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Ectomorph Muscle Building: Nutrition And Training

Ectomorph Muscle Building: Nutrition And Training Basics For Muscle Growth

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Tired of people telling you to "eat more." In this article James Chan provides specific nutrition and training advice to help skinny guys get on the road to muscle gains.

Bodybuilding is always a process of building muscle and then refining that muscle. You build muscular bulk by focusing on a handful of compound exercises and then you refine your muscle by attacking it from different angles. It's like sculpting: you can't shape or mold what you don't have. You have to add on the “clay” or muscle and then take away some of that clay to shape and refine the muscle.

If you’re an ectomorph, then you have a longer road ahead of you. You have to build muscle first.  You may be tempted to train like others and include 4-5 different exercises for each body part. For an ectomorph, however, you have to build muscle before you refine it. You must alternate phases of bulking and cutting.

Building muscular bulk requires 3 things:

  1. A lot of food
  2. Heavy weight
  3. Concentrating on a select handful of compound exercises

Eat A Lot Of Food!

Bodybuilding 101, right? Yet time and time again, this is the #1 limiting factor among ectomorph trainees. Eat a lot and eat often. Eat a lot of calories and eat a lot of protein. If you are not eating 5-6 meals spaced evenly throughout the day, then you really are not doing enough to gain weight. Strive to eat the 3 square meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 2-3 snacks in between.

Here are some common dietary mistakes many skinny men make when trying to build muscle mass:

Not Eating Enough Protein

This is such a basic thing, but most skinny guys fail to get enough protein in their diet to build muscle. Eat a wide variety of meats, poultry, eggs and fish. Supplement with protein powders. Every meal should have a big chunk of protein occupying at least a third of your plate.

Ripped body

Eating Too Clean

Weight training is very demanding on the body, so you need to eat more calories. For you skinny guys with high metabolisms, you can eat quite a bit of junk food to get those extra calories. Skinny guys have bodies that are better at "nutrient partitioning." In other words, nutrients go where they're supposed to go (building muscle) instead of being deposited as fat. So for young skinny guys, you can bulk up by eating pizza, burgers and burritos.

Not Eating Breakfast

It is the most important meal of day. If your idea of breakfast is a coffee and pastry or a bowl of oatmeal with some OJ, then you're not going to gain body weight. Like I said before, every meal should have a big chunk of protein occupying at least a third of your plate. For breakfast, I like a large omelet with coffee and toast.

Skipping Meals

Going hungry for long periods of time puts your body in a catabolic state. In other words, your body cannibalizes its own muscle in order to feed vital organs. It's OK to feel a little hunger so you know it's time to eat. But don't skip meals. You should be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with one or two snacks in between.

Stressing Out Too Much

This is not a dietary mistake but a mental mistake. The skinny guy always frets about how he's doing everything to try to gain weight and eating a lot but he’s not getting any bigger. He reads everything about exercise and diet and overanalyzes everything. He suffers from analysis paralysis and fails to execute the 2 simple rules to getting big: eat big, lift big.

I get a lot of emails from frustrated skinny people who sound frantic. They can’t seem to make decisions and are constantly emailing me asking what program to do next.

And therein lies the problem. Stressing out over everything does not set up a good hormonal response to gain weight. A lot of skinny guys are Nervous Nellies. They can't sit still. They're constantly tapping their fingers or feet. They overreact to everything. They can't seem to calm down. You tell them to take a deep breath, and they hyperventilate.

Stressing out over everything releases cortisol in your body, and cortisol hampers muscle growth as well as deposit fat in your midsection. So if you're a Nervous Nelly or Frantic Frank, then lay off the stimulants. No Red Bulls or Monster drinks. No coffee or soft drinks.

If you need something to wake you up in the morning, then drink some green tea, since it has a moderate dose of caffeine but also has threanine. Threanine promotes alertness and focus, but also keeps you calm and relaxed.

