Illustration of a man on vacation with a woman in a bikini

How to Maintain Your Muscle Mass Without Lifting Weights

Imagine being in the midst of a bulking routine, and things are going super well—you’re gaining weight on the scale each week, steadily building muscle. But then, lo and behold, disaster strikes. And not just a run of the mill muscle disaster, like running out of trail mix, but the worst kind of disaster imaginable: a vacation.

And I’m not talking about one of those cushy vacations at a resort that includes a gym, I’m talking about one of those vacations where we’re forced to stop lifting weights entirely. 

For many of us, even just the thought of taking a break from our workout routines gets our hearts racing, our minds spiralling down into the depths of pure terror. Unfortunately, I’ve been there too. I know what you’re thinking:

In desperation, you might start googling around to learn more, but since only 3% of the population is trying to gain weight, good luck trying to find an article for people who are worried about losing weight when they stop working out.

So what do you do? Cancel your vacation? Do bodyweight workouts? Or take a break from lifting?


How do you travel as a skinny guy / ectomorph without losing muscle / losing weight?

I got back from Mexico a few weeks ago. Above you can see my girlfriend wife and me in a cenote having a balancing competition. (It was a tie.) After a couple weeks of eating tons of delicious seafood and tacos, walking 5-6 hours most days, and having at least a couple drinks most nights, I came back just as muscular and finally looking like the 1/4 Cuban that I am (i.e. still 3/4 pale).

Even though we base our articles on research rather than anecdotes, we still like to walk the walk before writing about something. Luckily, the three of us get the opportunity to travel fairly often. Jared just got back from a small little island in Northern Canada, and Marco recently went hiking through Peru.

It’s about time we write about one of the most commonly asked question we get: “Will I lose all of my muscle if I take a break from lifting weights? How do I stop myself from losing weight if I stop working out?”

First of all, there’s this misconception that being a strong healthy dude makes it harder to travel. That couldn’t be more wrong. Being a strong healthy dude makes travelling so much better. You’ve got muscles that can carry around a whole family’s worth of luggage without breaking a sweat, you have the cardiovascular fitness to race your partner up the pyramids (and win), you have the rugged immune system that resists catching a cold on the airplane, the energy levels for every adventure, and the brainpower to think clearly even when jet-lagged.

Lifting and eating well in your day-to-day life makes travelling radder. So if you’re at a point where you’re healthy and happy with your body, great—you don’t really need to worry about much while on vacation. Just have fun, be active, eat delicious food, go back to your bulking routine when you get back.

This article isn’t about that though. You’re probably a guy who’s still trying to get bigger and stronger. This article is about building muscle while you’re travelling, not just being a strong and fit dude while travelling.

First, let’s get the bare basics out of the way:

  • Your customs agent probably won’t mistake your whey for cocaine. I got pulled aside for further questioning the (one and only) time I tried to travel with individual-serving-size ziplock bags of whey. But the guy interrogating me in the scary little room was pretty buff, and after one whiff of my little baggies he was giving me lifting advice, not handcuffs. Nowadays I bring a few prepackaged Quest Bars instead. Less drama, far easier to eat on the go, more calories, more fibre, and more delicious. (And we aren’t even being paid to say that!)
  • A mojito or three will neither create nor prevent muscle protein synthesis, but it will temporarily increase your testosterone levels by about 17% if you’re a young guy (study). Seven mojitos, on the other hand, will reduce muscle protein synthesis and suppress testosterone production (study, study). That doesn’t matter if it’s fairly irregular, but an alcoholic will really struggle to maintain a muscular physique, let alone build one. That’s why it’s best to limit your alcohol intake to 0–2 drinks per day while bulking.
  • Moctezuma’s revenge is the most nefarious weight-loss cleanse. Beware the street vendor with the reckless look in his eyes.

With that covered, we can get to the interesting stuff. To cover the elusive science of what happens to muscle when travelling, we brought in the big guns—Armi Legge.

Armi has long been known in the fitness industry for being one of the best researchers out there. He’s a bit of a controversial figure in the best way because he’s a young guy who’s not afraid to stand up to some of the most influential guys in the industry when they get their facts wrong.

Recently, he wrote up a piece in Alan Aragon’s Research Review (which is was perhaps the most respected research review in the fitness industry). As luck would have it, that article was about building muscle while travelling. In fact, Armi’s latest area of research has been everything related to muscle, fitness and travel.

