How to Supercharge your Ectomorph Workout

How to Supercharge your Training Program for Absolute Muscle Growth

Written by Marco Walker-Ng on April 30, 2012

There are a hundreds of different exercise routines that people try. My only question is: how is it working for you? If you aren’t getting the results you want and living the lifestyle you want to live, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach to training. People can spend years working their tushies to the bone—literally. They work so hard that their gluteal muscles erode from their pelvis and all that is left is bone. It’s happened to me, and let me tell you, it is not pretty!

You see my friend, working hard is essential, however, working hard on the wrong program will not get you the body you’re working so hard to get. Huh?

It takes hard and—equally important—smart work. Nowadays, I feel that this idea tends to get distorted; I know for me it was. Consider this: would you rather work for 3 hours at $100/h and earn a total of $300, or would you rather work 8 hours for $15/hour and earn $120? No brainer, right? So why do people think that hour after hour of inefficiently training in the gym is the solution?

I thought I was cool because I had this “go hard in the paint”, “no pain no gain”, “every rep to absolute failure”, “leave everything in the gym” mindset. I was going so hard no one could stop me. Not even myself.

For roughly 5 years I spent a huge portion of each day doing something training related. It literally took over my life. I still gained mass because I was eating like a hoss … but unfortunately my physique wasn’t that appealing due to my poor posture. Not only that, I felt like a giant band-aid. I had so many chronic injuries built up from years of pushing myself to limit that I didn’t remember what it felt like to be a normal human being. Apparently it is not normal to have to foam roll between every set of squats so your knees don’t feel like exploding. My workouts were very long and tiresome.

Several years later, thanks to working with and studying the works of some excellent trainers by the names of Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore, to name a few, I was finally able to realize (aka they explained to me) I didn’t need to push my body so hard physically. I learned how to better listen to my body and actually recover from workouts so I could actually improve in the long run.

See, If you don’t recover from your workouts you won’t get better.

I know, blasphemous right? That was really hard for me to do. I wanted to blast my muscle fibers until there was nothing left. That is how you build muscle right??? WRONG!

No, no seriously, you’re pulling my leg, you gotta be the hardest worker in the gym right?? WRONG!

It does take hard work and dedication, no doubt. However, the quality of that hard work is extremely important! Like the old saying goes, “you play how you practice”. If you practice sloppy, you play sloppy.

If your training sessions are always so hard that you get in the habit of lifting with sloppy technique, you won’t be hitting the right muscles, you won’t be growing in the right places, and you’ll also be more likely to injure yourself! If your recovery is sloppy, you won’t actually get better from your workouts. If your nutrition is wack, you won’t get jack…ed.

So how can you avoid these mistakes and “pimp your program”?

 

1. Focus on your technique and feeling the proper muscles working.

Who taught you how to lift weights? How do you know you’re lifting with correct form? If you have a hard time answering these questions, I would find someone who knows what they’re doing and have them teach you proper exercise technique. Make sure you feel the right muscles working when you’re lifting. For example, if you feel your lower back working a ton while deadlifting, something is not working properly! Fix it! Proper technique does a couple key things.

  1. It keeps your joints and muscles healthy, which will keep you lifting weights pain free and to your maximum capability.
  2. It allows you to “hypertrophize” the correct muscle groups. (Big muscles, baby!)
  3. It will improve your posture – which makes you look much more badass than having posture which is less good.

Action step: do these dynamic flexibility warm-ups before your workout. They’re designed to help you activate the right muscles while you lift, and they’ll give you a chance to practice form before loading up with weights. After doing these you’ll be lifting better than ever.

2. Train less, get paid more

I believe this is also very applicable to life, but with training, it means focusing on exercises that give you the most return on your investment. For example compound exercises are exercises that work a bunch of different muscle groups while also allowing you to use a lot of weight. The heavier weights help stimulate the release of anabolic hormones like Testosterone and growth hormone. Now if you could stick to 5 exercises and get all your muscle from those, wouldn’t that be much easier than doing 15 exercises? Would you be able to do more in your life if you only had to go to the gym 3-4 times a week instead of 5-7? If you focus on doing and developing your skills at compound exercises, you will essentially kill a flock of geese with four stones.

Add these exercises to the beginning of your training plan: the squat, deadlift, chin up, bench press and military press. I’ve put them in order of importance.  If you get stronger at these lifts your body will have no choice but to get jacked. Adding two of these exercises to the beginning of each workout is the best way to supercharge your training plan.

Limit yourself to 7 exercises per workout. If you haven’t finished after an hour and a half (including warm-up)—leave. If that means you don’t get to do your bicep curls or calf raises so be it.

