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.

First, let’s take a look at common male proportions. We aren’t talking about how skinny or muscular you are, but rather about your bone structure. Some guys are stocky, other guys are lanky. Some guys have long arms, some guys have stubby ones.

Instead of talking about endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs, let’s just talk directly about limb lengths, proportions, and stockiness, like so:

Ectomorph body type Strengths and Weaknesses

We can explain why body proportions matter by dipping into the three big lifts a little bit. Obviously these aren’t the only lifts you’d use, but they make for a pretty gnarly foundation when putting together a muscle-building program.

How to Deadlift as an Ectomorph

If you’re familiar with physics, you’ll intuitively know that our bone structure defines our lever lengths and affects the range of motion we lift weights through.

This means that our proportions play a huge role in how much weight we can lift. A guy with gorilla-like arms can easily deadlift weight off the ground. He hardly needs to bend to grab the barbell and doesn’t need to lift the weight back up very high.

In physics terms that means he needs to exert a large force, sure, but since the distance travelledisn’t very far, there isn’t much “work” (force x distance) being done. Deadlifts are made even easier by having a short torso, which means there isn’t much spinal stabilization required. Plus, short lever lengths lead to rad leverage.

If an alligator-type guy were to attempt a deadlift he’d need to bend down ridiculously low because of his short little arms (also resulting in bad lifting mechanics) and then lift the weight through a huge range of motion—all while stabilizing an incredibly long torso. A huge amount of work is being done, a lot muscle surrounding the spine needs to be present to keep the spine stable, it requires impressive hip mobility, and that man needs to be wickedly strong to overcome really poor leverage.

As such the world’s best deadlifters tend to look like Lamar Gant. Gant could deadlift over 600 pounds at a bodyweight of 120. Let me introduce you to the king of ectomorphs:

Most of us ectomorph have much longer torsos though, often leading us to believe that since we have long fragile spines we probably shouldn’t be deadlifting. That’s just asking for disaster, right? It makes sense that we should leave the deadlifting to the short muscular guys with short stable spines – the guys that don’t need to worry about popping a disk… right?

As guys with long fragile spines and with relatively little muscle protecting them, we, more than anyone, need to be doing lifts that build up stability in our torsos. That means building a stable core and packing huge slabs of muscle onto our lower and upper backs. This will protect our long and precious spine.

And the best lift for developing a bullet-proof back, of course, is the deadlift. Perhaps surprisingly, though, goblet squats and front squats are also great for improving your back strength. (And so are chin-ups.)

The last thing you want to do as an ectomorph is neglect strengthening your spine, build up a ton of muscle, get married while looking buff in your tux, get a little bit drunk at the wedding reception, go to carry your bombshell bride over the threshold… and throw out your still-fragile back.

If this sounds a little farfetched, just try to think up a scenario where you’d be lifting something and your back wouldn’t be involved at all. It’s kind of tricky. It hardly ever happens. Hell, you can’t even stand up and do a biceps curl without relying on your back for stability. And forget sweeping!

That’s why no amount of lower or upper-body strength matters in the real world if you can’t transfer that load through your torso. You can’t squat big, deadlift big, press things overhead, carry things, play sports, carry your lover around, etc.

The short stocky barrel-chested guys have stability in their torso naturally. It just comes along with their stockier body type. We ectomorphs need to build it. 

Many of us start out looking like crooked lollipops when viewed from the side—what with our long narrow bodies bent out of shape by years of postural/weightlifting neglect. Deads’ll fix that right up. Check out how much lower and upper back musculature one of our members, Brett, was able to build after 10 weeks of focusing on building up his posterior chain:

Even Lamar Gant, seemingly a rare breed of ectomorph with a short torso, actually isn’t as atypical as it first seems. He had a severe case of scoliosis growing up, hindering his back development and causing him a lot of problems. He decided to pursue weightlifting in an effort to correct his spinal curvature and strengthen the muscles surrounding his spine. So, far from being a genetic superhero, he entered the weightlifting arena skinny and with a crooked back.

His back is still crooked, but it’s now far from fragile:

The deadlift isn’t a lift reserved for guys with naturally strong backs, it’s really quite the opposite. If you assumed that a skinny guy deadlifting was a recipe for disaster, though, don’t worry—I’m not going to make fun of you. Especially since you’re correct. We’ve got some work to do before we can deadlift like Lamar Gant.

For powerlifters, who need to follow a strict set of lifting regulations, the best way to deadlift is to use a wide stance, bringing their legs outside their arms. The “sumo” deadlift, it’s called:

Illustration of sumo barbell deadlift

The sumo deadlift allows their torso to remain upright, which means that they won’t need to work as hard to stabilize it. It also shortens the range of motion and improves their joint angles, which allows them to lift more weight while doing less work.

Now, don’t get me wrong. That approach of improving leverage while minimizing range of motion is perfect for powerlifting. The downside is that instead of building up a bigger back, powerlifters build up a bigger lower body.

Having a bigger lower body is fine, but the deadlift is a great lift for building a thicker back. It would be a shame to miss out on that growth stimulus just to lift a little more weight. Especially since we aren’t being judged on how much weight we can lift. After all, we aren’t powerlifters. We’re just skinny guys who are trying to bulk up.

Luckily, since we aren’t powerlifters, we have the option of modifying our lifts to help us get more muscle growth out of them. So in this case, we can take the barbell inside a squat rack, set it up the barbell raised up on the safety bars, and start with rack pulls. This keeps the dead an amazing exercise for building up back strength and stability, while also letting us safely lift heavy enough to stimulate some muscle growth.

The goal isn’t to keep doing raised deadlifts forever, though. As you improve your mobility, you can lower the bar lower and lower, requiring more and more hip mobility and back stability, until eventually you’re doing a full conventional deadlift. (You could even take it further, progressing to snatch-grip deadlifts, which are even better for your upper back.)

At that point, your long arms become an advantage, and you should be able to hoist some pretty nice numbers. There’s no sense rushing right there though. Building up hip mobility and back strength is far more important than winning the powerlifting competition you aren’t in.

How to Bench Press as an Ectomorph

When it comes to pressing movements (the overhead press, the bench press, the squat, and so on) it pays to have a big barrel chest and stubby alligator-arms. This will improve your joint angles and reduce your range of motion, making the lifts much easier.

Us ectomorphs often have shallower ribcages and lankier arms. This can make our first time on the bench a really frustrating experience, as the odds are totally stacked against us. We often awkwardly struggle to press tiny amounts of weight while we watch other guys benching big numbers effortlessly.

The problem isn’t that we suck at building muscle though—we don’t—the problem is that we’re trying to use lifting routines designed by stocky people for stocky people.

The good news is that Lamar Gant, the ectomorph deadlifting king, was also able to break a world record with his bench press despite having the worst possible physique for it. If he can do it we sure as hell can.

When it comes to the bench press, most powerlifters arch their backs to improve their leverage. Since the rules state that the bar needs to touch their torso in order to count, they get creative. Instead of bringing the bar down low, they bring their torsos up high, like so:

Illustration of a man doing the barbell bench press with an arched back.

Their belly then meets the bar halfway, keeping their shoulders in a healthy position, improving their leverage… and shortening the range of motion.

The problem is that while improved leverage helps to lift more weight, a shortened range of motion means that you’ll build less muscle.

If you’re trying to bulk up, you’ll do better by keeping your arch more modest and simply stopping when your shoulders lose their pressing power. You don’t want to drop it any further than that, as too much rotation in your shoulder joints will risk doing damage to them.

We’re of the belief that lifting weights should make you bigger and stronger, not weaker and more injured. Damage done to joints in the process of building bigger muscles doesn’t really fit with that objective.

One trick we use is rolling up a towel and putting it on our chests, simulating a larger ribcage. Even better, you could use a plank of wood. Keep it fairly small. Just a couple inches thick. That way you’ll still have a larger than average range of motion, allowing you to build a greater than average amount of muscle.

As your shoulders get stronger and your torso gets thicker, you can get rid of the towel and start bringing the bar all the way down to your chest.

Also keep in mind that if you’re a beginner, you don’t have to even use the bench press. You can start with push-ups. Until you can do 20–30 push-ups with perfect technique, they’ll build just as much muscle as the bench press. In fact, push-ups might even be better for beginners.

How to Squat as an Ectomorph

Squats are a tricky beast for us ectomorphs too, and by now you might be able to guess the fix. As you’ve probably heard a thousand times, the lower you squat, the better. And that’s true. Deep squats are one of the best ways of involving the biggest and most powerful muscle groups in your body. You’ll be building up your quads, many of your core muscles, your posterior chain, your ego, and your glutes.

The benefits keep compounding the lower you can go with perfect form. The deeper you squat, the more your gains will translate into hearty real world strength (study), the more glute activation you’ll get (study), and, since muscle hypertrophy is positively correlated with range of motion, the more muscle size you’ll build.

So squatting deeply is generally a good thing, especially for us ectomorphs who are trying to bulk up as quickly as possible.

However, just because deep squats have advantages doesn’t mean that you should be doing them. At least not yet.

Many of these classic exercises are actually quite advanced. It’s usually best to start with easier variations and work your way up. And even when you work your way up, you might choose different squat variations from a powerlifter.

For example, if you want to stimulate upper-back and core growth while squatting, you might want to start with a goblet squat and work your way towards a front squat.

Illustration of a man doing a barbell front squat

The reason that these front-loaded squats are so incredible for helping beginners bulk up is twofold. It demands more upper back strength, yes, and that’s great, but there’s a second benefit. The further in front of you the load is, the more upright you’ll be able to keep your torso, and the less hip mobility you’ll need to do the lift safely.

Even with these more ectomorph-friendly variations, don’t squat deeper than you can go with good form. There’s no need to round your back over in an attempt to squat as deep as possible. Just squat within your means. And then work to expand your means.

Like with his bench, Gant has a horrendous body for squatting. He’s got a short torso and mile-long legs.

To make up for it, he had to develop unbelievable hip mobility in order to get to depth. But he did:

So as an ectomorph you should probably squat, and you should probably squat deep… eventually. But you don’t need to squat like a powerlifter. You’ll probably do better if you choose a front squat.

How to Lift Weights as an Ectomorph

It’s typical to be a little atypical. When it comes to any lift, there’s always a chance that it won’t quite suit your body type or your experience level.

If you’re thin, skinny, an ectomorph—whatever you want to call us—we often benefit from changing the lifts to better suit our body type. Powerlifting and bodybuilding are dominated by stocky guys with decades of lifting experience. That’s fine. We’ll just do it our way instead.

The good news is that many lifts are geared more towards athletes, and athletes come in all shapes and sizes. There’s plenty of research done into lifting with a wide variety of body types. Marco has helped professional football players bulk up, and they often tend to be sturdily built. But he’s also helped lanky college volleyball players bulk up.