Armi Legge’s Advice for Skinny Travellers

Armi Legge & Bony to Beastly—How to travel without losing muscle/weight as a skinny guy

Armi’s a naturally skinny guy himself, he’s recently built a ton of muscle, and he travels pretty much constantly for business and adventure. Not only does he maintain his muscle while travelling, he’s building tons of muscle while travelling (as you can see above).

We used this as an opportunity to help you out (since he’s done a ton of research into this), and it’s also a chance for him to talk about his rad new eBook about staying fit, strong and lean while travelling.

Without further ado, here are my questions, with his answers in blue.

The Skinny Guys Guide to Travelling while building muscle

What Happens if We Lose Weight Without Lifting Weights?

What will happen if we lose weight while not lifting? We’re naturally skinny guys. Airports, carrying luggage around, strolling around exciting new cities, being way too far away from a refrigerator, needing to get most of your meals from restaurants, etc. This means that we’re burning more calories and eating fewer. The perfect storm for accidental weight loss.

Armi: If you lose weight without lifting, then you’ll mostly lose fat, along with some muscle. The larger your calorie deficit, generally the greater your risk of muscle loss. The amount of muscle you lose is largely dependent on your genetics, although the absolute differences between people tend to be pretty small.

Most research also shows that eating a higher percentage of your diet from protein can generally help you retain more muscle while under-eating. So if you don’t lift weights and you under-eat, make an effort to get in slightly more protein.

If you gain weight, you’ll gain some muscle and fat. That’s something most people don’t realize—any calorie surplus, even if you aren’t lifting weights, generally causes some muscle growth. The problem is that a lot more of the weight tends to come from fat. But since you’re reading this, under-eating is probably more of an issue for you than over-eating.

Guys Guide to Travelling while building muscle

Will We Lose Muscle if We Stop Lifting Weights?

If we stop lifting weights, how long before our muscles begin to atrophy, assuming we eat enough calories to maintain our weight?

Armi: I’d say you’d have at least two weeks or so before you started to lose muscle, assuming you were eating enough to maintain your weight. You’d probably lose a little strength after a week, but that would mostly be neurological—feeling rusty. After a few workouts, you’d be back to your normal self.

There have been a few studies on this, too. In general, 3-6 weeks off from training will cause around a 6-12 percent drop in strength. That’s really not much when you consider how long these people weren’t training. In these studies, muscle mass didn’t change much after 4 weeks. There probably was a drop in muscle mass, but it was small enough that it wasn’t measurable.

In short, you can maintain your muscle mass and strength without training for longer than most people think.

How Hard is it to Regain Lost Muscle Mass?

That’s a really interesting question. I’d say that a week or two without training isn’t that big of a deal, assuming you don’t do that every month. You might lose some muscle and strength, but you’ll gain it back much faster. It’s easier to regain or maintain muscle mass than it is to build it in the first place. This is partly due to satellite cell activation.

In a nutshell, when you lift weights, special stem cells called “satellite cells” donate their myonuclei to your muscle cells. That extra nucleus helps the muscle support a slightly larger area, and your muscles get bigger. The interesting thing is that those myonuclei stick around even if your overall muscle size shrinks. When you start lifting again, it’s generally easier to shoot back up to your previous size, partly thanks to those new myconuclei.

Should We Do Bodyweight Workouts if We Can’t Lift Weights?

I’d say that if you’re out of the gym for two weeks or less, it’s okay to stop training completely. If you aren’t lifting for more than two to four weeks, you can probably expect to lose a moderate amount of muscle mass and strength. It’s hard to say exactly how much, but probably not enough to have a significant impact on your appearance.

When you get back into training, you’ll regain your lost strength and size much faster than when you had to build it in the first place.

But, I think it’s still a good idea to do at least a little strength training while travelling for another reason—habit formation. Even if you just do a 10-minute bodyweight workout twice a week, that helps you maintain the habit of working out. When you come home, it will be much easier to get back into your normal training schedule.

Guys Guide to Travelling while building muscle

What’s the Minimum Amount of Lifting Needed to Maintain Muscle?

Armi: I’d say once per week of heavy, full-body strength training would help you maintain most of your muscle mass for one to two months. That’s assuming you’re eating enough to maintain your weight. (You’d probably lose some muscle if you were in a deficit.) You’d lose muscle mass eventually on this routine, but one full-body session per week is probably enough to maintain your muscle mass for several months.

