Should Ectomorphs do Cardio?

Written by Shane Duquette on October 2, 2012

(Updated March 2015) Weightlifting, training for a triathlon and chugging along on your mum’s treadmill will all result in your body adapting to the given training stimulus. You’ll create more blood vessels, develop more mitochondria in your cells, trigger gene expression and transform your body right down to a molecular level. You’ll become better at what you’re training to do and collect on all the corollary benefits: health, fitness, energy, longevity, intelligence, happiness, calmness, etc. You’ll also spend more of your life feeling awesome, since exercise affects your neurotransmitters and releases endorphins.

So exercise in general is great. However, not all exercise is equally great. Different types of exercises accomplish different goals. Cardio and endurance training is mostly an oxygen delivery thing—more blood vessels, more red blood cells, more blood, etc—whereas strength training is mostly a muscle thing—more muscle fibres, thicker muscles fibres, more fluid in your muscle fibres, etc.

Both types of adaptations are incredibly good for your health. Weightlifting keeps you young, spry, strong, resistant to injury, lean, intelligent, focused. Cardio keeps you energetic, lively, calm, happy and strong-hearted.

So for optimal health you need to be both strong and fit.

The trouble is that mixing strength training and cardio together means that your body will be trying to adapt in at least two separate ways. Some people think that’s good, some people think that’s bad.

Things get more confusing still when you’re an ectomorph—naturally thin and already burning a ton of calories just by reading this blog post. That last thing you want to do is burn calories by jogging around town, since that will mean you need to eat even more. Ain’t nobody got time for that. (Kidding, everyone in the world has time for that except for us.)

Anyway, that raises the age-old question: should ectomorphs do cardio?

The Basics of Cardio and Strength Training

Cardio. Cardio stands for cardiorespiratory training, where the goal is to maintain an elevated heart rate using exercise. It’s a catch all term for activities designed to strengthen your heart and lungs—ellipticals, running, rowing, p90x, biking, aerobics, Richard Simmons, etc. Many people think that cardio is synonymous with fitness, and that’s why many people do it—because they want to be healthy.

It’s also kind of cool. I mean, most people know that cardio isn’t really designed to make you look better, so it gets cred for being the non-narcissistic and wholesome form of exercise. It can make many people look better in the sense that it can help your overweight person get back down to a healthy bodyfat percentage, but that isn’t really the main concern for most of us naturally skinny (or skinny-fat) guys who aren’t really trying to get smaller, per se.

Not all of us skinny guys are particularly inclined to lift weights though, and not all of us ectomorphs are looking to build up big burly biceps. In fact, many of us would rather stick to our natural strengths–endurance stuff—rather than take up a sport where our prowess is determined by the size and strength of our muscles. If that sounds like you, cardio is a good way to get some health and lifestyle benefits without needing to lift heavy.

Strength Training. Strength training (anaerobic training) is meant to build up muscle size and strength, bone density and tendon strength, as well as improve coordination, speed, power balance, stability and mobility. It will make you bigger, stronger and more powerful. This is the dream for a lot of us skinny guys.

That’s not where the benefit stops though. Weightlifting improves insulin sensitivity, as does having more muscle mass. (studystudy) This makes being lean and mean a breeze, since it helps shuttle the calories you eat into muscle instead of fat. Lifting heavy weights also reduces anxiety, counteracts the effects of aging, and reduces your risk of dying from, well, pretty much everything. (study, studystudy, study)

If you’ve tried lifting weights, you may also have noticed that your heart rate rises… meaning theres’s at least a bit of a cardiovascular fitness component to it too. This is where things get really interesting, and a little controversial.

Does Weightlifting Count as Cardio?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if weightlifting didn’t just made you stronger, it also made you fitter? I’ve got good news. It does.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science (study) evaluated a bodybuilding workout by cardio standards. They measured the heart rate of 16 young and healthy people while doing a fairly typical bodybuilding weightlifting workout: bench presses, lat pulldowns, curls, leg presses, etc. Three sets of around ten reps per exercise. Around 2.5 hours of weightlifting per week.

They found that about half of the time they spent weightlifting was spent with the ideal heart rate for improving cardiovascular health and fitness. For absolute optimal health, the World Health Organization recommends doing cardio for about 2.5 hours per week, so the weightlifting workouts provided about half of that.

So yes, weightlifting—even typical bodybuilding bro style—does indeed count as some of your cardio.

To make that better still, you could structure your weightlifting workouts in a way that kept your heart rate higher for a little longer. You can dot his by using supersets/circuits. If you’ve ever done a heavy set of deadlifts followed by a heavy set of chin-ups you already know what I mean. That’ll jack your heart rate up like no other and have you sleeping like a baby at night. Best of all, since your individual muscle groups are getting plenty of rest, you’ll be able to lift heavy enough to optimize muscle growth (and the other benefits of heavy lifting).

In our Bony to Beastly Program we lift for three hours per week, and our workouts are made up of pairs of compound exercises performed one after another. This builds muscle optimally well, and I suspect this would also give you all three hours of your weekly cardio requirements for optimal health.

We don’t officially program any cardio in addition to our workouts, but our guys are free to do play sports and whatnot as they wish.

Why is Cardio the Default Form of Exercise for Health & Fitness?

The Cardio Craze. Apparently after the first and second World Wars, while Russia and parts of Europe continued to value strength, the West became fascinated with aerobic fitness. It became a media craze that lasted for decades and worked its way into our culture on a deep level. It’s not that strength training isn’t as fitness friendly as aerobics, it just wasn’t swept up in the marketing craze that aerobics was.

Instead of strength and power, endurance became associated with physical prowess and fitness. Running a marathon was the benchmark of fitness, whereas it could just as easily have been deadlifting 400 pounds. One isn’t necessarily healthier than the other after all, they’re just different. Strength training makes you big, lean and healthy, and gives you excellent muscular size, speed, strength and power. Cardio and aerobics training makes you svelte, light and healthy, and gives you excellent muscular endurance and oxygen delivery. Both are valid forms of exercise with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses.

Are there health downsides to cardio or weightlifting? Sure, some. Plodding along on treadmills, concrete and asphalt can be hard on your feet, the cartilage in your knees, and your joints. That repeated impact can also be very hard on people with back injuries. With weightlifting, some guys wind up with cranky shoulders from bench pressing poorly, and some guys have sore backs for weeks after reckless deadlifting.

Most of those risks can be minimized by doing things properly. Learning how to run correctly (which is actually very difficult) and wearing proper footwear will solve most of the downsides of jogging. The same is true with most types of cardio and aerobics.Understanding the fundamentals of good lifting will solve most of the downsides of strength training, and serious injuries associated with weightlifting are surprisingly rare to begin with. Weightlifting results in eleven times fewer injuries than playing soccer, for example (study), and the most common injury is dropping a weight on your foot—hardly the sort of injury to have nightmares about.

