Seven years ago, we published an article titled Ectomorph Aesthetics: The Science of Building an Attractive, Aesthetic Physique, covering everything you should know about why women find certain physiques more attractive than others.

However, although we covered what was attractive, we didn’t go into how to become attractive. To help remedy that, I made an infographic explaining the four steps you’ll want to follow in order to build a more attractive physique.

How to Build an Attractive Physique

The research consistently shows that women find guys who look strong and healthy the most attractive. What’s interesting is that so long as you take a healthy approach to building muscle, the stronger you get, the more attractive you’re going to look. That means that the bigger you can build your overhead press, your deadlift, your front squat, your bench press, and your chin-up, the more attractive you’ll be, and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to that. The stronger, the better.

However, once you start adding in steroids, the benefit disappears. Guys on steroids look stronger and more masculine, yes, but they hardly look like pillars of health—at least not to women. In fact, guys who look unnaturally muscular are rated as being less attractive than guys who don’t exercise at all. Perhaps this is to our ancestor’s simple not having been exposed to physiques like that. It just looks alien.

The other side to that coin is body-fat percentage, and the same principle applies. Women find men who are lean and healthy the most attractive, but once the leanness starts to look unnatural, the effect reverses. Again, men with chiseled abs are often rated as being less attractive than guys who are out of shape.

Attractiveness is a visual representation of strength and health. If you build muscle, gain strength, and keep your body-fat percentage low, you’re going to look more attractive. The added benefit is that you don’t need to take performance-enhancing drugs or diet down to an unhealthy body-fat percentage.

You could think of that as being the difference between Brad Pitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both are action heroes, both have famous physiques, but Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique is more popular with bodybuilders, and Brad Pitt’s physique is more popular with the general public, including around 99% of women.

For us ectomorphs, the implication is pretty straightforward. We should try to build muscle leanly and healthfully. And the bigger and stronger we get, the more attractive we’re going to look. We can do it entirely naturally, and we don’t ever need to worry about becoming too big. We should push ourselves to become better, but always with the goal of being strong and healthy.

That’s where this visual guide comes. It will help you set a good goal body weight, show you how lean you should be, and give you some proportions to aim for.

Keep in mind that just moving closer to these ideals will make you far more attractive. If you get 80% of the way there, that’s going to give you most of the benefit. If you can get 100% of the way here, God help the hordes of women you’ll need to turn away—they’ll never find another man as handsome as you.

Onwards to the guide!

How to Build the Most Attractive Male Physique (Ectomorph Aesthetics)

Other resources to help you build a more attractive physique

#1: How to Lift Weights

#2: How to Eat a Bulking Diet

#3: How to Lose Fat

How to Build a More Attractive Body (Summary)

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping nearly ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

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  • What you need to know about aesthetics, health and strength while bulking up


  1. Daniel on March 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I remember reading the first article. Back then it seemed complicated and unrealistic. I am glad I stayed with b2B 🙂 These days I see what a good choice that was. Thanks for the article. Good summary and those links are useful.

    • Shane Duquette on March 17, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      So glad you liked it, Daniel! Thanks for the kind words, and thank you even more for being such a great part of the community!

    • Inches on March 17, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Daniel! Inches here. You still doing the program? I haven’t seen anyone’s progress pics for a year now!

      • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2016 at 3:45 pm

        We’ve been missing you in the community, man! How’ve your gains been?! (Daniel just posted a +22 pound update!)

      • Daniel on March 26, 2016 at 5:02 am

        Hi Inches, long time no see. I was couple months away from b2B only to lose all my gains from 2014. As Shane said, I got back in shape and regained my 10 kg = 22 pounds back 🙂 Now is time for new gains 😉

  2. JK on March 18, 2016 at 3:29 am

    Any advice about what to do if you are stuck at a certain weight and cant really move forward? Also I have trouble getting the shoulder width up to 50″ or maybe even more :/ cant really say what muscle group is holding me back or it just might be all of them xD

    • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      It’s common to stall out at a certain point. When you first build muscle you don’t need to be that strategic with nutrition or training and you’ll do okay, but at a certain point it becomes more difficult to keep moving forward. So if your weight is plateaued there are probably two things that should really help: 1) Begin a proper periodized program that has you lifting a good amount of volume, 2) Make sure you’re in a calorie surplus! If your weight gain has stalled, after all, then you are no longer eating enough calories to grow. I know that’s easier said than done, but this article may help.

      • JK on March 19, 2016 at 8:12 am

        I’ll read that again for sure 😀 But what do you think about the principle of being in a caloric deficit and just eating that much protein protein to stimulate muscle growth while still being able to burn fat at the same time. I know you’ve mentioned somewhere that that just means you’ll be spinning in circles not cutting and not really gaining lean muscle but Jeff Cavalier had some points about how this should actually work.

        • Shane Duquette on March 19, 2016 at 5:43 pm

          Hehe we get questions about him sometimes in the community too. Aghh. He’s got a very impressive physique and some of his advice is pretty neat but, oh man, I think his lean gains stuff is really doing a lot of people a disservice. But then how are you supposed to know which person to believe? It’s not like we have more credibility than him. So when he tells you one thing, we tell you another… how will you know who is being honest? (Or who has done their homework properly.)

