There are two important things that we naturally skinny ectomorphs tend to forget when we start lifting weights.
The first is that when we start bulking, we’re still novices. We can’t be expected to perform lifts that require high degrees of technical skill. This is off-putting, because we’re often desperate to get bigger. We want to start lifting for muscle growth. We don’t want to be held up for months doing mobility drills.
Luckily, we can develop mobility, strength, stability and power simultaneously with size. But we do need to learn how to move and lift right from the get-go though, otherwise we’ll have an easier time getting injured and a harder time building muscle.
The second thing we often forget is that we don’t have the same body type or muscular development that most bodybuilders and powerlifters have. Most of those guys have highly specialized bodies that they’ve developed with years of training. Most of them were born with thick and robust bone structures, too.
The strongest men are often born with bodies that suit the lifts they do. Just like the tallest guys are drawn to basketball, the sturdiest guys are often the ones who are drawn to strength training.
This means that the guys you’re watching do the bench press are often the worst ones to get your cues from. The lift is very different for them—they’ve got big muscle bellies, short thick bones, stubby limbs and barrel chests. We’ve often got long tendons, long slim bones, long lanky limbs and shallower ribcages.
Taking their cues is like asking a 7’2 guy how to dunk a basketball. He may very well say “uh just reach up and put it in.”
Overall, ectomorphs are just longer people. We make better decathletes than shot-putters; better quarterbacks than linebackers. Hardly anything to be upset about—it’s not like we can’t build strong and aesthetic bodies.
We just need to take a different approach. An approach that’s actually designed for naturally skinny guys.Dive In
It’s May 1st, 2010 and Shane and I just graduated from university a few days earlier. We’re living in a high-rise apartment with our good friend Payam in a less than ideal neighbourhood. We’re just starting our “Muscle May” experiment—a one month bulking challenge that Shane had presented to Payam and me. The idea was to have all three of us roommates hold one another accountable for 30 days of an extreme diet and exercise change.
At this point I have about $500 left on my nearly maxed out credit card, $38 in my bank account, and no savings. To make matters worse I have no income streams, as Shane and I just started up our design business a few days earlier. We’re looking for our next client, are in the process of applying for a business loan, and rent payments are coming up.
“Wait, so I’m going to need to spend more money on groceries?” I say, weighing in at a soaking wet 130 pounds of pure bone and a large head.
“No, you’re going to need to spend a normal amount on groceries. You’re horribly underfeeding your body right now. We all are.” Shane responded.
“How the heck am I supposed to pay for rent, more food and these supplements you keep talking about … like this nitrous oxide–“
“– it’s nitric oxide. Nitrous oxide is what you put in your car.” Shane cut me off. “And it’s only for 30 days. Plus, some supplements, like protein powder, are actually cheaper than real food.”
Fast forward 30 days and I’m now 30 pounds heavier than I was before. (22 pounds from the nutrition and training + 8 pounds from the creatine.) I feel pretty damn incredible. But it looks like I better figure out a way to pay for this new “normal” amount of groceries. Inside are the top 17 tricks I’ve found for cutting costs over the past 2 and a half years without compromising results.
(Under Construction) Most of us are eager to improve our appearance, but we’re also notoriously bad at understanding how to do it. Some of these mistakes are simply about how far to take things. For example, when men guess what degree of muscularity women find the most attractive, they’re off by thirty pounds (study).
But other guys have an even deeper misunderstanding. They don’t realize that our appearance is so influential because of how accurately it reflects our strength, fitness, and health. They try to become more attractive on a purely superficial level, muscle by muscle. That will never work. It will never be as convincing as the real thing.
So in this article, we’ll dive into:
- What women find the sexiest (attractiveness)
- Which physical traits men respect and idolize (aesthetics)
- How those two ideals differ from one another
- How to get the best of both worlds.
We’ll cover exact proportions and ratios, talk about which strength standards correspond with which degrees of muscularity, and dig into a bunch of fascinating research. By the end, you should have a full understanding of how far away from the ideals you are and know exactly how to improve your appearance.
We’ll also make sure that as you improve your appearance, it comes along with benefits that run far deeper. Or, if you want to look at it the other way, we’ll make sure that as you get into better shape, it also makes you more attractive.
However, be warned, this article is long. I’ll understand if you don’t want to read the whole thing. If that’s the case, here’s a quick and simple trick that will make you instantly sexier: have a drink. It will boost your attractiveness (to yourself) by 50%. This is called the reverse beer goggles effect, also known as beauty is in the eye of the beer holder (study). I know it’s not a perfect solution, but it could save you a good half hour of reading.
If you’re looking for an improvement that other people will notice, too, don’t worry—that’s what the rest of this article is for.
It can be hard to figure out what the best diet for ectomorphs is. When you search for the healthiest diets, you’ll find diets that are designed to help people lose weight. And that makes sense. After all, at least in the United States, the CDC estimates that only 1.9% of people are underweight. Wanting to gain weight is quite rare.
