Illustration of a skinny "ectomorph" doing cardio while bulking up.

Should You Do Cardio While Bulking? Yes, Sort Of

Hypertrophy training is designed to stimulate muscle growth. You adapt by growing bigger, stronger muscles, but it won’t improve your cardiorespiratory health very much.

Cardio makes you fitter. You adapt to draw more blood into your heart, build more blood vessels, and produce more energy in your mitochondria. It’s great for you, but it won’t make you bigger or stronger.

Thus, a balanced workout routine includes both.

Here’s the problem: Doing both hypertrophy training and cardio at the same time causes us to adapt in two complementary but competing ways. You only have so much energy, only so many resources, so you can’t maximize every adaptation all at once. This is called the interference effect.

On the other hand, if cardio makes you fitter, you’ll be able to handle tougher hypertrophy training workouts. If it improves blood flow to your muscles, you’ll have improved performance and better recovery. There are muscle-building advantages to doing cardio, too.

Things get even more confusing if you’re a naturally thin “ectomorph” or “hardgainer.” The more cardio you do, the more calories you’ll burn and the more food you’ll need to eat. If you’re already struggling to eat enough to gain weight, that can be a problem.

A skinny guy bulking up and becoming muscular, illustrated by Shane Duquette.

The Many Benefits of Cardio

Cardio stands for cardiorespiratory training, where the goal is to elevate your heart rate to improve cardiorespiratory fitness adaptations. It’s a catch-all term for activities designed to strengthen your heart and lungs—brisk walking, rucking, jogging, cycling, rowing, aerobics, HIIT, and so on.

Cardio is an important part of a healthy exercise routine. The benefits are robust and plentiful, whether you’re skinny or not (study):

  • Cardio burns calories and helps people lose weight.
  • It makes our hearts bigger and more efficient.
  • It increases our lung capacity.
  • It reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • It improves mood and reduces anxiety.
  • It makes people look and feel more youthful.
  • It improves sleep.
  • It increases energy levels.

But as healthy as cardio is, it won’t help you get bigger or stronger. For that, you need hypertrophy training. You probably already knew that. So, let’s assume you’re considering doing cardio in addition to hypertrophy training—concurrent training.

Should Skinny Guys Do Cardio While Bulking?

If you can, you should do cardio while bulking. Cardio provokes different adaptations from hypertrophy training, and both sorts of adaptations are important.

For example, a meta-analysis by Momma and colleagues found that weight training reduced all-cause mortality by 15%. When cardio was added in, all-cause mortality dropped by 40% (reference). By doing both, you can add the better part of a decade to your lifespan.

But you don’t need to improve every aspect of your lifestyle all at once. If you’re new to exercise and your main goal is to build muscle, you could start by spending a few months bulking up, focusing on gaining 20–30 pounds of muscle.

When you finish your bulk, you can ease back on lifting and start listening to your appetite again. You don’t need a calorie surplus to make cardio adaptations, so that might be a great goal to fight for when you’re ready to take a break from overeating.

In the meantime, going on a 20-minute walk every day is more than enough to keep you healthy, especially if you’re new to it. That’s what I did during my first two bulks, while gaining my first 40 pounds of muscle.

Lifting Can Count as Cardio (Sort Of)

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science (study) evaluated a bodybuilding workout by cardio standards. They measured the heart rate of sixteen people while doing a typical bulking workout. They were doing bench presses, lat pulldowns, bicep curls, leg presses, and so on. They did three sets of ten reps for each exercise.

The researchers found that the participants had the ideal heart rate for improving cardiovascular fitness for about half of the time they were weight training. Their cardiovascular fitness wasn’t the limiting factor, so it isn’t perfectly ideal, but it’s quite a lot better than nothing. If you’re out of shape, lifting can improve your fitness, at least during your first few months.

On the other hand, you need to brace your muscles while lifting weights. That tension keeps your heart and blood vessels contracted, raising blood pressure. To provoke cardio adaptations, you want your heart to expand to draw in more blood and your blood vessels to dilate to carry that blood to the muscles you’re working. So, to get proper cardio adaptations, you should add an activity like brisk walking.

How to Lift for Cardiorespiratory Health

If you wanted even greater cardiovascular benefits, you could structure your bulking workouts to keep your heart rate higher for longer. One way to do that is to be strict with your rest times. You can take that even further by doing supersets.