          The short answer is that trying to get lean gains / body recomposition is very ineffective, very slow, very difficult because the most effective way to lose fat is to go into a calorie deficit (because your body needs to burn body fat as energy), and the most effective way to build muscle is to go into a calorie surplus (because there are an abundance of nutrients and your hormones will be more anabolic). If you avoid deficits and surpluses, you’ve eliminated the most powerful tools at your disposal when trying to build muscle / lose fat.

          Besides, there are only a few types of people who can do lose fat and build muscle simultaneously: the obese, the totally untrained, people who have never eaten a proper diet, and people just beginning to use performance enhancing drugs (steroids and whatnot). Even for them, it’s not as effective as either bulking or cutting. This is why even when we have skinny-fat guys join the program we tell them to cut then bulk, or bulk then cut. Yes, if they’re new to eating and training well they might build some muscle while they cut, but we do still have them decidedly cut. This allows them to get the fat loss and muscle gains they’re looking for in six months instead of sixteen years.

          This is very well established in the scientific literature and not really something that’s even being debated. It can seem like it though, because a lot of mainstream stuff is targeted at people who are very overweight and/or new to training/eating properly. For most readers of this site, that advice is not helpful at all—just confusing.

          You can watch a legitimate lecture on this from Dr. Israetel here. Admittedly he’s speaking more to professional athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness models, but all the science he’s explaining will be true for you as well 🙂

        • Shane Duquette on March 19, 2016 at 5:51 pm

          Also, I don’t want to knock Jeff Cavalier or anything. I think he’s just either speaking to a different audience or there’s some sort of nuance there that isn’t coming through. Maybe he’s speaking to guys with physiques like his, where they’re very near their genetic potential and would be totally thrilled again a pound of muscle and losing a pound of fat each year while diligently tracking their macros? Or maybe he’s speaking to a general population that hasn’t lifted or dieted properly before who just wants to lose five pounds of fat and gain five pounds of muscle this year?

          We speak to guys who want to radically increase their lean muscle mass, whether they’re total beginners or more advanced. When you want to gain 20–60 pounds of muscle in a reasonable timeframe a different approach is way better. (This applies to guys who have some fat to lose as well.)

          I enjoy watching his Athlean-X videos. I think he knows how to stimulate his muscles effectively and he does it well with a pretty simple setup. I really like that. (Our program doesn’t require fancy equipment either.) He also has a very impressive physique. Oh man, those biceps!

          • JK on March 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm

            Yeah you never really know whit guys like that who give general advice that works (his tips for delts seem really good and have worked for me) but he did mention he was a hardgainer once and had similar problems that us ectomorphs face so that led me to believe he might be talking with us in mind as well. Thats the problem with most plans and advice out there they arent specific enough to hit every person just right so thats why i take a bit of information from you guys who are ectomorph experts and something from him and other sites. But its great that you offer such enlightening dialogue that clears up some questions when piecing together information that sometimes is contradictory.

    • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Simply getting back to building muscle should get your back/chest/shoulders growing, and that will increase your shoulder circumference. Nothing wrong with adding in some extra lateral raises though!

  3. Ian on March 19, 2016 at 3:09 am

    Do you guys have protocols for those with limitations such as chronic wrist issues (like tendonitis)? It’s hard to pick exercises and nearly impossible to work out the bi’s, tri’s, etc. Also, do you have protocols for people with back issues involving discs, etc. such as slipped discs, ruptured discs, etc?

    I’m asking as someone with pain issues in the feet, wrists, and an undiagnosed back issue that may just be basic out of alignment. Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on March 19, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      Hey Ian, that’s a good question. Jared had tendonitis that progressed to severe tendinosis in his right arm. At a certain point he couldn’t use the computer anymore, so he learned how to use his left hand instead. Over time his left hand developed tendinitis, then tendinosis. At this point he turned to prescription medication that didn’t work very well. This is the Jared that I went to university with.

      After university Jared and I started lifting, and Marco gave Jared some tools to deal with the tendinosis. Marco’s tools allowed Jared to lift properly, and lifting properly (and perhaps a better diet?) allowed Jared’s issues to improve a great deal. Nowadays he still uses an ergonomic mouse and keyboard and whatnot, but he’s doing way, way better 🙂

      We also have guys in the program with back issues. Obviously with things like this you’ll need to get clearance from your doctor first, but provided that you have that, Marco is well trained to deal with issues like that as well.

      My hope would be that the program would not just dodge your issues, but also help you solve them!

    • Jared Polowick on March 19, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Hey Ian,

      What Shane posted about me is all too true. There was a time when I was first starting to deadlift with incredibly light weights (pre-loaded bar somewhere around 40–50 pounds if my memory serves me well), and it was really working my forearms more than anything else. I started thinking I’d never be able to lift weights because of my tendinosis. Nowadays I can deadlift 3 plates without any straps (or belts) and it doesn’t affect my forearms at all.

      I am not an expert on solving this issue, but I do have my own personal experience. I think a combination of several things helped me get it under control and feeling much, much better. Doing some tissue work, lifting with a solid program with compound movements, eating well, and fixing the ergonomics/positioning that created the issue in the first place has helped me move on. You may want to investigate graston if you can find a sports physiotherapist that offers it, as I felt it had helped me, but the research is still elusive on that one. Plus I had tried it at the same time as introducing lifting/eating well into my life for the first time, so it’s hard to say what actually was most helpful. Positioning is probably a big one too, which lifting has helped a lot with, and some small tweaks in the office (DXT mouse, Goldtouch Go!2, etc.).

