I am a 23 year old university student who has been weight-lifting consistently for the last three and a half years. I am around 5"9 and have always been a so-called “hard-gainer” – a skinny bastard with a fast metabolism and ectomorphic frame. When I first began lifting weights, I weighed around 130 pounds (yikes!). Currently, I weigh 175 pounds. Originally, I followed the old mantra of “more is better”, and used machines over free-weights. By reading information from quality websites, like that provided by Testosterone magazine, and by utilizing compound free-weight movements (ie: squats, deadlifts, bench-presses, standing military presses, etc.) over isolation movements, I corrected my earlier mistakes and continue to get bigger and stronger.
My main purpose for posting this message is to help out those, like myself, who are "hard-gainers" and might be having trouble putting on quality muscle mass and increasing core strength. The following advice should help, as it has definitely helped me:
(1) Eat at least six meals a day. Each meal should contain quality protein source(s) and complex carbohydrates. As well, make sure to take in a solid amount of essential fatty acids (ie: Omega 3, salmon, natural peanut butter, etc.)
(2) Get at least eight hours of sleep per night. Growth does not begin in the gym but afterwards. Thus, adequate recovery is an imporant part of the growth process. Sorry guys, especially the college guys, cut down on the late-night partying and boozing!
(3) Lift only three-four times a week. Forget about all of the routines that appear in magazines like Flex and Ironman. The IFBB pros are genetic freaks who are being backed with a healthy dose of anabolic steriods.
(4) Use free-weight compound movements over isolation movements. For shoulders, use: standing military presses, standing dumbell presses, barbell shrugs and side lateral raises. For the chest, use: flat barbell bench presses and incline barbell presses. For the back, use: bent-legged deadlifts, pull-ups, barbell rows and v-bar pulldowns. For the legs, use: squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, and dumbell lunges.
(5) Don't use the 8-12 rep scheme. It doesn't work -- I tried it for a long time and didn't see any results. Once, I skipped to a 4-6 rep scheme (MAX-OT program), I finally started to see results. Only do about 6-8 total sets per bodypart and don't workout for any longer than 45 minutes-1 hour per workout. Focus on overload and a full range of motion.