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Th e Ha r d ga i n er s 10 Key s
t o ga i n i n g Mu sc l e Ma ss
Coach J ohn Christy
Author of REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE
WARNING: The information in this e-book is intended only for healthy men and
women. People should not follow the advice without a physician's approval. Before
beginning any exercise or nutrition program, always consult your doctor. By
purchasing this e-book you have accepted the risk associated with any exercise
program.
This book may not be reproduced or recorded in any form without permission of
the author.
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About the Author
J ohn is all about real world training, and
is known for telling it like it is, with no
fluff and no B.S.
College education aside, he credits his 20+ years in the trenches
as a private-practice professional strength coach with giving him
the special knowledge and skills that have helped thousands of
trainees achieve their physique, strength, and sport specific goals.
A former college and professional athlete, drug-free bodybuilding
competitor, and current competitive raw and drug-free
powerlifter, J ohn has been under the iron for over 34 yearsand
still pushing it hard.
J ohn was a feature writer for Hardgainer Magazine for over 10
years, is a current writer for the prestigious Milo strength journal,
and has also been featured in Flex Magazine.
J ohn has owned and operated Total Fitness I nc. since 1986, with
he and his staff administering as many as 300 exclusive one-on-
one training sessions per week. He has logged over 60,000 hours of
one-on-one training sessions that he has personally administered.
This does not include the thousands of hours spent training the
dozens of strength coaches that have worked for his company.
He also owns Real Strength Training Technologies, LLC and the
web site REALSTRENGTHREALMUSCLE.COM, providing
consultation services, and one-on-one training sessions, to trainees
from around the world since 1995.
He has also published the 400+ page book REAL STRENGTH
REAL MUSCLE.
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Th e Ha r d ga i n er s 10 Key s t o
ga i n i n g mu sc l e ma ss
I . Keep Th i n gs Si mpl e.
Getting bigger and stronger is a very simple process. Yes,
even for Hardgainers. The worst thing a Hardgainer can do
is use a complicated program, which is what many of the
phony trainers out there (how many trainees have they
worked with personally?) try to sell you.
Actually, if a Hardgainer doesnt keep it simple, he or she
will never develop the impressive physique and strength
their genetics allow.
Heres the simple formula and I ll elaborate more
throughout this document.
1. Use a system that allows your body to use more weight
every workout on every exercise you perform. Believe it or
not, this can be done - if - you add weight at the perfect
rate the body can adapt to. This forces a trainee to apply
the most important stimulus required for great mass and
great strength: PROGRESSI ON.
2. Use a program that stimulates not annihilates the body.
A great program stimulates the body to change and this
requires hard work but doable work. A program should
not be based on how much torture you can withstand.
3. Eat a little more everyday. Too simple too work? Wrong!
How do you expect to grow muscle if you dont have the
nutrients available that make this happen? No
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supplement on earth will take the place of simply eating
more good quality food.
4. Do some simple things to maximize recovery. Let this sink
in: Your muscles dont get bigger and stronger in the
weight room they are put in a physiological state that
gives them the potential to get bigger and stronger. New
muscle mass (and strength gains) grows when you are
out of the gym. How much growth you get from a great
workout depends on what you do when you are not in the
gym!
I I . Use a Pr o gr a m Wh o se On l y Pu r po se i s
t o St i mu l a t e t h e Bo d y t o Get St r o n ger
a n d h en c e Gr o w Mu sc l e.
The worst thing a Hardgainer can do is to follow a program
that is confusing the body asking the body to adapt to too
many things. Also, your body has a limited amount of energy
available for training, recovery and growth. I t should only be
used to get exactly what you want muscular size!
I ve seen too many poorly designed programs that use, for
example, very high reps, very short rest intervals, that
switch exercises all the time, and that have no system of
progression to name a few. These programs supposedly will
get you big and ripped (and sexy, and rich) all at the same
time. I n reality all theyll do is confuse the body. Again, the
body will be confused by trying to adapt to too many
different stimuli all at the same time and end up getting
minimal, if any results and wasting valuable energy!