Whatever style of lifting you do, a good rule of thumb is that lifting should feel good. You shouldn’t feel pain in your joints, you shouldn’t feel pinches, and you shouldn’t be worried that a limb will pop off.

Lift with a weight that’s challenging yet comfortable and generally stay away from failure during your heavy sets—at least during your first few months of training. As a relatively untrained ectomorph looking to build size and strength, you probably shouldn’t be squatting, deadlifting or benching to failure every week, if ever. That’s where form deteriorates, recovery times become enormous, and injuries become more common.

There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, it’s the isolation exercises, such as bicep curls, that you’d want to take to failure, not the big compound lifts.

Focus on the details of perfecting form when practicing and warming up; focus on lifting when you’re lifting. Our goal isn’t to turn you into a rigid lifting robot; you’re still supposed to lift like a rugged beast.

Developing perfect textbook technique is something that happens over years of training, not before you ever do your first squat. There’s plenty of time to focus on perfecting your form while warming up and practicing your lifts.

When it comes time to actually lift weights, though, it’s often easier to loosen up a bit and focus more on lifting “naturally.” Holding onto tension and getting too cerebral while lifting can often be more troublesome than just selecting a weight you’re totally in control of and then lifting it.

There’s no need to be lifting as heavy as you possibly can or forcing yourself through ranges of motions that your body isn’t comfortable in yet.

Bulking up isn’t about how much you can lift today, it’s about how much more you can lift tomorrow. Good luck!

Shane Duquette, BDes, is a writer and illustrator with a degree in design from York University. He co-founded Bony to Beastly and Bony to Bombshell, where he specializes in helping skinny people bulk up.

More about Shane here.

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How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before


  1. Joram on March 6, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Great article as usual Shane! 🙂

    Some good tips for posture as well… I recently started (again), so they’ll definitely come in handy!

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Right on Joram, good luck!

  2. Lance on March 6, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Great article Shane! Reminded me of a post by Marco that I saw earlier today: basically it’s great to have that hunger and drive to excel and grow and push yourself to new levels, “but you gotta earn the right to push hard.” And a lot of us beginners have plenty of earning and learning to do as our step 1!

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Ah yeah I love that quote of Marco’s!

      Glad you enjoyed it man 🙂

  3. Romulo on March 6, 2013 at 7:25 am

    That’s awesome!

    Some legit information there! Something that worked for me when i started deadlifting was doing it with free weights at first. After a couple weeks i started doing in the barbell easily!

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      That’s a great point. Lifts like dumbbell romanian deadlifts are great for building up mobility.

  4. Sean on March 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    What a brilliant article, thanks alot for taking the time to write this in depth and very interesting article.

  5. Sam, London UK on March 7, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Excellent article once again. I was having problems squatting deep, but reducing the weight to almost nothing but the bar itself allowed me to build up a decent range of motion and flexibility in my hips and legs. Difficult for us ectomorphs though when we see other guys at the gym squatting and lifting huge weights. Form is everything though, right?!

    Thanks again mate, much appreciated.

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks man, glad you enjoyed it.

      That’s sweet man, glad to hear it worked out well for you.

      For sure! Mastering form first is definitely the way to go, and you’ll soon blow past the people who don’t 🙂

  6. syed on March 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

    so ectomorph shouldn’t be touching their chest when bench pressing?

    • Shane Duquette on March 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      That depends on your proportions. A lot of us have narrow ribcages and long arms, which causes our shoulders to go into a dangerous position when we tried to touch our chest.

      I would focus on your shoulder positioning. If your elbows drop bellow parallel with your body in order for the bar to touch your chest … you probably shouldn’t touch your chest.

      Everyone is built a little different though.

  7. denis on March 11, 2013 at 3:55 am

    It woud be also cream on the top, if you could explain the overhead press lanky technique…long arms, neck, torso. Cheers

    • Shane Duquette on March 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Ah that’s a tricky lift and I think deserves a whole article of its own! The majority of ectomorphs, and men in general, need to overcome some physical limitations before they can safely press overhead.

      Most guys have poor shoulder mobility, meaning that they need to get mobility elsewhere (often from their lower back). You should be able to lift your arms straight up overhead with your abs flat and your ribcage locked down. Most guys can work at it and eventually build up that shoulder mobility and torso stability, but it takes some work.

      Many guys, from desk work and computer use, are a little kyphotic (slightly hunched) in their upper backs as well, which can also cause difficulties. Once again the tendency is to lift the ribcage instead of un-rounding that stiff kyphotic upper back.

      The overhead press is one of the most badass exercises out there, but definitely not something everyone should be doing starting out.

  8. Random Viewer on April 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    No offense but you look like you lost all your gains in your video. Oh and starting strength by mark ripptoe works fine

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      I originally started at 130. I think our latest video is me at 164, after doing our “lean to mean” experiment and before putting together Bony to Beastly. The latest photos are more recent, and show me after testing the program, at around 184. I’m happily hovering around 190 these days.

      We should definitely start shooting some more videos …

      Starting Strength is rather different from us, and agreed – great book! I really enjoyed it 🙂

  9. Chadd on April 27, 2013 at 6:11 am

    My job requires a lot of walking 5+ hrs of light walking. I work at a restaurant. Will I need to eat more calories in addition to what the program says to make up for lost calories or can I just pass that off as my weekly cardio?

    • Shane Duquette on April 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      We don’t really require any cardio on top of our strength training workouts. Are workouts are organized into circuits/supersets, so they’re actually pretty rad at giving you all the health benefits of cardio. Many of our guys do cardio on top though, play sports, physically demanding jobs, etc. That never holds any of them back though, and oftentimes it even helps.

      You would need to eat more than a sedentary person, yep! You’d likely see some advantages too though 🙂

  10. chris on May 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Why am I so scrawny but so strong? In high school I could bench twice my weight, but I look like i never lifted a weight in my life. No pecks and skinny arms.

    • Shane Duquette on May 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      That’s an interesting question. It’s possible to get strong relative to your weight, certainly. And that’s probably a really really good sign that you naturally find yourself so strong!

      Are you saying this because you want to look as strong as you are? (Or look stronger and be one whole hell of a lot stronger than that, even.) It’s definitely possible to get the best of both worlds, too 🙂

  11. Joram on May 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I just read an article at that might be an interesting read for everyone trying to figure out what they want to do and get out of exercising… maybe it’ll be of some help/interest to you guys! 🙂

  12. Rose on May 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Just came by this site after googling Ectomorph and weight-lifting and thoroughly enjoyed the writing on this site. Gonna forward it on to my Ectomorph brother.

    Would you be able to recommend any resources for female ectomorphs looking to make significant strength gains? Oh course with women skinny is seen as being desirable, but I still think it sucks to struggle with 4lb dumb bells, and similar stuff re skeletal fragility applies.

    • Shane Duquette on May 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      That’s awesome Rose! Glad you dig our stuff.

      It’s actually really really hard to find good sources for female ectomorphs looking to get strong and feminine. We’ve been testing our own workout / nutrition program for women though. Check out:

      If you like the sound of it shoot us an email! (


  13. Bradley Gorman on June 11, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Awesome article dude. Just wanted to say thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on June 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      No problem man, glad you liked it!

  14. Dave on June 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Hi bony to beastly guys! Just want to say that I enjoy reading the articles on this website. They are all very well written and loaded with great info. It’s nice to see all this great information put out there for us ectomorphs to read, thanks! I too am an extreme ectomorph ( 6′ 135lbs ) and I’ve been experimenting with my bulking diet and workout routine. I’ve been doing a 3 day split workout ( chest/tri, back/bi, legs ) basically hitting each muscle group once a week doing compound lifts, and I have seen some moderate gains. I read that you guys do a 3 day full body routine? So do you hit each muscle group 3 times per week? I am curious because I was thinking about changing my routine to a more full body workout, but I am concerned about over training. Anyways thanks again for all the great info.

    • Shane Duquette on June 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Dave, thanks for the kind words. Glad you’re liking our ectomorph articles 🙂

      Split routines work, so if you prefer them you can continue on with them. I would argue that they won’t work AS WELL as full body routines though, and we’ve seen our best results come out of full body routines, for sure. Especially for us ectomorphs full body workout routines seem to be magic for producing muscle.

      I doubt you’ll run into overtraining, and it’s not that scary a thing if you ever were too, as, since you’re aware of the possibility, you’d realize very quickly. Many elite trainers and athletes make a compelling argument for overtraining being a myth, too. I’m not sure how I feel about that idea though, since I’ve definitely felt worn down at certain points in my training (when I’ve felt particularly “inspired” and added in a bajillion extra lifts). You can certainly increase your capacity though, and many advanced lifters are able to train twice a day, even.

      The general rule (and there are tons of studies to back this up) is that there’s an optimal volume (sets/reps) you should do per muscle group per week. As far as overtraining goes, it doesn’t matter much if you do all your back exercises in one day or spread out over three workouts … so long as the overall volume is the same.

      So why not try taking your split routine and just shuffling the exercises up. That’s a sure way to keep the volume the same, and you already know you’re comfortable with that volume. Try and get 2 lifts per body part each training day, say, instead of 6 all in one day.

      Does that help / make sense?


      • Dave on June 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks for the reply Shane, I very much appreciate it! Yes, this info does help. I will be trying this for a few weeks to see how it goes.

  15. Jay Nosa on June 27, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Thanks ever so much dude..I’ve just adopted some friends to the gym and they have gone from apprentices to gurus particularly on the bench…when it comes to core workouts, deads, chins, hanging cleans etc they are still novices but the hoisting of weight horiszontally has been my I know why…

    • Shane Duquette on June 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Glad we could help Jay! That’s sweet that your friends are taking well to the gym, too.

      Hopefully this helps get your bench beastliness where it should be 🙂

  16. Jordan on July 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Hey shane,
    Great article bro, probably one of my favourites because its so core and vital.

    I also wanted to know if my emails would be replied to anytime soon?

    • Shane Duquette on July 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Looks like I found your emails long before I found your comment … so the answer, as you know, is yes! 😉

  17. Aman on September 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Hey Guys!
    Lots of great reads here!
    I’m a 6’1″ 19 year old weighing in at 158 pds. I lack a lot of motivation to workout and I feel like I always need a workout buddy or otherwise I can’t do exercises like bench because I can’t attempt to lift as heavy (my mental excuse i guess). What are some really good motivation trips to workout? I want to become ripped and thicker cause i’ve been called scrawny with no ass, for too long. Please help! Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on September 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Bench pressing solo … well it’s debatable whether you should do that at all, unless you’re in a power cage or some such – we’ve got an article about using gym equipment coming out in the next couple days.

      You can, however, rock a heavy dumbbell bench press. You might feel more comfortable pushing yourself when you know you’ve got a safe way out of the lift if something goes wrong.

      Then there’s the whole issue of how hard SHOULD you be pushing yourself. Many of our strongest guys who get the best progress never miss a rep EVER. They always leave a couple reps in the tank, come out of workouts feeling worked by energized, and wake up each morning ready to crush the day, not feeling like they need a massage.