In fact, injuries are even more common in people who don’t lift weights. Stronger men are less susceptible to injury both in and out of the gym because we learn and practice proper movement patterns, develop good postural alignment, gradually develop denser bones and build up tons of protective muscle to stabilize our spine and joints. Having strong spinal erectors, for example, is an excellent way to safeguard your back against injury—especially for us longly spined ectomorphs. Similarly, having a strong pair of glutes reduces the risk of lower back injuries (study).

So, when done properly, weightlifting should make you healthier and reduce your risk of injury. When you lift a couch or rev up your lawnmower you’ll be densely boned, strongly tendoned, and cozily protected underneath a thick layer of muscle.

Losing Fat: Cardio vs Weightlifting

Exercise in general is a great tool when trying to lose fat. You can lose fat just through solid nutrition, sure, but adding in exercise can allow you to burn fat faster, as you’ll be burning more calories.

… Since we’re a community of naturally thin guys, we rarely encounter people who struggle with being overweight or obese. Eating too much isn’t really something we struggle with 😉

We do get guys interested in fat loss though. We get a lot of skinny-fat guys, some guys come to us after having inadvertently bulked themselves into some fat, and some naturally thin guys want to play to their strengths and rock even lower body fat percentages. So losing fat certainly deserves a bit of attention. (Here’s our article on that.)

The problem is that after perusing some pop culture mags, we often think adding in jogging, HIIT  or cardio on top of our strength training is the best way to lose fat. That isn’t necessarily true, and that whole “eat less and move more” stuff isn’t advice meant for guys like us to begin with. Let’s take a step back for a second. To effectively lose weight all you need to do is get into an energy deficit. There are two ways to do this: consume fewer calories or burn more calories.

The benefit of cardio is that it burns calories without increasing your appetite. It would be fairly using for losing fat if you went and burned off a bunch of calories and then came home and ate extra calories to make up for it. But it doesn’t always work that way. People exercise and burn calories, but oftentimes their appetite doesn’t go up by the same amount. (study, study) Since appetite is such a huge struggle for most people, that’s a pretty huge deal—you can cardio yourself into a calorie deficit. (Us skinny dudes do fine by simply eating less.)

Exercise can also very slightly raise your resting metabolism. Since your metabolism is what’s steadily burning calories all day long, it plays a huge role in how quickly you can burn fat. The effect that exercise of any kind has on your metabolism isn’t all that significant though, and us ectomorphs tend to have impressively high metabolisms by default… so we don’t really need to emphasize making it even higher. As far as metabolism goes though, a good rule of thumb is that the more joints and muscle groups involved the better, and the heavier you go the better. (The more muscle mass you can get doing intense amounts of work the better.) So while cardio will increase your resting metabolism by a bit, heavy squats, deadlifts, presses and chins would boost it even higher. A single 30 minute full-body strength training session will increase your metabolism for 38 hours (study).

Your metabolism is also affected by the amount of muscle you have on your body, but again the effect there is surprisingly small. Each pound of muscle burns about 6 calories per day at rest, so adding twenty pounds of muscle to your frame would burn an extra 120 calories per day. That’s a glass of milk, or four prunes, or a small mouthful of peanuts. Nothing to write home about.

(While that’s bad news when trying to burn fat, that’s great news for those of us worried about having to eat more to fuel our ever more muscular bodies. Building muscle doesn’t increase how much you need to eat by all that much.)

So there’s the calorie deficit part of fat loss, which usually isn’t very difficult for us. That’s the part that gets your weight moving down. Weight loss, of course, isn’t synonymous with fat loss.

For guys like us, it’s the muscle maintenance part that’s the tricky part. When losing weight our bodies can get energy from stored fat or by breaking down muscle mass. So for us skinny guys who also care about how much muscle we have, driving ourselves into a calorie deficit via cardio can be counterproductive, as it doesn’t protect us against muscle loss. A bigger calorie deficit via cardio will just increase the chances of us shedding muscle along with the fat. That’s where strength training comes in.

Let’s look at a study.

First, the simplest option: dieting. The participants who ate at a controlled calorie deficit dropped 21.1 pounds over 3 months. 14.6 of that was fat and 6.5 pounds of that was muscle. That’s quite lot of muscle loss!

Now let’s look at option #2: aerobic training (i.e. cardio). This group ate at a controlled calorie deficit and added in 3 weekly hours of endurance training. They dropped 20.1 pounds.  Not quite as big a number as the dieting group, but 15.6 pounds of that was fat, so it wasn’t quite as good for weight loss, but slightly better for fat loss. These guys ‘only’ lost 4.5 pounds of muscle. That’s pretty good for your average person just trying to get ‘smaller’. Getting ‘smaller’ is every skinny guy’s worst fear though. When trying to lose fat we aren’t trying to get smaller, we’re trying to get leaner. Hell, when I’m trying to lose fat I’d rather come out bigger.

Option #3: anaerobic training (i.e. strength training). If you add in 3 weekly hours of strength training you’re up to 21.6 pounds of weight lost—the most impressive yet. The really impressive part though is that 21.1 pounds of that was fat! That’s five more pounds of fat loss than the cardio group, and only 0.5 pounds of muscle was lost. Visually you can imagine how dramatic a change that would make to someone’s physique, not to mention they’d come out ripped and muscular, not simply smaller.

Now, I should point out two things:

  1. The strength training group was also doing aerobics. The cardio-centric work might have accounted for around one pound of that fat loss. (As you can see in option #2, cardio added in about an extra pound of fat loss compared with just dieting.) It’s safe to assume that removing the cardio would have still resulted in by far the most fat loss, and other studies support that conclusion.
  2. The diet wasn’t optimal. As a beginner it’s quite possible to build muscle while losing fat, especially if you’re starting off 20+ pounds overweight or relatively under-muscled (as almost all of us ectomorphs are). Hell if you’re fat, skinny or skinny-fat you can expect much better results than this as far as muscle is concerned.

To put that into perspective, I took a couple of my old progress shots and faked up a “weight loss” before and after, which is similar to what a skinny or skinny-fat ectomorph would accomplish through dieting + cardio (or just dieting). My posture is slightly worse in the after shot, which can’t really be helped, since it was taken when my posture was still very much a work in progress.

Here’s what a month of weight loss might look like:

Cardio for skinny guys and ectomorphs - weight loss

And here’s weight loss consistent with option #3: strength training (3 hours per week) and cardio (30 minutes per week). Over 4 weeks I dropped from 172 lbs to 162 lbs. As I lost fat it chiselled out the muscle underneath, making my chest look a whole lot bigger. I also improved my posture.Cardio for skinny guys and ectomorphs - fat loss

So if you’re trying to lose fat should you run? If you’re comparing it to couch-riding, then yes. If lifting weights is an option though, then you’ll see much much greater results there.