EctomorphBuilding Muscle Bulk Through Strength Training

Diet is only half the story of course. Eating a lot will only make you fat if you don't train heavy and train correctly. Strength training stimulates your appetite so that you can eat all of the extra protein and calories. Strength training sensitizes your body's ability to partition nutrients. So when you ingest protein and carbs, they're being deposited into muscle and not as fat.

But not every strength training program facilitates nutrient partitioning and builds muscle. The primary training factor in muscle building is HIGH MUSCULAR TENSION. In other words, we choose exercises and weights that put tension on certain muscles to build them. Muscle fibers placed under mechanical tension grow bigger by thickening up, absorbing amino acids and storing carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.

All exercises work muscle, but not all exercises BUILD muscle. Some exercises are better than others at creating high muscular tension. A key to creating high muscular tension is to perform heavy compound and multiple compound movements.

Compound movements and multiple compound movements build mass over the entire musculature. Compound movements are exercises where several muscle groups move two or more joints through a single line of motion. Examples of compound movements include squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and dips.

Multiple compound movements are exercises where several muscle groups move two or more joints through multiple lines of motion. In other words, a multiple compound movement is 2 or more compound movements strung together.

Multiple compound movements are typically Olympic lifts and their variations, such as the clean and jerk and the clean and press. The barbell clean and press is a multiple compound movement, because it can be broken into 2 movements: the power clean and the overhead press.

Compound and multiple compound movements stress more muscle than isolation movements. More muscles working together to push or pull a weight can lift more weight than a muscle working in isolation. The more muscle that is worked, the more weight that is lifted, the more testosterone produced by your body. More testosterone: more muscle.

The exercises which produce the biggest testosterone response are what I call the “anabolic blowtorches.” These exercises provoke a huge dump of testosterone in your system and stimulate total body hypertrophy:

  1. Full barbell back squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Clean and press

By focusing on just these 3 exercises, an ectomorph can build a tremendous amount of muscle on a high calorie, high protein diet. The problem is that these 3 exercises stress many of the same muscle groups. Both squats and deadlifts work the thighs and glutes, so doing them both in the same workout would be overkill.

For you to gain size, you need to have minimal training redundancy. In other words, perform one exercise for each muscle group. Any more might be OK for someone trying to burn fat, but it would be overtraining for an ectomorph trying to build muscle mass.

So if you want to perform the 3 anabolic blowtorches, then how do you incorporate these exercises into your workout without overtraining? An ideal training tactic that minimizes training redundancy is a technique called “building-on.”

The Building-On Technique

“Building-on" was a term coined by Charles Staley, and it refers to the sequencing of exercises so that each exercise can serve as a warm-up for the next exercise in the sequence. This sequencing strategy is used both in Olympic-style lifting and in the push-pull split routines of bodybuilding.

In Olympic-style weightlifting, for example, you start with the competitive lift followed by the assistance lifts. So you may do the clean and jerk first in the workout, and then break it down to its components: deadlifts, high pull, push press.

  1. Clean and jerk: 3 sets of 3 reps
  2. Deadlifts: 3 sets of 3-5 reps
  3. High pull: 3 sets of 5-7 reps
  4. Push press: 3 sets of 5-7 reps

Training redundancy is used efficiently with the building-on technique, since it allows you to perform a high volume workout with low volume for each exercise. Every muscle group is stimulated with a significant number of sets, since the exercises overlap.

The other advantage to the building-on technique is that each workout starts with a high velocity multiple compound exercise. This high speed exercise potentiates the nervous system for the heavier slow strength compound exercises that follow. In other words, the Olympic-style lift (clean and jerk) wakes up your nervous system so that you lift more on the maximal strength exercises (squats, deadlifts).

The following is bulking program which utilizes the building-on technique. You will build a significant amount of strength and muscle mass on this program as long as you eat a high calorie, high protein diet.

Monday
Monday Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Clean and Press  3 3
Deadlift 3 3-5
Hang Clean 3 3-5
Military Press 3 10-12
Wednesday
Wednesday Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Pull Ups 3 AMAP
Dips 3 AMAP
Friday
Friday Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Clean and Jerk 3 3
Squat 3 6-8
Power Clean 3 3-5
Push Press 3 5-7

Notes:

AMAP equals as many as possible.