      You don’t NEED to beat yourself up in the gym, you just need to follow a good plan, stimulate your muscles (vs annihilating them) and then kill it in the kitchen, making sure you’ve got enough to recover and grow.

      If everything is going according to plan you show up for your next workout even stronger, and the weights you lift progressively become heavier.

      Some motivation tips:
      a) Get into a routine. I train Monday, Wednesday and Friday … every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They’re pretty much blocked into my schedule, and if I shift one I immediately actively block it in somewhere else.

      b) Carry nerdy workout sheets. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Hard to be motivated when you aren’t properly tracking your progress / you aren’t following a plan that you’re confident will give you results. Nothing worse than going to the gym and having even a hint of aimlessness or doubt.

      c) Coffee! Brew up some nice black coffee before your workout. Like steak, don’t overcook your coffee – i.e. go for a medium roast (higher caffeine content, more flavour, more nutrients).

      d) Watch a movie or something with fit manly men in it. I recommend avoiding bodybuilders / guys in steroids though – that can lead you down the wrong road as far as body image goes. You might want to go for something like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon or something. Will Smith, Brad Pitt > the Rock / Arnold. (Bonus points if you snack on healthy food, like greek yogurt + berries, while doing it!)

      Does that help?

  18. God on September 11, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Great read. 6’4″ 180pds ecto here. I’ve always owned in deadlifts but its my squats I suck at. Just started working them back into my routine using only the bar. Getting used to it and probably going to add some weight in a week or two. Never give up guys! And don’t be embarrassed to go light on the weight to perfect your form, there will always be someone stronger than you. Most of the time I destroy the guys I see squating heavy with my deadlifts and pull-ups. 🙂 everyone’s different and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Merry workout to all.

    • Shane Duquette on September 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Ah a true ectomorph! For sure. Most lanky-limbed folk do better at pulls (e.g. deadlifts, pull-ups) than presses (e.g. squats, bench press, overhead press).

      Glad to hear you’re making solid progress and you’re determined to get this mastered 🙂

      We usually recommend that guys start with goblet squats, but it sounds like you’re on the right track as far as back squats go – starting slow and progressively building up to beastlier and beastlier weights.

      Good luck man! Let us know how it goes!

  19. ernst on October 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    well….since 2 months i’m actually thinking of quitting gym, i’m following my lean muscle diet religiously,(i’m a ectomorph with a beer belly yes) i’m busting my ass at the gym, walking about 3 miles every second day,yet, i havent gained a pound, nor have i lost a pound, i havent gained or lost an inch. so basically i’m stuck with what i have.doesn’t matter if i eat junk food or healthy,i cant get rid of my belly(which is actually small) and i cant gain muscle. i’m 6.13″ and 178 pounds with 16% i’m actually quite average.

    • Shane Duquette on October 3, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Hey Ernst, now actually sounds like the perfect time to NOT quit the gym!

      Sounds like you’re doing lots of relaxing active recovery (walking), you’ve built up great fitness habits (going to the gym consistently and regularly) and you’ve made some changes to your nutrition (hopefully for the better).

      Now’s not the time to quit, although I know it must be crazy frustrating and it must feel like it. I’ve been there many many times, and I really regret not having worked through it instead of reverting back to my old defective lifestyle that also wasn’t getting me anywhere.

      Now’s the time to tweak and adjust until you can get things working, not the time to abandon everything and start from scratch. You’d be throwing the baby out with the the bathwater, as they say.

      Some things to consider:

      1. Are you trying to lose your beer belly (aka lose weight, the weight coming from fat) or are you trying to build muscle (aka gain weight, the weight coming from muscle)? If you’re caught somewhere in the middle it’s not surprising that you’re neither gaining weight nor losing weight and your body isn’t changing much. Without a calorie deficit your body won’t burn fat very well, and without a calorie surplus your body won’t build muscle very well. I mean some body composition changes will very very slowly take place, but not at a pace that you’d likely notice.

      2. What’s a lean muscle diet? That sounds kind of like a fad thing, especially since you’re using the words “religiously” – I’m getting a very restrictive diet vibe. (Eating only “clean” foods, avoiding grains/gluten, low carbing, avoiding meat for health reasons, etc.) Oftentimes restrictive diets make things a whole lot less enjoyable and, in this case, perhaps not entirely effective, based on your missing results.

      3. It’s usually not quite so simple as avoiding junk food and eating healthy foods instead. Eating mostly nutritious and minimally processed foods is good (80-90% of your diet from whole foods is great). That’s a BIG part of leading a healthy life. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose fat or build muscle though.

      4. What’s your workout plan? You don’t mention what you’re doing in the gym!

      I would pick a whole plan (one with both nutrition and weightlifting, like ours) and follow it. A good plan will tell you how to tweak what you’re doing to get you moving towards the results that you’re after.

      Losing a beer belly and building muscle is very possible and it sounds like you’re mostly on the right track. Sounds like it’s time to figure out the little bit that’s giving you grief and holding you back!

      It’s probably easier / simpler than you think 🙂

      Good luck man!
      Let me know if there’s anything more we can do to help!

      If you’re looking for a program, I really do recommend ours. It sounds like exactly what you need based on your situation. Admittedly though, I’m biased 😉

  20. Cyrus on October 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I’m a frikken giraffe xD

  21. isaac on October 19, 2013 at 4:01 am

    could an ecto gain 100 pounds of fat in 3 months. What do you think is the best rep range for getting stronger. I heard too low can cause injury.

    • Shane Duquette on October 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Ahaha where is that 100 pounds of fat question coming from?

      I don’t know if ANYONE can gain that much weight in 3 months, let alone a naturally skinny guy / an ectomorph. The largest overfeeding study I know of looked into the Guru Walla (the traditional fattening season ritual that Cameroonian men undergo). They force feed themselves as much food as possible in order to gain as much fat as possible.

      Over the course of two months they gain around 37 pounds – 25 pounds of which is fat.

      So, even if you were trying your absolute hardest, I doubt you’d be able to gain 100 pounds of fat over the course of three months – not even close!

      Also keep in mind that ectomorphs would like be able to a) eat less and b) would be more fat resistant for a variety of reasons.


      You can get injured with any rep range really, although if you’re doing it properly and pacing yourself the chances are fairly small. Compared to sports, for example, weightlifting has a ridiculously low injury rate. It’s always wise to be smart with things, lift within your means, and learn / practice good technique. Staying away from technical failure helps too. (Technical failure = the point where your form starts to break down in order to eek out extra reps.)

      Lifting “too” heavy would be bad, yeah. I think you’re also correct – delving into very low rep ranges (1-3) would likely up your risks of injury though, yep. That would be especially true if you were inexperienced, practiced poor technique, hadn’t built up the tendon strength, were lifting too heavy to use proper form, etc etc.

      Hope that helps Isaac!

  22. Anonymous on November 3, 2013 at 12:29 am

    There’s no such thing as an ectomorph (somatotypes) you uneducated [censored]

    • Shane Duquette on November 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      It depends on the context!

      Somatotypes were originally developed as a way of associating body types with temperament types … which, not surprisingly, failed to be valuable.

      But associating body types with body types, i.e., categorizing skinny guys as ectomorphs … well that obviously makes a whole lot of sense.

      So in the context of stuff like this – lever lengths, leverages, and weightlifting –somatotypes are brilliant.

      That’s why they’re pretty much only used in the context of fitness and nutrition these days. (And not psychology.)

      • LewisBW on December 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm

        Hey Shane, I know this is coming a bit late but I just wanna say congrats on the way you handle negative and rude comments. I’ve read a few rude comments on a couple of the articles and if you’re anything like me (or most people) you’d wanna talk some s@#t right back at them, but you always handle it really well. Just thought you should know how much I appreciate the general maturity of discussion that you B2B guys have created – it’s like the! haha

        • Shane Duquette on January 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

          Thanks Lewis, I really appreciate that 🙂

          Ahaha yeah it’s tough! My gut instinct is always to turn it into an epic argument and/or spend hours researching all kinds of studies to disprove their points. Not only would that be a tremendous waste of time though, it’d also be pretty bad science. (Always best to approach research with an open mind, I find.)

          I remember reading way back when (on Tim Ferriss’ blog I think) that it’s best to invest your time helping the guys with genuinely good questions, rather than bickering with the negative Nancy’s and trolls. I’m pretty grateful that I learned that early. Some of the best blogging advice I’ve ever read.

          Happy New Year man – see you on the forum!

        • nKash on January 5, 2015 at 7:45 am

          I second that.
          Exercising also helps mentally, I think. We learn to be more giving, accommodating, calm and compassionate.

          • Shane Duquette on January 6, 2015 at 10:15 am

            Studies back that up, too! It’s been shown to help improve mood, reduce stress, improve focus, increase willpower 🙂

  23. Nate on November 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Im really interested in this program! Im a very skinny guy(bout 135) and kinda tall(6ft,1in) and the video where you were describing your experiences and thoughts about becoming stronger really resonated with me. I have looked for a good program for about 2 years now and I have the exact same thoughts about being so skinny all the time Im tired of it
    Heres the problem…
    The price of your program makes me think that you guys are really legit unlike many others i’ve found that advertise programs that give “incredible gains! (like 50 pounds!) in 2 months “for only 29.99!”
    The only issue is i don’t have the financial means to pay for this! (right now at least) Do you have any tips on what i should do in the Gym, workouts and such? I’m really motivated right now and i just want to start building at least some muscle!!

    • Shane Duquette on November 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Whoa, yeah – very similar height and weight.

      We’ve been working really hard trying to revamp the first chapter of the eBook. We want it to include more practical information so that when you subscribe to the newsletter and get it for free you can learn some fundamentals and do some cool stuff with it.

      We’re trying to work on a few different things right now for our members – we just finished revamping the workouts, training videos and member forum – so it might take a little while to get it up and running.

      … but I recently wrote an article about how to train at home, and I tried to do a solid job of breaking down how to put together a rad training program. You can take the same principles and use ’em in the gym. Check this out:

      I hope that helps man! Good luck!

      (And stay tuned!)

  24. Harry on December 16, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Hi Shane,

    I’ve never come across a site like this and am liking it :). I have been trying different strength and bulk up programs like stronglifts 5×5, tim ferris’ four hour body, etc. With stronglifts, I was progressing nicely until my squats stalled at 55 kg. Then I tried four hour body and found eating that much food made feel like vomiting most of the time not to mention I gained ugly fat belly while still skinny everywhere else.

    Now, I am just going to the gym to focus on having fun, trying out different machines (staying away from free weights except for deadlift because I know my forms suck). My diet has changed as well. I read The New Evolution Diet by Art De Vany. Very interesting book and guy. He recommends low carb, emphasizing on meats, fist, vegetables, fruits and nuts. No grains or starchy carbs like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams etc, and he condemns portion control. On that diet, I have reduced my belly fat and by training without a method but focus on experimenting, my muscles look a wee bit visible although still puny.

