and create relationships with the vendors, they tend to give you better deals. Do yourself a favor and stop staying up so late on Friday night watching Blacklist. I promise, Netflix won't erase the next episode.

Do you even CSA?

Community-supported agriculture (CSAs) are a great and practical way to get your box of seasonal veggies, cheese, bread and other high quality whole foods delivered to your door that are often way cheaper than shopping at the supermarket.
Marc Lobliner Tire Flips
Adding cardio to your training helps your body deliver more oxygen and assist in the removal of waste product, thus, helping you recover faster.

Rule #5. Don't skip cardio

The common advice is that cardio kills your gains. And to be sure, it can. But with a sound approach, you can avoid the negative impact of too much and the wrong kind of cardio while on your journey to building muscle. Augmenting cardio while you're building muscle mass can improve your progress in three ways:

Improved muscle recovery

When you're going #beastmode in the gym, your muscles experience micro tears, which then need to be repaired.

The rate at which your muscles recovery is largely determined by two things: the amount that nutrients can be delivered to the muscle and how fast waste product is removed.

Adding cardio to your training helps your body deliver more oxygen and assist in the removal of waste product, thus, helping you recover faster.

Improved insulin sensitivity

When you're eating more calories than you're burning to build muscle, being insulin sensitive is important. If you spill over and allow the surplus of food your eating each day to make you insulin resistant, it inhibits muscle growth and influences fat storage particularly around the waist and lower back.

This is where cardio can be beneficial. By adding 2-4 cardio sessions a week, you can maintain or improve your insulin sensitivity, keeping your muscle cells primed for nutrient delivery.


By keeping your conditioning at a respectable level while you build muscle, it keeps you healthy. You don't want to be the dude who can squat the house, but can't go on a hike with this wife.

Also, keeping cardio in your muscle building phase, sets you up for a smoother transition when it comes time to cut.

Marc Lobliner presents 6 tips to help you fall asleep faster.

Rule #6. Get to sleep on time

It's no longer a secret. A lack of shut-eye puts a damper on your gains. When you're sleep deprived, lackluster workouts, fat gain, strength loss and a fuzzy mindset are all by-products.

However, with good and sufficient sleep, you influence adequate GH and testosterone production, you improve your insulin sensitivity keeping body fat in check, you're a lot more focused, you're more resilient to stress and get sick less often.

But with so many other responsibilities, how does a busy person like you get enough sleep?
Here a few practical tips to get your sleep game on point:
  • Keep your room cool. Anywhere between 60-70 degrees.
  • Keep your room dark. Even the glow from alarm clocks or tablets negatively impact your melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. The quick fix is to buy a sleeping mask that shuts out any kind of light in the room.
  • Keep a sleep schedule. Many of us have alarm clocks to wake up, but that statistics show that millions of people are walking around with eyes wide shut due to the lack of sleep.
Maybe it's time to set an alarm to go to bed on time. Set a schedule to go to bed every night, even on the weekends. This will allow your body to adapt to a sleep schedule, making it easier to fall asleep.

Rule #7. Buy in bulk

After you get savvy and hit the butcher shop and farmers market, your next best option to build muscle on the cheap is to buy things in bulk.

Yes, buying in bulk carries an upfront costs, but in the long-run, it saves you a lot of dough. Especially with the amount of food it requires to build some serious muscle.

Get signed up with a wholesale big box retailer like Costco or Sam's Club. It makes life so much easier when you can purchase these items in bulk and not have to run to the store every 2 days:
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Tuna
  • Beans
  • Eggs (Organic, cage free preferably)

8. Take it easy on the weekend sports

At the end of the day, if you're eating well and hitting the gym constantly, but you're burning more calories than you're consuming, you won't gain any muscle mass.

How you spend your time outside of the gym matters. The 4 hour pick up basketball sessions you have at 24 Hour Fitness twice a week with your buds is certainly not helping you gain weight.

If slabbing some muscle onto your frame is important to you and you've found it near impossible in your past attempts to do so, your going to have to adjust your hobbies and activities to support your muscle building goals.

Rule #9. Hit a broad range of reps

Once you've made it a habit to build your training around the classic lifts and you've adopted proper movement patterns, you'll want to broaden your rep ranges.

When you're nailing down the basics, a rep range of 3-5 is typical with strength movements. Heavy, low reps ranges are great for nervous system adaptation, but they fall short for hypertrophy (muscle building).

To get strong and big you'll want to cycle in sets with rep ranges between 8-12 with the occasional high rep sets of 15-20. These movements will be accessory to your main lifts (squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press):
  • Barbell and dumbbell curls
  • Skullcrushers and rope push downs
  • Dumbbell lateral raises and rope face pulls
  • Leg presses and leg extensions
  • Romanian deadlifts and leg curls

Rule #10. Be willing to grind

Everything seems impossible until you do it.

Embarking on a journey to build muscle takes a lot of effort, and it's damn hard. You can't click a red button that is labeled "download" and wake up the next morning jacked out of your mind.

You've got to be relentless in the pursuit of muscle. An unbreakable spirit is required because progress won't be linear.

For anyone who has trekked the journey before, they'll also tell you the process is soul-crushing at times. But it's worth it if you have a bone deep conviction that you have been called to build a body that breaks necks when you walk by.

However, you first have to decide if the is what you want, because it won't be a walk in the park. This quote sums it up well:

"Every man in his lifetime, should attempt to get a boat over a mountain."

If that challenge excites you, go for it. Regardless of the outcome, you won't regret that you gave it your best shot.

Wrapping up

You've gone long enough ho-humming your way through your workouts. You're secretly fed-up with the lack of muscle you've been able to put on over the years.

You're ready for change. You're ready to set up and do the work.

Take these 10 practical, but extremely effective tips on building muscle and put them to work in your own life.

In due time, you might even be teaching one of your hard-gainer buddies how to take their body from scrawny to show-stopping based on your own experience.

Best of luck my friend. May the #gainz be with you.

"Availability of EIF4E Regulates Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis During Recovery from Exercise. - PubMed - NCBI." National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
"Effects of Oral Creatine Supplementation on Muscular Strength and Body Composition. - PubMed - NCBI." National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
"Elimination of Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness by Pre-resistance Cardioacceleration Before Each Set. - PubMed - NCBI." National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
"Improved Insulin Sensitivity After Exercise: Focus on Insulin Signaling. - PubMed - NCBI."National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
"Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic| Features | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
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