Guys Guide to Travelling while building muscle

Can We Build Muscle Without Lifting Weights?

Is there anything, in particular, you’d recommend for a naturally skinny guy who wants to not just maintain but also build muscle while travelling? (Keeping in mind that our tendency is to accidentally lose weight while travelling.)

Armi: Great question. I tend to default toward under-eating too, so this is something I’ve thought about. Here are a few strategies that work well for me:

  • Pick more calorie-dense foods. Nuts, protein bars, whey protein, chocolate and dried fruit are all good choices. If you can’t get a large meal at a restaurant, you can supplement your calorie intake with one of those options or something else. When I was travelling in England, the portion sizes were much smaller than normal, so I’d often have a protein bar or something else to supplement my calorie intake.
  • Pack some snacks. Beef jerky, whey protein, apples, bananas, yogurt, or anything else that has some protein and fiber can work well. If I don’t bring anything, I’ll just forget to eat.
  • Eat more often. I get full easily, so spreading my calories throughout the day makes it easier to eat enough.
  • Make time to eat. When you’re travelling, it’s easy to get distracted by exploring new places and meeting new people. In the end, it really just comes down to reminding yourself to get in a meal.
Guys Guide to Travelling while building muscle

Bonus Muscle Maintenance Tips From the Beastly Team

Jared’s travelling tips:

  • It’s normal to feel a little worn down when travelling. Everything is a new experience, meaning there’s no chance to fall into your energy saving auto-pilot routine. Making decisions all day long, however small, is tiring. Bringing some super easy snacks along, like a Quest bar and some water, will remove the stress of figuring out where your next meal will come from. This will help keep your willpower, mood and energy high while sneaking in calories/protein throughout the day. (Sharing your snacks will also keep your travelling mates from getting hangry on you.)
  • A light bodyweight exercise circuit in the morning, while your willpower is still high, will improve your energy levels throughout the day, and also give your muscles a reminder that they’re still needed.

Shane’s travelling tips:

  • Armi’s travelling guide has some really great recipes that are really easy to make, even when travelling. But let’s be real here—when you’re travelling you’ll probably be getting a lot of your calories from restaurants and corner stores. Corner stores tend to sell milk, fruit and nuts, which are perfect muscle-building foods. At restaurants you can order a meal that centres around a protein (rather than a vegetarian style dish). Chefs often cook with a lot of fat and salt, so the main problem with eating out all the time is that the food is high in calories. That’s not much of a problem for us, so don’t worry about it.

Marco’s Travelling tips:

  • Oh man the Moctezuma thing. I had some real bad street meat in Peru…
  • I do makeshift workouts, often just for fun. Squats with my brothers on my shoulders, workouts in the park—that kind of thing. In Peru it was a run through Cuzco culminating hill sprints (although I forgot to consider the low oxygen levels at such a high altitude and passed out afterwards), in Hong Kong they had a bunch of bars to play on, and in Japan they had a really cool park to run through.
  • I guess if you put a tip from me, it would be to explore and enjoy your surroundings. There’s exercise related stuff everywhere if you open your mind to it. However, this would only take up a short portion of the day. Just 15-30 min in the morning before setting out for more adventures.

Key Takeaways

Even if we take a break from lifting weights, our muscle is fairly resilient, and we have at least 2–4 weeks before we lose a noticeable amount of it. Furthermore, any muscle that we do lose will come back as soon as we get back into our regular workout routines. Regaining muscle is extremely fast and easy, so there’s no need to fear losing it.

If you’re thinking about sneaking in workouts while on vacation, first of all, you don’t need to. You could just as easily take a well-earned break and then just get back into your lifting routine a couple of weeks later. But if you want to keep in the habit of working out, some quick at-home bodyweight workouts are great. Even just fifteen minutes of push-ups and jump squats per day can keep your habits strong and your fitness levels high.

The worst thing is building a stronger and tougher body but then being in constant fear of it disappearing on you as soon as you take it outside of your normal gym routine. That’s totally backwards. A strong and healthy body is less fragile and more versatile than a weak one. Even if you lose muscle, it will spring right back. There’s nothing to worry about.

If you have any questions, tips, success stories, horror stories—who doesn’t love horror stories?—drop them below.

Have a great vacation, man!

Shane Duquette is the founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, each with millions of readers. He's a Certified Conditioning Coach (CCC), has gained seventy pounds, and has over a decade of experience helping more than ten thousand naturally thin people build muscle. He also has a degree in fine arts, but those are inversely correlated with muscle growth.