Rest is about 3 minutes between sets for all exercises.

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  • About The Author
    James Chan works as a police officer for the U of California. In addition he conducts personal training off-duty, specializing in strength and physique enhancement.
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Comments (26)

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Lee
Posted Mon, 05/06/2013 - 19:53

Hasn't the "anabolic blowtorch" thing been widely refuted? Apparently the increase in hormone concentration after exercise isn't enough to cause a significant difference in muscle growth. The hormonal increase is mainly there to help deal with the stress of exercise as opposed to helping to build muscle.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23442269
http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=8349&conte...

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Joe
Posted Mon, 05/20/2013 - 15:18

Absoluteley. For a hormone like testosterone to have the effect of building up muscle it must be present in the blood in the right concentration all the time for a number of weeks at least. The small increase that may or may not occur during exercise is not the sort of thing that will have any material effect on your appearance. Try taking zinc and magnesium supplements, and stop eating so much protein - if you are superhuman you may be absorbing it all from your gut, but even you will be pissing most of it out...

There must be motives behind writing a page like this, but it hasn't been written by a biochemist, i can tell you that. And so whether it is written for the reader's benefit, the good of science, or somehow just for profit, i could not say.

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BN
Posted Tue, 05/07/2013 - 11:39

Is there a reason why you don't do videos of olympic lifts on this site? Too complicated/dangerous to try on your own?

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kurtis
Posted Tue, 05/07/2013 - 16:53

This article has a lot of valid and true points...but something i dont agree with is eating breakfast everyday...i dont have time for breakfast and only eat 2-3 meals a day but i eat alot of protein and yet still managed to have impressive gains that i aimed for..

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Scott
Posted Tue, 05/07/2013 - 17:04

I dont understand why you encourage eating like ___ if you're a skinny high metabolism individual but then tell those same people to skip red bull, soft drinks etc?!? Doesn't matter what your metabolism looks like in fitness, eating junk food should never be encouraged. Eating a conservative amount of excess calories over maintenance is what works and will keep body fat, cardiovascular health and the possibility of health related issues at bay. Its been discussed over and over again Dirty Bulk vs Lean Bulk - you'll gain more weight with Dirty but you'll have to work that much harder to get the excess fat off thus losing muscle you've gained in the process. Eat clean, train mean, live lean.

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craig
Posted Wed, 05/08/2013 - 00:46

I agree totally with Scott, by eating 'junk food' you just form bad dietary habits later in life, not to mention 'junk food' is 99% processed food with god knows how many preservative & trans-fats etc in it. Low carbs, high protein this is the best long term diet...a 'life-diet'

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Mahmood
Posted Wed, 05/08/2013 - 11:37

Come on man, no body would go to gym to do only dips & pull ups! also very few skinny guys can do them without assistance, so if the assistance machine or no training partner are there then this day is totally useless for many guys!

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john
Posted Wed, 05/08/2013 - 14:35

Pullups stimulate the lats and bi's, while Dips will hit lower chest and triceps....this gives some direct work to the only muscles not really DIRECTLY hit in the heavy compound days, although they will all be worked plenty Monday and Friday anyway. This is similar to 3 day fullbody splits, just focused on compound, olympic lifts. If you are more advanced you can probably add a little more detail to the Pullup and Dips day, but you will at the expense of the major work days (ever done heavy shoulder press after a lot of chest work?). I will try this in the fall, seems that would have been a better time to put this article out. You definitely need to be EATING HUGE to do these lifts to this extent.

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beans
Posted Wed, 05/08/2013 - 22:19

ectomorph, scmechtamorph!!

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beans
Posted Wed, 05/08/2013 - 22:21

this is the beginners guide to getting 0 gains
wednesday - are you kidding?
and only doing this 3 times a week?
you got me lollygagging in a huddle of laughter over here.
good show, good show.