If you have the time and energy for both, feel free to do both! Running will burn extra calories allowing you to eat a little more and still get/stay lean. You could also eat a little less, which us ectomorphs are often rather good at. Recently I’ve been researching and experimenting with appetite for an upcoming article (update: article here), and when it came time to trim back down after months of overeating, I lost 20 pounds of fat just by continuing on with my same ol’ Bony to Beastly weightlifting plan and combining it with a calorie deficit.

Just lifting, no cardio:

Cardio for skinny guys and ectomorphs - no cardio


Muscle and Strength: Cardio vs Weightlifting

Weightlifting is traditionally geared at building up muscle size and strength, and it does it extremely well. It’s an incredibly effective way to build up muscle mass (even for us skinny guys). Cardio is designed to improve your cardiorespiratory system, so it’s not really doing much in the muscle-building department. Training for endurance can produce small muscles gains in extreme beginners, but it caps out very early. Even bodyweight strength training and weightlifty aerobics programs like p90x cap out very early on the muscle front, which makes sense – that’s just not what they’re designed for.

So if you’re training to build big strong muscles while training to develop your cardiorespiratory system (or muscular endurance) you’re aiming at two opposite ends of the fitness spectrum at once: being big, fast, explosive and strong vs being able to lithely and steadily chug along for miles.

If you’re trying to build muscle efficiently you pretty much need to lift weights, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do cardio as well. The downside is that you risk run into a certain degree of training ‘interference’. The upside is that you’ll still make pretty substantial progress towards both goals. Ectomorphs often love running, for example, since they find they’re well suited to it naturally, and there’s no need to stop. We have lots of guys who love to run, play sports, do martial arts, etc. come into our program, and they get kickass results.

In fact, in some ways it may even help.

Some studies show that your strength, speed, power and size gains would be reduced by only 20-30% if you add in heavy endurance training to your strength training. (Study.) Similarly if you add in strength training to your endurance training it would take you longer to become a master marathoner. The effects are fairly proportional, so the more running you do the slower you’ll build strength, speed, power and size. In return for those sacrifices you’ll build endurance though, so if endurance is key for what you do then it’s certainly valid to train both simultaneously.

If you’re relatively out of shape then to a certain extent both types of training can help with both. As a classic ectomorph just starting out, say, you’d build a small amount of strength by doing aerobic work, and you’d build a small amount of endurance by strength training. I noticed this quite a bit when I first started. See, despite my long lanky limbs I was a crap jogger … until I started building up my strength. After a few months of strength training I found I could all of a sudden jog pretty effortlessly—without ever having trained my endurance. Were I trying to become a jogger though, I would have improved my ability to jog much more quickly had I trained by jogging.

Most people aren’t trying to train for a marathon while simultaneously trying to build muscle. It happens, but it’s relatively rare. Adding modest amounts of cardio to a muscle-building program is very different. For example, 15-30 minutes of cardio once or twice a week on top of a heavy weightlifting routine wouldn’t be significant enough endurance training to result in any interference at all. In fact, strategically adding in a bit of cardio, depending on what type of cardio you do, can sometimes accelerate results. One recent meta-analysis looking into concurrent training (strength training + endurance training) found that while lots of jogging reduced strength and hypertrophy, small amounts of biking actually increased it. (study)

There are other benefits too. Improving your cardiovascular fitness will allow you to recover better between lifting sets, and recover better between workouts. If you lift in a way that improves your cardio, this may be enough, but for the very unfit, or for people who prefer lifting in a powerlifting sort of style (just a few reps per set, several minutes of rest between sets), doing extra cardio carries benefits there.

With us ectomorphs though, since cardio burns calories without increasing our appetite, we’re often best leaving it out unless we love it. It’s not bad, but it means we need to eat even more, and eating enough to build muscle is often challenging enough for us already (although a big emphasis in our program is clever eating strategies to make that easier).

We’re often quite insulin sensitive and rocking rather high metabolisms anyway, so with a good muscle-building program in place it’s not like we’re at risk of gaining much fat with or without cardio. We tend to be able to build muscle pretty effectively and leanly with or without cardio added in (even if you think you’re skinny-fat).

So cardio can be worked into a muscle-building program, but you’d need be mindful of the type of cardio you do and the amount of cardio you do. If your goal is building muscle then you’ll see better results if you emphasize building muscle.

Aesthetics: Cardio vs Weightlifting

Cardio isn’t really something a non-overweight person would do to improve how they look. Cardio won’t make you significantly more muscular or less fat, so it won’t really make you look any better. It’s really only an aesthetics tool for people struggling to lose weight. (Weightlifting would work well for that too, and also keep more muscle around – but for many overweight guys maintaining muscle isn’t really that big of a deal.)

As guys who are naturally thin and have no trouble with overeating, running will often take us further away from our aesthetic goals. We’re much better off pursuing weightlifting, as that’s a style of training designed specifically to make us bigger and stronger as efficiently as possible. There are subsets of weightlifting designed specifically to make you look better, too (namely bodybuilding). So as far as looking better goes it’s no contest really: weightlifting for the win.

Athletics: Cardio vs Weightlifting

This is highly individualized and obviously depends on your sport. Generally speaking training with heavy weights gives you speed and power, while aerobics/jogging gives you endurance. Since most sports involve bursts of speed followed by lower intensity periods (e.g. soccer, basketball, football, frisbee, martial arts, etc) steady state cardio isn’t necessarily the best way to train for it, and thus the cardio/conditioning part of their training typically involves some form of cardio intervals instead. Oftentimes you’ll see a mix of cardio and weightlifting when it comes to athletics.


Running for Running

Humans are incredible endurance running machines. We’ve evolved shorter toes than our ape-like brothers, allowing us to run more easily; we’ve lost most of our body hair, giving us an extremely efficient cooling system (sweating); we’ve got two legs, which is slower but more energy efficient than four; and we’ve got a ton of slow twitch muscle fibres compared with many animals, allowing us to run for miles and miles. As ectomorphs this is even more true, as we often have tons of slow-twitch muscle fibres. With a little training we can be running rock stars.

Running is something we’re really good at as a species, and with a little bit of training we make truly incredible distance runners. Not to mention it  improves our cardiovascular health, gets endorphins flowing and can give us a runner’s high. (Jared, 2010, after some sprint intervals outside.)

It’s no surprise that there are so many popular sports for endurance runners: marathons, triathlons, decathlons, ultrathons, etc.

So, should ectomorphs do cardio?

It may sound like I have a bias in favour of lifting weights, and I have to admit that I’ve grown to love it, so perhaps I do … but I chose this type of exercise because it was the type of exercise that lined up with my goals, not because I was particularly inclined to lift weights. In fact, nothing scared me more than going to a gym. At 6’2 and 130 pounds even lifting weights in private was pretty intimidating. I would have much preferred jogging around the block or popping in a p90x DVD because, as a skinny guy, I would have felt much more comfortable doing it.

