shane-ectomorph-transformation-strength-training

Fallin in love with Barbells & Quadrupling your Strength

Written by Shane Duquette on April 10, 2012

Some guys dread going to the gym and are constantly coming up with excuses as to why they can’t find the time, money or motivation to make it. Other guys go to the gym 8 days a week and there’s nothing you can do to get them out because, well, they’re built like the pentagon and hard to push around.

If you view the gym as a chore you’re going to have one hell of a miserable time putting on muscle, and sadly you’ll likely give up long before you do. But if you think of the gym as a place to let off steam, unleash the beast, haul some heavy weights, and get your masculine hormones firing it can be a pretty fun place. And damn if you train smart, one day soon you’ll be a powerful beast of a man.

Dreams of Muscles, Strength, Babes and Tights

As a music and art loving ectomorph I’m the last person you’d expect to admit it, but there’s just something innately masculine about strength training. When I was a young little dude my dad made me a batman costume and my favourite thing in the world was running around pretending I was a superhero. I would play with my action figures and dream of being able to accomplish feats of raw masculine strength that would make beautiful women everywhere gasp in awe. I wasn’t obsessed with my physique or anything—what kid doesn’t dream of being a superhero?

See even as little kids we have this urge to be strong men right down in our guts. While little ladies are typically drawn to hyper-feminized dolls, us guys are drawn to hyper-masculinized action figures, super heroes and soldiers. We wrestle and fight and take the “rough and tumble” approach to childhood, as psychologists call it. That’s just part of being a young dude. Hell, even the non rough and tumble things we do as kids reflect this. Look at video games—guys play Halo, Call of Duty, Diablo and WoW—all perfect examples of prototypical masculine urges.

Naturally, I assumed that one day my masculine bravado would be the stuff of legends. I mean, you know, the older you get the more of a man you become, muscles and all—right?

… And then puberty hit and I realized ah hell—I’m an ectomorph. My limbs kept growing longer and longer but refused to get any thicker or more muscular. If anything it seemed that they were just being stretched out, getting even smaller as they stretched longer. After a couple years of growth I held steady at 6’2 and 130 pounds.

My dad told me that his mother used to call him a mop because of his long 70’s style hair paired with a body that resembled a broom handle. It looked like this was to be my fate as well …

So, since my genetics had thrown a wrench right into the heart of my plan to become a superhero, I turned my ectomorph attention to video games, and devoted my time to levelling up my avatar’s strength instead of my own. I used this virtual strength to equip myself with heavier weapons and fancier looking armour. It was the best alternative I could come up with, since my sporadic attempts at putting on muscle of my own were getting me absolutely nowhere.

There’s only so long I could kid myself though, and I eventually realized that building up muscle, strength and power wasn’t impossible, even for the skinniest of ectomorphs. And I liked it! Loading up a barbell with weight and using it to turn yourself into a powerful beast of a man is exciting stuff. And I mean, hey, it works. It works really damn well! You can go to the gym and not just come out a little bit stronger—hell with hard work you can double, triple and quadruple your strength over time. You can go from being able to awkwardly pick up your girlfriend and clumsily hold her for a few seconds, to being able to effortlessly lift her up like a feather and carry her for miles. Strength training can work magic. You’ll be jumping higher, running faster, standing taller and bursting with energy.

Eventually I figured that out, and all of a sudden all of those video games seemed silly. Damn, adding a couple 5 pound plates to a lift was way more exciting than levelling up online and getting to increase my strength points, new sword or not. Why would I spend 4 hours every day completing quests and slaying dragons so that I could increase my virtual strength points when I could spend just 3 hours a week in the gym and build up my OWN strength points.

So let’s get strong, beastly boys

The average man can bench around 135 pounds. I started hoisting barbells at 21 as scrawny ectomorph that could barely bench half that—once—with crappy form. Yes, that made me the weakest dude on the block, but that wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. I felt a little out of place in the gym, but see, that was just my starting point.

Now, at 23, I’ve got great form and can bench 235 pounds for 10 reps without breaking a sweat. I’ve already more than quadrupled my strength and I can bench double what an average man can. I’ve tripled and quadrupled my squat, deadlift and chins, too. Badass. Thanks, barbells!

Strength is maleable. Being weak now doesn’t have any relation to our ability to get strong as hell. There’s surprisingly little difference between the natural muscular potential of us ectomorphs and those naturally muscular mesomorphs. Many athletes and even bodybuilders started off with naturally bony ‘bods.

Improve your bench, improve your squat, improve your deadlift and improve your chins and bam—you’re a powerful force to be reckoned with. It really couldn’t matter less if you start off as an ectomorph or not. And these lifts aren’t producing slow lumbering muscles with reduced ranges of motion—you’ll be more flexible than ever and packed full of explosive strength. I mean, you aren’t grinding out a dozen preacher curls here, you’re training like an athlete. You’re going to be built like a bear!

But in order to get the most out of your training you should enjoy it. This is magical stuff—you should be dying to get back to the gym and train.