    I feel great on this diet, I eat as much as I need and want, just no grains and starches. Do you think I can gain a decent amount of muscle with this diet coupled with your workout program? I know the one time investment is more expensive than others out there, but as I read more articles here, I am liking you guys more and more 🙂


  25. rollair on December 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Hey Shane,

    How would you recommend I deadlift if I don’t have access to a squat cage? All I have is the barbell + weights and no time or money for a gym membership.

    Thanks for all of the info.You guys look like you know what you’re doing 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      You can raise the barbell using anything, really, like extra weight plates. Alternatively, you could build up your mobility with other lifts (like romanian deadlifts, dumbbell sumo deadlifts, etc) until you’re able to deadlift from the floor with rad form 🙂

      There are some photos here of how to do a dumbbell sumo deadlift, and that’s a brilliant first step if your back isn’t all too strong and/or your mobility isn’t all too well developed yet:

      I hope that helps! Good luck man.

  26. Rollair on December 28, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the info!

    Also, when you work out, do you tend to do more supersets and big sets or do you rest a lot (1-2 mins or more) between sets? I’ve heard that more intensity is good for ectomorphs but also that resting a lot helps get your strength back for the next exercise. Do you have an article on this I’ve missed?

    I just want to thank you guys for this awesome website. A lot of the articles on didn’t really make much sense, seemed too complicated, etc. Your articles actually make sense and I can understand them easily, so whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it!


    • Shane Duquette on January 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      Glad you liked it man 🙂

      We often do supersets/circuits, especially when we’re lifting big and heavy and the rest times are long. Rather than sit around waiting for a few minutes between each heavy chin up session, for example, we toss in a goblet squat. But that’s more of a time saver than anything else. There are some fitness/health benefits, but it’s not really a major factor when it comes to bulking up or anything, other than that it makes the workouts so much shorter and more efficient.

      There are a lot of different factors to consider when scheduling rest times, and if building muscle mass is the goal there are a few relevant studies to consider:

      To make a long story short, a good rule of thumb is to rest enough that you can lift well. If your first set is 5 reps of 100 pounds and for your second set you’re a little gasses and need to drop it to 5 reps at 80 pounds … you may have been better off waiting a little longer and doing the second set with 100 again. You’ll get in more big heavy reps that way, and volume, mechanical tension (more on that in later articles) and muscle gains very closely linked. The other thing to keep in mind is that you always want to keep your form tight. If you’re overly fatigued your form can degrade a little, so resting up long enough to lift with great technique is key. So overall just rest long enough to lift well.

      (Also, if you rest TOO long … there’s no downside really – at least not as far as building size/strength goes.)

      I’ll be writing more about this in the next article, perhaps: The Skinny on “Just Lift Heavy”, so stay tuned!

  27. Rollair on December 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    whoops, I posted that twice

    • Shane Duquette on January 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Fixed 🙂

  28. Joey on December 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Im pretty sure you guys have answered this question before but in your program, is it 3 times a week? And about how long are your training sessions in the program? Reason I ask is Im starting school soon and trying plan out my workouts.

    • Shane Duquette on January 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Hey Joey,

      Correct – we recommend training three times per week. The workouts usually take a little under an hour to finish, except for once every month or two, where we go a little harder and a little longer. We intentionally overreach every now and then to spur on bigger gains and prevent plateaus. Those overreaching workouts often take closer to an hour and a half, especially when you get wicked strong and start hauling big weights.

      I hope you do decide to join us man 🙂

      And happy New Year!

  29. rollair on January 3, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Hey Shane,

    It’s me again. How does being sore after workouts relate to building muscle, if it relates at all? For example, after doing some deadlifts yesterday, I feel a little sore in my thighs, but not in my lower back (today). Is this a good/bad thing? I’ve heard that being sore is a way of telling you worked your muscles hard enough… But I feel that if I had added more weight to the bar I would have hurt myself or lifted with bad form.

    Thanks for all of these awesome articles.

    • Shane Duquette on January 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

      That’s a tricky question that deserves a pretty hefty answer. Now that you’re mentioning it, I may go into a bit of detail in our next blog post (the Skinny on “Just Lift Heavy”).

      Short answer: delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is just waste and inflammation accumulating in your muscles as your body repairs them. It means you’ve damaged them (which does mean you’ve hit the right muscle with your training!), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve optimally stimulated them. Similarly, not being sore doesn’t mean you haven’t optimally stimulated them. Soreness is thus a very poor way to measure the success of a workout, especially considering there are much better ways.

      You should use your strength increases (or lack thereof), body weight, measurements, and appearance to track your progress.

      Ideally you’d feel sore rather sparingly and rather mildly – just when intentionally overreaching and/or when gearing into a new style of training that you aren’t well adapted for yet.

      Does that help / make sense?

      • rollair on January 5, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        Yeah, it does. Thanks for the clarification.

        But is there a way I can know I’ve stimulated my muscles in the short term? I can’t tell if I’m lifting as much weight as I could, but like I said,I don’t want to risk injuring my back.

        When I deadlift, it feels challenging,but it’s not like I’m straining to get out the last few reps.It just feels unsatisfying, know what I mean?

        • Shane Duquette on January 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm

          Well I’d err on the side of playing it safe with the big compound lifts. Pushing yourself to failure with a bicep curl is one thing, but you really don’t want your form falling apart on the big lifts. That’s one reason why training styles like Crossfit are criticized so harshly – they recommend pushing big compound lifts into extreme fatigue, at which point they become really quite dangerous.

          As for how to know if you’ve successfully stimulated and grown your muscles – one way is to measure them every few weeks (we recommend measuring every fifth week), and even more short term than that is to track how your strength is progressing each week. That way the emphasis is placed on getting bigger and stronger, not on accumulating soreness and fatigue.

          If you’re doing bodybuilding style lifts that put a bit more emphasis on metabolic stress – we do some after we finish our bigger strength lifts – then you can work on feeling it in the muscles, i.e. feeling the ‘burn’ that comes along with the lactate buildup. Many bodybuilders swear by learning to develop a mind-muscle connection.

          With a deadlift that’s tough. It’s not a lift you’d do so many reps of that you’d feel the burn or anything, so you’d never get the same sensation as you would with lifts that use a higher rep range, like a curl. I’d focus on keeping your form perfect, gradually lifting more and more, and measuring your progress based on how your strength (and form) is progressing.

          • rollair on January 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm

            Thanks for the advice!

          • Orkle on December 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

            Hi Shane. Great site, excellent writing. However, I disagree about never getting the kind of burn when deadlifting that one would from any other exercise. Through a deadlift properly executed you will feel enormous muscular sensation – including lactate build up – particularly shooting up the hamstrings and glutea. And the lower back will potentially pump up big time. You seem to imply a lesser rep range for deadlifts. But doing 9-10 reps of a deadlift over 2-3 working sets (after 2-3 further warm-up sets) has seen me gain around 60% on my deadlift in 4 months. I would even go so far as to say that if you don’t feel a burn on a deadlift, you’re not executing it optimally. I get a tremendous surge of sensation up through the hamstrings; and I’ve read several sources that say this denotes optimum form.

          • Shane Duquette on December 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm

            Feeling a deadlift in your hamstrings is awesome! That’s one of the target muscles. You’re correct that we deadlift a little differently, too, and that could very well account for the differences in how our bodies respond.

            The reason we don’t feel a burn when we deadlift is because we lift from a dead stop and then set the bar back down fully before picking it up again. We also use lower rep ranges. Research shows that this is the sweet spot of being optimal for strength development and also for safety.

            Your style is very different, and sounds more similar to how we program Romanian deadlifts, where we use higher rep ranges and we keep constant tension on the muscle groups being works (like the glutes and hamstrings). Feeling a burn there is very common, and I’d argue that it’s a better lift for building mass, because of the higher rep range, higher volume and great time under tension.

            Different people have different ways of programming things though, and everyone responds to lifting a little differently. I’m not saying your way of doing things isn’t as good—just that we lift a little differently over here 🙂

  30. Faiyaz on January 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Hey folks, I’m a true ectomorph. This is my first time on this forum and I’ve loved everything that has been covered in the write-up here.

    I’ve been able to build decent amount of muscle but I always lose all the muscle I build once I reach a plateau, get disinterested and lay off for extended periods. Since September to December I’ve been able to put on 25 pounds. I’ve lost 10 of those pounds because I lost focus during the holidays and everything. Getting back to the gym in 3 days.

    This forum definitely seems an awesome start!


    • Shane Duquette on January 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Glad to hear you’re liking the blog Faiyaz 🙂

      Congratulations on gaining 25 pounds (15 now) – that’s amazing! You must be stoked.

      Ahaha while your average person gains a pound or so over the holidays … we’re all definitely the guys who lose a bit of weight when our routine gets juggled around like that. There’s a lot of truth to all that muscle memory stuff though – once you’ve built muscle once it comes back very quickly and very easily.Don’t fret – it’ll come back in no time.

      (Most of the weight you lose in short term periods like that is just fluid, glycogen and gut contents anyway, not muscle mass or fat.)

      It’s also normal for your weight to settle at a slightly lower weight than what you’ve peaked at. When we stop eating in a surplus our bodies deflate a little. (And if we stop training our bodies deflate a little bit – our muscles may still be big and strong, but they’re no longer inflamed and swollen. When you get back to training they’ll swell back up again.)

      One thing you may find really helpful is focusing on maintenance for a month or two after you finish a successful bulk. You need to re-establish homeostasis as a bigger and stronger dude. Let your body adjust to your new burlier weight, let your metabolism level out, your appetite adjust, etc. You can gradually eat less food as you go, until you’re eating a similar amount to what you were eating before the bulk, but radically cutting your calorie intake back at once can be troublesome.

      The other thing that would REALLY help is turning this into a lifestyle. If you can get into a routine where you’re hitting the gym and keeping your strength up, then your body will hold onto muscle no problem 🙂

  31. Trell on February 4, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Wuzup shane! Good article u wrote man i enjoyed it i knw im really late with dis question but i read one comment in which u recommended ya workout plan and im just curious on what it is?? Im in desperate need of a gud workout plan! Thanx

    • Shane Duquette on February 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Hey Trell, glad you liked the post, man! There’s no such thing as being late – no worries. I even go back and update old posts sometimes, as new evidence becomes available 🙂

      Check out:

      That’d cover absolutely everything you need!

  32. Adam on March 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Hey Shane i want to plan ahead of my training, thats just how i am, i need to know what do you do after the program, to ensure that the gains are still coming. Do you train differently, do a specific part again….
    thanks again

    • Shane Duquette on March 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      Hey Adam, We just just solved that, actually! Up until now people have just been repeating the program. (We have two versions, so it works surprisingly well.)

