Hardgainer over 40 looking for advice to finally put on some muscle

Hello there,

I’m totally new here and signed up as finally need some advice.

Let me start with some background information:

I am 42y old and not really satisfied with the way I look.
Let me go back in time. As a kid I was always the small and skinny one. I started to develop quite late at the age of 17, from the small kid to the tallest (but still skinniest) kid around.
I was never into sports until I started working out at the age of 30. I had some typical beginner gains which brought me from 154lbs/72kg to a whooping 176lbs/80kg (yeah, I know…). At that time I was still believing I had to work out harder and tried a lot of different routines, while for sure not eating enough (it was quite clean however). I did a lot of sports at that time (running, biking etc.) which probably was not entirely helpful to put on mass as well. While being low on body fat and having quite some muscle tone I was obviously still super skinny.
At some point in time I started upping my calorie intake and ended up at 95kg/209lbs but I was not getting stronger and most of the gained mass was body fat. I lost most of it (with quite some muscle) when I had a very stressful time in life.
Additionally, at some point in time I started developing knee problems which turned out to be a ruptured meniscus with some small patella cartilage damage. I am about to get that taken care of (surgery), but not before end of this year.

Let me get to the point now. I have family and a demanding job (not physically though) but I manage to get to the gym 3 times a week since last summer. I started with full body routine (A/B/A) with mostly compound exercises. Unfortunately I’m a bit limited when it comes to squats and deadlifts due to my knee issue.
Since I started working out again on a regular basis I also tracked my foot intake and got back from ~85kg/187lbs to 92 kg / 202 lbs but not super lean. I need some pump and anabolic light to look somewhat trained in the mirror :).
I feel like my chest and back has grown a bit but mostly my arms still look like spaghetti hanging out my t-shirt.

I have relatively long legs and arms but a short torso with long and thin muscles. My tiny wrists indicate (at least to me) that I am not genetically gifted, plus I feel like having a bad recovery. After a (what I consider) hard training I feel like a trainwreck. I also tend to be a “worrier”/“overthinker”. Energy-wise there’s days where I need to hold my self back when working out to avoid doing too much.

Now the obvious questions: What would be your recommendations for training given my age and body type? I’ve read through a couple of articles here but I’m honestly still confused.
Should I limit my workout to 45 min? Should I add some extra arm exercises? Train to failure? Should I stay with a full body routine or rather split my training again? What would be your recommendation for time under tension and rest between sets
Focus on concentric or more on eccentric? You might realize I read many of the hardgainer articles here but I’m still unsure what category I fall into.

We gotta know that wrist measurement to give good advices.

Also write out your A/B workouts so we can see what you’ve been doing.

Thirdly, get some Creatine, Magnesium and Zinc and start taking like 5g creatine, 800mg magnesium and 100 mg zinc per day.

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You provide enough background details to motivate a response. Take my suggestions for what they are.

Being a hardgainer you have already realized the importance of proper diet (need for additional calories). Compound excercises are never wrong, but considering your knee problem you need an alternative route, at least for the time being. You also mention “time under tension” which I interpret you being open minded in terms of ways to train.

I would advise you to obtain proper knee sleeves, if you already haven’t - which makes all the difference!

Also, make sure to always do a 5-10 min dynamic bodyweight warmup for lower and upper body! In your case a less resistance bike warmup may be the only thing you can do for lower body?

As for supplements, I have positive experiences with omega-3 and collagen type 2 supplementation combined for joint symtoms.

The knee injury forces you to lower the weights being used, and establish proper movement control. This is where HIT (according to Dr Darden) comes to mind. Full body workouts, 2-3 times a week, one-two sets per bodypart, 8-12 excercises per workout. And maybe most important the focus on negatively emphasized training AND not til failure (at least one rep in reserve) - partly as a rehab tool, but also to make most use of the low volume training.

I highly recommend you carefully shock your system with Dr Darden’s 30-10-30 routine, or if not comfortable with timing your sets - the regular 4 sec pos / 4 sec neg tempo approach for 10 reps/set.

Check this link for further info on the 30-10-30 technique. Skip the sensational parts, even though it may be true to some extent. You may use it for also lowering your training frequence - how about twice weekly, which I myself have successfully deployed for the past 4 years with great outcomes?

One final thought: There seems to be scientific evidence for training only one side of the body (leg) when suffering from injury - and still maintain decent status on your weak limb. This may mean you can do heavy one legged movements with your fresh leg, and low weight (rehab) movements with your injured leg (to preserve function). I would definitely consider this in conjunction with the 30-10-30 approach.

Best of luck!


At two points in your life, after 30 years old, you gained 15-20 pounds in just a short time.

And if you don’t keep a lid on it, you can easily train so hard you can’t recover.

“Hardgainers” never gain weight, and when they train they can’t generate enough intensity for gains, so nothing happens.

You’re the opposite. Weight comes on easy, and with very little experience or coaching you can train hard enough to fuck yourself up. You need to face the possibility that you have Fucking Awesome genetics and need to train around that.

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First of all thanks for your time, providing comprehensive feedback!

Regarding your recommendations / questions:

Wrist circumference is about 17 cm.

I started taking Creatine about three month ago 5g/day. And actually I also started adding magnesium and zinc beginning of this year after reading some studies that this is positively effecting your testosterone production. Need to check how much however. Let me look into omega-3 and collagen type 2 as well.

