The term hardgainer is used to describe someone who is naturally very lean and skinny, and has a hard time building muscle. To bulk up, you need to eat a calorie-dense diet and perform resistance training. Ideally, you'll do your workouts with weights. If this isn't possible for any reason or if you just want to add extra workouts between your gym sessions, then body-weight workouts can be effective, notes strength coach John Romaniello. The key is to focus on the right exercises -- and train hard.
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Start with Pushups
Many people overlook pushups as a muscle building exercise, but when you do them correctly, they can be extremely effective. Start each workout with pushups and try to do 100 repetitions in as little time as possible. Once you can do this in less than five minutes, progress to more challenging pushup variations. Try doing them with your hands on boxes, your feet on a chair, hands closer together or wider apart, or using a set of gym rings to add an element of instability.
And Try Split Squats
If you're used to performing barbell squats, then you may well find simple body-weight squats a little too easy. To get a tough body-weight exercise for your lower body, you will need to train each leg individually. Place one foot behind you on a bench or chair, and step the other out on front. Bend both knees until your back knee touches the floor, then forcefully stand up. Do three sets of 10 reps per side. Once these get too easy, there are many ways to make them tougher. Try taking five seconds on the descent, doing a full rep followed by a half rep, or performing a jump at the top of each squat.
Pullups Pose a Challenge
Even though many consider them to be "just" a body-weight exercise, pullups are really tough, no matter how fit you are. They are also an effective way of hitting your upper and mid-back muscles, along with your biceps and forearms. Work your way up to doing five sets of 10 reps, using a medium-width grip. Pavel Tsatsouline, author of "Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American," advises that if you struggle with pullups, you should use the "Grease the Groove" method. Every time you pass a place to do pullups, do half your maximum number of reps. Over time, you will get stronger, and this will get easier. Re-test your maximum every two weeks.
Perform the Plank
Training your core muscles is important, as a stronger mid-section will improve your technique on compound free-weight exercises such as back squats and deadlifts. To do the plank, lie face down with just your forearms and feet on the floor. Maintain a flat back, and keep your upper back, torso and hips all in line. Tense your abdominals and hold the position for as long as you can. Once you can hold it for two minutes, try taking an arm or leg off the floor.