Since I became a fan of the CoC grippers, I figured it would be neat to join up at the Ironmind Forum. There was some good conversations going on there, included one semi-heated debate ignited by Dave Lemanczyk about the existence of "hardgainers." I really wanted to add my thoughts on the matter but my application hasn't been approved yet.
Then I realized that I have a blog. I can write about it whenever I feel like it.
So, I've talked about this in the past. As a wiry guy who struggled to get myself up to a weight and build that would qualify me as appearing to be somewhat strong, I absolutely believe that this exists. Anyone who has read or listened to anything that Dave L has said knows he's a stand-up guy who knows what he's talking about. He doesn't believe that hardgainers exist. It's just a person who doesn't train right, train hard enough, eat properly, and/or get the rest that they need to grow.
In a sense, he's right. In theory, there is should be no such thing as a hardgainer. If you get enough rest and eat enough of the right foods while doing some good, hard time in your respective gym, then the gains will come. I won't dispute that gains are a result of having the right programming, even the crazier levels of training.
The reason why I disagree with Dave, and many other strength athletes, and believe that the hardgainer definitely exists is that we don't all live the same lives. Dave was a pro basketball player who transitioned into a strength and conditioning coach. His opinion is probably based on his life experiences. He's lived his life, in one way or another, as a professional strength trainer. People like that live a life where being athletically strong as a job. If they have to train for hours a day, eat thousands of calories in a single meal, and sleep 12 hours a day, then that's what they do because it's their job! Physical growth and progress determines whether people like this have a living or not.
It's a different world than the rest of us where our strength training becomes a hybrid of a hobby and hygiene. We have jobs that don't involve the stuff we do in the gym. Since it's not probably not necessary to have the best, most heaviest squat in the world, we don't have the luxury to adjust our entire life to make that goal happen since it doesn't pay bills.
Tom Platz's leg training is a great example of what I'm talking about. I read somewhere that the training that build arguably the greatest legs in bodybuilding history required so much intensity and work that he would count out how many steps he'd have to take in his day-to-day life, taking care not to walk anymore than necessary so he wouldn't hinder his recovery. How many of us can intentionally cut back on how much we walk so we can recover from such a routine? I can't speak for everyone but for work, I often walk several miles every day. My leg training has to accommodate that part of my job.
Furthermore, there is no denying that some of us are more physically blessed than others. Some people are born with the ability to do crazy strength training for long periods of time far easier than others. There's certainly a genetic factor. Then there's also evidence to support that environment and diet as a youth greatly affect how strong a body becomes later in life.
The belief or denial of the hardgainer phenomenon reminds me of the whole labratory/school vs. real life arguments that happen in so many other facets of life. I hate to degrade the brave efforts of our subculture's gym rats by comparing them to book-smart-street stupid places of learning but there are a lot of things that they do that are inaccessible to the average trainer who doesn't have the luxury of molding their life completely around the efforts in the gym. In a sense, their strength training rituals are a completely different animal than what most of us end up doing. In their lives, hardgaining doesn't...no, CAN'T exist. For the rest us, we need a more measured approach.
Now, can someone kindly approve my application already?