What endurance training excels at is producing adaptations that make you better at endurance activities. If you love running and your goal is to be a kick-ass marathoner then it’s a no-brainer: you should definitely be running. Just like you shouldn’t be playing the drums with the goal of building up your biceps though, you shouldn’t be jogging because of its supremacy in the muscle-building, health, fitness, aesthetics or fat-burning spheres.

What heavy weightlifting excels at is building muscle size, strength, speed and power. It’s also great for making you look better, because it fixes up your postural alignment and broadens your shoulders. And it’s key when it comes to getting lean, since it causes your body to burn fat for energy instead of muscle.

I’d recommend choosing the type of exercise you do based on your goals. Bonus points if you find time in your schedule to do a bit of both, too.

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So, what'd you think? 59 responses below.

Joram Oudenaarde

Great article as usual! 🙂

I’ve been doing a combination (I fínally found the motivation to start moving again) of the two.

A 10 minute cardio bike ride at the gym, primarily because that’s about the only thing that actually makes me sweat, since working out itself makes me warm but never sweaty 🙂

After that it’s about a 45 minute workout as intense as I can handle (do you guys get dizzy/nauseated at some point as well?).

I’ve noticed in the past when I was working out that biking my butt of didn’t really do much at-all. But it does, at least in my head, help with finding some extra energy to do that extra set during the actual workout 🙂

Shane Duquette

Thanks man, glad you enjoyed it!

Props for getting back into it. Until it becomes a habit it can be really hard to stick with this stuff.

I’m with you—working up a sweat can be fun. Good to see you’re working some variety into your program! Sounds like a good way to warm up and get excited to train.

Oh man ever since I started doing Marco’s workouts with supersets I find I get sweaty pretty easily. Doing a set of 300lb deadlifts followed by a weighted chin-up has me sweating like crazy.

… and those deadlifts can make me a little dizzy. if I push myself really hard—especially when I’m not well rested and well fed. I haven’t felt nauseated from training since my first month of heavy lifting, but the deadlifts were the culprits then too.


Dude how do you not sweat when you workout?! I’m pouring buckets and have to bring a towel to the gym so I won’t slip off the benches haha.

Shane Duquette



Thank goodness for this article. I’ve always been guilty for not running. I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening.

I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat.

Shane Duquette

Right on George. If you enjoy biking then a stationary bike could help. If your goal is to lose fat be sure to get in a calorie deficit! With or without the bike, that’s what matters most when it comes to losing fat.

Good luck!


Running or any other slower paced cardio in a limited version (10, 15, 20, 30 min), following weight training is good for blood circulation to clear the lactic acid buildup from infected muscles.
Personally, I recover much quicker with two 30 min cardios, as opposed to just doing nothing. This is 2 vs 5 to 7 days in regeneration process.
And thats the only thing, I use it for. And of course pre-workout warmup.
Would rather use a rower sometimes though.

Shane Duquette

Right on. I’ve heard Marco recommend that to some people as well, to help with recovery—especially guys who are in the habit of training already and enjoy doing it more frequently than 3x per week.

We actually don’t do cardio to warm up, although that’s certainly a good option. We do dynamic stretches to prime our muscles and get into solid movement patterns, followed by a couple light sets of our first pair of exercises, to practice our form and get the blood flowing in the right places.

Luke Renia

Thank goodness for this article. I’ve always been guilty for not running. I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening.

I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat.

Shane Duquette

I’d say if you’re already weight training and hitting a punching bag you’d have better luck zapping that stomach fat through nutrition. Lower the calories, keep that protein intake high!


Great post again Shane! When I’ve reached my weight goals I’ll be doing more sprint intervals so I can get back to playing football (soccer). I’d love to know what you think of Crossfit?

Shane Duquette

That’s a tough question, as I’ve never tried it. I would say it’s a decent system for fit and athletic guys with a LOT of experience lifting weights already. You’d need great posture, great form, and great core strength to do any of those exercises safely, let alone get decent results out of them.

Some of the stuff they do is also pretty strange, like the high rep olympic lifts. I can’t really see any justification for that. They’re explosive exercises designed to train power, not endurance. Even for guys with years of experience practicing the lifts, it would still be quite dangerous and rather pointless. (I don’t personally know much about olympic lifts — I’m just regurgitating Mike Boyle here, and that guy’s a legend.)

There are plenty of people who come out of Crossfit quite fit though, so to each their own 🙂

I also dig their work ethic. Those guys train hard and don’t make excuses.

Shane Duquette

Right on man. No need to halt the sprint intervals in order to gain weight—those things are great. They aren’t required, but you’ll certainly come out a beast!


Really enjoyed reading this article, was actually how i came across your wonderful site! I was a long distance runner back in high school but that was just for the extra credits (and i was good at it :P) however, its no longer something i do.

Iv been devouring your articles whenever i am procrastinating as i have exams at the moment haha! I have a question though as i am looking to join though my question may seem a bit different to the guys around here.

I have never been in the gym before, your usual skinny fellah weighing in at 112 pounds and 5’5 in height. My question here is that if i gain as much muscle as is possible with a great gym program and an even better diet, in your opinion/expertise do you think i will look a bit disproportionate as i am only 5’5 ?

That is my main concern with bulking up is that it might look weird on me. Hpe you understand what i mean! I have no doubt about my dedication and discipline, but this is concern is on my mind. Finish my exams in a week and i want to get a gym membership on the same day.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Shane Duquette

Hahaha I remember during exams was when I surprisingly managed to get a lot of guitar practice in 😉

That’s a good question. You may not need to gain, say, 30 pounds, but if you’re a thin guy I think becoming stronger and more muscular, well, it has a positive effect on everyone. You’d probably even see it in your face.

I know what you’re saying though—I know some 5’5 guys that look very muscular at around 150. I’ve always thought it looked cool, but I can see why you’d prefer a slightly slimmer look.

You can always stop when you feel you’ve reached the level of muscularity that you want. There’s a ton of good stuff to do at that point too. Marco reached his goal size a while back and now most of his goals have to do with strength, mobility and athletics.


Ah yes thanks Shane, should have figured (haha) that i can stop gaining when i don’t feel right about my size!

Just want to add that i believe you have a very impressive blog, brilliant!


The progress you made is extraordinary!
I was wondering what exactly you did to lose pure fat instead of muscles as well so that the abs and other muscle groups were more visible… Is it with the help of HIIT training on an exercice bike/running, or just a good diet (with protein shakes?)?

Shane Duquette

Heavy weight lifting does a fantastic job of preserving muscle mass even in a pretty intense calorie deficit. To drop the fat I was eating well, doing 3 hour-long full body training sessions per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and running up and down the stairs of our apartment building for 15 minutes twice per week (Tuesday and Thursday).

… nowadays when I lose fat I drop the stair-running. Really not a fun way to spend 15 minutes.