A/B workout for the last several months was mainly (with some variation in the exercises):

10 min bike warm-up, starting with low resistance, increasing to the end, some flexibility work and - depending on my workout - some light push-ups / australian pull-ups etc.

Bent over rows
Seated calf raises

  • 2 additional arm isolation exercises

Weighted Dips
Lat rows / Pull Ups
Overhead Press
Standing calf raises

I tried progressive overloading by starting with 3 sets of 8. Once I was able to do the most of the sets with 12 reps I added weight, starting at 8 (or sometimes just 6) reps again. On some exercises I also increased the number of sets from 3 to 4. I implemented 2-3 min rest time between sets lately.
I added some arm isolation exercises lately as I was not seeing anything happening to my arms.

Following that routine did not let me feel like a train wreck but It also doesn’t feel like it was doing much from a visual perspective (mostly concerning my arms).

Regarding the knee issue: since I started doing squats and RDL again (which I didn’t for years) with super low weight, focusing on execution I got to the point where I can now at least squat 110 lbs and deadlift 180 lbs again, mostly trouble free. I feel like taking off my shoes for squatting and DL was a game changer for me, when I started again with focus last summer. I was stupid enough to do that in running shoes for a long time. I am wearing a knee sleeve on my shredded knee and at least subjectively it’s good support.
When I was 180 lbs my 1 RM was ~200 lbs on squats and 320 lbs on deadlift.
I feel like I can push it further but I need to be super careful to slowly increase weight and not overdo it and trigger my injury.

Will read trough the 30-10-30 later today. If I can same or better results with 2 instead of 3 workouts a week - sure, why not. But everything I read so far was recommending 3 or 4 times a week. 4 would be quite hard to fit into my schedule and would likely not be super consistent.
Regarding training my legs differently: my injured leg has always been weaker (in fact my complete right body half is weaker and you can actually see it on my back and arms) and I fear this would worsen the situation.

About my genetics and training around that: Yes, I can put on weight, actually quite easily if I force myself into eating enough. And you might be right, that I need to find a way to train around my bad recovery and stuff. That’s exactly what brought me here. I know there is no magic pill or recipe, every body works / responds differently. But I think that I already wasted too much time fiddling around with little to no results in the recent years. Things are not becoming easier past 40 so it’s about time to get a grip and lay out a plan / strategy and not miss any chances.
I have a small kid and I not only want to be a good but also a fit dad for him and teach the importance of sports in life. And I feel that coming from somebody that looks physically fit has significantly higher weight than from some pencil guy.

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The easiest thing to do would be to add a “C” day to your full body programming.

And on that “C” day start with moves for your Biceps and Triceps, like barbell curls and close grip bench. Or close grip underhand chinups or PJR pullovers.

After that you do single leg exercises like lunges or split squats, or 1 legged hyper extension to work on your left/right imbalance.

This would be cool because it wont be hard to implement. And you’ll gt the satisfaction of being in charge of yourself.

Another way would be to run a simple Push/Pull/Leg routine, or a 4 day body part split divided over 8 days.

That way you could run and Evaluate a plan that gave each part more work and more rest, to see if it works better for you than full body.

And you’d get a feel for how an experienced author/coach fits all the body parts into a training week, and how much work they think is necessary for each “part.”

If it sucks, doesn’t work and you hate it, you can go back to full body in 8 weeks. And then you wont have to worry and stress about “what if,” you’ll just know.


These are all great suggestions. I never know how to help with these threads, because there are any of a million directions to go. OP, most of us will just tell you to do whatever our favorite thing is (more or less), which is kind of a good thing - it means a lot of stuff will work.

My personal version of doing exactly that, would be to go with Push - Pull - Legs and an arm day on the day you think you’ll skip (probably Saturday?)… bet you won’t skip it!

I’d plan my days closer to the “tried and true” template linked above. That’s not to say the HIT stuff doesn’t work, either; it’s just not my personal preference. If arms are an issue, you’d want to pick things like dips on your chest day and supinated pulldowns on your back day - that way you get a little extra work.

What’s the plan with your knee? You say you’re dealing with it now, but it won’t be dealt with until end of the year? What’s dangerous/ not dangerous for you? You can build leg muscle with just leg extensions and curls, if need be. Moral of the story here is along the lines of don’t get mired into thinking there’s only one way and you have to keep aggravating an injury.

What does your actual eating look like? If you’re this successful gaining weight, but maybe not at the body composition you want, we might be able to help there.

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I actually really the ideas to either implement a C day with some isolated arms and leg work or going split.

Lunges and squats / split squats and curls actually work quite well for my knee. Leg extensions not so much. I will get surgery for my knee (stitches to fix the meniscus and some cartilage transplantation) which will hopefully fix it, once I recovered from surgery.

I am aware of the fact that all replies I’ll be getting will likely be biased by personal preferences and that there is nobody who can just boil it down to what would work best for me. There are so many variables and I just want to get some food for thought, and most importantly make sure I’m not doing anything fundamentally wrong.

I was hoping for consensus when it comes to some of the variables, based on the information I provided, so I can narrow it down a bit.

My eating looks roughly like this:
Rolled oats + Milk + Whey + Nuts for breakfast / bread (whole grain) + 5 eggs at the weekend
Lunch typically is meat with potatoes/rice and veggies or scrambled eggs / omelette if it needs to be quick
Dinner is often bread with eggs (mostly whole grain) + eggs or some alternative protein source
Curd + (clean) Nut butter in the evening
In between I’m always having snacks, mostly fruits, nuts and curd.