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john
Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 10:23

You sound relegated to the bro workout. Not saying it works for everyone, but 3 times a week, even only twice a week, can bring serious gains if you eat and focus on these types of lifts and actually push your limits. Your body doesnt grow in the gym, it grows outside of it. And these lifts are taxing if done properly, which is the reason for the simplistic wednesday. However, if you strap some 45's on and do 3 sets of 15 for Dips, and do pullups controlled with weight added as well, it can acutally be a productive day. Doing these types of lifts wliminates the need for additional detail work of arms, traps, etc....

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Tadas
Posted Thu, 05/09/2013 - 12:35

I don't really believe that there is such a thing as a high metabolism.Of course,the more you weigh,the more calories you require,but that's just it.At least that's what I believe.
And me personally,I at least have the stress part under control.I'm 5'11,140pounds(skinny son of a bitch with 12% bodyfat) and I practice meditation for about 2 months if not more.Now most of the time I am as cool as a cucumber.Hell,you could scream in my ear that I am one skinny bastard and I would laugh.
So my takeaway point is:if you guys stress about little things,you definitely want to practice meditation.Don't worry,it's not gay stuff like sitting down,crossing your legs like a lady and shouting "OUM".Meditation(at least I believe) is just a practice of empty-mindedness.If you get stressed or you just wanna calm down even more than you are at the moment,just start breathing more deeply,slowly and watch your breathing.Don't think about ANYTHING,just concentrate on your breathing.May be a small thing,but worked damn fine for me.I may sound stressed or amped right now,but no,I am cool.I can even say hurtful slurs in a very calm manner because of meditation.So you definitely wanna try out meditation.Oh,and one more:positivity really is a good thing.If you can't do a pull-up,don't get stressed but just laugh about the fact that you're a fatty or something.Just make something up.If someone is annoying you,don't get pissed,laugh at the fact that the person doesn't have anything better in his life than to make fun of you(or pretty much anyone else).Peace :)

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Somsai
Posted Thu, 05/09/2013 - 22:27

I know someone who has super fast metabolism, and doesn't gain a single pound no matter what she eats. She has to take special type of supplements subscribed to her just to be alive. So I really don't understand by what you mean by you not believing in high metabolism.

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Elijah
Posted Sat, 03/08/2014 - 03:14

You don't believe in high metabolism? That's like saying you don't believe protein is the building blocks of muscle, I don't even know how to constructively and politely comment on your statement besides calling you an idiot, sorry to say.

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David Myer
Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 12:33

Okay...

So is there any consensus on the viability of the Olympic lifts for beginner body building ectomorphs?

Also, Kurtis breakfast (breaking the fast) is the most important meal of the day, BUT... As I've discovered it doesn't have to be eaten. With help from a dietician I'm trailing what I call CPMV (carbs, proteins, minerals & vitamins) its a breakfast super shake designed to supply you with essential amino acids that are imperative to energy, muscle gain, focus and general well being.

It consists of oats, milk, yoghurt, coconut oil or flaxseeds, psyllium husks, fruit, honey, 1 egg and optional barley grass and pink salt.

Ain't no one got time to eat breakfast everyday so make your own version of CPMV before you go to sleep and DRINK it instead. So yeah, listen to John EAT HUGE, including breakfast (DRINK HUGE).

CPMV = 120g of carbs, 32g of fat, 19.3g protein + 8.6g of fibre (1162 calories WOOT) get it in ya!!!

Scott and Craig, to bloody right, stuff junk food crap, this should never be encouraged, there are many healthy foods that can hugely increase your calorie intake.

Beans it makes sense because muscles take 2-3 days to recover after a work out.

Mahmood your totally right f@#k going to the gym just for that.

scmechtamorph!! Haaaaa WTF.

Tadas there is such a thing there is...

How does that wrap things up?

BTW You can do it!!!

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Ed
Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 08:19

I agree with a lot of the article, but the first paragraph is just filled with outdated beliefs.