So it sounds like the best way still is to lift as much as you can do and not to do as many reps as possible with low weights?

You must have spend a lot of time on doing this all. Unfortunately I do not have that much time because of my superior school education… I might be able to do a full-body workout twice a week and run in between those two days.

I still have a few questions if you don’t mind:
1) How many reps did you do per set and how many sets per excercice and muscle group?
2) Is it better to keep time between sets as low as possible to optimize the fat burning?
3) Would you recommend rice, pasta and fruits to eat?

Shane Duquette

It wasn’t very time intensive at all! We had just just graduated from university and were investing all of our time into building up our design business. We spent maybe 3 hours a week training at the university gym.

1. 5-10 reps. 3-5 sets. More volume is great for losing weight, as it’ll result in a bigger boost to your metabolism. How much you can handle depends a lot on your fitness levels and how well you recover.

2. Yep! Nowadays I recommend doing supersets/circuits to keep the time between sets low. I wasn’t doing that at the time, though.

3. Not very much! Us ectomorphs handle carbs well, but generally when dieting you don’t want to be eating all that much starch. I’d keep that to mainly surrounding your workout. Veggies, protein and some fat for your typical meal.

I hope that helps.
Good luck man!


Hey there,

I was wondering would sprints help with burning off excess fat around the belly?

Iv been in the whole process of gaining weight ( im an ecto) for 10 weeks and had gained 8 Kgs in 7 weeks. I have done so with about 70-80% of my calories coming from clean food. Since then i havent gained weight as i am on maintanence calories.

Even though i have made noticeable muscle gains on my body, iv gained fat around my belly that i didnt have before. Incredibly frustrating.
Maybe i upped my calories too much. But now i am completely un comfortable with this sudden belly fat esp around the lower abs. Hence the question on sprints helping me to start burning off the fat.

Thanks for any feedback!

Shane Duquette

Congrats on the 8 kilos man, that’s awesome! 70-80% of your calories from nutritious food is pretty solid, and it’s likely a an overabundance of calories resulting in the fat gain. (Although it could also be something more insidious, like having your macronutrients way off.)

To burn fat the main thing you need to do is cut back on the calories, with most of that reduction in calories coming from starchy carbs (i.e. keep your protein intake high).

If you’ve got time and energy to spare, yeah for sure add some sprints alongside your workout routine – on rest days perhaps. The workouts will likely result in most of your results, but the sprints will help as well!

I hope that helps man, good luck!


Hi Shane,

I’m new to your site and am considering purchasing the product soon (I’m also a raging ectomorph achieving little to no results in the gym). One concern I had was that I go to play soccer once a week and spend some hours running and such. I don’t see this as something that will affect muscle growth and endurance. Do you? Thanks.

Shane Duquette

Nah that’s nothing to worry about at all!

Glad you did wind up deciding to join us man. Pumped to see what you can do with the program. I’m thinking you’ll see some improvements on the soccer field, if anything 🙂


Hey, awesome read!!!

I’m actually hoping to get this program soon!
I’m an ecto but do cardio(kickboxing) 3 x week, ( i compete a lot) you reckon this may hinder me?


Shane Duquette

That’s awesome man, hope you do decide to join us!

Nah you should be fine. Kickboxing is pretty explosive stuff and martial artists generally do pretty kickass jobs of bulking up. Should help keep you lean, too 🙂


Really well written, ambitious article. I’m 23, just discovered I’m a textbook Ectomorph. I have been jogging a lot for the past year and improved a lot in that field, I have also lifted weights/done pushups/sit-ups etc and have already gained a lot of muscles. I’m definitely going for having great endurance, but I still want a “normal” looking body, and I’m not quite there yet. My abs need some more work, for instance.

Do you think my running will get in the way of this in the FUTURE? I run 3-4 times a week at a fairly high speed, 40 minutes each time, and finish off with some strength excercise. Some days, I only focus on lifting weights for example. And like I said, while the process has been slow I’ve still noticed my muscles have gotten bigger, especially my shoulders and arms. So, would you say this is going to be counterproductive if I want to gain more than I already have…? That I will hit a brick wall in the muscle-department soon? I want to make it clear that I’m NOT looking for a body builder-body, so to speak. Just a normal, healthy yet muscular body.

Thanks a bunch if you’re willing to answer! 🙂

Shane Duquette

If you want a normal body that’s probably a lot easier than you think! Just start eating more McDonalds and more time sitting down :S

But I think what you mean is that you want a normal healthy and athletic body though, like you said, i.e., one more similar to … David Beckham? I’m totally just guessing here. I mean Usain Bolt and Ryan Reynolds don’t have bodybuilder bodies and yet they’re very elite in their own respective ways (athletics / aesthetics). Obviously Bolt and Beckham both do a lot of running, although both have very different goals and physiques. (Bolt is wicked strong and can bench 305 pounds – pretty sweet.)

Running and training can be a little bit counterproductive together, as they require your body to adapt in different ways (endurance vs strength/power) … but they aren’t THAT counterproductive. You can still make awesome progress towards both goals. David Beckham and Ryan Reynolds probably do a lot of running. This guy is aaalways jogging around the neighbourhood with his shirt off, and he’s a fitness model! (He also lifts weights quite a lot, because, well, his career depends on him looking a very specific way.)

Marco runs too and plays a ton of rugby. Different type of running (more so sprinting) but still lots of running at varying paces. And Marco is prrretty jacked. Different goals and different ways to get there.

I, on the other hand, don’t run at all. I don’t really enjoy it, so I get my “cardio” in by doing weightlifting circuits, i.e., I just lift weights with less rest time and get my blood pumping and heart rate up that way.

Does that answer your question / help at all?


Also, shouldn’t it be possible for us ectomorphs to be great runners AND athletes if we spend twice as much time (and eat twice as much) practicing the latter?


First, I’d like to say that this is truly amazing blog and great source of information for me. I’m 177 cm in height and 69 kg in weight and I’m trying to gain more muscle mass. I’ve been struggling to get past 70 kg barrier for some time now and now I believe I’ve found possible culprit. It seems I’ve bee running too much. On average four times a week for about 5 miles. And I’ve been wondering why I can’t accomplish any gains. On top of that I’ve been doing some yoga and pilates but lacked in any more intense strength training.
I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Cut back on running entirely as an experimenter and introduce some home strength and explosive cardio with adding in some supplements as you recommend in post about them. I don’t really feel comfortable in gym environment and due time restrictions prefer to do exercises at home. So I’ve come across some Bob Harpers DVDs like “Pure Burn Super Strength”, “Body Rev Cardio Conditioning” etc. Workouts are intense and present very big challenge for me. I can modify using heavier weights if necessary. No extra equipment required besides a mat and some space. I’ve been doing those workouts for about 5 times a week for period of three weeks and accomplished some better definition and gained about 2-3 kg in weight (started with 66 kg). I’d be really glad to read your opinion about my improvised workout regime and do you think that those hour long intense workouts can be enough to gain some good muscle mass?

