Sound like you? Then don’t fret, because this article is specifically targeted to skinny guys (Ectomorphs), and its aim is to help you understand why you are not gaining weight, along with what steps you can take to gain lean muscle mass.
Firstly we’ll take a look at your body type, then we’ll move on to what to eat and when to eat it, and finish off with specific types of exercise you will need to perform in order to gain the muscular physique that has always seemed so distant.
When it comes to body types there are three main types, Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph.
The chances are that if you have carried on reading this article you are in one way or another, an Ectomorph.
What this means is that your skeletal frame may be rather small, your metabolism works far too fast to put weight on easily, your limbs are fairly long in comparison to their thickness, and you have wiry muscles rather than thick defined ones.
Fear not! Just because your genes have dealt you this hand, it does not mean that you cannot put weight on and develop a more muscular physique.
Sure it’s going to be hard for you to gain weight but it is not impossible, and if you ever did get fat you would lose it at an accelerated rate. (This is a very useful thing to know when it comes to your weight-gaining period).
But I Eat All the Time and Still Don’t Gain Weight!
You may think that you do, but believe me you probably don’t.
The only way to gain weight is to consume more calories than your body can use, and in your case it means that you are going to need to intake an obscene amount of calories to optimize your gains!
The bright side is that this doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to lean proteins and carbs like professional bodybuilders do.
Remember I told you that you lose fat at an accelerated rate?
Well that doubles up to mean you can almost eat as much as you like, providing it is calorific!
Despite common misconceptions, brought about and endorsed by companies that wish to force pills and protein shakes down your neck, while you are putting on weight you don’t need to bother about all the science and small print.
All you need to focus on is taking in as much food as possible.
You already eat so much? Think again!
Stick to the following simple steps and you’ll be gaining mass in no time:
Important! Follow these nutritional guidelines alongside your workout routine.
You may put a little more fat on around your tummy than you were initially after, but trust me, combined with the exercise techniques below you have nothing to worry about.
- Eat breakfast lunch and dinner.
That goes without saying. Start your day off with a good source of protein such as free range eggs, cold meat, cheese, tomatoes, bacon and sausages.
This type of food is much more beneficial for muscle growth than a big bowl of cereal. But if you can manage a bowl of cereal as well, then go for it!
- Snack during the morning on things like mixed nuts (not salted peanuts), or have some peanut butter on whole wheat bread. You may also eat some fruit. Just keep snacking but try and keep the quality of food high.
- An ideal lunch could be a big bowl of salad with pasta, vegetables and chicken or tuna. Any variations are fine. I like to throw on some sesame seeds and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Keep some fresh food like chopped carrots and bell peppers in the refrigerator to eat during the afternoon. Hard boiled eggs are also great for snacks and full of protein.
- Your evening meal might be a nice piece of meat with loads of vegetables (not over cooked). During the weight gain phase, always include some form of carbohydrates with your meals, as this will form the bulk of your weight gain.
Whether you work out in the morning or evening, try and consume protein soon after as possible.
I prefer a protein shake.
This, and a daily multi-vitamin pill are the only supplements I take. If you consume plenty of protein you don’t even need the shake, but I just love the taste of mine and it does contain plenty of calories.
Of course this is a very simplistic account of a daily diet.
There are books and courses that go into much more detail and dietary suggestions.
It is worth your time to do your research with food, as it is without doubt the one thing that will bring you success or failure.
Limit Your Cardio
Cardio is exercise that affects your cardiovascular system (your heart), such as jogging, walking, rowing or swimming.
As an ectomorph, long cardio sessions like these will only hinder your growth.
Short bursts of intensive exercise are much more beneficial to someone trying to put on weight.
When I say short bursts I mean at most 30-45 seconds each time.
Look at the marathon runner; he is very toned, small and skinny. His muscles are responding to the way he is treating them.
They need to keep going over long distances and so they stretch and become stringy, while remaining small and lightweight so that his frame doesn’t slow him down.
Now take a look at a sprinter’s physique.
His muscles are large, rounded and lean, capable of shorter bursts of energy at a much greater intensity.
The point to this?
Make sprinting or any short, intensive bursts of exercise your preferred choice – not hour long runs or swims.
It will chisel any fat off you to show that longed for six pack, and also help build muscle instead of limit it.
Five to six, thirty second sprints at full intensity, with a two minute walk/gentle jog between each one is an excellent alternative to those calorie burning cardio exercises!