3. Make sure you’re recovering from your training sessions.

This is probably the hardest one to get over, but if you do it you won’t be disappointed. Pinky Promise. Yes, you can spend more time playing outside in the park, hanging out with friends and maybe even some Call of Duty. However, if you’re anything like me, COD is anything but relaxing—that sh*t is intense!

It will be hard to not train every single day if you’re used to going every day. Training three times a week might sound really weird to some people. However, training less will allow you to actually recover and show up to your next session stronger, so you can push harder and make more muscle. If you’re always sore there’s a problem! How do you know if you’re recovering properly? That is tough to say and this topic is incredibly huge. I’m not going to get into that here.

That being said if I could say one thing it would be to limit your training sessions to 3-4 days a week, with a day or two of “active rest” in between. Active rest is simply doing something easy to get your heart rate up and blood flowing into your muscles to help them recover: walking, swimming, jogging, basketball, mobility exercises, those dynamic stretches up above, foam rolling, etc.

So next time you plan your workouts, take a second to see if you’re doing these three things. If you actually put these to the test with some proper nutrition, you’ll be very pleased!

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So, what'd you think? 13 responses below.

John

Hey dudes,

I consider myself to have a solid form at least on the majority of the exercises I perform, including the deadlift. Every time I deadlift, I pay attention to the position of my feet, back, knees, etc.

But when you said, “For example, if you feel your lower back working a ton while deadlifting, something is not working properly! Fix it!” you actually meant it? I mean, deads aren’t supposed to work your lower back?

I feel my lower back when deadlifting more than any other muscle group, and I don’t even pull from the floor to avoid bending my back (slightly bellow my knees). Am I doing something wrong?

Shane Duquette

Hey John hehe yeah we did mean it.

Yes, you probably are doing something wrong. That’s not the end of the world – nobody rocks a flawless deadlift their first time – but continuing to load up the lift without addressing the problem could lead to trouble down the road.

It could be that your spine isn’t neutral, but it sounds like you’ve already thought of that.

It could also be that your back is too horizontal. A deadlift has your back usually at around 45*. That involves dropping your hips pretty low though, which many guys don’t realize they aren’t doing, as they can’t see themselves doing it. It’s very common to see people deadlifting with a near horizontal back.

Horizontal – lots of stress on the back:
http://www.muscleandfitness.com/sites/muscleandfitness.com/files/images/deadlift_main.jpg

Correct:
http://beingpeterpan.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/wide-grip-deadlift.jpg

Another common cause, and one much more difficult to explain, is that your hip hinge isn’t great. Most people know not to round their back … but forget not to round it the other way:
http://www.bodytribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/deadlift-top-down-3-921×1024.jpg

It’s a tough lift to master so make sure to spend your time building up your skills and making it feel really good before you start worrying about going really heavy.

Let me know if that helps at all!

If that’s confusing … take a video with your iPhone, upload it to YouTube, and email the link to us@bonytobeastly.com

I’d be glad to take a look at it for ya!

John

Hey Shane,

I injured my back (nothing to do with the deadlift hehe) and haven’t been in the gym for a while. Next week I’ll be doing some deads and I’ll for sure let you know how it went!

Shane Duquette

If you’ve got pre-existing back injuries be sure to get clearance from your doc / physio before doing lifts like the deadlift, where a relatively healthy back is assumed!

Good luck man 🙂

John

Hahaha, I’m cool, thanks for noting! Actually, I fell and couldn’t move thaat well for quite a while. But I’m 100% now. I actually tried to deadlift today.

And today I saw what you mean there. Instead of trying moving my back backwards, the focus on the motion should be lifting your hips up and forward. Am I right?

While that didn’t “hurt” my back, it made the movement waaaay more difficult. I almost fell trying to “pull” the bar backwards (while moving the hips forward). Also, the bar kept hitting my knee and that freaking hurts!

I wish I could send you guys a video to show this thing better, but I actually broke my phone and I’m afraid I won’t be able to record anything for a while…

Shane Duquette

I’d practice it with light weights until you get the form smooth. If you use light enough weights, you might even be able to set up sideways in front of a mirror so you can get an idea of what things are looking like.

(Don’t do that with anything resembling a heavy weight or you might tweak something!)

Darryl

so what is the Golden lift?

Shane Duquette

Definitely the big compound ones like the squat and deadlift. Squat movements, for example, work over 200 muscles.

As for my favourite though … I really love the bench press.

Dean W

Hey Guys
Firstly you have an amazing website, Being an Ecto there isn’t much info as far as info on the web out there for us.