Shane Duquette

I’ve got a bit of a moral issue with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels (and The Biggest Loser in General). I don’t know whether it’s intentional or not, but I think they’re having a negative effect on people’s attitudes towards fitness and, especially in the case of overweight people, their body image.

One of my main issues is that they mislead people into thinking that the effectiveness of a workout plan is correlated with how much it hurts, burns, exhausts you or sucks. That isn’t true when it comes to fat loss, and it absolutely 100% isn’t in any way true when it comes to building muscle. Feeling sore, tired, exhausted, etc should not be how you judge the effectiveness of your workout, and instead how much closer to your goals that workout gets you. Lots of guys doing Bony to Beastly walk out of the gym feeling more energetic than when they stepped in, and they wake up every morning feeling like they haven’t been hit by a truck. Every time they go to the gym they’re measurably stronger, and every time they step on the scale they’re measurably heavier.

Anyway, that’s just one of the personal pet peeves of mine, and when using those DVDs I’d be wary of that.

On the other hand, the fact that you’re gaining weight IS a good thing (assuming the weight you’re gaining is lean/muscle) and measurably so. Sounds like it’s working brilliantly well. Congrats Matija – that’s super badass!

The other, and arguably most important, benefit of what you’re doing is that you’re improving your health and fitness levels tremendously! All forms of exercise, whether that’s cardio or strength training, does a million different incredible things for you, from increasing cognition and brain power to improving mood and alleviating anxiety to increasing your lifespan and reducing your chance of falling ill. If you enjoy the type of training you’re doing, even better. That’s a big part of turning it into a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle where you can actually start to see the long-term benefits of what you’re doing as well as the short-term ones.

With most calisthenics, aka body weight, exercise programs you soon hit a plateau as far as gaining muscle mass goes though. In order for muscles to consistently get bigger and stronger you need to progressively overload them with heavier and heavier weights. At a certain point your body weight will become too light and you’ll stop progressing. Adding more reps will increase your muscular endurance, but it won’t increase your muscle size, power or strength. There are ways to progress the exercises, although if you’re looking to build a significant amount of weight I’d start building a home gym so you can transition to a heavier style of training that actually optimized for building muscle!

(Cardio-specific training is important too, so you may want to continue doing yoga, pilates, running or doing a workout dvd once a week or so to fully max out on all health benefits.)

If you do decide to take a heavier approach you can maximize on the OTHER health benefits of exercise: increasing your bone density, making it easier to stay lean/healthy, improving your strength, improving and strengthening good posture, reducing your risk of injury, making you more athletic, lengthening your lifespan even more, counteracting a lot of the effects of aging, etc etc.

In regards to your particular goals, it’s also how you add muscle mass in the most effective way possible.

(And it’s a ton of fun.)

So long story short I think you should definitely continue on with your current training plan, you should keep your mind open to going heavier “soon”, when your muscular gains slow, and you should check the blog later this week (Thursday I hope). We’re posting an article on how to set up a sweet home gym optimized for building muscle, and then some detailed how-to as far as training at home goes. The equipment is very very minimal, so I think you’ll really dig it! We’ve got a ton of members who train at home and do a kickass job – just as well as the gym guys.

Sign up for the newsletter (top right of the page) and we’ll shoot you an email when it’s live 🙂

Shane Duquette

Whoa am I ever verbose. I should write novels.


Thank you for your detailed answer. It really helps a lot. I think you could easily write a book just combining all the posts and answers on your blog. And it would be a good one. 😉
I’m not very familiar with Biggest Loser series as DVDs I have are not part of it. But I guess the approach he uses is similar to the ones I do have. I’m aware that my muscle growth using them is limited due to issue of increasing resistance but I still have quite a way to go to find them to easy.
The biggest reason I’m trying this approach at the moment is the fact that you can do this exercises right at home and you need a bare minimum of equipment – a mat and a set of dumbbells. Which I like due to my financial limitations and a fact you need minimum space. But I’d definitely like to read about setting up a home gym and would think about of investing in a few extra items. At the moment I have no idea where to start. I’ve already subscribed and I’m looking forward to your further posts.

Shane Duquette

Hehe we actually require LESS equipment than that. No mat, no TV and just ONE dumbbell.

Strength training is simple too when you break it down to the fundamentals. You’ll see what I mean. I think the post will be one of our most informative yet 🙂

It’s not about the DVD becoming easy, but more so about hitting the point where it stops making you stronger.

Those programs will stress your aerobic system (making them hard) for much longer than they’ll stress your anaerobic system (making you big and strong).

Stressing your aerobic system is good, so you don’t even need to stop. What you may find though is that you want to add in some heavy stuff soon, as your anaerobic system stops being stressed.

Sounds like you’re on the right track!

Ahahaha so true! An FAQ book or something.

Glad it helped 🙂



Thanks for your great post. Really enjoy it 🙂

My height is 180cm and weight is 73kg. I workout regularly about 4 times per week.

Previously i’m a skinny guy but now my body shape consider normal after i started workout. Now the problem is that i have belly fat. So 2 weeks ago i started doing cardio by running on treadmill for 20mins for 3 times per week.

is that enough for me to get rid of belly fat? is it recommended to do cardio every day?

Thanks 🙂

Shane Duquette

Props for getting yourself out of skinnyville man – that’s great 🙂

If you want to get rid of belly fat it’s not a matter of doing cardio necessarily, but more so about entering into a calorie deficit.

Cardio will allow you to burn more calories, yes, so it can help you lose fat – if and only if you’re also eating fewer calories than you’re burning overall.

You could just as easily continue lifting heavy and doing your strength training workouts + eat to burn fat.

Whether you do cardio or not is really up to you. Personally, when losing fat I just stick to my strength training and maybe shorten my rest times a bit to get my heart rate up a little more.

At most I might walk around more or do some active things (went biking with a friend today) … but I don’t really consider cardio part of my routine.

Burn the belly fat and keep your muscle with a calorie deficit, lots of protein – about a gram of protein / pound bodyweight / day (study), and lifting heavy.

And then do cardio if you like doing cardio 🙂


Hey Shane,
A friend of mine showed me your website as we are both skinny and looking to gain weight. I think this article is very well written and I like your style of writing. I have a question regarding cycling (biking or whatever you want to call it). I have been road cycling for the past two years during the spring, summer and fall; its very cold in New York during the winter and parts of spring so maximum 5-6 consecutive months out of the year. I have built up an incredible amount of stamina on my road bike and I recently, in September, finished my first 100 mile ride; needless to say I LOVE biking. However I started going to the gym in the beginning of January because I really want to gain mass and be in an ideal shape before I turn 27 in July. I’ve noticed that I’m not capable of lifting as much weight as I was when I was 22-24 years old and I did go to the gym sporadically. I fear that this is because I lost a decent amount of weight when I started biking, approximately 25-30 Lbs over the course of 2 years. I have 6 months to get into the shape that I want and I consider myself skinny fat despite others telling me I’m skinny. I weigh 150Lbs (up from 145 at the beginning of January woohoo!) and I’m 5’8″, a quick body fat test using the body fat analyzer at the gym stated I was at 14.7% body fat.