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  1. Joram on July 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Great article! I recently went on a holiday myself, but I had no idea that you barely lose any muscle or strength during a little 2 week holiday. I always feel (like the article also mentions) a little empty after a holiday… as if I need anóther one to recuperate. But aside from getting back to your usual strength after a few workouts, the little dip I experience actually makes me want to work out a little hárder. It’s really motivating to notice a little dip in strength (even if it’s only very temporary) to strive to not only get rid of said dip, but to surpass it asap. 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on July 14, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Joram! Really glad you dug it.

      Hehe yeah, I think when we get into this weightlifting/muscle-building stuff we start to freak out a little bit when we need to spend time away from the gym/kitchen. It took me a little while before I was able to break that mindset. I thought it would be cool to figure out exactly what would happen if we just relaxed for two weeks instead of worrying about our physiques. It’s a vacation, after all—a time to stress less!

      And you’re right—coming back hungry for the gym is great for blasting through plateaus! There’s some science behind that too. Over time your body will get used to your regular training volume, making fewer adaptations because it’s not stressed anymore—a plateau. (Both good and bad.) Going through periods of lower training volume (vacation) will get your body used to a lower training volume, meaning your body will adapt more readily when you bring the volume back up (your regular routine).

  2. John on July 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Dude, judging by the pictures the balancing contest wasn’t a tie. She clearly won!

    • Shane Duquette on July 14, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Ahaha it’s a good thing you weren’t the judge then! (I was the judge.)

  3. Aaron on July 15, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Great article!! (Especially for summer 🙂

    Any advice on just maintaining in general, not necessarily on vacation, but just once you’ve trained enough that you’re happy with your strength & appearance? Have you guys talked about this area before?


    • Aaron on July 15, 2015 at 12:49 am

      So, to clarify just in case, I mean maintaining in the long term rather than the short term? Thanks!

      • Shane Duquette on July 15, 2015 at 3:41 pm

        Aaron! Glad to hear from you, man. That’s a good question.

        I know you’ve been pretty jacked for quite a while now, but for the sake of an example, let’s say you start off at a skinny 130 pounds. You bulk for six months and gain lean-ish 30 pounds. You’re stoked with your results and want to focus on other things in your life.

        First of all you want to get your metabolism back to normal. You may have been maintaining your 130 pound physique on 2200 calories or so per day, but now you’re probably eating 3500 or some such and not even gaining much weight each week. That 30 pounds of muscle you’ve gained is only burning 180 calories or so per day (6 calories per pound), but your metabolism has adapted to the perpetual surplus. You’re producing more body heat, fidgeting more, being more active—that kind of thing. (Our article on this here.) If you’re like me, that’s a huge pain in the ass. So we want to do something called a reverse diet. You normally hear about reverse diets in the context of getting your metabolism back up after an intense weight loss diet, but it’s a thing for us skinny bulkers too. We need to get our metabolism back down.

        The first thing you do is cancel out the bulking surplus by dropping your intake by 500. You’d now be maintaining your gains on 3000 calories per day. Then you keep lifting well, eating well, sleeping well, and you slowly reduce calories by 200 or so per week. You keep going until you’re eating a really nice enjoyable amount of food. Maybe after a few weeks you’re eating 2400 calories per day and your appetite, stomach capacity, and maintenance caloric intake all line up. Perfect. Now the caloric side of things is natural.

        (In your case, if your metabolism is uncomfortably high and it’s been sitting there for a while, going into a bit of a cut to lower it down could help.)

        You don’t need all that much protein anymore, so you can cut out the protein powders (and other supplements). If you were a totally plant-based guy maybe you keep up with some protein powders for general health and muscle maintenance, or put extra effort into combining plant-based protein sources to give a balanced protein intake, but in your case you’d probably be fine without ever needing to think about it. I think. (Do you eat/drink dairy?)

        Instead focus on getting 80% or so of your calories for whole foods (for general health.) You dig cooking your own food and learning more in the kitchen, so that should be pretty enjoyable. Most meals are centred around a protein, a starch, a veggie, a fat. Those classic style meals (curries, stews, chilis, steak and potatoes and peas, stir fries, etc) are perfect for maintenance.