I n the example of the poorly designed program given above (I
could give you many others) the body is trying to:
1. Get in anaerobic cardiovascular shape through the use
of short rest intervals;
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2. Trying to make the muscles bigger by adding more
stuffing (not actual muscle tissue) through the use of
high reps;
3. Trying to survive the trauma; both muscular and to the
ligaments and tendons, (this is different then
stimulating muscle growth) because of constantly
switching exercises;
4. And has no idea that it is supposed to be overcoming
more weight (the most important factor for growth)
because there is no system of progression!
You should use a program that provides the body with laser
beam stimulation on getting stronger which will make it
grow bigger. Dont be a J ack of all Trades, become a
Master of One which is; gaining strength, which will
result in great gains in muscle mass.
To accomplish this, the program must:
1. Have a reliable, proven system of progression. There
are only a handful of progression schemes that I know
(from 22+ years of working one-on-one with all kinds of
trainees) that will work. The best I ve ever used on my
trainees was originally used over 2500 years ago by the
massive Olympic Champion Milo of Crotona. I ve
modernized Milos method and call it Optimal
Micro-Loading. More, detailed information on this
method is contained in my book REAL STRENGTH
REAL MUSCLE.
Heres how Optimal Micro-loading Loading works:
Using a fixed set and rep scheme; this could be simply
3 sets of 6 reps (3x6), or could get more elaborate for
intermediate to advanced trainees; pyramids, wave
loading, cluster sets, etc., the trainees simply adds the
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optimal amount of resistance for each exercise every
workout. Yes, you can add weight every workout if
done properly! For instance you would perform 3 sets
of 6 reps (3x6) for the bench press and add 1 to 2
pounds (which one depends on if you are a beginner to
intermediate trainee or if you are advanced) every
single workout.
To simple to work you think? I ve had many trainees
(detailed accounts are profiled in my 400+ page book
REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE) maintain this
rate of progression for up to one year, before I had to
make any big changes to the set and rep scheme!
Do the math; if you simply add 2 pounds one time per
week for an entire year (52 weeks) you would add over
100 pounds to your 6-rep bench press! What do you
think your pecs, delts, and triceps would look like?
How much bigger do you think your arms will be if, by
simply adding 1 pound to your curl, you go from curling
60 pounds for 3 x 6 to 110 pounds for 3 x 6 reps? And
with a few adjustments, like using different, creative
rep schemes mentioned above, you can continue to
progress for many years without injury or burnout.
Here is a chart straight from out of my book that
shows the Optimal Micro-Load (which was developed
over a 20 year period) for the best exercises a
Hardgainer should be using.
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Exercise Rate of Progression
Note: I f you choose to use dumbbell varieties of the exercises
listed, the increment of progression would be cut in half and
applied to both dumbbells.
2. The program must use the optimal amount of rest time
between sets so that you can maximize muscular
stimulation and yet still keep the total actual workout
time (not counting a general warm-up) between 45 and
75 minutes so that your body can achieve a hormonal
state that creates the desired anabolic super rebound.
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I f a program has you moving so fast due to short rest
intervals (1 to 2 minutes) between sets that your
breathing rate, and heart rate prohibit you from using
the maximum amount of weight that you can use on
each work set you perform, you will receive at best,
very minimal and short-lived gains in strength and
hence muscle mass.
Rest intervals between work sets should be no shorter
than 3 minutes, and as a trainee gets more advanced,
up to 5 minutes. This not only makes sure that your
cardio respiratory system does not limit your gains, but
it also guarantees that the biochemicals responsible
for maximizing strength (and the accompanying muscle
gains) are replenished between sets and throughout
the entire workout.
