PT on the Net Research

Program for Weight Gain


Question:

I am looking for a program to help a client to gain weight. He loses weight easily, even without cardio, but he is very strong and wants to increase 10 pounds of muscle mass.

Answer:

It is difficult to give a truly individualized approach with such limited information, but I do have some suggestions that should help. Before we dive into the training component, let’s quickly review other factors that are crucial to your client’s success.

Nutrition

It goes without saying that in order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend. From experience, I have found that hard-gainers need at least seven meals a day (eight is preferable), consumed every two to two and a half hours to put on weight. Anything less than seven meals, and they will not make any considerable progress. Of course, it is difficult to consume that many solid meals every day. That is where liquid nutrition comes in handy. In fact, alternating between solid and liquid meals will help maintain stable blood sugar levels and stimulate appetite.

Supplementation

For those seeking size, try branched-chain amino acids (20 to 40 grams) during your workout; creatine (five to 10 grams), colostrum (five to 30 grams), whey protein isolate (40 to 60 grams) and high glycemic carbs (as much as 200 grams) post workout. Take digestive enzymes with your meals and liver tablets between meals. Yes, you read that last one right! Dr. Eric Serrano considers liver one of his biggest secrets for weight gain. However, you need to take as many as eight to 12 tablets between meals for maximum effect. Do that during the day, and you should have at least two more pounds of muscle quick just from this tip alone!

Lifestyle

Those who live a more regimented lifestyle will achieve greater success. If your client smokes, takes drugs, drinks alcohol and stays out late partying, he’ll have a hard time putting on any appreciable mass. For example, marijuana and alcohol are known to suppress testosterone levels, which will hamper any anabolic response. Sleep is also crucial. To improve quality of sleep, one should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. To increase the quantity, encourage a short nap when possible. Ideally, naps should be taken approximately eight hours upon awakening and should be for no longer than 45 to 60 minutes since you do not want to enter REM stage, which will adversely affect your sleep that night.

Training

Obviously, aerobic work is not recommended for this client. Furthermore, any recreational activity such as skiing, ball hockey, martial arts, etc. should be limited when trying to increase muscle mass. You indicate that your client is very strong. Most trainers will use typical hypertrophy parameters to encourage size gains with all their clients (usually three to four sets of eight to 12 reps on just about every exercise for just about every program). This is a big mistake! Eventually, you will need to inject intensity into their routine to prompt muscle mass increases. Take advantage of your client’s strength and tap into high-threshold motor units by performing many sets of low repetitions with heavy weights. Remember, these fast-twitch fibers have a greater propensity for size gains. The key is to perform a sufficient time under tension using such high loads, and the way to accomplish that is with many sets.

Exercise Program to Encourage Both Size and Strength Gains.

Intensification Phase

Day Exercise Reps/Duration Increase
Day 1 – Chest & Back Incline Barbell Press 6 x 7,5,3,7,5,3 @ 50X0*, 120 secs. Increase load on second wave
Sternum Chin-Ups 6 x 7,5,3,7,5,3 @ 50X0, 120 secs. Increase load on second wave
Decline Db Press 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 90 secs.
One-Arm Cable Row 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 90 secs.
Day 2 – Legs Snatch Deadlift 9 x 3,2,1,3,2,1,3,2,1 @ 32X0, 180 secs. increase load on second and third wave
Front Squat 5 x 4-6 @ 5010 120 secs.
Standing Leg Curls 5 x 4-6 @ 5010, 120 secs.
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 – Arms Preacher EZ-Bar Reverse Curl 6 x 7,5,3,7,5,3 @ 50X0, 120 secs. increase load on second wave
Parallel-Bar Dips 6 x 7,5,3,7,5,3 @ 50X0, 120 secs. increase load on second wave
Seated Hammer Curl 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 90 secs.
Decline Db Rotary Triceps Extension 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 90 secs.
Day 5 – Off

*Note: Tempo refers to the speed of movement and is represented by a four-digit number: eccentric (negative) contraction - isometric (pause between negative and positive) contraction - concentric (positive) contraction - isometric (pause between positive and negative) contraction. For example, a tempo of 3-1-2-0 means to lower the weight for a count of 3, pause for a count of 1, raise the weight for a count of 2, and do not pause before starting the next repetition. An "X" designation denotes eXplosive, meaning to lift the weight as fast as possible.

Follow this intensification phase with an accumulation/extensive phase where a greater volume of work is performed. Charles Poliquin's German Volume Training (GVT), Rob Thoburn's "The Standard" program and Vince Gironda’s famous 8x8 routine are all excellent options, but I would favor a routine that uses greater loads for your client. Enter George Turner's Huge Program. Below is a modified version that should work quite well for your client and will complement the routine I outlined above. Believe me, this one’s a killer!

Accumulation Phase

Day Exercise Reps/Duration Decrease
Day 1 – Chest & Back Bench Press 10 x 10 @ 4020, 90 secs. drop 10 pounds every 2 sets
Wide-Grip Pull-Ups 10 x 10 @ 4020, 90 secs. decrease load every 2 sets
Day 2 – Legs Full Squats 6 x 10 @ 4020, 90 secs.
Lying Leg Curls 6 x 8 @ 4010, 90 secs.
Standing Calf Raise 10 x 10 @ 2010, 30 secs. decrease load every 2 sets
Bent-Knee Deadlifts 6 x 6 @ 3110, 150 secs. pyramid weight (add weight each set)
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Delts & Arms Seated Db Press 8 x 10 @ 4020, 120 secs.
Seated Db Curls 8 x 8 @ 4010, 60 secs.
Lying EZ-Bar Triceps Extensions 8 x 12 @ 3010, 60 secs.
Day 5 – Off

Each routine consists of five-day cycles to be performed six times for a total of 30 days each.

You will notice the following:

As you can see, the load has been dropped by 10 pounds every other set, but you may need to adjust this depending on your client’s needs. If performance drops by three or more reps from one set to the next, then terminate this exercise for the day since he has cleared what’s considered the “critical limit threshold.” Continuing on at this point would be counterproductive.

In the future, when time permits, consider implementing a double or even triple split routine where your client trains multiple times a day. There are certain procedures to follow to ensure adequate recovery, but we’ll discuss those another time. For now, these suggestions should easily put 10 pounds of muscle or more on your client in no time.