By Evina Del Pizzo
What’s often the most stubborn, annoying, muscle group to train for hardgainers? That’s right—the lower body. While everyone else wants those skinny legs with a gap between them, the kind you’ll often see on fashion models, hardgainer trainees yearn for the thick thighs with high glutes. For competitive bikini/physique athletes, it’s the look that will enable them grace the stage and, ultimately gain the hearts of the judges!
As a bikini competitor, that has been my biggest struggle for the past seven years. It wasn’t until my last show, where I took the overall trophy, that I realized my glutes and legs had started to show definition and thickness (see the accompanying before and after photos). The credit goes to my trainer, who helped me gain some size there, but the challenge wasn’t just about building mass. I also had to train for explosiveness. That’s what makes a hardgainer’s body respond and build muscle. In the gym, you’ll see people who have a fast-paced workout style, but that kind of training doesn’t yield results for hardgainer ectomorphs.
In fact, the opposite is true. Any high-intensity workout forces us into a catabolic phase, where the body uses its stored tissue for fuel. The result for hardgainers is that we lose all of our hard-won gains. So, not only do we have to eat a ton of food, but we also have to train with an understanding of how our muscles will respond. When ectomorphs work out quickly or do high-intensity interval training, we tend to lose weight incredibly fast. The reason: our metabolic rates are already very fast. The resting rate of an ectomorph burns more calories than water evaporating in summer. To fight it, we have to maintain a hypertrophic state, conducive to growth, which forces the body to do just that.
In my last post, which covered my ectomorph upper-body training, I discussed rep tempo and designating time under tension. Note in the workouts below that I have indicated tempo on some movements. For example, forcing a slow count on the leg press—3/1/1—will help with muscle contractions and focusing on the target muscle groups. Once you get the hang of it, you can play with the tempos.
With this style of training, I use moderate-to-heavy weight and do up to five sets of 15 to 20 reps per exercise for no more than 20 sets total. Any more and my body starts to burn muscle instead of build it. The work is incredibly tough—at least for me, considering that my lever lengths are much longer than those of a shorter person.
Here are a couple of sample leg workouts. For workout 2, I would pick four or five of the exercises listed, holding to a maximum of 20 sets.
Leg Day Workout 1
Keep it heavy, contracting as slowly as possible throughout the set.
Narrow leg presses, 3/1/1, 5 x 15 reps
Sumo leg presses, 2/1/2, 5 x 15 reps
Leg Day Workout 2
Leg presses, 3/1/1, 5 x 15 reps x four plates
Immediately move to the hamstring curl machine.
Machine leg curls, explosive movements, 1/0/1, 5 x 15 reps x 65 pounds
Lunges, wall-to-wall, 4 x 22.5 pounds in each hand
Leg extensions, dorsiflexion, 1 x 10 reps
Leg extensions, feet relaxed, 1 x 10 reps
Squat jumps x 20
Note the way I change the emphasis of the leg extensions to different parts of the quads by using two foot positions. Dorsiflexion means you perform the extensions with your feet pulled back, as opposed to the relaxed position. You vary the emphasis even further by changing the direction of your feet, pointing your toes in, out, and straight ahead.
After completing either of these leg days, I’m likely to waddle out of the gym.
Check out either workout to get an understanding of what an ectomorph must do in order strip down in class F and show off some babelicious curves. Try it if you dare.
Have you visited the Training Blog at DigitalMuscle.com? It’s loaded with useful info!
A former Hawaiian Tropics bikini model, Evina Del Pizzo is a certified Master Trainer at Gym Life in Granada Hills, California. She holds a degree in social behavior with an emphasis in sports psychology from California State University, Northridge. Del Pizzo is sponsored by Pro Fight Sports and recently won her first NPC overall bikini title.