        Now you just start getting really comfortable with the exercise part of your life. I’d recommend keeping on lifting for your entire life, but you don’t need to be strict or intense with it. As Armi said, you could do a short heavy fully body workout just once per week to maintain your size and strength very well. A couple sets for every lift. In your specific case, maybe some isolation lifts for your upper body just to keep it at that extra jacked level. On top of that, you just do the exercise that you most enjoy in order to stay healthy and happy. If you get in a couple hours of biking or dancing each week no need to be in the gym all that often… unless you want to be.

        If you get sick or something and lose a bit of muscle, you just step it up in the gym and in the kitchen until you’ve regained the lost mass. Regaining muscle is easy, so it wouldn’t take long or be that difficult. You know how to build mass too, so it would be familiar stuff.

        I think it’s good how you have a variety of goals you’re always trying to hit too. That keeps life exciting. Who wants their fitness to just be stagnating, you know? Much more fun to be striving for something. But it doesn’t always need to be strength/lifting related. Biking endurance and whatnot is just as great of a goal. Same in the kitchen. It’s not always about getting your diet more nutritionally perfect, might be more fun to try and become a better cook instead. Make your diet more delicious. Seems like you’ve already got a good lifestyle going with this stuff 🙂

        Does that answer your question well? If you’ve got more specifics you’re curious about, I could go into more detail.

        p.s. We have a new section in the community for posting 1RMs. You’ve got some sweet lifts already filmed. You should get them up in there!

  4. Nick A on July 15, 2015 at 2:18 am


    Awesome article. I travel a lot… and I mean a lot. I’m always trying to keep my bulk going while on vacation or on business. This article hits the spot. Thanks a bunch for posting this. I think it’ll be really helpful to a lot of people.

    • Shane Duquette on July 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      I was thinking of you when writing this, actually! Thought you’d built up a pretty damn impressive physique despite being a guy who’s travelling pretty much always. Best biceps ever 🙂

  5. Kayman on July 15, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    How would one regain the lost muscle mass/weight quickly ? Do we go back on a calorie surplas to get it back or the normal diet of eating maintenance. I just took off 30 days of training and being on a unintentional calorie deficiet. How long do you think it would take to get the weight back you think ?

    • Shane Duquette on July 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Exactly. The muscle will be rebuilt quickly, but you’d still want to do something that would allow you to build it well. You’d go back into a muscle-building routine (including calorie surplus). For your weight to increase you always need a calorie surplus.

      How long will it take? It’s hard to say. You’re pretty good at building muscle by now, but it also depends on how much muscle you lost. In just a month Nate Green regained 20 pounds of muscle, Tim Ferriss regained 34, and Casey Viator regained 63. If you only lost 10 pounds of muscle though, you may only regain 10 😉

  6. Richard G on July 16, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Love this! Super helpful! Was wondering about how to maintain size after I complete the programme! 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on July 16, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Hey Richard, glad you liked it, man! Check out the answer I gave to Aaron right above 🙂

      • Richard G on July 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm

        Just read it. Amazing. Thanks so much!!!

  7. C.Becher on July 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Off-topic: Hi, What are your thoughts on this maximum muscular genetic potential calculator? Do you think its more or less reliable or it’s just not accurate since it doesn’t take into consideration the genetics of each person?

    • Shane Duquette on July 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Totally totally off topic, but that’s Casey Butts’ calculator. He is the muscular potential expert. It’s a great calculator. It takes genetics into account to a certain degree, and if you buy his Your Muscular Potential eBook it goes into great detail about the modifiers and how to customize everything.

      …But as ectomorphs we can sometimes break the calculators. My wrist is so little that it told me that my absolute maximum lean bicep size after a career of lifting perfectly would be 14.5″… but my bicep size is 15″ after just a couple years of training. I emailed him about it. He said I was so tall and my bones were so slender that I broke the model. I was too much of an extreme ectomorph 😛

      So yes, very accurate. You won’t find anything more accurate out there. Casey Butts is awesome. It’s not totally perfect in all situations for all people, but if you buy his eBook I bet you could ask him any questions you have about it. He certainly answered mine 🙂

  8. Kendall on July 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Hi, Shane

    I have been following this blog for a while. I recently read a similar blog post that is very science oriented I think you would like. It’s all about taking time off and it’s effect on muscle adaptation. Here it is.