      No we have an advanced program out for existing members to do. Each month we teach new techniques, try out new things, experiment with specialization phases (for bigger arms, or chest, or back, or a better deadlift, a bigger bench, etc) and keep striving towards mastery of the fundamentals (of both nutrition and weightlifting).

      Did I understand/answer your question?

  33. Jacob on April 1, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Hey Shane! I am the absolute definition of an ectomorph. I got them chicken legs…. I weigh 145 at 6’2 and my goal is to reach 200 pounds. Can you give me an example of a good stable workout routine? My diet isnt really on point at the moment but im working on it… I’ve been around the whole web looking for routines but I cannot decide on which one… If you can guide me the right direction it would be very much appreciated.

    • Shane Duquette on April 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Ah right on – that’s a little heavier than where I started out, and I little heavier than I weight right now. (I went from 130 to 185-190 at 6’2.)

      Hehe if you want a badass workout program I would (and I’m totally unbiased, of course) recommend ours 😉

      If you’re looking for free information though and you want to see what movements we use to structure a solid full body workout check this post out. And if you have any more questions about it or anything just let me know!

      Also, I think you’ll really like our next blog post (“The Skinny on Just Lift Heavy”). We’ll be talking in more detail about the research on building muscle as efficiently and rapidly as possible as a naturally skinny dude trying to bulk up 🙂

      I hope that helps!

  34. Dan on April 17, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Great article. Growing up, I was (and still am for the most part) an ectomorph. At 14 years old I was 5’11” 135. When I graduated high school i was 6’2″ 165. Now, at 45 years old, I weigh 190-195. So many articles on working out fall into the “one size fits all” category. We’re all different shapes and sizes and when working out, this is VERY important, not only for muscle building, but for avoidance of injuries: I’ve had two shoulder surgeries due to bench pressing the standard way of lowering the bar all the way down to my chest, so once again, your article is spot-on.

    • Shane Duquette on April 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Ah right on. And thank you for the kind words, Dan 🙂

  35. vish on May 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Hey great article over der just loved the tips. 😀
    I literally used to wobble during my overhead presses. Now i can go 70 lbs easily. I am an ecto 6’1″ 157pounds . I started 4 months ago and packed on some fluctualting 10 pounds. I do pack on some whey supps 2wice a day but dey jus seem like keepin ma weight constant. Also i am a lactovegan so i can’t just pound up a chicken breast or eggs twice a day. What would you suggest me to do. Thanks. 😀

    • Shane Duquette on May 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Congrats on gaining 10 pounds, man. Sounds like you’re doing well already. If you can’t get enough protein from whole foods, you’re correct to supplement with a protein powder 🙂

      • vish on May 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

        Thanks a lot!!!
        Yeah jus tryin to pack on more weight using a combination of protien shake as well as
        whole foods . But truly this article would be a huge impetus for doin the same!! 🙂

  36. John on May 19, 2014 at 11:33 am

    An excellent article, I being Asian, am exceptionally tall and always have had problems with my long body, making it tough for me to maintain good posture with my scrawny ectomorph physique. always finding it awkward to do certain exercises with ease. In particular, the back section helps a lot in posture strengthening for ectomorphs. Thanks for the great read!

    • Shane Duquette on May 20, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Glad you liked it, John – good luck! 🙂

  37. Eli on May 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Hey Shane,

    I’ve been having a problem with my deadlifts for some time now. I watched your youTube video and Marco’s form is what I’m trying to aim for– buy whenever I deadlift (my back is straight), my legs straighten out and then my back follows, so while my legs are almost straight my back is still almost parallel to the ground. How can I stand up all in one motion? My back has been sore for days and it’s extremely frustrating.


    • Eli on May 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      In addition, I’m trying to keep my weight backwards instead of forwards, so more on my heels. And even though my back is straight, I don’t feel a lot of work being done in my legs.

    • Shane Duquette on May 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      You’ll want to keep your chest nice and high at the beginning. If your shirt had a logo on it and there were a mirror in front of you, you’d want to be able to see the logo in the mirror. You really only want to be hip thrusting the bar when the bar gets to about your knees. The hip part should come then, not right at the beginning. The beginning is more like a leg press, where you’re pushing the ground away from you.

      It sounds like the main problem is that you’re lifting too heavy. Since your legs/hips/core can’t do the lift your stronger muscles (your lower back, it seems) are picking up the slack, resulting in an awkward stiff-legged deadlift. It’s common for powerlifters to use a technique similar to what you’re describing because it allows them to lift heavier. That doesn’t mean it’s advisable or safe though.

      For you though I would go lighter and practice your technique. You might want to begin with rack pulls or raised deadlifts instead. And getting some Romanian deadlifts in your arsenal as an accessory lift would probably help.

  38. kulu on August 19, 2014 at 12:46 am

    guys i would love to buy your programe because i’m an ecto myself
    my question is can i pay by debitcard

    • Shane Duquette on August 19, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Hey Kulu, glad to hear it man. You can! PayPal processes our payments, which allows people to pay either with a credit card or a PayPal account. Since you have a debit card, you’d want to pay with PayPal itself. Instead of clicking “pay with a credit card” you’d just sign up for an actual PayPal account and use your debit card to set it up. Does that make sense?

      If you have any trouble with the process just shoot me an email at 🙂

  39. Mark on August 28, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Thank God for this article, I’ve been benching since a year and barely gained any pecs not to mention that lately my shoulders have been killing me, was on the verge of going into a depression and quitting the gym. Hopefully the bench will work I’ll try it tomorrow 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on August 30, 2014 at 1:50 am

      Hey Mark,

      If your shoulders are killing you that’s probably something you should address. Could be a few things. It could be a posture/alignment thing, it could be a strength imbalance thing. That problem is usually fixed by spending more time building up strength in your back and less time spend benching.

      I’d switch to dumbbells for a couple months. Better for building up your pecs if you struggle to build your pecs, and oftentimes easier on your shoulders, too!

      Regardless, good luck, man! 🙂

  40. Jason on September 26, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Love this post!
    “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.””
    – Why we don’t ask big guys in the gym for help. Brilliant

    • Shane Duquette on September 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks, Jason 🙂

  41. AL on September 29, 2014 at 3:05 am

    Stuart McGill says that for preventing back injuries, endurance is more important than strength. Your thoughts on this?

    Waterloo’s Dr. Spine, Stuart McGill:

    • Shane Duquette on September 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Dr. Stuart McGill is the man! It’s just a soundbite, so it’s hard for me to tell what point he’s trying to get across with it… but he’s brilliant with this stuff—I’d be inclined to trust him. He has other soundbites too. Talking about how heavy strength training (deadlifts in particular) cause the spine to adapt by becoming much stronger:

      “Fortunately, [the spine] is fatigable and adaptable, just like muscle tissue. As the nucleus pressurizes, it creates a doming effect on the endplate down into the vertebrae, and the trabecular bone is what backs it up. So progressive training over the years lays down bone that’s heavily adapted to bear mammoth-compressive load.”

  42. Andres on November 13, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    The artical was great so true Ive been looking for a solution because ive been exercising since freshman year but I have had the same results no change in my body but more solid I was doing wrong for 4 years and now I will try your advice

  43. Emi on November 22, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Really liked the article! Would love to see more articles like this on the bombshell program too haha

    • Shane Duquette on November 22, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      That’s a very good point. Let me see what I can do 🙂

  44. Panos on November 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Shane, i am ectomorph, i train for 8 years without results. I am very disappointed, when i bulk i gain only fat. I can do only 3 total sets per workout, i usually do 1 set bench press, 1 set barbell row and 1 set squat. If i try to do more i get dizzines and i feel very tired. What is your opinion about this?
    Can i pay with bank transfer for the program because i have not paypal yet?


    • Shane Duquette on December 7, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Hey Panos,

      There are a lot of factors here. Are you lifting all the way to failure? Are you performing the lifts correctly? Are you sleeping and eating well? Hydrated?

      Feeling dizzy after just a small amount of lifting seems like something you might want to bring up with your doctor. If he’s on board with you lifting, we’d love to have you man 🙂

  45. Zedic on December 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Where has this been all my life? I’m stoked! For 3 years I went through off and on phases in the gym and saw some gains & benefits of weightlifting but for the last 2 years I’ve been pretty consistently building strength in the gym & taking my nutrition more seriously, but feeling like there was no real direction/science to the madness. Apparently I’ve been asking the wrong guys. I’m ready for this! I’m thirsty for more. Let me know where to begin!

    • Shane Duquette on December 7, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Hey Zedic, glad to hear you dig our scientific approach, man 🙂

      You sign up here. I hope you decide to join us!

  46. Fabian Gonzalez on December 12, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Hey Shane nice article! Finally there’s a cool program for skinny guys. I am 5’8 and 128 pounds. I’m really looking forward to starting my journey! My story is just like yours homie, I have trained MMA and I’m currently going to school to be a graphic designer. I’m currently working part-time at a gym and have a free gym membership. I really hope this works out! My only problem is eating, It really tough for me to eat so much. I will try my hardest because I have a lot motivation at the gym. Thanks dude!

    • Shane Duquette on December 17, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Whoa your story is a LOT like mine! You’ve read our article on ectomorph appetites, yeah? The skinny on “just eat more”? We go into more depth about that in the program, but that’s a good starting point when trying to figure out how to eat more 🙂

      Good luck, Fabian!

  47. Bryan on January 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    So, how many reps and sets should I do?

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Hey Bryan,

      That’s a good question, but not a simple one. That depends how many exercises you’re doing that hit the same muscle group, how close to failure you’re going, how many reps are in each set, how many times you’re training per week, whether you’re doing full body routines or splits, how experienced you are, what your periodization structure is like, etc.

      To oversimplify it tremendously though, it’ll probably be between 9-24 sets per muscle group per week. And you’ll probably want to use a variety of rep ranges, from 3 reps up to maybe 20 or even 30.

  48. marc on February 5, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks you so much for the information.

    As I am lanky, i was experimenting pain in the right shoulder while doing bench press..
    thanks to your advice it isn hurting that much..

    Have you got any article about the scapulas? I have heared that they are important during the benchpress in order to dont damage your frontal shoulders!

    • Shane Duquette on February 6, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Glad to hear it helped, Marc 🙂

      We don’t have an article on it, no—yet! We should film a video for it on YouTube. You’re right. When doing the bench you want to keep your back nice, firm and stable. Different ways of benching have you positioning your scapula in different ways, and there’s some debate about what’s optimal. We should put up a video!

  49. Mike on February 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    How many calories would this program require me to take? And what kind of weight gain goals do you recommend to set?
    I weigh 135 standing around 5’9, and I’m interested in the program, but so far my trouble has been finding a program which helps me understand what specific goals to set in terms of weight gain/caloric intake.