"Bodybuilding is always a process of building muscle and then refining that muscle. You build muscular bulk by focusing on a handful of compound exercises and then you refine your muscle by attacking it from different angles. It's like sculpting: you can't shape or mold what you don't have. You have to add on the “clay” or muscle and then take away some of that clay to shape and refine the muscle."

Here is why...for example, we now know that you can't create a huge biceps peak if you are not supposed to have one genetically. You can only build the specific fibers that you want to as well as increase other parts of the muscle cell such as with glycogen storage.

The part where he talks about adding clay and then stripping away clay. It sounds like he is talking about the bulking and cutting, which would mean that you are building muscle and gaining fat, and then taking away some of the fat (clay), exposing your hard-earned muscle. You don't add muscle and then take away muscle...that's stupid.

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BigG
Posted Sun, 05/19/2013 - 21:09

That work out needs to be doubled. Everyone seems to be so afraid of over training they don't train. Look at the older pro's they trained each muscle group at least twice a week

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pankaj sharma
Posted Mon, 05/20/2013 - 08:00

yaa i m totally agree with this..........
but can anyone tell me how to loose stress.........

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Josue
Posted Fri, 05/24/2013 - 18:05

Please a need a trainer i been gaining weight 20 pounds the last month but is time to go to the gym i just don't know nothing about this nothing.... South Boston please any reference Help..

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Ahmad Zafar
Posted Thu, 07/25/2013 - 06:27

I used to be very skinny and I could eat as much as I wanted, but I wouldn't get fat. About a year ago, I got into this phase where I ate fast food every meal everyday for about a month. During that time I started seeing fat around my stomach area and thighs hips. I started working out right after. I've gained around 18 pounds since, but still haven't lost the extra fat. Now I'd really appreciate it if someone could outline a diet for an ectomorph, which I guess I am, for the bulking and the cutting phases separately. I'd prefer if the diet didn't have supplements in it.

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Alex
Posted Mon, 08/26/2013 - 01:56

Does anyone know how many calories i should consume before lifting weights

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MuffinMan
Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 05:37

Great article! I starter lifting in 2006 weighing 60 kgs and measuring 185cm tall. Pretty much did all this except the com pound movements (didn't know getter back then). But eating pizza, hamburgers or other things considered junk food. Energy is energy, topped off with eating 5 times a day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner sometimes something more. Two shakes of protein every morning and evening. Maybe overdid some things but I gained 10 kilos my first 9 months in muscles and I reckon that it could've been more with some compound movements. I thank those gains to consistent training and eating. If you're skinny and want something more detailed I can email my journal from back then. I ve encountered skinny guys who said they did all this but realized they didn't when they looked in my journal.

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Philip john
Posted Tue, 08/26/2014 - 01:44

Could you mail me your journal. I appreciate your help

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KoyanagiEdits |...
Posted Wed, 09/03/2014 - 19:49

Honestly, I could care less at how everyone is all about that super muscle gain stuff. I'm wanting to just to add on a few layers of fat yet look slightly lean and fit. I'm a sophomore in highschool weighing 105 lbs with who knows how much fat is on me. I'm waaay to skinny and underweight for my age group. I would greatly appreciate a copy of your journal but I don't want to pay any sort of money cause my parents won't allow me to pay for anything online. ;( My e-mail: KoyanagiEdits@gmail.com

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JoshL
Posted Tue, 02/25/2014 - 11:38

I agree, especially with Scott. It does nothing but cause bad habits later. You know how hard it is to resist soft drinks? They do nothing but cause stress, headaches, migrains, etc etc. The stress part is so true. I am very bad about stress and has done nothing but tear me down and gain a little gut in the middle area. I am a super skinny person, so a skinny guy with twig arms and legs with a small gut? yeah not the best strategy..

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Johan Bolding
Posted Sat, 03/29/2014 - 21:11

First of all: Thank for the advices.
But is it possible to get some illustrations on the excersise.
I tried finding all of them on the internet, but all I found was poor.

Hope you can help me

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