I want to gain weight and get big as soon as possible but I cant place myself into a category of whether I am an ectomorph or more average in regard to how I approach nutrition and muscle gains. My biggest concern is that if I get back on the bike come spring time I will lose a ton of my gains from the winter. My average ride is 30-50 miles and constitutes for a 2-3 hour exercise. I love biking but I also want to be in the shape of my life by my next birthday because it will be my gift to myself and something that I dreamed about for a long long time. I’m just now starting to get into the whole weight lifting thing and its proven to be a challenge strength wise because my gym partner is significantly stronger and bigger than me and has been working out for over a year now. I go to a really uncomfortable type of gym where muscled gorillas grunt and generally make you feel uncomfortable if you’re holding anything less than a 30lb dumbell so its a bit embarassing for me.

If you can tell me what you think about my concerns regarding biking and getting into shape at the same time I would really appreciate it. The article seems to indicate that biking would be an impediment to my gaining mass so I am a little disappointed. Looking forward to your response.

Shane Duquette

Hey Igor,

I’ve got a lot of friends who are really really into biking. If you’re anywhere near as passionate about it as they are then I definitely understand why you’d be loath to give it up, and I’d be the last person to tell you to give up something that you love!

Will doing 2-3 hour cardio sessions cause some interference with your weightlifting and muscle-building goals? Of course. Your body will be adapting to two different stimulus that oppose one another. Will that make it impossible to build muscle? Hell no.

Seems to me like keeping up with a sport that you love is well worth the small downside, right? Given that you love biking and you’re eager to build muscle, well, I’d do both, just accept that you might gain at a slightly slower pace.

Also, as far as endurance activities go, biking isn’t even so bad! With biking all you’re doing is pushing – There’s no eccentric, aka, the lowering under tension part – and that’s often the thing that damages muscle the most. Biking and weightlifting go together surprisingly well for that reason.

If you were previously more muscular and much heavier … you’ll actually probably have a very EASY time building muscle anyway, since the muscle nuclei you built up in the past will likely still be around, allowing your body to construct new muscle much more rapidly. Guys who were previously stronger and more muscular build muscle very very easily until they surpass their old peak weight.

We’ve got a marathon runner who’s doing great! I think you’ll able to accomplish your goals 🙂


Hi Shane,

Your opinion please. I’m a skinny guy who has decided to start packing some muscle in for an upcoming Karate fight tournament I have in several months. What I’m worried about is whether I am doing too much Karate weekly that it would affect my muscle gain. I do Karate twice a week, 2 hours each and pack a giod sweat after it. What do you think? Can I still get muscle and continue my Karate as normal? Thanks.

Shane Duquette

Of course! The interference effects are small, if you’ll even experience any at all. The main thing is that you’ll need to consume enough calories/protein to fuel muscle growth, and that may be a little bit harder because you’ll be burning more from the extra activity. This article may help in that regard:



I have been an ectomorph all my life. I am 33 now. I have been working out seriously for the last 3 years and pretty happy with my results. A month ago, I had hit a plateau. I changed up my execise routine(Drop sets) and went on diet of higher than usual calories. My muscles grew, but so did my waistline by 3 inches. I have lost my paunch before but it came at the price of losing my hard gained muscle mass. This has happened to me before. Any suggestion of losing the gut but keeping the muscle mass.

Shane Duquette

Congrats on the muscle growth Arjun 🙂

As for some advice on cutting:
Keep your protein intake very high, drop your calories from the other two macronutrients instead.
Don’t lose weight too too quickly. A pound or two per week should do the trick.
Keep training for building muscle — when cutting this is more important than ever.

I hope that helps!


Well written shane! I have been an ecto all my life too. I am 21 now and I am working out with heavy weights + strict diet as instructed by my trainer + protein supplements (as I am a vegetarian). The results are good.

I have the following doubts:

1) My work timings ensure that I get to work out only in the night (8-10ish). Immediately after my workout, I have a huge list of stuff to be eaten. That is followed by dinner. I get only around 30 minutes time before I sleep after I eat all this. So will all the food that is being consumed by me post workout be lying idle and eventually get wasted as I sleep without giving enough time for digestion?

2) I have grown some muscles now, but a couple of sports events are gonna be played in my company, so I would be required to practice for the same. This would require a lot of running type activities from my side. Considering I am an ectomorph, would I lose muscles by running and exerting myself? Is it OK to workout along with heavy sports practice? Can any addition in my diet help?

Kindly solve my queries

Thanks in advance


Shane Duquette

Congrats on your good results, Suddu 🙂

1. What do you mean you have a “list” of things to eat? In order to maximize on your workout nutrition you’d need 30 or so grams of protein within a couple hours before training, and another 30+ grams of protein within an hour or two after training. If you’re doing that, then no need to stress so long as you’re eating enough overall to grow. Besides, your body is very anabolic during the night! The food being digested while you sleep would hardly be wasted. More likely it would be the opposite (although you’d need to make sure that you aren’t disturbing your sleep with your eating habits). Moreover, muscle protein synthesis is still peaked a good 24-48 hours later, so there’s no huge rush to get all your calories in 🙂

2. Nope! It MIGHT slow down your progress by a teensy tiny bit, but so long as you eat enough protein/calories to grow and continue to lift well, you should be just fine! (During sports seasons many athletes will drop workout volume intensity to optimize sports performance. Two full body workouts per week instead of a four-day-per-week upper/lower split program, for example.)

I hope that helps!


Great website, amazing transformations and so inspiring. I am no where close to where I want to be but seeing your before and after photos give me hope. I liked your video Shane, your enthusiasm and personal story is funny & endearing. Although I think you’d look a lot better without the 80s rocker hair. Regardless your body looks amazing, you should be proud if it, cause it isn’t easy for sure!

Shane Duquette

I’m really glad we could help you feel inspired! Good luck chiseling out those abs 🙂


Hey Shane,

Big fan of your site and videos, thanks for those.

I had been an ectomorph since I was 10 till I was 20. Then something happened with my body 3 years ago (The only thing I did was to eat and rest) and I put up over 12 pounds over a course of 5 months and looked considerably healthier. Now, I had the impression that I might lose it again, being an essentially bony guy, but I didn’t, below a healthy limit. I have sort-of developed into an ecto-meso-morph. BUT. I continue to have narrow shoulders (although wider than before), thinner-than-ideal arms, and a small chest – which always keep bothering me and create an inferiority complex. I have a day-job now and have some amount of mental stress too. And I have never touched the 153-pound body again, which I had attained after that initial mass gain (I’m 5’7″ by the way). I also developed Vit-D3 deficiency about a year and a half ago, and that weakened my muscles a bit. The doc forbade Bench-press & deadlifts.
I am confused, low in confidence and desperately looking for ways to look stronger and more masculine. And I don’t completely understand my body.