Now you may wonder how you can get an entire
workout in with such relatively long rest intervals in
45 to 75 minutes? You need to utilize Power-
Supersetting. This is NOT the type of supersetting
that you may be familiar with where you rush from one
exercise to another. Power-Supersetting is where you
perform one exercise, rest 2 to 3 minutes and then
perform another exercise that is not closely related in
using the same muscles as the first exercise. Once the
second exercise is performed, another rest interval of 2
to 3 minutes is allowed before going back to the first
exercise. Matching the right exercises is critical to
make this work. Here is an example:
Standing Barbell Curl Warm-up 60lb. x 5 reps Rest 2 minutes then go to Close
Grip Bench
Close Grip Bench Press Warm-up 135lb. x 5 reps Rest 2 minutes then go back to
Curl
Standing Barbell Curl 1
st
Work Set: 80 x 5 Rest 3 minutes then go back to
Close Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press 1
st
Work Set: 165 x 5 Rest 3 minutes continue as above
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Keep alternating between work sets of the Barbell Curl
and the Close Grip Bench Press until 3 work sets are
completed. Keep this up for a year and save your
money, youll need it to buy bigger shirts.
I I I . Y o u r Wo r k o u t Mu st St i mu l a t e t h e
Bo d y t o Ch a n ge No t Th r ea t en t o
An n i h i l a t e I t .

Do not train purposely to muscular failure.
Training to failure works for only a few trainees as a
long term strategy, and may even work for many
trainees as a short term strategy but it is just too
stressful on the bodies systems that are most
responsible for recovery, to work over the long haul for
a majority of trainees. And you must train over the
long haul put in at least several years of consistently
hard training - to build the amount of muscle that will
literally amaze people.
What I mean by too stressful is that you may be able
to train to failure and have your muscles recover in 72
hours to workout again BUT your bodies endocrine
and nervous systems; the wiring and plumbing of the
body, simply cant recover. And these systems are
ultimately responsible for recovery and growing new
muscle. This is especially true if you try to use a train
to failure approach over the long haul. So, it doesnt
matter if your muscles recover if you cant recover
systemically.
With that said, I m not implying that you dont need to
work hard you do, you will need to train very hard. I f
a trainee utilizes Optimal-Loading properly they will
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reach a point where the last rep they complete in a set
will be the last rep that they can complete. I n other
words the trainee will be right on the verge of
muscular failure but will not fail most of the time.
Sure, a trainee may fail to make their goal rep
occasionally, but it is not the purpose of the set to fail.
The sole purpose is to make your goal rep with more
weight every workout! I call this beating failure
versus going to failure.
I V. Opt i mi z e Rec o v er y a n d Ma x i mi ze
ma ss by Tr a i n i n g 2 t o 3 Ti mes per
Week
Going back to what I wrote earlier: Your body does not
grow in the gym your weight training sessions only
set the stage for potential growth. Maximum gains
from a workout will only be achieved if you allow them
to happen by staying out of the gym till they occur!
Your body needs at least 48 hours to recover both
locally (the muscles you trained) and systemically (the
endocrine and nervous systems mentioned above)
this is assuming that your workout was structured
properly; that it stimulated the musculature optimally
without putting you into an unfavorable hormonal
state as well as not frying your nervous system.
Training 2 to 3 times per week follows the 48 hour
rule, and that is why it is the optimal training
frequency. This has proven itself since people first
started weight training more than a century ago it
has stood the test of time. And, again, in the 22+ years
that I have been instructing trainees, it has always
delivered the best and in most cases stunning
results.
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Here are a couple of ways to set up a 2-day and 3-day
per week program. See my book, REAL STRENGTH
REAL MUSCLE, for more detail on program design.
Template for Training 2 Times per Week
Choose a fixed rep goal within the range specified in the chart,
for instance, 3 sets of 6 reps (3x6) or 3 x 12, etc.
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Template for Training 3 Times per Week
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V. Use t h e best ex er c i ses, c o mbi n ed w i t h
gr ea t t ec h n i q u e t o ga i n ma x i mu m
mu sc l e ma ss.
Dont waste your valuable training time and effort on
exercises that dont give you the greatest gains in mass
for all the effort youre putting in. I n other words use
exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.
The best exercises are the ones that create the most
muscle for the desired strength function and hence
body areas that you want to develop. These exercises
allow the body to create maximum leverage and are the
most natural to human movement; and therefore, are
the safest to use. Most of these exercises are compound
exercises that require you to move more than one joint
such as a squat, or leg press versus a leg extension.