      With your back, wrists, and feet not feeling too great—it’d be best to see a professional in person first and discuss your goals with them, as Shane mentioned. I know it can be a frustration position to be in, I really hope you can continue to make some good choices to getting closer to solving them 🙂

  4. AnthonyV on March 25, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    That referenced article by Dan Ariely, where he found that men got a 3% increase in response rates for every seven pounds gained sounds really interesting.
    Is there a weblink where I could read it?


    • Shane Duquette on March 26, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Yeah! He did a bunch of studies looking into online dating mating preferences and at least a couple of them are fully available online for free 🙂

      Check out this one. Here’s a quote: “Women, on the other hand, prefer men with a BMI of 20 or above to men with a lower BMI. The point estimates of women’s preferences peak for a BMI range of 24 to 26 (the marginal effect is 0.052), although the effect sizes are fairly similar over BMIs ranging from 20 to 30. In addition to these preferences concerning the level of a partner’s BMI, we also find that both men and women have preferences concerning the relative BMI of a potential mate. Men somewhat prefer women with a BMI that is lower than their own18 and dislike women with a larger BMI. Women, on the other hand, somewhat prefer men with a BMI that is larger than their own but dislike men with a lower BMI.”

      There’s also this one.

  5. Rophielle on April 3, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Are the arm measurements based on a relaxed are or when you are flexing?

    • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Flexed 🙂

  6. A on April 3, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Hello, I just read literally everything that caught my eye. These articles are amazing, but even after reading them. I don’t know what path i should take…. I’m skinny af, everyone kinda teases me and I hate it. I eat. A lot. I sleep. A lot. And I don’t work out much as no matter what I do nothing seems to be happening. Although one thing I noticed was that I can fairly easily do sit ups and planks and ab workouts…
    So I’m looking for guidance. Please have a look at what I’m currently looking like and tell me what to do…. I’m really looking forward to your response as I’m living alone and have no access to much variety of foods.

    I’m 5’10 and weigh a horrible 55 kg


    • AnthonyV on April 3, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Hi A!

      I feel you man, I used to be in the exact same situation. I was at pretty much the same weight and height as you, and was always ridiculed as the skinny guy. I desperatly wanted to change, but I didn’t know where to start. I tried a few different things and got no results. I even saw a nutritionist/trainer, and actually lost weight after a few weeks. Then I came acrross the B2B articles, and found them really fascinating. I hesitantly bought the program, and spent a lot more time reading and processing all the info. When I finally started about two months ago, I’ve already gained 15 pounds!

      I’m not trying to make a sales pitch, and I don’t make any money if you do decide to purchase it. You could simply go online and read articles for free, and you could make some great progress, but as you said, it’s hard to know exactly what path to take. The program is not a magic pill, you must be determined and do the work. What is great with B2B is that the path is all mapped out for you, and you benefit from an amazing community of people who have been there and help you along the way. For example, there are plenty of tips on how to make the eating aspect a lot easier.

      You like quite fit and well defined, with a low body fat percentage, thus a perfect candidate to morphing into a beast! Like me, I think you’ll be happily surprised as to how ideal you’re body at making some lean gains.

      The only thing I regret is not having started sooner, the day I bought the program!

      • A on April 4, 2016 at 2:25 am

        Thank you for the reply. I forgot to add that in India one us dollar equals 66rs
        So the program would cost me 13000 rupees which is my monthly wage where I work. Lol.
        India sucks.
        If I had money I’d have taken up the program blindfolded.

        Can I still be helped?

      • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:42 pm

        Thank you so much for the kind words, Anthony! And so stoked with your progress, man 😀

    • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Hey A, we’ve got a lot of guys living in India who are doing the program, and we definitely recognize that it’s a much bigger commitment due to the currency differences. We’ve actually been working to come up with a solution for that so that we can offer a program at a more affordable price for you guys while still making enough to live here in Canada. This would be something made specifically for guys in India too, since there’s the combination of lots of demand to join the program combined with the currency discrepancy. If you stay tuned to the newsletter we can let you know as soon as we know more!

    • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Oh! As for your specific issue of not being able to gain weight despite eating everything in site, check this article out:

      You’ll need to lift as well, but hopefully this helps you figure out the nutrition side of things a little bit more.

  7. Rophielle on April 3, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Are the measurement based on a flexed arm or relaxed arm?

  8. Jason on April 10, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I do think this is a great article. However, I do want to state out my opinion and personal experience with aesthetics. I do think in some cases the role of bodyfat percentage and other body proportions is understated. Suppose you have a 5’10” 130 lb male with 10% bodyfat vs a male at the same height and weight but with 16% bodyfat. I tend to think that the one with the lower bodyfat may be perceived by many as more attractive due to the higher amount of muscle, even though this person is still quite slim. I have a similar BMI to that example, but I have low bodyfat and my shoulder/waist ratio is actually close to the ideal ratio of 1.618. Despite the fact that I am downright skinny, I don’t think some girls consider me to be unattractive given that I have defined muscles and my low waist size (kind of) gives me the illusion of having broad shoulders.

    This isn’t to discourage anyone who is trying to gain weight, but I just wanted to point out that in some situations it’s not always about BMI but about proportions and bodyfat. I also think that from your first aesthetics article, it may not be fair to group all skinny guys into the same label for these reasons.

    Just my thoughts, but overall I like your analysis of the topic.