    • Shane Duquette on July 16, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Hey Kendall,

      Thanks for the link, man. I’m very familiar with Greg Nuckols. I’ve read all of his posts (and bought his eBooks). He’s awesome! 🙂

  9. Rahul on July 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Hey Shane i weigh around 130 and im pretty skinny…i have a high metabolism and i cant really eat alot and i want to get about 15pounds of muscle in 1 month or 30 in 2 months, any advice for this and any workout routines that i should tryout because i do upper/lower for 4 days a week. Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on July 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Hey Rahul,

      Having a high metabolism and a small appetite and/or stomach capacity is pretty common for us naturally skinny ectomorphs (myself included). Those traits often go together, which is a big part of why we’re skinny in the first place. We’ve got an article on that that might help.

      Gaining 30 pounds of muscle in two months is probably a little unrealistic. We see crazy things like that every once in a while with guys with exceptional genetics who are very very skinny starting out… but normally it takes our members a good three months to gain 20 pounds, and closer to five or six months to gain 30.

      As for working out, we’ve got an article about the best style of training for building mass quickly here.

      We also have the Bony to Beastly program if you want a full program (workouts, videos, recipes, etc) and our help coaching you through it 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      • Rahul G on July 22, 2015 at 3:33 pm

        Hey Shane, guess your right and i had a question…i looked at your best muscle building supplements guide and i saw you say that you should triple in dosage of the monster shake if you cant get the calories from foods…and thats from workout i shouldnt have the shake on resting days? I usually havve 600-800calorie breakfast(eggs+2 nutrient bars+ 2 cups of milk). After that it gets hard for me to eat large portions to get the 3k or 3.5k calorie mark…any tips on what to eat for resting day? I saw dried fruits good and string cheese and milk as a good way to down calories.

        • Shane Duquette on July 23, 2015 at 8:07 pm

          Correct. If you can help it, I’d keep the maltodextrin-filled workout shakes to workout days. I’d switch to whole food smoothies on rest days. Fruit and dairy smoothies or something. That way you get some fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc.

          If you started the morning off with a fairly high calorie smoothie or something you might be able to get away with it, since your stomach would clear it fairly quick, and the liquid calories wouldn’t fully register… but a big fatty solid food high calorie meal might be rough on ya. With smaller stomachs like ours it can be easier to eat more when we eat often, since an epically big meal like that can annihilate our appetite for an entire day.

          You might find it easier to have a smaller breakfast and then either snack more often or squeeze in some extra meals.

  10. Daniel on July 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    “Will the customs agent mistake your whey protein for cocaine? (Can you really get jacked in prison?)” 😀

    Great article. Thanks. Missed the sense of humor 🙂

    My horror story is, when I drank unboiled, fresh nature water, I got an infection, vommited for 9 hours straight and lost 11 kg. In 9 hours ! Ended up in hospital for a week. But again, I was only 12 years old 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on July 23, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      Hehehe, glad to hear hear you were okay, Daniel! That sounds like a truly miserable (and frightening) experience. 11kg?! Damn. Our ectomorph weight loss superpowers (and extreme dehydration) :S

  11. Stuart on August 23, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    In all your before and after shots on this website the guys have fairly big bones to start with. What if you’ve got very small bones? Will this hinder being able to build muscle?

    • Shane Duquette on August 25, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Hey Stuart,

      That’s extremely common among us ectomorphs. So much so that it’s one of our defining characteristics. For example, I’m 6’2 but have the wrist size of the average 5’4 man.

      Will this hinder our ability to build muscle? Nope! We can still build muscle just fine, we just come out looking like a muscular guy with a slenderer bone structure. More like Brad Pitt, less like Brock Lesnar 😉

  12. Jimmy Jacobs on September 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Shane, your broad has a fantastic bumper

  13. Ryan on December 11, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Love your articles, finally someone understands the ectomorph struggle. Quick question for you guys, I’ve been grinding for about 8 months in the quest for a better physique and have achieved more then I thought possible. I’m taking a trip to Italy for 12 days rather soon and I know all my buddy’s are going to want too drink up since the drinking age is 18… whether that’s every night I am not sure but if it is an every, how worried should I be about my alcohol consumption over those 12 days. Will my 8 months of hard work go down the drain?

    • Shane Duquette on December 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks, Ryan 🙂

      Nah, your muscle will be okay. Just try to keep your calories at around maintenance and try to avoid taking your drinking to excess. But having a few drinks each day for a couple weeks shouldn’t do much. A week back in the gym building muscle should sort out any muscle loss you suffer if you accidentally eat in a calorie deficit. Or perhaps a week back in the gym losing fat if you accidentally eat in a surplus.

