So you’re a skinny guy, a hardgainer, an ectomorph as far as science and your annoying gym owner is concerned. You’ve been struggling to move the digits on that scale you check every morning ever since you were twelve and realized you liked girls, and you wanted them to like you back.
You are probably starting to feel a bit desperate by this point, unable to wrap your head around why you still haven’t put on any size. Well my friend, you are in a very delicate genetic position and if you want to turn the tides in your favor and reach your true potential, you will need to adopt and adhere to some serious lifestyle changes in terms of mindset and daily habits.
Truth is, packing on size as a drug-free lifter is a pretty straightforward process, but it’s not easily achieved. As a hardgainer looking to put size to his frame, there are only four things you need to worry about:
- Sleeping and Recovery
- Eating some more!
I sense what you are thinking - you already know all of this. Think again, because if you are still struggling to put on size, then you are not adhering to at least one, or more, of these muscle building essentials.
So today you are going to learn once and for all what these elements mean for your genetic composition specifically and how to optimize them to achieve maximum size and strength.
Let’s go over all of these essential pieces of the mass-building puzzle and help you finally break your plateaus, build monster size and realize that girls couldn’t care less about your big biceps, which won’t matter at that point because you’ve already fallen in love with your new physique!
Are You Really an Ectomorph?
Many people fall prey to social media hype and misdiagnose themselves with certain conditions, and more often than not, their inability to put on size is contributed to their alleged ectomorph build when in fact, they simply need to eat more or train harder.
That said, you can determine whether fall into the hardgainer category by tuning out the social media noise, and turning to science. So, answer these questions prior to deeming yourself an ectomorph and making all the wrong choices in your lifting career:
- Are your shoulder the same width or narrower than your hips?
- Are your wrists small, and if so can you fully wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist?
- Do you have long limbs accompanied by thin muscle bellies?
- Do you have narrow clavicles?
- Do you have trouble putting on fat and not just muscle?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then you have the right to call yourself a certified ectomorph. You see, ectomorphs are categorized by thin and sensitive builds with a rather fast metabolic rate requiring them to eat more, train differently, and recover properly in order to attain a muscular physique.
That said, let’s optimize your fitness lifestyle for maximum results.
The Science Behind an Ectomorph's Diet
Let’s get one crucial axiom out of the way before we move on - you are not eating enough. No matter what you might think, no matter how your mother looks at you while you’re drinking your 2 raw eggs in the morning, you need to eat more.
Specifically, you need to do the opposite of what your regular gym trainer might say and create a diet plan revolving around moderate protein intake and plenty of carbs and fats. Remember, your resting metabolic rate resembles a hummingbird on crack, so you need to eat plenty of calorie dense foods.
Clean Bulking VS Dirty Bulking
As a hardgainer, you need to adopt a constant bulking mindset, meaning that you want to be in a caloric surplus all of the time. There are two ways you can bulk - you can dirty bulk or you can clean bulk. While the choice is entirely yours, you should note that the end result varies greatly between the two, and while you could get away with a dirty bulk diet, it could have consequences for your long-term health.
The diet entails what the name suggests, dirty bulking allows you to eat anything you want, as long as you reach your daily caloric requirements. Conversely, clean bulking restricts your diet to healthy foods such as lean meats, whole grains, healthy carbs and quality fat sources.
So how do you get your nutrition on point?
- Get a food scale
- Calculate your maintenance calories
- Up those calories by at least 500cal
- Eat no more than 3-4 big meals a day to minimize energy expenditure - introduce liquid meals if you can
- If you can handle lactose, the best way to shove extra calories down your throat is to do the GoMad method - aim for a gallon of milk a day
- Eat at roughly the same time every day
How to Train as an Ectomorph for Maximum Size?
If you are a beginner, than act like one. Take your first steps slowly and make sure you get your basics straight. Focus on proper technique and remember bad form comes from trying to lift too much weight too early. Keep your efforts focused and controlled.
Now, slowly walk away from the dumbbell rack, approach the deadlift platform - now lift! Here is a simple premise that is supposed to snap you back into drug-free lifting reality: what do you think will put more stress on your entire body, or your biceps, a 20lb curl, or a 90lb chin-up? Exactly.
A massive back isn’t built by rowing 40lb on a seated cable machine, it’s built by rowing 315 for a set of 6-8 reps, just as boulder shoulders aren’t built by isolating the medial delt with 15lb fly’s - you build them with heavy military presses.
Let this single piece of wisdom guide you every time you feel tempted to do a curl:
“Basic exercises build basic mass”
This means that you, of all body types, should be concentrating on heavy compound movements! Compound movements are exercises that utilize more than one joint throughout the range of motion, and they include:
- The Deadlift
- The Squat
- The Bench Press
- The Overhead Press
- The Pullup
- The Chin-up
- The Various Rows
- The Dip
- And all subsequent variations to these movements
So if you ever thought that there aren’t enough compound exercises to fill out your program, think again. In addition to being superbly beneficial to your muscular development, these movements build basic strength - and the stronger you get as a natural lifter, the bigger you will become.
Don’t forget to exercise proper form and if you’re completely new to the gym, practice the movements by incorporating kettlebell training in your routine to improve balance, correct your posture and learn proper movement patterns.
The high-rep exhaustion training methods popularized by famous bodybuilders looking to cash in on your inexperience have been debunked many a time, and while there are plenty of ways to build muscle, heavy compounds exercised in a moderate rep range will be most beneficial solution.
Here are the key points to remember:
- Compounds over isolation
- Focus on increasing strength
- Main movements - squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press - in a low-moderate (4-6) rep range followed by assistance work in a moderate rep range (8-10)
- Train each muscle group at least two times a week for increased muscle-protein synthesis
- Limit your cardio work and focus on GPP (general physical preparation)
- You need to row as much as you bench in order to eliminate strength and muscular imbalances
Proper Rest and Recovery
The final, and yet another crucial piece of the puzzle is rest and recovery. This is a pretty simple one, entailing 8 hours of sleep every night and going to bed at the same time to promote healthy hormone production and quality sleeping patterns. Remember that heavy training takes a toll on your nervous system more than anything else does, and if you want to come back the next day bigger and stronger, you have to get your “booty” sleep.
Additionally, while rest plays a key role in your recovery, you also want to introduce post-training recovery techniques that will allow your muscles, tendons, ligaments and your CNS to recover faster and avoid injury. Here are the healthiest habits that will boost recovery:
- Post-workout ice baths
- Alternating showers
- Myofascial release therapy
- Weighted stretching
- Stay active throughout the day
- Supplement with glucosamine and other minerals as well as strong electrolytes
- Applying inflammation release topical crèmes on tight and sore areas
- De-load every 12-16 weeks
It is not easy being an ectomorph, especially if you’re trying to put on size like your mesomorph and endomorph friends. Luckily, now you have a detailed battle plan on how to re-approach your fitness regime and finally start putting dense, quality muscle mass on your skinny frame.
Read and re-read this article, find out which of these variables have been hindering your progress, change it, and finally reach your mass-building goals!
About The Author
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life.
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