    • Shane Duquette on April 11, 2016 at 11:44 am

      Hey Jason, that’s a really, really good point! Not only would they (you) have significantly more muscle, but they’d also look far more athletic without looking steroidy or obsessed, as the amount of muscle mass would be reasonable.

      In the first aesthetics article we ranked the body types in terms of attractiveness, and you can see there that the thinner fit looking guys do quite well—better than enormous bodybuilders. They can do a little better by getting up to a higher BMI by adding some muscle—adding strengths/size to their list of attractive attributes—but so long as they look fit to begin with, they do fine either way 🙂

  9. Al on April 18, 2016 at 4:11 am

    Hi Shane, great article i’ve always had aesthetics in mind.

    Just a question out of curiosity. I am a classic ectomorph with small bone structure (tiny, tiny wrists). My chest is 40in, arm 13in. But people say it’s well defined, big etc. I know for a fact that 40in chest is nothing, even those who lift a teacup instead of dumbbells have 45in minimum. Same goes for my tiny arms as well. But it got me thinking…. is it possible that for us ectomorphs with tiny wrists and bone structure, even a small chest or arm will project the ILLUSION of big? I hope I am making sense here.

    Since you’ve researched ecto body type so much, I thought you might have an insight into this. Thanks again, Shane.

    • Shane Duquette on April 18, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Definitely! In some cases, due to the contrast, muscles can look bigger next to a small bone structure. Muscular forearms next to thin wrists, for example. But sometimes a big bone structure will make guys appear more muscular simply because it makes that area bigger overall. Thick upper arm bones boosting arm circumference by an inch, for example.

      There’s something else to consider as well. We could potentially have, say, 20 more pounds of muscle than someone else who weighs the same simply because less of our weight is bone, more is muscle. Same goes when considering measurements! We might have substantially more muscle in our 13–15″ arms than someone with bigger upper arm bones even though we measure the same.

      It could also be that you have a lower body fat percentage than average so your chest is well defined and thus appears bigger 🙂

      • Al on April 22, 2016 at 6:46 am

        Thanks so much for the reply, Shane. What u said about bone weight/muscle weight is very insightful. I should know, I have a 6inch wrist, lol. Very annoying, really, because while you can control muscle building to an extent by working out/eating big, small bones are not somehting under your control. u are stuck with it. Frustrating.

        • Shane Duquette on April 22, 2016 at 9:10 pm

          Your question was really interesting and I’m going to be posting a video about it in the next couple days on our YouTube channel (which we’ve just started). Done filming, just need to upload it 🙂

          • Al on April 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

            Looking forward to it.

  10. Oscar on May 17, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Hi Shane, how come Doctor B has six pack in his after photo despite having a lot of fat on his stomach? It is very strange, I thought fat and six pack didnt go together.

    • Shane Duquette on May 17, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      It looks like he has rather large ab muscles, which is not surprising given how much muscle he built. His particular genetics probably helped also. Some guys would need to be leaner to get that kind of ab definition for sure.

  11. MB on May 18, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Hey Shane, what would be the ideal chest size circumference based on the 50″ inch shoulder circumference?

    • Shane Duquette on May 18, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Casey Butts’ research found that a chest about 1.4x as big as your waist was considered ideally attractive 🙂

      • Al on June 15, 2016 at 8:24 am

        If you dont mind my asking, Shane, what’s your chest size (and wrist size)? Does height matter for chest size, like a short guy has a better chance of building thicker chest?

        • Shane Duquette on June 15, 2016 at 12:49 pm

          Hey Al, my chest size is 43 inches and my wrist size is 6.5 inches at a height of 74 inches (6’2).

          People often grow disproportionately, so it’s common for taller guys to have proportionally longer limbs and torsos. This means that shorter guys are more likely to be a little stockier, yes, and taller guys are more likely to be ectomorphs. As a result, the average height in our community is around 2 inches taller than average. However, this isn’t any kind of hard rule.

          • Al on June 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

            Thanks, Shane, out of curiosity, do u measure it just under armpit or just above nipples (for chest measurement)? Do u keep arms down to ur sides to measure (bcus when I wrap tape around chest my arms are up)?

            Also I am only 5’10”, are ectomorphs normally this short, or am I an anomaly?

          • Shane Duquette on June 15, 2016 at 1:26 pm

            I measured at nipple height and with my arms in a relaxed position.

            Most of our members are from North America, India and Europe, and the average height varies quite a bit between those areas. For example, the average height in India is around 5’7, whereas the average height in the Dinaric Alps (Northern Europe) is 6’1. The standard deviation for men’s height is around 3 inches, so guys within 3 inches of that average are of “normal” height.

            Here in Canada the national average is 5’10, so most guys are between 5’7 and 6’1. I would guess that most ectomorphs around here are around two inches taller, so between 5’9 and 6’3. Marco is 6’4 though, so he’s exceptionally tall even for an ectomorph. We have lots of shorter guys as well.

            So unless you’re from one of those super tall Northern European countries, I think you’re a pretty normal height for an ectomorph 🙂

  12. Al on June 15, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Hi Shane, what do u think of Oskar Faarkrog? He did only three bodyweight exercises – chins, pushups, and bodyweight sqauts, but is built like a mountain. It cant be good genetics, bcuz the man was skinnyfat his whole life.

    So is it possible that only a few compound exercises are necessary for muscle growth?

    • Shane Duquette on June 15, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      I think what Oskar Faarkrog did was awesome! He had decent muscularity even before he began exercising, so I would say he started off chubby, not skinny-fat. Even then, I’m impressed that he was able to build even more muscle with a routine that isn’t very good for building muscle.

      Bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight chin-ups, push-ups and squats are good exercises to have in a muscle-building routine, but only when you’re very weak. When you get strong enough to do more than 20 reps before hitting total muscular failure, you need to start adding weight in order to keep growing. This is backed up by every muscle growth study ever, it’s what athletes do, it’s what bodybuilders do and it’s what actors do when they need to bulk up in a hurry. There are a few examples of people building muscle in other ways, but these are outliers. Moreover, they these outliers probably would have had better results had they followed a better routine.

      I began with bodyweight push-ups, chin-ups and squats, but now I’m doing push-ups with 90 pounds on my back, chin-ups with 80 pounds around my waist and squats with a 275 pound barbell. Forcing my muscles to adapt by growing stronger is why I’ve been able to gain over 50 pounds of muscle.

      Keep in mind that a skinny guy is light, so bodyweight exercises are often quite easy. Oskar Faarkrog was carrying maybe 20 extra pounds of muscle, maybe 30 extra pounds of fat. That makes his push-ups, chin-ups and squats equivalent to a skinny guy doing them with an extra 50 pounds.

      Compound exercises. Can you build muscle with just a few compound exercises? Absolutely! Is it optimal? Not even close.

  13. al on June 15, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Hi Shane, thanks for the detailed explanation. Can u pls explain the past part, though? Many ppl say compound will target smaller muscles also (like arms), so why do isolation? They say curling 30 pounds is no match for lifting entire bodyweight during a chin (which is place more stress on arms than curls)?

    R they totally mistaken?

    • Shane Duquette on June 20, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      That’s a very good question and there’s been quite a lot of research done into it, so I can answer with some certainty.

      But yes, they are mistaken! If you do chin-ups you’ll get some bicep growth, certainly. If you do curls you’ll get bicep growth also, and you’re right, perhaps a little less, because the load will be lighter. But if you do chin-ups and curls you’ll get the benefits of both. These things can be additive.

      I’m going to write up a full post on that. It’s a question we get a lot and it’s difficult to answer in just a few sentences.

  14. Al on June 16, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Hi Shane, I forgot to ask a very important question reg. aesthetics. Many ppl say that pullups give you v taper, it tests your relative strength, etc. etc. In short, they say pullups is better than dumbell rows. What is ur view on that? Is it true that lifting your whole bodyweight (as in pulups) is better for an aesthetic build than db rows which involves lifting an external weight only? Or is it just that pullups has good publicity, lol, and therefore overrated?

    • Shane Duquette on June 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      It’s hard to say whether one exercise is better than a totally different one. Rows and pull-ups both work your back, but one is a horizontal pull and the other is a vertical pull. That’s sort of like comparing the bench press to the overhead press. Very different.

      I would say that the chin-up is a better lift than the pull-up, as it lets the biceps assist on the lift, allowing you to lift more weight with all of the muscle groups involved. More of a compound lift that way. But again, it comes down to what your goals are.

      A really interesting question would be whether chin-ups are better than rows. The king of vertical pulls vs the king of horizontal pulls. I would go for the chin-up, as it has greater range of motion, you tend to lift heavier weights, and it involves your biceps as well as your back… but I think the real answer is to do both 🙂

  15. Greg on September 6, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    What do you guys think about David Laid? Could he be natty? He is the same weight and height as Shane, but he had a radically different look. How is it possible?

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Steroid use is pretty common, and he definitely looks like he could be on them. But you never know, right? I mean, you see a guy like Ronnie Coleman and you have a pretty good idea… but there are also some pretty gnarly genetic mutations out there.

      For example, google “whippet.” They’re a skinny greyhound sort of dog. A very ectomorphic breed of dog, you could say. Then google “bully whippet.” It’s a regular whippet but with a genetic mutation that wrecks the animal’s ability to regulate muscle growth—an inhibited myostatin gene. No steroids or anything, just a genetic mutation.

      There are a couple kids right now who have that same genetic mutation. By the time they’re adults, they might be monsters.

      So we see a guy who appears a little too muscular and we often assume steroids. That’s usually true, so it’s not a bad assumption… but you never know. Could also be very, very rare genetics.

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Hah, he does have a similar frame to me. That’s crazy.

      Ahaha he looks so different because he’s way bigger and way leaner.

      Sort of like comparing Daniel Craig and Mike Mentzer, or Brad Pitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  16. Greg on September 7, 2016 at 9:29 am

    He might be bigger and leaner a bit, but he does have almost the same height and weight. His muscles are way fuller and bigger. Also, he has a 15 inch biceps, the same as you, but look at his arms and yours, his looks superior to yours somehow. That’s the reason why i would say he takes something.

    • Shane Duquette on September 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Lots of things could factor in there. Height and weight aren’t everything. If David Laid’s bone structure was 20 pounds lighter, he might have an additional 20 pounds of muscle while weighing the same as me. He’s also very lean. So subtract 10 pounds of fat, add 10 pounds of muscle. That’s another very large difference.

      Laid might also do simple things, like pumping up before a photo shoot, making sure that all his muscles are swollen full of blood. That could make 15-inch biceps look like incredibly vascular 16-inch biceps right there. His biceps are also much longer than mine. I can fit 3.5 fingers between my biceps belly and my forearm. It looks like he could barely squeeze one in there. That can make a muscle look a lot fuller as well.