These exercises should comprise nearly 95% of all the
routines that you use.
Here is a chart showing most of the bodies basic
mechanical functions and the exercises that are the
best for building strength and muscle mass to enhance
these functions.
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I t is beyond the scope of this document to go into
exercise technique but it is critically important that
you learn how to perform your exercises correctly and
this is not the complicated process that many so-called
trainers make it out to be! You can learn great
technique is a relatively short period of time if you
have a good coach teaching you!
The best resource I can offer right now is my book. I t
has over 200 carefully selected pictures of me, and my
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trainees, performing many of the exercises in the chart
above.
Also, keep an eye on my web site:
REALSTRENGTHREALMUSCLE.COM for my soon to
be released technique DVDs: Optimum Exercise
Techniques Learned from the Trenches. These are far
from your ordinary technique tapes. These DVDs are
produced by me and again, feature me, and my
trainees (not some actors I met on the day of filming)
going through the exercises. They are designed to cut
right to the chase to teach you the quickest way to
perfect each exercise. When I work with a trainee I
must teach them great technique and get them
producing results fast or I wont get paid for very
long. The techniques I use to do this form the basis for
these instructional DVDs. Here is a short sample.
VI . Y o u Mu st Ea t a Lo t o f Fo o d t o Get
Rea l l y Bi g
Packing on the muscle is not about supplements. All
supplements, except for a basic protein drink, are
simply a waste of money.
Packing on muscle is about eating, and eating, and
eating more FOOD. I cant tell you how many trainees
assure me that they eat like a horse (and cant gain
weight), - when, after I analyze how many calories they
actually consume they eat more like a skinny high
school cheerleader. Which, by the way, is more so what
they resemble more so than a horse anyway.
You are never going to get big eating 1800 calories per
day no matter how much metabolic optimizer you
waste your money on. Using 1800 calories as an
example, you would immediately need to get to 2200
and youll start gaining (as long as you workout
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program is correct). But the gains will stop pretty
quickly unless you then increase it again to 2500 or so.
Once the gains stop the process continues youll
need to go up again. I know that this stuff is simple to
what youve been lied to about, but it is an undeniable
fact that to get bigger youll need to eat more high
quality food.
When I work with a trainee who really wants to get as
big as possible as fast as possible, I ll get them up to
5000 calories within several months (many of these are
detailed in my book). Specifically, I m talking about
putting on 30 to 50 pounds of muscle in a year. How
would you look, and most importantly feel, with that
much more muscle next year? Has any other program
done this for you?
I doubt it.
What you simply need to do is to follow 4 very simple
rules:
1. Eat every 3 hours this amounts to 5 or 6
feeds per day 3 meals and 3 snacks.
2. Every few days eat more at each meal
3. Eat good food focusing on protein
4. Eat very little junk food
Well, it just cant get any simpler than that. I ve
included a sample 5000-calorie diet below (from out of
the chapter in my book: How to Eat to Get Big).
Trainees who have followed this along with a good
training program have always produced fantastic
results.
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How does your diet compare?
Understand that if you eat like a bird, youll always
look like a bird.
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VI I . Y o u Mu st Per f o r m Aer o bi c Wo r k t o
Ma x i mi z e Mu sc l e Ma ss
Aerobic work, without a doubt, enhances recovery.
Enhanced recovery means greater gains from each and
every workout you perform.
Think about this for a minute: Blood is what carries
the nutrients and oxygen to your muscles that make
them recover from your workout and make them get
bigger.
I f you have a resting heart rate of 60 Beats Per Minute
(BPM) which is common for someone who is in decent
cardiorespiratory condition then imagine how much
more oxygen and the muscle-building nutrients your
blood carries, would get to your muscles if it was twice
that much; 120 BPM. At 120 BPM, you would get twice
the amount of blood flow and the mass building
nutrients it carries to the muscles!
Sounds pretty good doesnt it? Well, what if you did
this 3 times per week for 52 weeks of the year? I ll
answer that for you. I t promotes Super-recovery, and
the results from doing this over an entire year are
nothing less than incredible. What I have just
described is exactly what performing 30 minutes of
aerobic work, 2 to 3 times per week will do.
