I’m a huge fan of improving posture. It may not be the most “hardcore” thing to focus on in a training program, however, it will turn your body into a hard-core machine. If you took a look at all the people in super hero movies you will find some commonalities. They are usually devilishly handsome, very muscular, big fans of Bony to Beastly and they all have great posture.
I get it, your parents have already told you a thousand times to sit up straight and I’m sure you’ve already heard that it improves the way you look, improves your performance, and maybe even that it improves your energy levels and how you feel.
Some people have even claimed that their great posture is why these actors are able to build muscle so quickly when they need to bulk up for their superhero movie role.
But is there really a link between posture and muscle?
The belief that you need to eat frequently runs rampant in the fitness and weightlifting communities. It’s actually rare to see a guy who knows what he’s doing who doesn’t think that he should be eating all the damn time. You know, to stoke the metabolic fire, prevent muscle catabolism, keep blood sugar levels steady, keep his muscles fuelled by a steady supply of amino acids / protein, and prevent his body from going into starvation mode and thus store fat more readily. That’s a lot to worry about …
We’ve been there and done that. The strange truth:
Okay so not having heard of something isn’t a myth—it’s a mistake. (I apologize for the lithpy pun.) Anyway, neutral spine and neutral neck (or “packed neck”, as Marco calls it) are both really damn important. Proper spinal alignment is debatably the single most important training cue out there. All performance trainers, powerlifters and high level athletes know this, but most gym-goers are out of the loop. They lift with really poor spinal alignment, not because they aren’t focusing enough on form, but because they’ve never even heard that spinal alignment exists, let alone matters. You’ve probably heard not to round your back, but that’s as far as mainstream sources go on the matter. The problem here is that as ectomorphs we’re particularly vulnerable to injuries, as our structures are naturally smaller. We can fix this, of course, and your bone density and tendon strength will soon reach beastly levels, but as a skinny dude starting out you can do some real damage to yourself if you neglect your alignment.
This post will help you improve your longterm health and strength, dodge future back pain, and help you build more muscle in the short term by properly targeting the muscles you’re trying to hit.
(Article updated September, 2015) You probably know that protein is a really important macronutrient for building muscle. In fact, my little sister probably knows that protein is important for building muscle. There’s some truth to this—if you don’t eat enough protein your body won’t build muscle. In fact it can’t build muscle, since muscle is build directly out of digested protein. This is a common problem for some absolute beginners, vegetarians and vegans. They eat too little protein and thus struggle to put on muscle.
But what about your regular gym dude? What about the guy that trains 6 times a week? What about a skinny ectomorph trying to pack on muscle? They all probably think they need a helluva lot of protein.
However eating a diet overly high in protein is a great way to limit the amount of muscle you build, especially as an ectomorph.
But isn’t it no pain no muscle-gain? In rare cases this can be true, but this depends on your particular goals, level of experience and training plan. For most guys stopping short of total muscle annihilation will get them to their goals much faster. For ectomorphs looking to quickly build muscle this is always the case—unless you’re such an enormously muscled ectomorph that no one would ever describe you as one. There’s a very big difference between uselessly fatiguing yourself and getting a good workout, but even most advanced trainees can’t recognize the difference. I’ve been there.
But isn’t that last rep the only one that matters?! Isn’t that last rep the one that separates the weaklings from the champions?! Grab a seat by the squat rack, and let me tell you about keeping 2 in the tank.
We’re going to write up a 5-part series debunking some common muscle-building/fitness industry myths, starting with the most scam-ridden body part of all—your abs. You already know that you need to lose fat to see your abs, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. This myth is far more insidious, and besides, this blog is for ectomorphs, so typically the reason we don’t have kickass abs is that they just aren’t big enough. Most ectomorphs thus try to solve the problem by doing crunches (or sit-ups). Jared and I sure did. We did crunches, reverse crunches, sit-ups, ab circuits, myotatic crunches, weighted crunches, side crunches, that bicycle thing, rope crunches. We did a hell of a lot of shitty ab exercises. The problem is that we were training spinal flexion instead of stability. That’s the opposite of what you want in a powerful body. Not only that, we were damaging our thoracic spine with every rep.
What the hell are you talking about?! Let me explain.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with training, and in life, is to worry about useless-ass trivial things. When I used to be a “pro” bodybuilder (in my parents’ basement), my regime was more complicated than trying to understand why they made 13 movies of Land Before Time. The first one was just fine. Each one just got progressively weirder.
Obe is a student in studying commercial aviation, not unlike the other Obi you all know and love. Unlike Obi though, Obe is real. He’s married, spends his free time playing soccer and watching movies, and a little over 5 weeks ago became a really supportive member of the Bony to Beastly community. He’s kicking some serious ectomorph ass, but isn’t even doing anything all that crazy to get his results. He’s following the plan, working out for an hour three times a week, eating well and making sure he has his calories in before going to bed. And he gained 4 pounds of muscle a week 5 weeks in a row. This just goes to show what proper training and nutrition can do, and that our potential for growth, hardgainer or not, is a hell of a lot greater than what most of us assume.
There are a hundreds of different exercise routines that people try. My only question is: how is it working for you? If you aren’t getting the results you want and living the lifestyle you want to live, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach to training. People can spend years working their tushies to the bone—literally. They work so hard that their gluteal muscles erode from their pelvis and all that is left is bone. It’s happened to me, and let me tell you, it is not pretty!
You see my friend, working hard is essential, however, working hard on the wrong program will not get you the body you’re working so hard to get. Huh?
It takes hard and—equally important—smart work. Nowadays, I feel that this idea tends to get distorted; I know for me it was. Consider this: would you rather work for 3 hours at $100/h and earn a total of $300, or would you rather work 8 hours for $15/hour and earn $120? No brainer, right? So why do people think that hour after hour of inefficiently training in the gym is the solution?
Haha watch out bodybuilders—us skinny creative dudes can diesel-up too! The handsome yet tiny thing on the left is Jeff before starting Bony to Beastly. He started the program at 136 pounds with internally rotated shoulders and upper and lower crossed syndrome (postural problems that plague most of us ectomorphs with desk jobs). The beastlier man on the right is Jeff 5 weeks later weighing in at 145.5 pounds and with most of his postural problems solved. He’s also balanced out most of his muscle asymmetries while increasing size everywhere.