So here are my three tips for falling head over heels in love with strength training:

1. Get results. Nothing will motivate you to get your scrawny ass to the gym more than having tremendous success unscrawnifying that ass. If you can get great results you’ll start associating the gym with those great results, and that will make you think of the gym as a really positive place, instead of the place you go to feel confused and frustrated.

2. Have a plan, man. Nothing is worse than wandering into a gym, feeling lost, and wandering around doing random exercises until you feel like going home. Have a plan. Crush it. Write down your results. Go home.

And then come back to the gym bigger and stronger next time and crush it even harder. Then write down what you lifted this time, along with a notation that says “+10 lbs on bench?! #%^& yeah baby!”

If you have a purpose and you know exactly what you did last time you can train efficiently and constantly challenge yourself to improve, workout by workout. I don’t mean totally screw up your form in order to haul a too-heavy-weight just so you can mark a bigger number on your sheet, I mean challenge yourself to improve this week. Improving could mean lifting more weight, doing more reps, needing less rest time or even executing the exercise better.

3. Always train a little bit less than you want to. We aren’t gym rats by anyone’s definition, and with only 3 hours of training per week we hardly live in the gym. Still, that’s 3 workouts every week that we could either treat as a chore or a treat. I’ve gone through phases were I’d go out of obligation and really didn’t enjoy it at all, but now man do I ever love it.

One trick to keep yourself motivated week after week is training less than you want to. Don’t go 6 days a week and do 2 hour sessions—you’re going to burn yourself out physically and emotionally. You’re probably going to get sick of the gym, or, at the very least, not be sitting on the edge of your seat dying for Monday to come around so you can train again. Your results won’t be any better for all the extra effort, either. There’s very little reward for the work you do beyond a certain muscle/hormone stimulation threshold.

We didn’t just arbitrarily decide to train just three times per week, there’s a lot of reasoning behind it. Here are four of those reasons:

  1. You’ll get absolutely incredible results. Three times per week keeps your body in an anabolic muscle-building state with a heightened metabolism all week long. This isn’t just good for building muscle, it’s also incredible for getting shredded. (Strength training for an hour just three times a week is more effective than doing cardio 7 days a week when it comes to fat loss.)
  2. You won’t overtrain, so you’ll always be ready and willing to hit the gym hard.
  3. Three times per week is the minimal amount of time it takes for something to become a habit. Training programs with less than 3 training sessions per week often fail to create lasting lifestyle changes in trainees because it never works itself into their lifestyle as a habit. Weight training is something you need to stick with for at least a couple months to see dramatic changes. If it doesn’t quickly become a habit you’ll give up before you see those results.
  4. It won’t take over your life or get in the way of the other things that you love. We aren’t trying turn you from a cool dude into a fitness nuts—we’re trying to enhance every area of your life by improving your virility, health, strength and looks. You still need time to do all the other rad stuff you do.

And remember—the gym isn’t for socializing,it’s for lifting. Hah!

That sounds like a rule invented by a buff lonely boy who likes to flex his biceps in the mirror between sets with a deadpan dead-serious expression on his face. Sure, that’s pretty cool, but most of the top performance gyms are full of guys who like training together. They have a blast doing it. There’s nothing wrong with having a damn good time at the gym! No, it shouldn’t get in the way of your lifts, disturb your rest times, or bother other gym members—but you aren’t mowing the lawn here, there’s no reason to drudge your way through it.

Haha but be careful that you don’t laugh so hard that you drop 315 pounds on your chest.

That isn’t how you build muscles, Franco—let’s get serious here.

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  • Tiredness, distractions, stress, and busyness throwing your routine out the window

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So, what'd you think? 19 responses below.

Sam Whyte

I believe at 12 seconds he says, “You don’t got this,” in a very sarcastic manner.

Julius Ryan Umali

You guys write articles like creative writing majors.

Shane Duquette

Ahaha thanks man—I think!
We have degrees in design, but I’m determined to become a better writer, too 🙂

Daniel

What I am hearing is that he counts to eight and then says “genug fuer heute”, meaning “enough for today”. But it’s hard to tell for sure. 🙂

Shane Duquette

Ahaha that’s awesome.

Thomas

No it’s not. He totally said that 😀

Austin

I love how you talk about wanting to be like a superhero and playing video games and whatnot. I’m 19 and I STILL wanna be like the Flash! It’s like I’m reading articles made from someone exactly like me! Thanks for the awesome posts, keep up the awesome work!
-Austin

Shane Duquette

Ahaha thanks Austin 🙂
The Flash – that’s sweet.

And will do. We’ve got a pretty sweet post coming out later this week (I hope). Should be one of our best!

Saurabh

Just loved the article. I also started like a puzzled gym going guy but now I have improved a lot. I can deadlift 180 pounds now but my bench press has reached only upto 135 pounds, which I want to increase. I love my gym anyday 🙂 love to become a beast soon

Andrew

Hi,

I’m wondering how do you write down your results (do you guys have like sheets prepared) in which you would write down results? I tried to make my own, but I don’t know how.