Not only that, but as muscle weighs more than fat, sprinting will help you acquire the weight and overall muscle mass you desire.
Understand Your Muscles
One of the most important rules when gaining muscle, is understanding the way in which they work, and what you need to do to make them grow.
The single biggest factor for increasing muscle size:
Force them to increase what they are already capable of
If you can bench press 50KG and perform eight reps with ease, you need to put the bar back down and increase the weight so that it makes you strain with every sinew in your body when performing just 4 or 5 reps!
Your muscle will only grow when it has to. If you stick at lifting the same weight with high reps, your muscles will not change in the slightest.
Increase the Weight, Reduce the Reps
For any Ectomorph to increase their muscle mass, you are going to have to lift heavy.
Forget about performing 12 – 15 reps of an exercise.
This rep range is good for strength and toning, but not for increasing muscle size.
For muscles to grow, the body needs testosterone.
Advanced bodybuilders don’t inject anabolic steroid hormones based on testosterone for nothing!
Testosterone is your number 1 ally when working-out and you can call upon more of it by reducing the amount of reps you lift and increasing the weight.
When you up the weight, your central nervous system (CNS) will recognize you are engaging in some pretty serious lifting and secrete testosterone and growth hormones into your blood supply.
Subsequently, cardio and high reps aren’t demanding enough to convince your CNS to produce the extra testosterone your muscles need for maximum growth.
Choose Full Body Exercises
The best type of exercises to release the all important testosterone and growth hormones are ones that engage the most number of muscles – otherwise known as compound exercises.
Bicep curls – no matter how heavy you go, will only work your biceps and part of your forearms.
This isolation type of exercise isn’t enough to stimulate your CNS.
You should also do a good, all-round core exercise such as front and side planks. (My preferred favorites!)
These exercises require you to engage several muscle groups including the biggest ones in your body, and will shock your CNS into producing muscle building testosterone.
A good workout routine for this type of muscle development is the 5 X 5 system.
You simply perform 5 reps for a set of 5, two or three times a week.
For a more detailed explanation of this type of workout and a routine you can follow, see my article: The Best Ever Workout.
- Warm up your muscles. Perform 1 or 2 warm up sets at 50 – 75% of your maximum weight.
- Perform each exercise for 5 reps, for 5 sets, with a 1-2 minute break in between.
- Do this 2 to 3 times each week.
- Once a week, do some form of intensive exercise such as sprint sessions on the treadmill or rowing machine.
Make sure you get a meal after your workout that includes lots of protein and carbs to satiate, fix and build your muscles.
An additional post workout protein shake is ideal.
After You’ve Gained the Weight
No exercise routine in the world will give you a bigger, more muscular physique if you don’t eat enough.
So make sure you keep snacking and take on protein whenever possible.
Once you have achieved the weight you were shooting for, it’s time to refine what you have and build upon it.
The way we do this is by following a combination of small life changes that really make all the difference.
When it comes to protein intake, as a once Ectomorph, yours is always going to have to be fairly high.
There are lots of theories as to how much protein per body weight you need to consume for muscle building.
The easiest way to look at it, is to simply consume plenty of good quality protein alongside your other foods (which should include lots and lots of vegetables!).
If you eat good quality meat every day then you’ll sure to consume more than enough protein you need for muscle development.
You should also now eliminate processed food and sugary foods from your diet, including fizzy drinks and candy, and instead eat more raw, natural foods such as meat, vegetables and some fruit, and healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish and nuts/seeds.
You should still eat carbs, but not half as much as the quantity you were eating before you gained the weight.
Eating too much carbohydrate rich food will simply give you a fat gut!
Keep Lifting Heavy Things
As long as your diet is a healthy one with less carb consumption, there’s no reason to start running 10 miles a day!
The more cardio hours you put in, the harder it will be to continue to develop your physique.
Keep lifting heavy, but mix up the number of reps and the number of sets you perform.
Sometimes use a slightly lower weight with a few more reps.
The idea is to keep your body guessing so that your muscles keep growing.
Also, keep up the sprint training once a week.
If you want to incorporate cardio into your weekly workouts, limit it to just the one workout.
Eat, eat, eat!
The more the better at first, until you see significant weight gain.
Workout using heavy weights and low reps and engage your major muscle groups.
Within weeks you should notice a difference in your physique.
But even if you don’t, it means you just need to stick with it for longer – everyone’s genetics are different.
Don’t be tempted to eat junk food to put on weight.
The changes will come. Stay motivated.
photo by jcoterhal