A "hardgainer" is a person who has a genetically limited potential for building strength and muscle mass.
How would you know if you have a genetically limited potential for building strength and muscle mass?
By measuring the girth of your wrists.
In his article "Hardgainer Plateau" Dr. Casey Butt defines hardgainers in the following passage:
"But to establish a general definition we can work with let's define a hardainer as someone with a smaller than average bone structure who has increased dificulty in gaining muscle mass. To take that a step further, a smaller than average bone structure can be defined as having wrist circuferences less than 0.1045 x height, and ankle circumferences less than 0.1296 x height. And the degree of "hardgainerness" will be more or less proportional to how much smaller than average the bone structure is. Of course, there is more to a person's genetic potential for building muscle than just bone structure, but it does give us at least a reasonably accurate basis upon which to make estimations.
Why is the degree of 'hardgainerness' so closely linked to bone structure? There has been no 'scientific' answer put forth to explain this but many, many years of in-the-gym experience has proven the link to be real. My personal feeling is that joint structure integrity and inhibitive feedback of the nervous system (both of which will be covered in detail in my upcoming training book) are to blame. Regardless, these are the cards some of us have been dealt and the only prudent course of action is to learn more about our situations and how to make the most of them."
By the above definition I am a hardgainer. How about you?
A hardgainer should never take training advice from people who aren't hardgainers. People who aren't hardgainers have genetically determined characteristics (bone structure, muscle fiber type and density, work capacity and tolerance, recovery ability, hormone levels, and others) that enable them to gain strength and muscle mass on programs that would never work for a hardgainer.
Unfortunately, people tend to take training advice from elite strength athletes rather than hardgainers. Since elite athletes always have greater strength and muscle mass than a hardgainer who has realized his genetic potential, people seeking "secrets" to developing strength and muscle commonly but incorrectly conclude that these elites have the "secrets" they are seeking.
But elite strength athletes are born, not made. Their "secret" is that they got genetic gifts from their ancestors. They may even be strong and muscular despite their training methods, rather than because of their training methods. Since these individuals are outliers having unusual genetic gifts listed above, they are capable of tolerating and profiting from very large work loads.
Not so for a hardgainer. A hardgainer should take training advice only from other hardgainers who have succeeded in building strength and muscle mass in spite of their genetic limitations.
Too much training intensity or volume will prevent a hardgainer from gaining strength and muscle mass. Hardgainers have a lower exercise tolerance and recovery ability than more gifted athletes and must use minimalist training routines like the Get Strong! routine in order to prosper with strength training.