Thanks,
Andrew

Shane Duquette

Hey Andrew, definitely a good idea to make workout sheets! You need a way to track your progress so that you know how much you’re aiming to lift, whether you’re actually getting stronger or not, etc.

Yeah, we’ve got workout sheets that our guys fill out set by set, week by week. They have all the lifts and reps/sets listed, etc, and you just fill it out as you go. (I use sheets too, and always find that when I just wing it that my workouts never really get me anywhere. Even though I’ve got a lot of theoretical understanding of how to train … still need a solid program to follow.)

Making your own is … tough. Complicated to figure out what lifts work well together, ideal training volume, properly periodize things, etc. With that said, if you’re making your own programs don’t let these things overwhelm you. Just keep it as simple as you can and get into the habit of training consistently and getting stronger.

Don’t let things not being perfect keep you from doing anything at all, you know?

That’s a tough question. Does that help?

Robin

Hi Shane,
great article! Fellow ectomorph here. I’m wondering does a 3-day workout plan works ‘better’ than a 4-day per week one? I’m currently doing Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri. I did gain around 30 pounds in 4-5months with the help of creatine and some advices from the B2B website.

As an amateur bodybuilder, does changing my routine to a 3-day per week plan affect my gain? Or should I just stick to what works for me til I hit a plateau? Thank you for taking the time to read this comment/question.

Best Regards.

Shane Duquette

Congratulations for building 30 pounds of muscle, man – that’s amazing! Don’t give creatine THAT much credit, most of that will come down to solid training and nutrition. Great job. Really glad to hear we could help 🙂

I would say that three is the minimum number of workouts you can do per week to get maximal results. There’s an optimal amount of volume (how many reps/sets you do per muscle group per week) and there’s an optimum frequency (how often you hit each muscle group per week). You want to hit each muscle group 2-3 times per week, and you want to hit it with the maximal amount of volume that you can recover from in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth. There are different ways you can organize it. For example:

3 full body workouts per week. (If you do compound lifts your workouts might be around an hour long.)
4 workouts: legs twice, upper body twice. (If you do compound lifts, maybe 45 minute workouts.)
6 workouts: legs twice, pushes twice, pulls twice. (Maybe 30 minute workouts.)

You could split it up even more – some guys train multiple times per day – it’s just that since there isn’t really an advantage to it we choose to go three times per week. (And there’s some evidence that points to hitting a muscle group three times per week to be slightly superior.)

The advantages to splitting up your workouts often comes when you want to do fewer big lifts and more itty bitty isolation lifts. If you’re targeting each muscle on its own it can take a long time to train – it’s effective, but not very efficient – so you might be going to the gym 6 days a week and training for over an hour each time … still without overtraining!

So if you dig training four times per week I’d stick with it 🙂

Robin

Thanks Shane,
for the detailed reply and encouragement. I really appreciate it. Alrighty, time to start experimenting and keeping track of future results/changes. Keep up the wonderful work!

Best Regards,
Robin

Sean

How does this workout routine sound to you?
Mon is chest and triceps
Tues is back and biceps
Weds is legs and shoulders
Thurs is rest day
Fri is chest and triceps
Sat is back and biceps
Sun is rest

Shane Duquette

There’s lots of flexibility when it comes to scheduling your workouts. I prefer going to the gym fewer times per week, personally, so I’d bundle them together. Instead of doing five short workouts per week with all of the body parts split up like that, I’d do 3 longer workouts per week where I hit each muscle group. That would give me the chance to hit each muscle group THREE times. The overall volume would still be the same (I’d still be doing the optimal amount of sets and reps for each muscle group) it’s just a different way of organizing them.

I would do presses, pulls, legs, rest, upper body, lower body. That way you hit each muscle group twice per week. If you wanted to grow your upper body much more rapidly than your lower body though you could do something similar to what you’re describing: presses, pulls, legs, rest, presses, pulls.

That would work especially well if you tossed some deadlifts on one of your pull days! Deadlifts would work your back brilliantly well and also bring in your legs 🙂

(I don’t know why shoulders are combined with legs. You’d be training your shoulders with both the presses and pulls, so in that case you’d be training them 3 days in a row, and 5 times per week total. That’d likely be so much volume that they’d grow more slowly, because they wouldn’t be able to recover properly. The frequency would also be above optimal, which would likely reduce growth.)

Does that help?

Robin

I’m german and arnold says ‘das ist genug für heute’ in english ‘it’s enough for today’ (: arnie knows how to train

Vincent

Hey, I wanna know the routine of the guy in the pictyre(If it’s the author, then wonderful!) The reason: I look very much alike the first picture. I would like to use (your) routine as a framework and basis of mine 🙂 Please reply,

Cheers

Shane Duquette

Hey Vincent, yeah, that’s me. Check the Bony to Beastly Program out. If you’d like, that would give you the full workout routine, everything you need to know about nutrition, we’d teach you all the lifts, and we’d coach you through the whole process 🙂

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