    • Shane Duquette on February 24, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Hey Mike,

      Those are two really good questions, and they both have the same answer: the rate that you gain weight is determined by the degree of your calorie surplus, and you want to eat enough calories to gain 0.5-2 pounds on the scale each week.

      How many calories will that be? It really depends. A fairly skinny guy who’s fairly lean will usually do well aiming for two pounds per week, whereas a skinny-fat guy will want to take a slower pace to avoid gaining fat, and an already very muscular guy will want to take a slower pace because he won’t be able to build muscle as quickly.

      Different people also burn different amounts of calories each day for a wide variety of reasons. More on that here.

      And the better your weightlifting program, the more quickly your body will be trying to build muscle, so the more quickly you can gain weight.

      We use a pretty complicated formula in our program that takes into account a lot of variables, but 18-22x your bodyweight (in pounds) will be somewhere close. From there you can adjust your intake based on how much you’re gaining on the scale each week and it looks. 🙂

      I hope that helps! Good luck!

    • Shane Duquette on February 24, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      And I really hope you decide to join us! You sound like a good fit 🙂

  50. Sam on February 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    So you advocate half repping? The greater the range of motion the more muscle fibres are activated – I am an ectomorph yet I still bench with good form (bar to chest, arched back, strong foot position, squeezed shoulder blades). If you use the correct movement patter and elbow angle when benching then you won’t injure your shoulders. Similarly piling more weight onto a squat whilst sacrificing depth is pointless. unless you can squat a weight to PARALLEL then it’s too heavy period. Advocating half repping and poor form seems a quick way to injury and a lack of progress

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Hey Sam,

      There are certainly instances where partial reps have their advantages, but for the most part a larger range of motion is ideal. However most people will have some sort of limitation on how large a range of motion they can use. We usually recommend using the largest range of motion that you can safely use most of the time. You’re right, that will activate the most fibres and lead to the most growth, even if the weight lifted is lighter.

      It’s great that you can bench to your chest with good form 🙂

      Given that you can do it safely and properly, it’s probably the best bet for you. I can do it now as well, although I couldn’t at first. Many skinny guys cannot—it damages their shoulder joint (and ruins their leverage). This is because in order to get the barbell to touch their chest they’re needing to go way past parallel. This may not be true for you, or even most people out there, but it’s true for many long-limbed skinny guys with narrow rib cages and slender torso musculature.

      As a solution to that, what we’re recommending is the bench press equivalent to squatting as deep as you safely can. Ass-to-grass squatting is great, but parallel is as deep as many people can go, and some can’t even safely go to parallel—at least not at first. We’re recommending benching to parallel (upper arms to a parallel position) rather than barbell to chest —the bench press version of “ass-to-grass” (going as far as your joints allow).

      I hope that makes more sense!

  51. Luis on April 19, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Hey Shane! I have a question, so currently I weigh 107 pounds, have 16 years, have a 28 inch waist and am 5 foot 6 inches tall. Should I start doing weights? Currently I only have a home gym available for me to use… Also, should I concern myself with body fat and all of that stuff? And lastly, about how long does it take to get noticeable abs?

    • Shane Duquette on April 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Hey Luis,

      Hell yeah you should start lifting weights! I mean ask your doctor and parents of course, but 16 is a pretty perfect age to start, and I think you’d love what it does for you, both physically and mentally. Marco started at your age, and by the time I’d gained my first pound at 20, he’d already gained 63 pounds!

      A home gym is perfect. Check this article out if you want to see our recommendations for how to build/use a home gym.

      Concern yourself with bodyfat? Sure—within reason. As a skinny guy you won’t struggle with it nearly as much as a naturally chubbier guy… but you should make sure that when you bulk you’re building mostly muscle, not fat. You want to grow more muscular after all, not just bigger.

      How long does it take to get noticeable abs? That depends on where you’re starting and what you’re doing. If you don’t have abs and you’re bulking up… you may not get abs until many months later if/when you decide to cut. Check this post out if you’re skinny, don’t have abs, and are wondering what to do about it.

      I hope that helps! Good luck!

  52. Damian Pros on May 26, 2015 at 11:30 am


    I have just found your site and want to tell you that it’s great! Keep up the great work!

    I have a question regarding the article: Bringing up your waist in bench press to reduce the range of motion is said to be better for the shoulders. But what about the lower back? Isn’t it harmful?

    • Shane Duquette on May 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks Damian, glad you dig it 🙂

      If you have a healthy back, you use good form (lats and glutes engaged and whatnot), and your arch isn’t extreme… it’s usually pretty safe. You could also do a bench press with a smaller range of motion while keeping your back in a more neutral position. That’d be safe quite safe for both your shoulders and your lower back.

  53. kesavan on May 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    It’s a great information about ectomorph bodu type. I got that somethings shld be change in my daily workouts . Thanks for sharing this article ☺

    • Shane Duquette on May 31, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      No problem, man—glad it helped 🙂

  54. Big Slim on June 22, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    6’6″ 195lbs here. I workout 4-5 days a week and would say I am in above average shape. I used to be 6’6″ 165 lbs, 15 years ago but thankfully weights and a good diet have bulked me up a good bit. Anyway, I would like a new program to mix things up a bit. I see yours looks tailored more toward beginners, would you agree?

    • Shane Duquette on June 23, 2015 at 12:28 am

      Hey Big Slim,

      Props for having made it up to 195 pounds! That’s awesome 🙂
      At 6’6 sounds like you’re one helluva beastly dude!

      You could say that the beginner stage is where you’re making neural gains (aka you’re learning how to use your muscles) and your muscles grow eagerly in response to any style of lifting (provided your nutrition supports that growth). Programming doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to properly lay a good foundation for the intermediate level. We try to get our beginners out of this stage within a couple months, with a couple dozen pounds to show for it.

      You could say the intermediate level is the “bulking” part of a guy’s life. With the rapid neural gains out of the way, the best way to get stronger is to get bigger (and vis versa). At this point your body doesn’t adapt as readily though, so programming needs to be amazing to see good consistent growth. (This is why so many beginners hit a wall as soon as they get to the intermediate stage. What was good enough before isn’t good enough anymore.) This is what our program is all about—building muscle/strength as quickly as possible at an intermediate level via excellent programming (and nutrition).

      Advanced would be the stage where you hit your genetic muscular potential and need to increase strength by again focusing on improving technique, and at this point training becomes very very different. It doesn’t just need to be “better”, it needs to be pretty extreme. However most guys, aside from professional powerlifters and bodybuilders and whatnot, need to worry about this. Or you could go down an athletics training path, or into Olympic lifting, etc.

      We have our beginners start a little lighter and with simpler regressions of the lifts so that they can lift heavy enough to grow optimally right from day one (safely). We have another workout stream for guys who are coming in already ready to lift heavy though. We could start you there 🙂

      I think you’d dig our approach. I bet it’d be pretty different from what you’re used to, too.

      I hope you decide to join us!

  55. Matthew on June 24, 2015 at 1:43 am

    hey, guys! I have a question. so today, I was in the gym and I had started a set of incline bench press. I usually come down to where my arm (from my shoulder to my elbow) is parallel to the floor before pressing back up (learned that from you guys). a guy who looked like he was experienced in lifting weights told me that I was only cheating myself by not going down to my chest. he helped me by telling me that I needed to go all the way down to my chest (he wasn’t being mean or anything). but going down to my chest caused me to have to drop weight (like almost 30 pounds). my question is should I do what the gentleman said or keep doing what I’ve been doing? thank you.

    • Shane Duquette on June 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Hey Matthew, that’s a really good question!

      Let’s take the example of the squat. More range of motion in your hips and knees is good—it’s further stretching out the muscles that you’re trying to strengthen and grow (your butt, quads, hamstrings). Research shows that more range of motion is more important than how much weight is on the bar, so in this case, even if it means lightening the load, this would be a good idea. More range of motion in your lower back is bad, since you’re no longer getting that range of motion from the “right” place. Research shows that this will increase the risk of spinal injury. This means that when squatting, you would probably want to go as deep as you can before you start to bend in the lower back. For some, that will be ass to grass—more than enough to count as a full powerlifting rep. For others, that won’t even be down to parallel—which would be considered “cheating” by competitive lifters.

      The same is true with the bench press, except it’s less common for people to have a good understanding of the shoulder joint. If you can get a fuller range of motion by further stretching out your pecs without compromising your shoulder positioning, great. If bringing the bar to your chest puts your shoulder in a bad position though, you’re getting the range of motion from the “wrong” place, increasing the risk of injury without improving the growth stimulus to your chest.

      When in doubt, I wouldn’t bring your upper arms past parallel. With an incline bench press though, it might be more useful to think of “parallel” as being parallel to the bench/your upper body though.

      Your abilities will change over time too. I started off doing raised deadlifts, and now I’m doing them from the floor. I started off limiting the range of motion of my bench press, and now I’m bringing it to my chest. Beginners tend to do better with a smaller range of motion, since they don’t have as much mobility yet.

  56. S on July 1, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    This is kinda funny to read. I am 5’6″187lbs and was called “short and stocky” by some guy in the gym the other day, haha. But I came across this site looking up exactly what that means. Anyway I have noticed that taller guys also don’t dip properly either because of their longer legs. So I thought I would mention. And it is funny that so many guys have issues over their height. I am happy to be my height, sure I can’t run far for long but I am explosive and powerful

    • Shane Duquette on July 1, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Ahaha yeah, you’ve got the stocky physique that all us naturally skinny guys are jealous of in the gym! Crazy how this article comes up not just when googling about (sometimes tall) skinny ectomorph hardgainer lanky look-like-a-marathoner stuff, but also about short and stocky stuff!

  57. rob on July 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    hi shane, is this sort of weight gain age specific ? is it possible into your thirties ?

    • Shane Duquette on July 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Hey Rob,

      The largest muscle-building genetics study to date took guys ranging from 18 to 40 and found no difference in their ability to build muscle.

      Age does play a little bit of a role though when it comes to keeping things safe. If you’ve been inactive for many years, you might benefit from doing higher rep training to start (12+ reps) because your tendons and ligaments are a little more frail. It’s a little safer and will still have them building muscle at a great pace. Gradually we can start working the rep range down. That’s something we normally see in much older guys though.

      Thirties isn’t old, and a lot of the transformations in the sidebar are from guys around your age. In your thirties you’d actually be quite young for a natural competitive bodybuilder.

      So hell yeah you can build muscle in your thirties!

      • rob on July 21, 2015 at 7:27 am

        cheers mate, increases the motivation 🙂 although i have noticed that when i tried working out 10 years ago it was easier to buff up. its too bad i didn’t follow it thru long enough to see permanent gains. its relatively slower now. maybe its partly due to smoking. making the effort now to hopefully find the gains 🙂

        • Shane Duquette on July 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm

          Glad to hear you’re ready to get back into it, Rob. I hope it goes well! Don’t underestimate your abilities, either 🙂

  58. Cole on August 7, 2015 at 12:31 am

    In the article you say that you should do conventional deadlifts to build lower back size and strength , i recently measured my limb sizes and found my proportion more ideal for a sumo stance. So i should continue to focus on a conventional stance despite probably being better suited to a sumo stance?