Please help me out.


Correction: I put up over 22 pounds over a course of 5 months.

Shane Duquette

Hey Nayak,

It sounds like you’d benefit from nutrition geared for weight gain (article here) and weightlifting for muscle gain (article here). That would increase your bodyweight through your muscle mass, and you’d strengthen your bones, ligaments and tendons while doing it. No need to start with deadlifts and bench presses either or even ever do them if your doctor is telling you not to. They certainly aren’t mandatory in our program, and we recommend that every beginner start with easier progressions at first. We write a little bit about that here.

You don’t even have to go to the gym if you don’t want to. You could do the entire thing at home (article here).

I hope that helps! And good luck!


p.s. If you want a full step-by-step guide to all of this, as well as a membership in the community and personal coaching from us, check out our program.


Thanks a lot Shane, for the swift reply.

However, the problem is that I can’t use any kind of barbell-lifting exercise as it is puts a lot of pressure on my backbones (which went weak due to the D3 bdeficiency, although slowly recovering).

Do you think a combination of the following will be enough? Do you recommend any?

1. Pushups, Chin-ups, Pullups & Bench dips (with focus on Time-under-tension)
2. Cable rows & Cable flies (focus on chest, shoulders & lats)
3. Bicep curls & Wrist curls

I really like your program but I can’t afford $197 as I am located in India and that amounts to a lot. Do you have any non-integrated programs, say, a consultation program? I may be able to afford those.

Thanks 🙂

Shane Duquette

I’d still focus on the main movement patterns if you want balanced growth (which would be ideal for aesthetics/athletics). Check this article out.

No need for barbells anywhere. Instead of heavy deadlifts you’d do single leg RDLs, dumbbell sumo deadlifts, hip thrusts or glute bridges, etc—whatever is okay for your back. Same thing with the squat movement pattern—split squats, bulgarian split squats, one-legged squats, etc.

Then you could add in some of the funner glory muscle exercises you’re gunning for, like some extra chest flys, bicep curls (and tricep extensions).

Whatever you decide to do, anything (safe) is better than nothing! Your plan looks like it would only build your upper body, but that’s still a helluva lot better than building nothing! 🙂


Great site, Shane.

I have a doubt. I dont eat much, weigh only 160 pounds at 178cm, but i still have belly fat. i do lift heavy …. i tried going on a caloric deficit but only felt tired and weak since my intake is already low, so reducing it further made me too tired. So what do i do – do i increase my calories drastically to lose fat?

Shane Duquette

Hey Andy,

Your question is a very complicated one. In order to lose fat you do indeed need to reduce your calorie intake. Without a calorie deficit you won’t lose weight. But it sounds like that isn’t serving you very well. You may want to begin by leanly building muscle (and hoping for a tidbit of fat loss while you do it). That will raise your metabolism, increase your insulin sensitivity, increase your lean mass. All of that will make it easier to lose fat afterwards.

It may also simply be that your fat loss approach wasn’t ideal. There’s much more to lifting than just lifting heavy, for example. And to lose weight you just need a calorie deficit, but to lose weight while feeling good, while maintaining muscle, while staying healthy… that’s a lot more complicated!

Does that help / make sense?


Hi Shane, I am a 34 year old out of shape, overweight ectomorph. Wife, 2 kids, long hours at desk job, long commutes, lousy diet. I am 6’2″ and about 175. Used to be an athletic ectomorph in my late teens and only weighed about 140. I am trying to make sense out of what I should do first. My ideal weight is 185 with a V shaped torso, right now I have a U shaped torso. Should I try to lose 20 lbs and then gain? What is your best advice? Thank you! Love the website. Please email me about the payment plan options.

Shane Duquette

Ahaha I’ve never heard someone say they have a “U” shaped torso. And I understand the frustration. We see that a lot—ectomorphs getting older and developing a gut… while still being too skinny for their liking.

I would train for muscle, eat for muscle… but eat in a calorie deficit. So you’d be doing everything to build muscle, but you’d be losing weight overall. Given your circumstances—having previously been more muscular, being a little overweight, currently being detrained/untrained—you should be able to build some muscle while you drop the fat. Not that much muscle, but some. When you get to your target leanness, you can then transition into a lean bulk until you get to your target muscularity.

You’ll need to zigzag a bit to get to your goal, but it works very well 🙂

And I just shot you an email about the payment plan.


Hey:Im Currently Been weight lifting for 5-6 months I Currently weigh 172 pounds mostly muscle. I want to start cage fighting/ mma 2x a week on my rest days i was wondering I this will interfere with my muscle building routine

Shane Duquette

It will probably have some effect, yeah, especially since MMA uses your muscle such a tremendous amount. Hard to say without more details, but you might want to scale back your lifting to a couple days per week. You’ll still grow wonderfully well, it’ll just be a different path to get to muscleville 🙂


Hello! This was a very helpful and interesting read. However, I was wondering if boxing/kickboxing is recommended for our body type? I’ve been doing it for a month, 2-3 times a week with some floor exercises before each session. Usually the whole workout (including the floor exercises and stretching/foot work etc) lasts for less than an hour and the actual time spent on the ring boxing is only 6 minutes. (2 minutes each round) It’s something that I love doing. I lost some of my ‘fats’ and had been more lean, but obviously my weight has been pretty much still the same. What do you think? Should I continue doing it or maybe add a different set of workout? Thank you!

Shane Duquette

Hey Sam, glad you dug it!

I used to be really into martial arts! I figured if I couldn’t be big and strong, at least I could still protect the ones I loved by learning how to fight. Unfortunately, I also realized that size and strength were huge factors when it came to fighting. Even though I was strong and talented for my size, that meant I was mostly fighting against younger guys and lighter gals. The bigger and stronger guys would have pummelled my glutes into the ground. That’s why weight classes are such a big deal. Interestingly, it also generally works in your favour to pack on as much muscle as you can so that you have more muscle size/strength per unit of height. So building muscle/strength/power in the gym should definitely help your game in the ring.

Will your practice in the gym help you build muscle? Probably not. You’ve already realized that. But that’s not the purpose of your conditioning anyway. It’s probably designed to make you wicked fit so that you don’t tire in the ring, not make you into a sizeable powerhouse. I’d use the gym to bulk you up, the conditioning to improve your fitness.

Will the conditioning make it harder to gain muscle? Probably not. It’s more to recover from, so you might want to dial back the intensity/volume with your lifting (assuming you’ll be lifting in order to build muscle) and sleeping well and eating well will become more important than ever… but I think you’d have great success building muscle 🙂

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