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Why Labelling Yourself a Hardgainer Inhibits Muscle Gain

Have you labelled yourself a “hardgainer”? This is commonly used as the colloquial term for an ectomorph; a phenotype that is associated with poor muscle development and being skinny.

A hardgainer’s mindset is therefore the assumption that you are unable to gain substantial amounts of muscle due to your genetic make-up.
Having a hardgainer’s mindset is highly self-defeating. More often than not, the self-concluded “hardgainer” label is not based on reasonable and objective evidence. Further, no matter what your genetic make-up, believing that you are hard gainer will inhibit you from achieving your peak potential.

Why your hardgainer mindset may be inaccurate

What information has lead you to believe that you are in fact a “hardgainer”?

It is easy to arrive at this conclusion if you observe peers gaining muscle at substantially greater rates than what you experience. Another common justification to this belief is to recognise that you are one of the lesser developed people within the gym at which you train. Some other common reasons include:

  • “I have been skinny all my life”
  • “My entire family is not sport-orientated”
  • “I have difficulty gaining weight”
  • “All my efforts to date have failed”
  • “I have lifted weights with no success”
  • “Other people have told me that I am never going to build muscle”
  • “My friends also struggle to build muscle and I am no different”
  • “I lack the discipline to train and eat in the necessary manner”

No matter what your reasoning, such a conclusion is based on personal perception and highly subjective evidence. There is no formal examination that you can undertake to determine your “hardgainer status”. Nor it is possible to accurately and objectively compare your body (genetics, chemistry, mindset etc.) and lifestyle (diet, exercise patterns, sleep patterns, environmental factors etc.) to any other person. Therefore, concluding that your genetic make-up is responsible for your lack of muscle development can be sort sighted without entertaining other factors that will significantly influence your progress.

The term “hardgainer” itself is highly subjective, as this depends purely on who you are comparing yourself to. After all, if you had no one else to compare yourself to, you would be the norm. It is therefore possible for nearly anyone to classify themselves as a hardgainer if they were to compare their physique to someone who exhibits a faster rate of muscle development.

It is probable that your genetics may not be aligned to produce the fastest rate of muscle development. After all, there is no way to decisively ascertain “optimal” in regards to muscle hypertrophy for human beings in general. “Optimal”, rather, should be determined on an individual basis. We all need to work within the confines of our lifestyle, health and genetic makeup. So, rather than comparing yourself to other people in a subjective manner, why not try ditching the title and accepting your present situation as is?

Why your hardgainer mindset will be holding you back from optimal progress

The root of the problem associated with labeling yourself as an underdog from your belief systems. As cognitive behavioural therapy dictates, your thoughts and beliefs lead to your feelings and actions. So thinking (and ultimately believing) that you are bound to be a skinny person for the rest of your life will lead to discouragement, unhappiness and resentment; all negative feelings that will hold you back from obtaining optimal muscle building results. Such feelings will thus lead to everyday life actions that are not necessarily conductive of muscle gain. For it is only when all facets of your lifestyle are aligned to encourage muscle synthesis that you will experience optimal results for you.

In essence, pronouncing yourself as a hardgainer is providing yourself with an excuse as to why you cannot gain substantial amounts of muscle. Revisit the excuses listed previously – do any of these sound familiar within your internal dialogue? This excuse, based on subjective and perceptual information, will affect your actions on a day-to-day basis. Instead of eating a clean diet, you may question the logic behind this if you believe that your genetics are going to hold you back anyway. Alternatively, training consistently and passionately may seem pointless if you believe that you will never going to accomplish your goal regardless of the effort that you invest.

Consider the possibility that your assumption of being a hardgainer may be incorrect – even if this possibility is minuscule. If your hardgainer conclusion was developed as a consequence of subjective evidence and your own self-perception, then this will most likely be the case.
Now, considering that it is possible that you are wrong, entertain the other possibility; that it is possible for you to gain substantial amounts of muscle.

If both the negative and positive conclusions are possibilities; why then would you choose to believe the self-defeating option that you are a victim of your own genetic make-up? In doing so, you are setting yourself up for failure.

The alternative belief system is much more empowering and will assist you in achieving your full potential.

From My Professional Experience

Over the years I have trained hundreds of clients through our online personal training business, many of which initiated training with a pessimistic view of their genetic make-up. This most often resulted in the client believing that their genes:

  • Prevented them from gaining muscle tissue; and/or
  • Prevented them from losing fat tissue

Within the precedent set throughout this article, both of the above belief systems are identical in essence. Though the actual beliefs vary, such a conclusion holds that person back from achieving greatness from within themselves.

What I have learnt from training these clients is that these beliefs had almost always been developed based on experiences that were not reliable predictors of their potential to accomplish their goals. How people arrived at these beliefs do vary widely and often encompassed one or a combination of the previously listed reasons that justify their lack of progress to date.

However once this belief system had been altered, countless clients accomplish results that they had never even dreamed of before. This is simply because their own internal dialogue was causing them to not pursue their dreams – they were holding themselves back. Once their thoughts and beliefs changed, their feelings and actions followed. Greatness was therefore achieved.

If you feel that your mindset is holding you back, I ask you to consider why you believe that you are incapable of achieving a particular goal that you have set out to accomplish. Consider the possibility that you may be incorrect and just see what it is like to immerse yourself in an approach abundant of self belief. You may just surprise yourself.

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