IT’S THE ULTIMATE fallback for any guy who has trouble adding muscle: “I’m a hardgainer! Guys like me just can’t get big and strong—it’s not in our DNA,” they say.

And sure, there are certain genetic advantages one person will always have over another—height, being able to touch his tongue to the tip of his nose, etc. But there’s no reason any guy can’t make awesome gains (even you, beanpole). The so-called hardgainer is typically a lanky guy whose long arms and legs make for poor levers with which to lift; his muscle-fiber composition and hormones cause gains to come more slowly than a natural athlete’s would.

But this isn’t a medically identified condition, and it’s certainly not a sentence to a life of smallness—in fact, it’s often just an excuse, according to Charles Staley, a strength coach with 30 years’ training experience ( What’s the solution? Stay the course with the same approach to training that any smart lifter would use, but pay particular attention to these three rules, which can turn hardgainers into hardbodies once and for all.