      Looks like he also started at 14, I started at 22. He’s also a bodybuilder, so presumably he’s still trying to get bigger and leaner. Once I got to 180 with 11% body fat over the course of a couple years, I haven’t tried to get bigger or leaner since.

      I wouldn’t be so quick to assume he’s on something. World class genetics, hard work, and many years of bodybuilding can go a long way. Not saying he’s not using steroids—most bodybuilders and fitness models do—but you never know!

  17. Greg on September 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Well that might be true, just look at his first photos, how skinny he was. He didnt look like a full muscle belly guy, as he was so skinny.
    And do you have any advice on getting as lean as him without losing muscle?

    • Shane Duquette on September 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      In his starting photos he’s 14 haha. That’s before puberty. Before puberty our bodies are virtually identical to a 14-year-old woman’s body. I wouldn’t make too many inferences about his genetics. Now that he’s 18 and just beginning puberty, now would be a better chance to see what his genetics are looking like.

      Very thin, yes, but muscle belly / tendon lengths don’t change when you build muscle. He always had good muscle-building genetics there.

      The reason you see his waist staying narrow while his shoulders got so much broader is partly because of how much muscle he built, but also because of how his bone structure changed when he hit puberty.

      To get leaner without losing muscle you’d want to follow a good muscle-building lifting program, eat in a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day (about a pound lost per week), and keeping your protein intake high—at least 1 gram per pound bodyweight.

      Once you get under 10–12% body fat, depending on your genetics, you’ll probably want to start tracking your macros (within a few grams) using something like My Fitness Pal. You’d get a food scale and weigh everything before eating it.

      Also keep in mind that unless you take steroids or have truly world class genetics, when you get that lean you’re risking feeling really awful. No sex drive, grumpy, weird cravings, depression, etc. Not everyone will feel that way, but it’s rare. You’re also quite a bit leaner than what most women would consider ideally attractive.

      The contest prep part of bodybuilding is very impressive, and I have tonnes of respect for the guys who do it, but it carries with it a lot of downsides that you need to beware of.

      For the record, this is more of a site for naturally thin guys who are trying to get bigger, more muscular, more attractive, healthier, stronger, and more athletic. We don’t deal much with pro bodybuilding stuff, which is sort of an extreme sport all of its own.

  18. Shrapsy on December 2, 2016 at 4:24 am


    Loved reading through the articles so far! Lots of useful interesting information and I really dig the presentation and the chill vibes. There are tons of pages out in the interwebs, some with great info, but a lot them are kinda low on the aesthetics and a little too high on testosterone.

    One thing that really stood out in both the articles on ectomorph aesthetics – There is a focus on shoulders as opposed to chest measurements. It seems to make a lot of sense! If you stroll into any bodybuilding forum or website you will always see the bros listing of chest, bis and waist. With a 38 inch chest, my chest has always felt a little bit inadequate. But I measured my shoulders for the first time and it comes out to a pleasantly surprising 49 inches.

    Do you have a take on the ideal chest size or shoulder to chest or waist to chest ratio? Does the golden ratio fit into this as well?

    • Shane Duquette on December 2, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      So glad you like the site, Shrapsy! 🙂

      There are ideal chest sizes for aesthetics. If I recall correctly, your chest would be 1.4 times the size of your waist. (So no, not the golden ratio). However, I think it would be far more effective to just get your chest (and back) to the point that they’re strong and muscular, whatever those measurements happen to be. If you have a small rib cage, for example, I think you can look perfectly aesthetic with a fairly small chest measurement. Your chest will be just as muscular, after all, as someone with a larger measurement coming from a larger ribcage. But with the shoulders, since it’s more about the overall shape of your silhouette rather than just your muscularity, you could say, it’s more about the measurement than how strong/defined your shoulders are?

      Hard to say with a great deal of certainty, but with all the research I’ve done, that’s what I’ve found. You want a masculine, “aesthetic” silhouette with your shoulders and waist, and then you want a chest that looks strong: good muscle size and definition.

  19. Agent J on December 10, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Hey Shane, you might find this YouTube video interesting. It sort of anecdotally affirms a lot of what I’ve seen you say at times. The thinner dude wins by a pretty big margin.

    • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Hehehe nice.

  20. Mike on February 26, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Couple questions. Ive been lifting for 8+ years now and Ive looked relatively the same (bf% to BW ratio) for the past couple years so Im nearing my muscular potential. These days Im focusing the most on trying to improve my proportions into what I consider an ideal physique. I consider myself chest/lat dominant from mainly a physical perspective but also a structural/strength perspective (benching/pull ups have always been my best lifts and my upper body posture could be a little better. I know my chest/lats are tight from the muscle development. Always working on it). Ive mostly noticed that my delts (and maybe traps) used to look great but my chest/lats (especially lower chest) have improved at a faster rate so now my shoulders look a little smaller and I sometimes feel my proportions got worse. Any general tips for this? Right now I just try to take some volume from my chest/lat dominant lifts so I can do more specific lifts like delt raises and face pulls but Im not sure how much of a focus I should have. Ive focused on shoulders for at least a few years and I still think my chest overpowers them. I think we agree that shoulders are the #1 most important muscle group for looking good.

