I hate the term "hardgainer" with a passion. Don't get me wrong. I understand that everyone has a different level of genetic gifts in bodybuilding. The term just seems like such a self-defeating prophecy to me. Why would anyone want to "label" themselves with such a limiting lifetime belief system. Every training challenge is an opportunity to find a better way of doing things. Sometimes it just takes more experimentation to find the right food combinations, training system, intensity, volume, workout frequency and supplements to match your own needs. Stop the self-defeating "labels."
Bodybuilding is about discipline; it's about overcoming life's challenges and turning them into opportunities; it's about pursuit of a goal, a dream; it's about wanting to step up to the plate and accomplish something great; it's about setting a standard of excellence for yourself that will carry over into other areas of your life. That's what makes body- building a sport and "links" it to all other sports.
Intention is the unrelenting commitment that you're absolutely going to accomplish something. You accomplish it because you intend to accomplish it. Let's say you intend to gain 10 pounds of muscle this year, and you calculate that in order for you to accomplish that, you need to ingest 3000 calories a day over six meals, or 500 calories a meal. You make your intention to eat a 500-calorie meal six times a day. The intention keeps you on target.
On the other hand, if you "labeled" yourself as a "hardgainer" you may be inclined to skip a meal every other day. Well, guess what? That's 500 calories times 182 missed meals or 91,000 missed calories this year. That could be 22,750 grams of protein or carbohydrates or 10,000 grams of fat. 91,000 missed opportunities to grow. Hardgainer or flawed approach?
Let's blast our back today with a clear intention that today, as always, we're going to add at least one rep from what we did last time or add weight. Okay, let's look at something going in. If your intention is to get at least one more rep than last time, then training to failure isn't enough, is it? Why? Because you could fail right where you did last time, couldn't you? And you'd think you got a great workout. If you intend to get at least one more rep then you'll do it. If you work your back once a week, that means you'll get 52 opportunities this year to add a rep or weight. Tell the hardgainers to get out of your way. You've got greatness to accomplish and they're wasting valuable iron. Better yet, encourage them to join you. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Intend to accomplish greatness and you will.
Here we go' first exercise is close-grip underhand pulldowns or wide parallel-grip pulldowns'choose one for the day. Do one warmup set. Now choose a weight that allowed you to barely squeeze out eight reps at your last workout. It's showtime. The stage is set. You're in the spotlight. This IS your "one moment in time" so make it count. Intend to get at least nine. See it. Decide that you can get it. The world around you has ceased to exist. It's just you and that pulldown bar. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
It's a green light. Pull that bar slow and under control'two seconds down; now resist it back four seconds. Yes, first rep done! Pull it again, squeeze, now resist it back. Second rep down and you've hardly even broken a sweat'yet. Focus, pull it again. That's it. Now resist back for four seconds. Rep three done. Breathe. No pausing. Get that bar moving. Go! Okay, resist back for four seconds. Rep four done. Take a deep breath but no pausing to rest. Get to it. Rep five. You're breathing like a runaway freight train, and your generating just as much horsepower. That's five'halfway there. Go for six. Dig deep. Now resist. Six done. Breathe. Come on, focus! You got it, seven. Great, give me eight. Come on! Yes, resist, slow it down. Okay, focus again. Get nine or die. Pull. Come on, you got it. Keep it moving. Yes! Now, resist slow, slow, yes. Okay, give it another shot. Come on. Half-way. No. That's okay. Resist. Done. Nine reps, and you're done with pulldowns.
Let's move on to rows. Choose between three exercises: Hammer Strength two-arm rows, bent-over barbell rows, or low-pulley cable rows. Now listen, I'm seeing something in the gym lately that's got me really ticked off. Trainers teaching really, really strict rows with no shoulder movement. Dead wrong. Get out of the fitness textbook, guys and girls, and remember the function of the lats and teres is to draw the shoulders back and down and if the shoulder doesn't move, you can't draw it back. Okay, I'm not going to go through every rep with you because you got the picture on the pulldowns. Just attack these with the same intention that you did the pulldowns.
How'd you do? Did you go for it? Great!
Okay, last movement'the clincher. I promise this exercise will pack on more muscle than any movement in the gym with the exception of 20-rep squats, and, oh yeah, I almost forgot: THEY ARE JUST as challenging.
Rack deadlifts! Oh, man. These will thicken your back, rear delts and traps from top to bottom. Some people like to set the pins on a rack just below their knees so the pins stop the movement. I like to take the bar off the rack at the top and lower it to a point just below the knees and then reverse the movement. It's really a matter of preference. Either way is correct. You're going for 5 to 6 reps plus 2 rest-pause reps plus 1 more rest-pause rep.
Wrap up, step back, and lower the bar down slow for four seconds, just below your knees. Now reverse the movement, two seconds to get it to the top. Great. Go to failure, but remember to make sure it's one more than last time. Intention. Set the bar down but don't relax your grip. Take 10 to 15 deep breaths. Now go for two more. Great. Rack it again. Take 10 to 15 more deep breaths and go for one more.
Lats, teres, traps, rear delts, erectors' wasted! Here's the routine. Try to add a rep at each workout and when you can get 10 up the weight. Increase the poundage on rack deadlifts when you can get seven.
Close-grip underhand pulldowns
or wide-grip parallel pulldowns, 1 x 8-10
Hammer Strength two-arm rows
or bent-over barbell rows
or low-pulley rows, 1 x 8-10
Rack deadlifts, 1 x 5-7 + 2 rest-pause + 1 rest-pause
From the IRONMAN Training & Research Team