      So enjoy your trip! (And drink responsibly!)

      • Ryan on December 11, 2015 at 11:38 pm

        Thanks Shane, you’re the man.

  14. Ethan on January 31, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Shane, great articles you’ve been writing. I am planning on working out 3 days a week and I wanted to know if it would be good to work almost every muscle group each day? And also how much protein is really needed for an ectomorph and how many calories should I be eating daily? Thanks

    • Shane Duquette on February 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      You can definitely work every muscle group every workout when training three times per week. In fact, that’s what I’d recommend 🙂

      We’ve got an article on protein intake here. TL:DR Aiming for around 1 gram protein per pound bodyweight (or 2.2 grams per kilo) is a good rule of thumb 🙂

      For calories, probably something like 18–22 calories per pound bodyweight depending on how active you are and how quickly you want to gain weight. That’s a rough guess though, and there are more detailed ways to calculate it. (There are also other non-calorie focused ways to make sure you’re eating enough to build muscle.) Whichever way you choose, the main thing is that you want to weigh yourself each week to make sure you’re eating enough to gain weight on the scale.

      • Ethan on February 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

        Ok cool, appreciate it bro!

  15. Ethan on February 2, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Oh yah, I forgot to ask you one thing. I go over to friend’s houses a lot of the time on weekends and I often stay there the whole weekend. During this time I’m not sure if I would be able to eat a proper bodybuilding diet, so would that limit my muscle gains? Thanks again

    • Shane Duquette on February 3, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Ahaha yeah, not eating in a way that will help build muscle… won’t help with building muscle 😛

      Maybe bring some food over. Some Quest bars or a protein shake or three or whatnot. Maybe leave a jug of milk in his fridge. Whatever works.

  16. George on February 4, 2016 at 4:44 am

    Perfect article! Loved it…

    So I’ve been travelling around 4 weeks now, hit the gym twice along the way and eating okay ish… I’m getting frustrated with not having enough energy mostly and looking in the mirror and being like “whaaaaat” I was doing awesome when at home in routine I had gained a TON of size now I look and feel weak!

    I would love some kind of structure or plan for travelling as I work everywhere I go so routine isn’t too bad I just have limited access to the gym if at all.

    Plus some easy meals would help!

    If you can make a programme for it. I’ll buy it! Haha

    Plus I don’t eat meat so it’s generally quite hard anyway when I don’t have my mass stock of fish at home!

    • Shane Duquette on February 5, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      I know exactly how you feel. If you look in the mirror while travelling you’ll always feel deflated. It’s not because you’re that much smaller, it’s just because you’re slightly smaller than usual… but that you care enough that you’re able to notice even slight changes.

      These slight changes are likely, 1) less inflammation in your muscles since they aren’t recovering from training, and 2) glycogen depletion. As soon as you restart your regular eating and lifting routine you’ll go back to normal within days.

      As for a routine while traveling, we actually have one of those included with the program. But selling it as a standalone is not a bad idea either. In fact, Marco is working on a (free) video series right now that could work really well for that. Stay tuned to the newsletter!

      (As a vegetarian you may want to carry around some protein powder, Quest Bars, or even just get a bunch of skim milk.)

  17. vijay on June 9, 2016 at 10:53 am

    hey,dude…..iam just 19!but iam ultra slimy!my weight is just 46!!!even my bro. is 50 kgs!!!I have even underwent weight gaining programme in a gym nearby!!!but of no use!!!I hate to eat!!!that means even if I eat a small I fell stomach full!!!iam very worried!!!can protein powder help me to gain weight?

    • Shane Duquette on June 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Hey Vijay, we’ve got an article on supplements here. The important thing to keep in mind is the intro, where we explain that supplements won’t make or break a routine. If you can use them to help you eat enough though, they can certainly help you gain weight 🙂

  18. The Complete Barbell Guide - Outlift on September 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    […] anymore, so I kept lifting 1–3 times per week, sometimes taking a few weeks off to travel. Maintaining my physique was easy, but it wasn’t […]

  19. Dave Rottman on July 20, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Hey guys, Shane touched on this in one of the comments above, but I’m curious in general how many hard sets per week you think it takes to maintain muscle mass for a given area?

    This is relevant when programming how much volume should go to non-prioritized muscle groups (in a given training cycle).