    On a second note if i were to add Sumo wouldn’t that strengthen my conventional deadlift ? , Eg. strengthening weak points and such.

    • Shane Duquette on August 7, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      That’s a really good question, Cole.

      Switching to sumo deadlifts is a good way to lift a little heavier for a lot of us ectomorphs because it reduces the range of motion and requires less back strength. But it’s also a poorer way to strengthen our back muscles and improve our mobility. So it comes down to a) whether your goal is lifting heavier weights or building muscle, and b) whether you need to minimize strain on your back for other reasons.

      If you do decide to focus on sumo deadlifts, just be sure to take breaks from lifting maximally and to keep the conventional deadlifts in your lifting rotation. Alternate between the two. The wide stance you adopt when doing the sumo deadlift can beat up your hips a little, since it’s a bit weirder of a pose. So that’s a case of what you’re mentioning: if you were to just use the sumo you might develop some weak points. Use both and you should be okay 🙂

  59. Smilo on September 30, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Finally after years of being on and off the gym because of embarrasment and also lack of proper motivation, I recently stepped up and joined the gym two days back with the aid of hardgainer protein shakes to boost my muscle and strength.

    Fast forward the time and it’s already day 3, upper body is in heavy pains as we speak (not sure if it’s injury or either muscle stretching) and also in the process I noticed more challenges along the way: First two reps I can do whilst adding further would immediately require assistance. And lastly whilst bench pressing my right arm is weaker than my left arm which seriously disturbs my balance when pushing to my ecto limitations.

    How can I combat my above obstacles?

    • Shane Duquette on October 1, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Hey Smilo,

      Are you saying that you can’t lift the weight anymore after just two reps? How many reps does your program say you should be able to get? And how close to failure are they saying you should go? I suspect failing after two reps means the weight you’ve chosen is too heavy.

      It’s normal to have some muscle imbalances when you first get started. Weightlifting can be pretty good for correcting them. Perhaps you should start with a dumbbell bench press, stopping when your weaker arm hits failure (or before hitting failure—this would depend on the program).

      Does that help?

  60. Smilo on October 2, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Now that you mentioned it I guess the fault is me not even having a program to follow as like the guys at gym, it seems like they pick whatever weights they come across.

    Though taking note of not being able to join your program due to finance limitations I’l use the articles yall guys post and intergrate them to my own program.

    Keep up the stellar work guys

    • Shane Duquette on October 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Even just following your own program, while it may not be totally optimal, will work wonders for you. Weightlifting is great for your health, your bone density, your mood, even your brainpower. If you’re able to eat enough to gain weight you’ll do a great job of building muscle too—at least at first, while the gains are easy. You can always shop around for a program once you run into a plateau 🙂

      Best of luck, man—and make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter! If you’re after some free programming and info we’ll be sending out some cool stuff via the newsletter soon 😀

  61. Smilo on October 6, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Will definitely do,

    Thanks again.

  62. Angel on December 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Training on forearms?

    • Shane Duquette on December 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Yes 🙂

      (Can you clarify your question a little?)

  63. ernest on January 13, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Very well explained with a such optimistic way in every word,makes me getting interested now.So im an ecto with a pretty long belly which is thin as hell.Is it possible to thicken that part with some exercises?Will deadlift and hyper extension do the job?Do i need to work on abs too?I dont really mean to be having a rocky-like body with a square muscle everywhere,all i care is wrapping this bone with something so i dont look like a pink panther.Thanks man.

    • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Hey Ernest,

      When skinny guys say that they have a “long” belly what that normally means is that they have excessive anterior pelvic tilt. When our hips are tilted forward this shortens our lower back muscles and lengthens our ab muscles, giving us a long, protruding stomach. This was the case with Jared, Marco and me, and a good 90% of all of our members. It’s a very common issue with skinny guys.

      You may also have a long torso—also common with ectomorphs. (And certainly true of me!)

      To address that particular issue I would recommend lifts like the plank and farmer carry that will teach your body how to hold a neutral spine. Lifts like the deadlift and chin-up will also help with this… provided you can do them with good technique! I would start with easy variations—dumbbell sumo deadlifts, lat pulldowns with your ribs down and your abs braced.

      However, in order to wrap some meat around your bones, I’d really be doing a balanced program. We’ve got some good exercise ideas in this article here.

      If you want more, there’s always The Bony to Beastly Program. That’s where we could teach you absolutely everything you need to know as well as coach you on an individual level.

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

      • Matt on February 16, 2016 at 8:45 am

        Shane, I love reading all of your thoughtful responses! Thanks for sharing so much with us, as I learn something new with each post you make. Your words are inspirational!

        • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

          Thank you so much for the kind words, Matt! So glad to hear you’re been liking our posts 🙂

  64. Manuel on January 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Shane, i have a few cuestiones about the program, i dont know where to ask them so i write here. Sorry

  65. ernest on January 31, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Hey Shane,i have seen your progression pics its truly inspiring to see such a progress,especially your chest and shoulder.Did you do incline bench to fill an area around your clavicle? Or just flat bench will do the job?

    • Shane Duquette on February 1, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Hey Ernest,

      Studies have found that the difference between the incline bench and the regular bench press is surprisingly small when it comes to stimulating your upper pecs. (4% difference or something, if I recall correctly?) The main thing you’re doing is shifting more emphasis to your shoulders when you bench on an incline. I never did it.

      (Although if you bench press with a big arch you might be doing more of a decline bench press movement when trying to do a flat bench press, thus stimulating more of your lower pecs.)

      My chest grew a lot because I was able to active my pecs well when bench pressing, and also because I used a lot of assistance lifts (pec flys and push-ups and whatnot). I would highly recommend working on your technique and learning to activate the target muscles, as well as adding in the appropriate assistance lifts for your body. If your pecs activate easily, perhaps you do triceps isolation lifts. If they do not, perhaps you do more chest isolation lifts.

      My shoulder growth I credit mostly to lateral raises to begin with and then eventually overhead pressing 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      • ernest on February 2, 2016 at 7:51 am

        Thanks man, that really helps a lot.

  66. Carlos on February 14, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Hey guys, what rep range and sets do you recommend for ectomorph leg exercises? 6-8 x 3-4 sets? I find that legs are the most challenging to see growth in size.

    • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      I’d recommend a variety of rep ranges. So for your quads, for example, maybe you squat heavy—doing 5 rep sets for a few sets, then you do a lighter leg press session with 8–10 reps for a couple sets, then some lighter split squats with 10-12 reps for another couple of sets—that kind of thing.

  67. Matt on February 16, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Hey Shane,
    I love this article! I have struggled with gaining lean weight for 10 years. After reading your article I believe I am a true Ectomorph. I am weak on the bench ~175lbs and can’t do chin-ups for the life of me. I am 6’5″ 212lbs (recently lost 18lbs). I gain fat very easily and lose weight very easily, but then get too “skinny”. I have love handles that don’t ever seem to go away and my shoulders are not very broad. When I workout and cut calories I can lose 30-40lbs in 2-3 months no problem. But I don’t know how to gain muscle back! I know it requires eating more but I have yet to experience this kind of transformation.

    I used to weigh 188lbs 10yrs ago in grad school and was trim, cut and strong (for me). I benched ~230lbs, curled dumbells 50lbs for sets and a 33″ waist. 2016 is the year I prove that even in my 30’s I can be in better shape than when I was 23.

    When I read your article and a few others about Ectomorphs it all started to make sense. This one article I found, can’t remember where, said Ectomorphs are best working each body part 2-3x per week instead of the traditional 1x/week because our muscles need stimulation more frequently than a meso or endo. This is done in the 10,8,6,15 pyramid for 6 major muscle groups (back, bi,tri,legs,shoulders,chest) in one workout (~60min to complete). Then do a different exercise for the same body parts the next day. I just started last Friday and it has taken my workouts to a whole new level. I am completely exhausted yet feel great, not overworked, and I never go to low rep heavy like I used to, so there is less risk of injury.

    Thanks to your article I have learned that its OK not to touch my chest for bench, and to give myself a little slack when it comes to squats/deadlifts because of my long limbs. I am now hopeful that I will be able to transform my Ectomorph body into something to be very proud of. I still have about 10-15lbs of fat I want to lose before I begin the bulking phase. I am nervous and excited about it as I have never “bulked” before and don’t know what to expect as far as eating and results. I have a trainer who is going to help me. I can’t wait! Any words of encouragement is greatly appreciated! thanks in advance for your response!

    • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Hey Matt, thanks for all the kind words man. It’s awesome that you’re getting back into this. Being in better shape than when you were 23? I would sure hope so! You’re only in your thirties, man! You’ve got a long, long time before your age starts to get in your way!

      Hehe research is showing that everyone is best working each muscle group 2–3 times per week, ectomorph or not. That’s a relatively minor issue though. Overall volume per week is far more important than how you split it up. Those bodybuilder triple splits are popular but not optimal (except perhaps in rare circumstances). So yeah, these whole body workouts you’re doing are rad for muscle growth.

      Pyramiding your sets is good… but not the only good way to lift. However, you’re right that a wide variety of rep ranges is ideal for building muscle. 6–15 is pretty good. Your injury rates wouldn’t go up by much though if you carefully included some heavier sets as well. 3–4 rep sets could also be good. Not necessary, but certainly helpful when implemented properly. 20-rep and even 30-rep sets can be helpful in some instances as well.

      Ahaha you’ve forgotten your glutes, all your core muscles, and, hehe, it’s odd to think of your shoulders, biceps and triceps as separate muscle groups while your legs and back have far more (and far larger) muscles in them than your arms. For example, you’ve got vertical pulls working some muscles in your back, horizontal pulls working others. Similarly, different exercises tend to hit your hamstrings and quads in your legs, just like with your biceps and triceps in your arms. I get what you’re saying though, and I think your routine is sounding good.

      Sounds like you’re doing a pretty good job of this, having a trainer is awesome, and I think you’ll have great success! Good luck with the rest of your cut, man 😀

  68. Kellci on February 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Interesting read. But you keep implying that ectomorphs are necessarily tall. A person could be only five two and still be an ectomorph. A mesomorph can be 6-5 with short stubby arms.

    • Shane Duquette on February 18, 2016 at 9:49 am

      What makes an ectomorph an ectomorph is often that limbs and spines are longer than normal. For example, I have the wrist width of the average 5’6 guy while being 6’2. So my bones are as wide as a short person’s but as long as a tall person’s. A lot of my height comes from the long length of my spine. Marco and Jared are 6’4 and 6’0 respectfully, both with average bone widths but very long legs. However, this is just what often happens, not what always happens. The average height in our community is probably around 6′, so a good few inches taller than average, but we have lots of shorter guys too!