    Also I know you support full body workouts 3x/week and volume as a key contributor to muscle growth. If youre able to lift slightly more often per week dont you think itd be a decent idea to slightly decrease the frequency in order to slightly increase the total volume to support more muscle development? For example lets say someone does PPL 5 (or even 4) days per week and can handle 7 exercises per session. Sure the frequency of everything has decreased but the total volume across the week has increased by a ton. You now get 25-30 upper body exercises a week instead of ~15. Plus this slightly lower frequency seems better for recovery with a lower chance of an overuse injury (compared to full body). Almost seems like a win win. Thoughts?

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      Looking the same, aka plateauing, for a couple years isn’t uncommon. It might not mean you’re near your muscular potential, it might just mean that you need to take your workouts or nutrition to the next level. As we become more experienced it takes more and more stress to cause muscles to grow. The same routine that works for a beginner won’t work for an intermediate lifter, and the same routine that works for an intermediate lifter won’t work for an advanced lifter.

      I don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s hard to say. What you’re describing sounds like a powerlifter physique. Focusing on squats, deadlifts and bench presses can often have that affect. You could try putting less priority on the bench press, more priority on the overhead press (if you can learn to do it effectively/safely). Then bring in some high rep face pulls for the backs of your shoulders and your upper back (and posture/shoulder health), and some moderate rep range incline bench press for your upper chest and the fronts of your shoulders. Maybe some light delt raises to finish of your shoulder work. I’d recommend lateral raises over front raises, as there’ll already be a lot in your routine for the fronts of your shoulders, less for the sides.

      As for how much focus to put on your shoulders, I’d start your push day with the overhead press, then move to incline. You can do a light set of face pulls for every heavy set of overhead presses that you do. Just superset them together, even though a face pull is a pull. Your shoulders will be fine in time for pull day, even if it’s the next day. I’d just drop the flat bench for a while. So long as you aren’t losing weight, you won’t lose muscle there. You’ll get rusty, so it will take a couple workouts to get your old numbers back, but it’ll allow you to properly balance out the muscle groups. You might even blast through a bench plateau what with all the new shoulder strength.

      So long as frequency isn’t below 2 days per week you should be fine. Even if you did Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) just 3 days per week, the results you’d get are only slightly less than full body workouts. So yes, if you’re a more advanced lifter who can handle more volume by doing PPL, go for it. You’re right, though, it all depends on how much volume you can handle. We find we can normally push people’s limit with just 3 fairly hearty full-body workouts. There’s no single right approach, though, and that’s just our typical method. Yours sounds good also 🙂

      However, with a full body workout you can normally lift a little harder. By the time you go from bench press to incline press to overhead press, your shoulder strength is way down. (To test this, reverse the order of your lifts and notice how much strength you gain on the ones you used to do at the end of your workout.) Great for muscle damage, not as great for overall volume. So there are some volume downsides there as well.

      Can make similar arguments for recovery and injury prevention. (For example, training a heavily fatigued muscle group can be more dangerous than training a fresh one. Depends on how you do it, though.)

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      Also, while it’s a controversial opinion, you might want to experiment with a lower volume approach for a while. You might not see that much growth while doing the lower volume approach, but you might see some strength gains. Then when you go back to higher volume it might blast you through your plateau. The idea here—credit going to Greg Nuckols—is that it might allow your muscles to re-sensitize themselves to higher volume approaches. (This is theoretical, not proven.)

  21. […] in terms of your physique. You can check out our Ectomorph Aesthetics and our follow-up article Ectomorphs Aesthetics #2 that has more of the […]

  22. Jp on June 24, 2017 at 12:42 am

    Hi just want to know what if you do 3-4 months of workout but stopped for almost 2 months then you start again does this affect your newbie gains? Does this mean you are starting all over again? And right now I’m doing 2 days of ICF 5×5 full body workouts and 1 day isolation for my back, tricep and shoulder for 1-1.5 hrs. Is this a good workout for bulking? And I’m just eating what is served to me because I’m still in college and I live with my parents so I’m just eating 2x of what I used to eat. And I also don’t take supplements cause it worsens my acne.

    Also nice article really helpful.

    • Shane Duquette on June 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Hey Jp, that’s a good question about newbie gains. The short answer is no. You can make some gains over the course of a few months, take some time off, lose some mass, and then when you get back into lifting, you’ll quickly spring back to your previous max size and strength. It’s always easier to regain muscle than it is to build new muscle. You’ll understand more of the nuances of that if you check out our newbie gains article, though:

      Regarding ICF 5×5, we try to stay away from reviewing other programs. We do talk about different STYLES of training, though, so check this article out to see if the way that you’re training lines up with your goals:

  23. MB on July 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Hello Shane,

    I’m wondering when I measure my shoulders should the tape be at rear delts level or not necessarily? I get a bigger measurement when the tape is just under the armpit than just around my shoulders, what is the correct one? because the difference is about 2 inches 47.75″ to 49.5″. Also do you know how much bodyfat % does someone have to lose to drop 1″ inch at waist? considering they are under 15%


    • Shane Duquette on July 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      You can use the widest point for your shoulders and the narrowest point for your waist 🙂

      After all, the point is to measure your “V” shape from the widest part down to the narrowest.

  24. Mike on January 16, 2018 at 11:15 am

    We all agree that the upper body in general is a little more important than the lower body for ideal male aesthetic proportions. But specifically regarding the upper body where would you rank the importance of each muscle group? Ive always felt physiques with slightly overdeveloped delts/traps/arms (including forearms) look best. Kind of like how females with overdeveloped asses get the most attention. A girl with a balanced lower body would get less.