    For example, say during a training cycle one is focusing on the neck and traps, and just trying to maintain biceps/triceps/calves. How much volume would you put to the latter 3 per week (with and without adjustments for them getting some work on big lifts already certainly being done).

    Much appreciated!

    • Shane Duquette on July 20, 2021 at 5:49 pm

      Hey Dave, the amount of work it takes to maintain a muscle can vary a great deal. But in my experience, it doesn’t take very much. Especially if you’re happy staying at like 90% instead of 100%. Not totally in peak condition, but hovering right under it.

      If you choose really good exercises, such as deep squats for the quads, Romanian deadlifts for the hips and posterior chain, and the bench press for the chest, you can probably get by with just a couple of hard sets per week. In fact, you may even make slow progress!

      When we do specialization phases, where we put most muscles on the backburner and focus on just a few target areas, we usually program 1–2 exercises for the backburner lifts and do 2–3 sets. If you were trying to just maintain your biceps size, you can probably get away with just doing compound lifts. No curls required. So you could maintain your biceps while you maintain your back. Maybe 3 sets of chin-ups and 2 sets of rows, say. Same with your triceps. 2–3 sets of the bench press and/or overhead press will probably do the trick.

      For your calves, they aren’t really trained with other lifts. You might need to do a couple sets of calf raises. Do them with a deep stretch (i.e. standing deficit calf raises) and make the sets hard. That should do it.

  20. Dave Rottman on July 21, 2021 at 11:42 am

    Hey Shane,

    Thanks, that’s helpful!

    I hadn’t explicitly thought about that with staying at like 90%, but yeah I can see that – not getting the peak outcome at maintenance level, but keeping most of it.

    It makes sense it varies to me, and also yeah I assume it varies based on the extent the muscle is worked in a secondary role – as you said about with the rows/chin-ups for biceps, for example.

    Gotcha, so in your example you are saying 1-2 exercises and 2-3 sets, that is total volume for the week? So basically what you said above about “a couple of hard sets per week”?

    I am asking because I am trying to program a bodyweight hypertrophy program and am running into an issue where the total sets per workout and week are pretty high (28/session for 3 full body workouts/week, total 84 sets) so I’m trying to figure out how/where I can reduce sets without losing gains. I know this is one of the hard parts of bodyweight training, that exercises can be less compound-y than say squats/deadlifts. I’m doing the best I can, and I’m about to start the routine and see how it goes, but 28 sets per session (about 40% compound, 60% isolation [meaning things like suspension trainer curls/extensions/flies, etc.]) is hefty!

    For what it’s worth, I sent you guys an email a few weeks back asking about where B2B could be appropriate for me. Haven’t heard back yet, but happy to continue that dialogue via email :).

    Thanks again, appreciate your work and insight!

    • Shane Duquette on July 21, 2021 at 12:09 pm

      Let me ask Sunny to search for your email. He’s normally pretty good with this, but sometimes emails get flagged or lost.

      We’ve got an article on bodyweight hypertrophy training that tries to be a bit more minimalistic with the exercise selection and volume. If you haven’t already read it, it might help.

      A couple hard sets per week is often enough, yeah. Especially if the exercises are really good. And admittedly, that might be harder with some bodyweight exercises. Push-ups and chin-ups are about as perfect as they come, though. 2–3 sets of those to failure should do the trick.

      There’s a law of diminishing returns with sets, too. Doing 3 sets of push-ups is a little bit better than doing 2. Doing 4 is a TINY bit better than doing 3. But these are not big differences. If you’re tight for time or energy, nothing wrong with doing 2 sets. And if you can maintain your performance from week to week, there’s no problem. If your strength starts slipping, bump it up to 3.

      • Dave Rottman on July 21, 2021 at 12:32 pm

        Right on, appreciate it.

        Yeah, I read that article, definitely very helpful! The format of my program is pretty similar to that, with a bit of bridge work added in to supplement iso deadlifts, some horizontal rows to round out the lats/upper back, and most of the extra volume coming from suspension bicep curls/triceps extensions/chest flies/y-flies to hit some areas that have been lagging.

        Got it, yeah I had exactly that thought. The big movers – chins and push-ups – are pretty solid, but some other movements with calisthenics a bit less so. That makes sense with diminishing returns. I’ll keep all that in mind.

        Thanks again, Shane! I’ll keep an eye out for Sunny’s response.

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