If your lifting heavy 3 times per week with big compound movements wouldn’t you be sore from workout 1, then by the time workout 2 comes along your muscles would still be essentially sore and not recovered in time for the next workout.
Eg. If i do barbell squats on a monday (3 sets of 10,10,7) I’m bloody sore for 3 days after.
Is it ok to hit them again when they are still sore?
I always thought that muscles needed to recover before you could hit them again.

I used squats as an example because I’m having trouble putting size on my legs.
My weight is currently 151 lbs from 138 lbs
My current max squat (strict form) is 200 lbs for 6 reps
My current max deadlift (strict) is 240 lbs for 6
I train deadlifts on sunday and squats on thursday and I feel strong in my legs but no growth.

Any help would be awesomely appreciated

D

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words, Dean – really glad you’re liking it!

If you were doing an intense leg day on Monday, another intense leg day on Wednesday and a third on Friday … not only might you be very sore, you’d also probably be overstraining. That’s not what we’re recommending though. We’re recommending take a leg day, pull day and press day … and jumbling them all up so that each day is 1/3 of each. That means you’re still doing the same total weekly amount of leg work, chest work, back work, arm work, core work, etc … but you’re stimulating the muscles more often.

Studies are finding this approach superior, since the volume is still optimized but the frequency is improved.

You would need to make sure that you’re recovering in time for each subsequent workout though, yes. We don’t train quite to failure, our volume on each day is a little lower, we’re excellent at eating in a way that has us recovering very heartily, etc. The whole system is designed to support the full body workouts, you know?

If you’re doing just three sets of barbell squats on Monday though, you could definitely do another three sets of squats on Wednesday and another three on Friday! We only do barbell back squats once a week (we train the legs in other ways on the other days) but you could do it if you wanted. That would help you grow your legs more quickly as well, since right now your leg volume is seemingly very low – far under the optimal amount! I would just say stay a tiny little bit further away from failure. And give your body a couple weeks to adapt to the new style of training. You may indeed find yourself very sore for the first little bit, just because you aren’t used to it.

I hope that helps! And good luck man. I too have ridiculously skinny legs by default, so those are an area I need to pay special attention to as well 😛

Lucas

Hey guys,

I’m a 23 years old 130 pounds guy and I’m coming back to the gym after 6 months out. I have already worked out twice, first time I did for 4 months, got some 20 pounds without following any course, just doing what the teachers at the gym told me to ( not much weight, 10 reps per set) and eating a lot. Next time I came back after 4 months out, I had lost al I had gained and heard that making 8 reps sets helped gaining weight faster, then after 6 months working out I didn’t gain as much weight as before and couldn’t increase the volume I was training with anymore, I got frustrated and stopped.
Now, 6 months after that, I decided to go back to the gym and follow the awesome advice on this blog.
If I understood it correctly, I should go to the gym 3 times a week, say Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, each day do the same 7 exercises (which would be the squat, deadlift, chin up, bench press and military press, plus other two, please correct me if I’m wrong). However, don’t know how to distribute the exercises on short sets with more weight for building mass and long sets with less weight for strenght. Should I do long sets and short sets on separate weeks or days or mix them on the same day( in this case, should I do first the long, lighter or short, heavier sets ?) ?
Thanks for the help 😀

Shane Duquette

Hey Lucas,

Congrats on the progress you’ve made! Sounds like you’ve already had a lot of success, even if you’ve temporarily moved backwards a bit. I think you’ll find that rebuilding muscle, when done properly, is a breeze compared to building muscle for the first time. A lot of the improvements you make to your body when building muscle are permanent, even if your muscles deflate 🙂

Stoked to hear you’re enjoying the website and learning a lot!

You could take those exercises and perform them all three times per week, yeah. That would be a simple way to do full body workouts. We take a slightly different approach, performing each movement pattern each workout, even if the exercises aren’t quite the same. For example, on Monday we may do some 10 rep sets Romanian deadlifts, on Wednesday some sets of higher rep swings, on Friday some 3 rep deadlifts. We also add in some assistance exercises for the arms, shoulders, chest, etc., or some assistance exercises to better master the big lifts. This allows us to use a lot of different lifts that offer a lot of unique advantages, and there’s a large body of evidence that suggests that the best muscle and strength gains are seen with a wider variety of complementary lifts for each muscle group.

You don’t have to be as fancy as that though. What you’re suggesting sounds great. You could do some heavy sets to start the day off—maybe two big compound exercises. You could some moderately heavy sets afterwards—maybe another two compound lifts. And then maybe a couple lighter accessory lifts. I’d aim to hit every major muscle group each workout.

And if you ever want to try a professionally programmed lifting routine you’d love the Bony to Beastly program! You sound like a guy who would get a lot out of it 🙂

I hope that helps, and good luck!

Lucas

Beastly advice, Shane!
Thanks 😀

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