      You see the opposite oftentimes in stubby people. They have average head sizes and hand sizes but much shorter limbs. But that enormous strongman guy in Game of Thrones—the guy who plays the Mountain—is a good example of a very tall guy who’s also built like a barrel. That’s relatively rare though.

    • Shane Duquette on February 18, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Okay maybe this is clearer. Imagine a regular 5’10 guy. To make him stubby you’d shorten his arm, spine and leg bones. This would reduce his height by a few inches and make him stubbier. (If you simply shrunk him proportionally he’d be a smaller person, but not a stubbier person.) To make him lanky you’d lengthen his arm, spine and leg bones. This would make him taller by a few inches while making him lankier. (If you simply enlarged him proportionally you’d make him bigger but not lankier.)

      Interestingly, this is often what seems to happen. While you have tons of lanky and stubby guys at all heights, if you take the average height of the different body types you may start to see some trends.

      I’m going outside of what’s been strictly proven though—this is just what experts in the field are hypothesizing—so take this with a grain of salt.

  69. Ludwig on March 9, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Great article!

    I’m 6´6, long legs, long torso and very long arms almost like Lamar Gant. I destroyed my shoulders first year of training when I was told to hit the chest during bench press/shoulder press or I was a pussy etc etc. Today I only do floor press and cable variations and I’ve grown better this way with less pain(still pain from my shoulders but nothing special).

    The main problem with being an ectomorph is that you have to weigh around 300 pounds to make use of your leverage and produce decent results/strength.Its not an excuse but it clearly shows the astronomical difference between short and tall in terms of struggle for the same results in the same timeframe. Everyone is built differently but there’s nothing positive being tall, only problems 😉

    • Shane Duquette on March 11, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Ludwig!

      The Lamar Gant build makes lifts like the bench press a nightmare, where long arms increase the range of motion and hurt your leverages… but it’s not all bad! Your height and proportions also make you well built for lifts like the deadlift, where long arms reduce the range of motion and help your leverages. (Marco has a similar height and build as you and he casually deadlifts 405 pounds.)

      Hell, you’re also a beast of a dude just in terms of height alone!

      Sounds like you’re doing well, and good call strategically modifying your bench pressing like that. Floor presses and cable variations are great 🙂

  70. glen on August 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Good Article. Kevin Durant can’t bench his own weight, but he is strong enough to dominate in basketball. I used to sacrifice my overall physique just trying to increase my bench press max. Then I realized that my ectomorphic body type is mostly geared toward pulling. I decided to focus less on bench press, and more on doing heavy pulling exercises shuch as heavy dumbell/barbell rows, and pullups and doing SQUATS. Since my back and leg muscles are much larger than my chest, my overall muscle mass started to increase dramatically, and I was able to get shredded pretty easily once I was squatting 250 lbs and doing 10-pullup sets. I don’t even work my biceps or triceps because they are naturally huge and it makes my small shoulders look even smaller. I do push presses to mak my shoulders big, and I do lateral raises and reverse cable flys for the side/rear heads. I hit all three deltoid heads hard, and do biceps and triceps exercises sparingly, and it makes shoulders and arms about the same size. The key is to know your body type, and do heavy exercises for your biggest muscles. Everything else will follow

  71. Cedric on August 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I am ectomorph (21yo, 6’2″, ~140lbs) with the upper cross syndrome you described in one of your articles. I am do stretches and exercises to correct it. I started weight training more seriously this year after a few years of not knowing what to do as a beginner and following all sorts of routines online. I’ve been doing Stronglifts 5×5 barbell training, because it is recommended for beginners. I have learned the movements and was able to add ~50 lbs to the squat and bench and ~80 to the deadlift. I couldn’t progress on overhead press. I found it very taxing on my nervous system, workouts were quite long and I focused more on movement than on muscle contraction. I gained a little weight and visible muscle size during the ~3 months I did the program. I read about your program and philosophy through the articles and it sounds like something that would fit me, but it is too expensive for me at the moment. Some of the things in the package, like the meal plan, I don’t think I’d need. I wonder if I should continue again with the Stronglifts program (I’ve taken a month off for vacation). I’ve heard from some sources that the program is mostly strength based, so if I want to gain weight I should add other exercises or higher volume (reps) to target the muscles. I am confused and don’t know how I should train for my goal.

    • Shane Duquette on August 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Hey, Cedric. Congrats on your strength and definition gains! Nice work. That’s amazing 🙂

      I think programs that use exercise progressions are better for beginners. Starting with a goblet squat instead of a back squat, for example. If you can already do all the big lifts with near-perfect technique, though, no need to go back to those simpler variations right now.

      If you’ve got that upper / lower cross sort of posture, with your hips tilted forward and your ribs coming up, then the overhead press could be dangerous for your lower back. That could be a lot of pressure you’re putting on just a few vertebrae in your spine. Probably best that you avoid that for now.

      Yes, Stronglifts is a strength-oriented program with a lot of volume for the lower body. 5×5 programs work pretty well, but if you’re eager to gain more size, especially in your upper body, then I’d use a different style of lifting.

      Yeah, you’d want a program that uses more higher rep sets mixed in with the lower rep ones. Muscle is best built with a wide variety of rep ranges, going as low as 3 reps per set, and sometimes even as high as 20–30 reps per set! That will get you better gains while also being easier on your central nervous system.

      Does that answer your question at all?

      • Cedric on August 26, 2016 at 4:40 pm

        Hi Shane! Thanks for your reply!
        Yes you answered my question I was confused on. As I mentioned, I am doing things to improve my posture and it certainly has improved. I started with goblet squat until I could not progress on them as well, then went to barbell squats. If the Stronglifts 5×5 is not right for me at this time due to my goal, I’d willingly change routines or structure one for myself. However, I don’t know how to go about doing so. I hear many contrasting opinions from different people. For example, I hear that 5x5s are good for establishing a solid base of strength and muscle for beginners before moving to more advanced routines. Then I hear from others that a a higher rep range like 8-12 in best. Then I hear that a variety of ranges is best. Being in my first year of lifting for real, I don’t want to make things too complicated off the bat. Regardless of rep range, I hear that progressive overload is key to muscle gain and that’s what drew me to the 5×5, adding weight each session, which is easiest with barbell lifts that work multiple muscles at a time. I know there are other factors to muscle gain. So like, I said, I’d be willing to switch to another routine, but I’m worried I’ll fall into the trap of trying and switching between different routines again and not getting any results due to not sticking with a long term program. Is there a way to build a foundation of strength and muscle for skinny beginners other than a 5×5 routine like Stronglifts?

        • Shane Duquette on August 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm

          5 reps per set is good for growth. 8–12 is good, too. Combining more rep ranges together would be even better.

          If you HAD to pick one rep range, I would say 8–12 because it’d be easier on your central nervous system and you’d be able to handle higher volume. Your workouts would also be shorter and more efficient. You don’t have to pick one or the other, though.

          Whichever rep range you choose, you’d want to build your workout out of compound lifts. They wouldn’t need to be barbell lifts. The dumbbell overhead press outperforms the barbell overhead press for shoulder growth, and the dumbbell bench press outperforms the barbell bench press for chest growth. Barbell lifts are awesome too, though.

          I’m not saying that our program is a special unicorn and nothing else comes close. I can think of a couple competitors who offer fully optimal workouts. Eric Cressey makes really good athletics stuff. Alberto Nunez and Eric Helms at 3D Muscle Journey are amazing for competitive bodybuilding. I also like Jordan Syatt’s stuff for strength and fat loss. They aren’t free, though, or even cheap.

          Our unique specialty here at Bony to Beastly is helping naturally skinny guys gain muscle and overall size. To do that we use a lot of appetite tricks, we use a mix of strongman training, athletic training, bodybuilding, and strength training. You’ll see a lot of the stuff you love about Stronglifts in our program right alongside higher rep bodybuilding-style curls.

          I think the dilemma here isn’t what would be the best, but rather what the best free or homemade option would be, yeah? If you’re not going to switch over to a well-designed mass gaining program, sticking with Stronglifts might be your best bet (and certainly better than a homemade option). While we do think that the evidence points a different way, it’s still undeniably a good program.

          • Cedric on August 26, 2016 at 10:45 pm

            I appreciate your reply. I understand what you are saying. Thanks for clearing up some misunderstandings and lack of knowledge I had. I want to say that my unwillingness (hesitance) to pay for a well-designed program is not because of the money, but more so because there are so many well-designed programs out there telling you different things to the point that it can be hard to know who to trust. Not to say that I don’t think some programs, including yours, are true. I appreciate that your site shows evidence and research to support your program. One of the best I’ve seen. I think myself being in a new situation, still quite young, becoming more serious about getting stronger and muscular, moving away from the cookie cutter programs I’ve tried in the past that did not work, towards more proven routines, I will eventually turn to a program like yours where I may need to pay money, but in return I will get better results. Again, thank you for your replies and I will consider your program.

          • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2016 at 9:43 pm

            I know I’ve got a tidbit of a bias, but I think you’ll get your money’s worth out of it very quickly! And then some 🙂

            You’re going to be spending quite a bit of time in the gym. Being productive in there could be worth quite a lot.

            More more weeks, or months, wasted while not getting results, either.

  72. […] Here’s our article about how to lift with ectomorph proportions. […]

  73. Billy on June 22, 2019 at 5:28 am

    I have been trying Stronglifts for the past several months but I have been starting to get issues with my sleep which in the past has been similar to my issues with constantly doing lower rep sets. I think that the lack of variety on low rep sets has been too hard on my CNS. Not sure if any others had similar problems. I have been trying to build muscle but it is hard.

  74. […] We talk about some solutions for these weightlifting issues in our article, Why Ectomorphs Need to Lift a Little Differently. […]

  75. […] Note: Make sure that if you’re jumping straight into strength training that you’re doing a program that’s appropriate for beginners. A proper strength training program will be, but these are not the ones you tend to find online. It’s extremely rare that someone can just put a barbell on their back and squat with anything close to decent form, it’s even rarer that someone can deadlift a barbell off the ground with decent form, and I’ve never even heard of anyone picking up a barbell and pressing it overhead with enough technique that it’s even remotely safe. Rushing right to doing these big compound lifts is often dangerous and ineffective – especially if you’re a naturally skinny guy, since our bodies are longer and thinner. More on that here. […]

  76. […] an ectomorph. I had a thin torso, long arms, and just generally bad genetics for the bench press. That can make the bench press harder for ectomorphs to learn, for sure, and it explains why I couldn’t bring the barbell down to my chest, but a new study […]

  77. […] then, every lift has its nuances. Even just being a lanky ectomorph can change the dynamics of the big compound lifts. And when something feel off, it can really help to have a coach who can help you diagnose the […]

  78. […] The best way to lift weights as an ectomorph […]

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