The reason the CDC cares about this stuff is because so many people are running into health problems from being overweight. As a result, most people need to adopt various diets to help them lose weight. This has become the standard recommendation for improving health: choose a diet that helps you lose weight.
In fact, the very term “dieting” implies that we should be restricting foods and calories to help us eat less. But what if we’re trying to gain weight? Do ectomorphs need an anti-diet?
Yes. We do.
If you’re a naturally skinny guy who’s been having trouble bulking up, milk can often help. There’s a simple reason for that: by drinking more milk, you’ll be adding more calories and protein into your diet. Milk is also a rich source of nutrients that are helpful for guys who are trying to build muscle. Finally, milk is extremely easy on the appetite, making it easier for us ectomorphs to gain weight.
However, if you add too much milk into your diet, then you may find yourself gaining quite a bit of fat along with your muscle (study). Worse, since whole milk is so high in saturated fat, going overboard with it can cause you to store proportionally more visceral fat, which can negatively impact your longterm health (study). That’s why GOMAD, where you drink a gallon of whole milk every day, is so infamous for making guys fat.
You could avoid some of those problems by choosing low-fat milk, yes, but higher-fat milk has some unique muscle-building properties that you might want to take advantage of.
So, what’s the best way to bulk up with milk?
I’m a huge fan of improving posture. It may not be the most “hardcore” thing to focus on in a training program, however, it will turn your body into a hard-core machine. If you took a look at all the people in super hero movies you will find some commonalities. They are usually devilishly handsome, very muscular, big fans of Bony to Beastly and they all have great posture.
I get it. Your parents have already told you a thousand times to sit up straight, and I’m sure you’ve already heard that it improves the way you look, improves your performance, and maybe even that it improves your energy levels and how you feel.
Some people have even claimed that having great posture is why these actors are able to build muscle so quickly when they need to bulk up for their superhero movie roles.
But is there really a link between posture and muscle?
Bodybuilders used to think that they needed to eat five, six, or even seven meals per day while bulking. If you asked him why he was eating so often, he would tell you that he needed to stoke the metabolic fire, prevent muscle catabolism, keep his blood sugar levels steady, and keep his muscles fuelled with a steady supply of amino acids / protein. Perhaps most importantly of all, he would tell you that he needs to prevent his body from going into starvation mode, which would cause him to store more body fat. That’s a lot to worry about.
Now that intermittent fasting is becoming popular, that idea is starting to die out. Instead of eating seven meals per day, it’s common for bodybuilders to experiment with eating as few as 1–3 meals per day. Now the idea is reversed. Those periods of fasting are good for limiting fat gain while bulking.
So. How many meals per day should you be eating while bulking? What meal frequency is going to produce the most muscle growth with the least amount of fat gain?
Okay so not having heard of something isn’t a myth—it’s a mistake. (I apologize for the lithpy pun.) Anyway, neutral spine and neutral neck (or “packed neck”, as Marco calls it) are both really damn important. Proper spinal alignment is debatably the single most important training cue out there. All performance trainers, powerlifters and high level athletes know this, but most gym-goers are out of the loop. They lift with really poor spinal alignment, not because they aren’t focusing enough on form, but because they’ve never even heard that spinal alignment exists, let alone matters. You’ve probably heard not to round your back, but that’s as far as mainstream sources go on the matter. The problem here is that as ectomorphs we’re particularly vulnerable to injuries, as our structures are naturally smaller. We can fix this, of course, and your bone density and tendon strength will soon reach beastly levels, but as a skinny dude starting out you can do some real damage to yourself if you neglect your alignment.
This post will help you improve your longterm health and strength, dodge future back pain, and help you build more muscle in the short term by properly targeting the muscles you’re trying to hit.
Carbs are considered unhealthy in most diets because they taste good and they’re easy to overeat, which causes people to gain weight. Most people are overweight, so anything that causes them to gain even more weight is unhealthy. But what if you’re an ectomorph who’s trying to gain weight?
The other reason that carbs have a bad reputation is because they can cause insulin to spike higher. When insulin spikes higher, it causes people to gain weight, including both fat and muscle. But what if you’re an ectomorph who’s trying to gain muscle? Wouldn’t the insulin spike help?
If carbs cause weight gain, and if ectomorphs are trying to gain weight, shouldn’t ectomorphs eat more carbs?
For most guys, stopping their sets short of failure will allow them to build muscle more quickly. This is especially true of people who are still relatively new to lifting. This is because training to failure can cause excessive muscle damage, which can impede muscle growth. It can also ingrain poor lifting technique, which can negatively impact longterm progress.
But isn’t that last rep the only one that matters?! Isn’t that last rep the one that separates the weaklings from the warriors? Grab a seat by the curl rack, and let me tell you about keeping two in the tank.