Bradley J. Steiner’s 1988 Hardgainer Program


Interesting the term ‘hard gainer’ appears less and less in everyday gym use these days. Whereas previously whole bodybuilding industries were built on the term, the modern gym goer sees it as just one more phrase amongst several.

Nonetheless, the fascination that previous physical culturists had with ‘hard gainers’ provides us with a wealth of training programmes and worthwhile advice. This is especially the case regarding today’s programme from Bradley J. Steiner.

For the unaware, Steiner was one of the foremost training writers of the 1970s and 1980s in America. Detailing everything from bodybuilding to basic maintenance, Steiner was revered for his common sense, sage wisdom and general good demeanour. In a world dominated by ‘mass monsters‘, Steiner stressed overall development from his trainees. Both physical and mental.

The programme given below is dedicated towards the ‘worst-case’ hardgainer. The trainee for whom many routines have come and gone. As simple as it is effective, the routine will certainly be of interest to beginners and advanced trainees alike.

The Basic Hardgainer Programme

To be performed two to three times a week:

  • Dumbbell Swing 1 set x 15 reps
  • Press Behind the Neck 2 sets x 10 reps… first set should be fairly easy, second struggle to finish. Add weight every two weeks
  • Barbell Curls 1 set x 10 reps
  • Wide Grip Bench Press 2 sets x 10 reps… first set should be fairly easy, second struggle to finish. Add weight every two weeks
  • Barbell Bent Over Row 2 sets x 10 reps… same weight on both sets….increase every two weeks
  • Squat 1 sets x 18-20 reps, then 12 reps…These sets will be tough. Keep going and grind out the reps
  • Supersetted with Pullovers with Bar (never exceeding 30 pounds) 2 sets x 20 reps
  • Stiff Leg Deadlifts 1 x 15 reps

Interested in knowing more? Post a comment below.

In the meantime, happy training!

12 thoughts on “Bradley J. Steiner’s 1988 Hardgainer Program

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! In the first instance Steiner stressed the importance of eating quality, natural foods under the adage that you ‘Cannot fool mother nature’. Luckily however he also provided a more basic template for people. First he classified the following as foods the hardgainer must ‘live on’

      1) Lean Meats/Organ Meats etc.
      2) Fresh raw vegetables
      3) Milk – in large quantities for slim teenagers and modest quantities (2 pints a day) for men
      4) Eggs
      5) Cheese, nuts, beans and peas
      6) Fats and Starches such as rice, potatoes, spaghetti etc.

      Put into a daily meal plan, Steiner recommended the following. Remember this was for hardgainers!


      * 3 eggs prepared any style
      * 2 slices whole wheat bread and butter
      * 4 strips bacon
      * 1 large glass of milk
      * 1 large serving of fresh fruit

      Mid-Morning Snack:

      * 1 glass milk
      * 1 slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter


      * 1/2-1 pound of chopped meat hamburger
      * 1 tossed vegetable salad
      * 1 baked potato
      * 1 apple or pear + beverage of your choice

      Evening Meal:

      * 1 large steak or large fresh-cooked fish or chicken
      * 1 rice, spaghetti or potato dish
      * 2 slices of whole wheat bread with butter
      * 1 tossed vegetable salad
      * 1 glass of milk
      * Fresh fruit or fruit pie desert
      * Tea or Coffee if desired

      Late Snack:

      * One nice piece of fruit (apple, banana, pear) etc.

      Needless to say the diet is effective in terms of calorie consumption! If you’d like to know more just let me know and I can email the work on to you 🙂

    2. It is never good to eat as much as possible if it all has junk food. Cheatmeals are recommended to have once a week. Just think how far can you go with bad fuel for your car! it is the same with your body!

      1. Absolutely, clean fuel means a much better body composition in the long run. Something which I like about Steiner is that he advocated nutritious foods first and foremost!

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