Hardgainer Muscle Methods | Training, Workouts & Nutrition For Gaining Off-Season Mass


By Edd Oldfield |

Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer

The holidays are coming and with the cold dark nights come social events full of our favourite food and time with loved ones.

But how can we stay on track, gain good quality lean mass and not miss out on any of this festive spirit? Quite the conundrum for the avid gym goer not wanting to undo all their hard work.

Nevertheless, it can be done – let’s look at how…

Gaining Off-season Mass | Training

The festive period will inevitably for most lead to increased calories ate day to day so we are going to put them calories to good use and optimise their timings for recovery (but more of that later).

You will be training 2 days on 1 day off hitting muscle groups twice every 8 days with cardio and abs on your “off” days. So each day you’ll be using up them extra calories and fuelling gruelling workouts.

best-bigger-chest-superset workout

Each training session will involve a muscle getting hit “Heavy” and one getting hit more “Pump” style so your training split will look like this.

Off season training – Day: Body Part Number of Sets/Reps
Monday Heavy Chest/Pump Back Heavy – 4 exercises, 2 sets per exercise, 8-12 reps
Tuesday Heavy Quads/Pump Hamstrings Heavy – 5 exercises, 2 working sets per exercise, 12-15 reps
Wednesday Cardio & Abs 30 minutes moderate intensity, 2 exercises for Abs, 3 sets
Thursday Heavy Shoulders/Pump Arms Heavy – 4 exercises, 2 sets per exercise, 8-12 reps
Friday Heavy Back/Pump Chest Heavy – 5 exercises, 2 working sets per exercise, 8-12 reps
Saturday Cardio & Abs 30 minutes moderate intensity, 2 exercises for Abs, 3 sets
Sunday Heavy Hamstrings/Pump Quads Heavy – 4 exercises, 2 working sets per exercise, 12-15 reps
Monday Heavy Arms/Pump Shoulders Heavy – 6 exercises (3 for biceps, 3 for triceps), 2 working
Tuesday Cardio & Abs sets per exercise 8-12 reps
Wednesday Split Restarts

How to approach Heavy Training?

Firstly, we prioritise the heavy section of your workout at the start so you are at your “freshest” and put in your maximum poundage’s to bring about the biggest muscle gains possible. This part of the workout will be principally made up of big, compound exercises which are more inclined to give “progressive resistance” (this is the act of using more weight/more reps each workout to gauge progression).

This progressive resistance will mean you are constantly getting bigger and stronger each workout but it to make it most effective you will need to log each workout be in by an app or an old school pen and notepad, you will be logging your “working sets”.

One very important but often neglected part of any Heavy training session is warming up. Spend as much time as you feel you need getting the muscle ready for lifts but as a rule of thumb I would never do less than 3 for the initial exercise with higher reps (15-20).

Exercises for Heavy Section of the workout



Flat Bench Press, Flat Dumbbell Press, Incline Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Press, Decline Bench Press, Decline Dumbbell Press, Incline/Flat/Decline Hammer Strength Press, Incline/Flat/Decline Smith Machine Press, Wide Grip Dips


Deadlifts, Rack Deadlifts, Pull Ups, Bent Over Row, Dumbbell Row, Underhand Bent Over Row, Pendlay Row, Close/Wide Grip Pulldowns


Dumbbell/Barbell/Smith/Machine/Hammer Military Press both behind and in front of the neck, Arnold Press, Wide Grip Upright Rows, Clean and Press


Barbell/Dumbbell Curls, Close Grip Bench Press, Hammer Curls, Skullcrushers, Drag Curls, One Arm Dumbbell Extensions, Incline Dumbbell Curls, Narrow Grip Dips


Squats (Barbell/Smith), Hammer V Squats (both forward and backward facing), Leg Press, Small Stride Lunges, Hack Squats, Vertical Leg Press, Goblet Squat


Stiff Legged Deadlift (Barbell/Dumbbell), Glute Ham Raises, Lunges (Dumbbell/Barbell), High and Wide Leg Press, Sumo Deadlifts, Wide Stance Squats (Barbell/Smith/Dumbbell)

How to approach Pump Training?

This section of the workout will be nearly the polar opposite of the heavy section. You will pick 4 exercises for a body part (mix up compound and isolation exercises) and you will do a giant set for 4 rounds consisting of 12-15 reps per set with a minute’s rest in-between rounds.

Look to stop a couple reps shy of failure and aim for maximum pump.

For example: PUMP CHEST

Machine Chest Press 12 reps >> Pec Deck – 12 reps >> Flat Dumbbell Press – 12 reps >> Press ups – 12 reps then rest for a minute… and that’s one round.

The aim of these giant sets is pump the target muscle to high hell, also the giant set will serve as a good calorie burner for all them extra calories you’ll be consuming.

You will not be gaining strength like you will on the heavy section of the workout but you will still be promoting hypertrophy. Plus, you’ll be giving your joints and nervous system a rest from the heavy workouts whilst still gaining muscle.

Gaining Off-season Mass | Nutrition:

So now how can we structure those festive foods to help with these workouts and gain good lean quality mass.

Indulgences are no doubt going to happen for most in the Christmas season. Using these to fuel and recover from your workouts will be putting them to good use.

? Looking to eat a bit of chocolate? Add it in to your pre-workout meal.

? Having a big meal with the family? Train before and have it post workout. The rest of the day keep relatively light and lower carb to allow for these treats!


This should always be high in any situation and especially when you’re looking to gain muscle, so aim for 1-1.5g per lb of bodyweight daily.


Look to eat quality sources such as, chicken, fish, steak, eggs and whey protein.


Carbs depend largely on your body type and how easily you can gain fat/weight. If you struggle to gain weight you may need to eat more but for the individual who gains fat easily you might need to restrict them to around your workout.


? Again, stick to sources that digest easily and are nutritious e.g rice, potatoes, oats, fruit.


Fats are essential and often neglected. They help keep body fat lower, improve brain function and help create the all-important muscle building hormone testosterone. But they are calorific so aim for 0.3-0.5g per lb of bodyweight depending on your caloric requirements.


? Look for essential “healthy” fats, those loaded with omega-3 such as fish oil, salmon, free range eggs, almonds and avocados.

Take Home Message

So there you have it, the answer to all your prayers; how to enjoy the festive period and gain good quality muscle.

Happy Holidays!

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Writer and expert

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