And forget about the lie that aerobic work will make
you smaller. That will only happen if you dont eat
enough!
Now, when I am recommending aerobic work, I m not
asking you to go out and jump into a dancercise class.
You can do whatever you want to walk, jog, bike,
swim, use an elliptical trainer, or even hit the
dancercise class (just dont tell anyone) etc, as long as
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it gets your heart rate to 65% - 70% (no higher!) of your
predicted maximum heart rate for up to 30 minutes.
Perform your aerobic work on non-workout days.
A training heart rate in the range prescribed will not
work you hard actually its pretty easy - you should
be able to easily carry a conversation. Remember the
aerobic training is not intended to wear you out it is
intended to enhance recovery.
Heres how to figure your training heart rate:
Predicted Max Heart Rate is 220 Your Age x .65 =
Your 65% Training Heart Rate.

I f you havent done any aerobic training, break into it
slowly so that it wont negatively affect your weight
training. Start at 10 minutes and simply add 2 minutes
every workout till you hit the minimum of 20 minutes.
Once you hit 20 minutes you wont believe how much
more recovered youll feel going into every workout.
Much more detail on aerobic work, anaerobic work, and
complete conditioning techniques are covered in the
chapters Complete Conditioning Parts I and I I from my
book.
VI I I . Test Y o u r sel f t o Ma k e Su r e Y o u r e o n
Tr a c k t o a c c o mpl i sh y o u r go a l
I f you want to get bigger, then you should check on a
planned basis if you are indeed getting bigger!
To many trainees simply rely on the mirror, or even
just how they feel to determine if they are getting
bigger. This is just not a good way to go about holding
yourself, and your program accountable.
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Dont guess with something that is so important to you!
Get out a tape measure and measure your muscles
period. Measure them when they are not pumped up at
the same time of day every time you measure. Which
by the way should only be one time per month. I f you
do it more often than this, the results may be thrown
off due to water weight gain, etc.
Measure your neck, arms (flexed), chest (relaxed),
shoulder girth, waist, thighs, and calves. Be accurate
and measure the same spot every month. I f your
measurements arent increasing, then guess what?
Your program OR YOU is not working, and
something needs changed.
I also suggest that you step on a scale one time per
week at the same time of day for instance, in the
morning after you hit the bathroom, and before you
eat. Again, if your program AND YOU - is working
you should gain at least 1 pound per week. Now, some
weeks the 1 pound may not show up but at the end
of a month you should average that minimum gain of 1
pound per week. And remember, I wrote minimum
gain. A trainee who is really serious about gaining will
average 2 pounds per week for a long, long time.
With something that is so important to you dont rely
on guessing. Truly find out if you are gaining the
muscle mass you desire.
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I X . Va r i et y i s I mpo r t a n t Bu t o n l y a f t er
Y o u v e Pu t o n So me Su bst a n t i a l
Mu sc u l a r Wei g h t .
I f youre just starting into weight training or if youve
never gained much muscle size from your training,
then variety in the form of using different exercises is
not very important. And will probably do you more
harm in the way of distraction from what is most
important: Progression!
Switching to different exercises during your training
becomes important after youve trained successfully
for several years. Again, successfully meaning that you
have gained 20 to 50 pounds of muscular bodyweight.
At this point your body may need a different type of
stimulus to keep the gains coming.
When I speak of variety, I mean sensible variety;
where you change to a new exercise and stay with it for
at least 6 weeks and sometimes up to 6 months. I m
not talking about stupid variety; changing exercises
virtually all the time, which is one of the gimmicks
that are promoted now a days by many so-called
authorities to keep the body guessing, to prevent
plateaus.
Well, it will prevent a plateau all right. Because to
plateau you first have to be gaining and since the body
wont have a clue (due to switching to different
exercises all the time) as to what its supposed to adapt
too there will be very little in the way of gaining.
The only gaining a trainee will do when switching
exercises all the time, is the gaining of incredible
muscular soreness which does not equate to gains in
muscular mass!