    • Shane Duquette on January 17, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Oo, this is a good yet tricky question.

      First, the easy stuff: over-developing your delts will make you look naturally more masculine (as if you’re producing more testosterone and have more masculine genetics) and will also make you look more athletic (as if you’re leading a fitter and healthier lifestyle). Women love broad shoulders, men love having them. Totally uncontroversial statement there that’s backed up by every study. Even when taken to extremes (e.g. Steve Reeves), it looks awesome. Delts on men are the most analogous to glutes on women in that sense.

      Second, the slightly more complicated stuff: Most research looking into physical attraction find that chest girth (i.e. chest and upper back size) is the second most important aspect of your physique, so you might get more visual appeal with women by giving second priority to your chest and upper back. However, if your goal is to impress other men, you could make a good case for arms/chest being second to shoulders. (Chest will probably take you further when shirtless, but arms will take you further when wearing a t-shirt or sleeveless shirt. Then in a long-sleeved shirt, chest probably takes the lead again.) As for forearms, I think strong forearms are indeed awesome, but I’d guess they rank lower on the overall list of priorities—probably lower than glutes (which give a huge boost to the athleticism of your physique), and maybe somewhere near having bigger abs? I’m not sure where forearms fit in, though, to be honest.

      Now, for the really confusing stuff: traps. Part of the dilemma has to do with body type. If you have a naturally short neck or blocky build (e.g. Brock Lesnar), then developing big traps will make you far less attractive in the eyes of women. But what about more ectomorphic guys with longer necks? It really depends. After all, the bigger your traps get, the less square your shoulders look, and reducing the visual impact of your shoulders is reducing the #1 biggest factor when it comes to the attractiveness of your physique. But on the other hand, just like strong, broad shoulders signify masculinity and athleticism, so do big traps. The more masculine your genetics are, the bigger your shoulders and traps will grow (due to having more androgen receptors around your shoulder girdle. And if you’re strong and you carry things, your traps will grow bigger still—they’re majorly involved in the biggest and most practical lifts (such as deadlifts and overhead pressing).

      In my opinion, and based on my own personal preference, I think that erring on the side of genuine strength and athleticism will always win out. I think that’s why Connor McGregor-style physiques look so awesome. So I’m all for epic traps, and I’ll be working hard on my deadlift and overhead press. (And while I won’t be doing forearm curls, I’ll be doing those deadlifts without straps.)

  25. Ali on February 15, 2018 at 3:52 am

    Hello Shane,
    My name is Ali. My age is 22. I am very skinny. My height is 5′ 7 , weight 126 , 31 waist & 36″ chest. I want to gain weight. I am very confused. I have a question. Can taking of weight gainer will helpful for me?

  26. Jack on July 11, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    What bodyweight should I use here? Just a general mid-day bodyweight w/ maybe some food in the belly and light clothes? Or a morning naked pre-food, post-shit bodyweight? And same to when people in the lifting community list their bodyweight, is there a better chance they’re just talking about a general weight like I mentioned before? The only time I ever use naked morning weight is for my own personal logging since it’s most consistent. But if anyone in real life or online simply asks me my bodyweight, I’ll add 5lbs to my naked morning weight since I believe the majority of people go by a general mid-day weight.

    • Shane Duquette on July 11, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      As for what weight you should use, it depends on the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish. When tracking your progress, I think it’s important to prioritize consistency, and the easiest way to be consistent with your weigh-ins is to use your post-bathroom pre-breakfast morning weight. When you’re talking about attractiveness, I guess it depends on when you’re trying to look optimally attractive? If you want to be sexy in the evening, perhaps it makes sense to use your evening weight? More seriously, though, I would just err on the side that goes against your bias. So since most of us are trying to gain weight, I’d use your lowest weight. That way if you overcorrect and gain a bit of extra muscle, well, great! (If you were overweight and trying to get leaner, I’d say the opposite.)

      As for what weight most people use, probably their most flattering weight, rounded in a flattering direction. The guy who weighs 130 pounds in the morning might weigh 134 in the evening and tell people he weighs around 135. The guy who weighs 313 pounds in the evening might say he weighs around 300 pounds. As for what weight we use, we use our morning weight, since we were weighing ourselves for the purposes of tracking our progress, and then we try to advertise our gains honestly. It wouldn’t be honest to you guys to weigh ourselves in the morning in our before photos, then in the evening in our after photos, adding a few pounds to our gains.

      …But if someone asks how much you weigh, meh, I think you can tell them anything that’s honest and not misleading. If that’s your evening weight, I don’t see a problem with that.

      • Jack on July 11, 2018 at 6:47 pm

        Alright thanks. ‘What weight should I use’ was more in reference to the BMI part of this article. The part saying how males are most optimally attractive between 23-26.5. But you’ve made me realize I’m probably overthinking it, lol.

  27. Øyvind on August 26, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Hey, Shane. Thanks for great articles! At the moment, I do not have the money to buy your full program, but I am learning a lot from your free content, and am grateful for it.

    Your advice really seems to work. I have gained about 8 pounds of what I believe is mainly muscle, these last two weeks. Perhaps some of it is water-weight.

    I’m a little worried this is too much, too fast, though.

    How do I avoid getting stretch marks? How quick is too quick? Have you, your colleagues or anyone you know had trouble with stretch-marks as you build muscle? I am a fairly patient guy. I could do this slowly, if it means keeping my skin healthier.

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