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I t is a lie that soreness equates to muscular growth. I t
doesnt. The ability to lift more weight on a given
exercise is the most important factor that equates to
muscular growth!
A new exercise has to be introduced correctly so that
strength built from the previously used exercise that
works the same muscles is not lost, but transferred
to the new movement. I have developed a technique
which I call Exerci se Bl endi ng to achieve this. The
old exercise is slowly phased out and the new
exercise is slowly phased in. The strength, and the
muscular size gained from the first exercise are
seamlessly transferred to the second.
Here is a quick overview of how to do this (more detail
in my book):
Say you want to switch from the Barbell Bench Press
(Bar bench) to the Dumbbell Bench Press (DB bench).
Reduce the Bar bench to one set (from three) and
continue to use Optimal Micro-Loading (until the
transition is complete). Once you complete the set of
Bar bench start into your first of two sets of the DB
bench. Although both of these movements use the same
muscles, the tendons specifically in the shoulder
will need to get used to the new movement. So, you will
not be able (if you want to avoid a serious injury) to
start right off with a weight that pushes your limits on
the DB bench. So you need to start off with a weight
that would allow you to complete 2 or 3 reps beyond
your goal number for the set if you pushed to your limit
(to failure). Then over the next several workouts,
through the use of Optimal Micro-Loading you will
arrive at the proper weight for the exercise. At this
point you can drop the Bar bench and replace that set
with a third set of the DB bench.
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X . Av o i d t h e Nu mber On e Mi st a k e Mo st
Tr a i n ees Ma k e
You need to get on the right path today to achieving
the physique, strength, and feeling of confidence you
desire. You cannot afford to waste more time.
The best way to do this is to avoid the number one
mistake most trainees make.
After accumulating over 60,000 hours working one-on-
one with trainees over the last 22 years, as well as
consulting with trainees from all over the world for the
last 12 years, there is one mistake that overrides all
others.
That mistake is listening to and then wasting
many years (and money in most cases) acting
upon bad training information.
You must consider the source of the information. Who
really is the person writing it? What have they
accomplished, and most importantly, how many
trainees have they worked with I N PERSON?
And dont be impressed with fancy degrees, or the
number of articles he or she may have written these
things dont mean diddly in the real world where real
trainees are sweating it out in the trenches - if they
arent backed-up by real world experience.
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The most important credential any teacher, and in
your case a strength/physique coach, should possess is
time teaching.
The only way for a strength/physique coach to truly
know what works is by getting training and nutritional
programs to produce results for a lot of trainees. This
is even much more important than what the coach may
have accomplished him/herself - although self-
experience is important too. The coach must also know
what it feels like to be under the iron, to experience
failure, and to experience success.
So, make sure you know how much personal experience
the coach has and most importantly how much
experience he or she has working with others.
A Final Note: The Most Important Attribute
I ve worked with many, many trainees over my time as
a private practice strength and bodybuilding coach.
Some trainees had great genetics, some had lousy
genetics, and many fell somewhere in between. What I
have learned is that the most determinate factor if a
trainee will eventually build a physique and the
strength to match that will impress almost anyone, is
simply desire.
Not Genetics - Desire.
Whether you are a pure Hardgainer or just a regular
genetic type who has a hard time gaining, understand
that your genetics is not the ultimate determining
factor. The trainee who wants it badly enough will
attain a physique they can be proud of. They will put
forth the dedication to train right and eat right. And
they will not do this for just a month, or a year. They
will continue to do this for the several years required to
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build a physique that few trainees in any gym will
achieve.
I f you are one of the rare individuals that have a true
desire to succeed then I know what I wrote in this
document will get you started on the path to success.
I f you are one of those rare individuals; one who will
not waste most of their training life looking for a
shortcut (there arent any), or looking for the easy
path (there isnt one) then you are the one I long to
help.
You are the one I wrote this for.
Good luck.
I f you are interested to learn more about J ohn, his book,
his phone and/or unique 'live video' consultations, or his
'one-on-one one' video-taped workout sessions please
click here.