To build muscle properly, it helps to give your muscles enough rest between sets. However, while one muscle rests, you can train a different muscle group. For example, you can do a set of squats, rest a minute, then do a set of chin-ups, rest another minute, and then return to your squats. That’s a superset.

To be clear, even dense workouts are still designed for muscle growth, not for improving cardio. Bulking workouts won’t ever rival a dedicated cardio routine, but they’re a step in the right direction. Add a 20-minute daily walk to that, and you can take quite a few steps in the right direction.

Can Cardio Make it Harder to Gain Weight?

Doing cardio while bulking can make it harder to gain weight. Cardio burns a tremendous amount of calories per hour. I burned over a thousand calories running ten kilometres this morning. And unfortunately, your appetite might not increase by a proportionate amount (study, study). So, if you burn a thousand calories while jogging, you might only want to eat back 700, throwing you into a calorie deficit.

It’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Going on walks can speed up and smooth out digestion. If you’re feeling sluggish after a big meal, you can often walk it off. In that sense, bulking and cardio fit together quite well. It all depends on how intense your cardio is, how much of it you’re doing, and how good you are at eating a big bulking diet.

Does Cardio Interfere With Muscle Growth?

Cardio can interfere with muscle growth, but only under some circumstances. Even if you can manage to eat enough calories to gain weight, you can run into something called the interference effect, where the cardio stimulus competes with the muscle-building stimulus.

Study graph showing that doing cardio right after lifting weights reduces muscle growth by over 50%.

If you do your cardio and hypertrophy training as part of the same workout, the interference effect can cut your rate of muscle growth in half (study). However, there’s a simple solution. All you need to do is separate your cardio and lifting sessions by at least 6 hours, and ideally by a full day (study).

Does Cardio Improve Muscle Growth?

One of the benefits of cardio is improved blood flow to your muscles, allowing you to deliver energy to them. For example, if you go jogging, your body will adapt to deliver more blood to your leg muscles, allowing you to jog faster for longer. This improved blood flow supports muscle growth. So, it could be that as you get fitter, you’ll have an easier time building muscle (study).

To get these benefits, you don’t need to do cardio while bulking. You could also bulk and then do cardio, or do cardio and then bulk. You could also incorporate high-rep sets into your bulking routine.

The cardio adaptations are muscle-specific, so if you wanted to improve blood flow to your biceps, you wouldn’t go jogging; you’d go rowing or do high-rep sets of bicep curls. Doing sets of 20–40 reps should be heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth while also being light enough to improve blood flow.

Does Cardio Ward Off Fat Gain?

Doing cardio could conceivably make your gains leaner. There’s an idea called energy flux (G-Flux). Ryan Andrews, RD, and John Berardi, PhD, are famous for writing about it over on Precision Nutrition. We’ve written about it in our article for skinny-fat guys, too.

Illustration of a man running to lose fat.

The idea is that the more calories you burn, the more calories you’ll need to eat. Eating more food means eating more vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fibre, and phytonutrients. And since your overall food volume is higher, you won’t need to worry as much about making every calorie count.


For general health, do 150+ minutes of cardio and 2+ hypertrophy training workouts per week. If you’re new to cardio, you can start by going on a brisk 20-minute walk every morning. That won’t be enough forever, but it’s more than enough for now.

If you’re bulking and doing cardio, make sure to prioritize your priority. If your main goal is to stimulate muscle growth, invest your best energy into training for muscle growth. Do your cardio on your rest days, and keep it easy enough that it helps you feel energized the next day, not beat up and tired. There will be plenty of time to get beat up by cardio after you finish bulking.

Illustration showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program

If you want us to walk you through the entire bulking process, check out our Bony to Beastly (men’s) program or Bony to Bombshell (women’s) programThey include a 5-month customizable workout routine, a full bulking diet plan, a bulking recipe book, a deep dive into lifestyle and fitness, and coaching from us.

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.

Marco Walker-Ng is the founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's a certified trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. He has over 15 years of experience helping people gain muscle and strength, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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  1. Joram Oudenaarde on October 3, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Great article as usual! 🙂

    I’ve been doing a combination (I fínally found the motivation to start moving again) of the two.

    A 10 minute cardio bike ride at the gym, primarily because that’s about the only thing that actually makes me sweat, since working out itself makes me warm but never sweaty 🙂

    After that it’s about a 45 minute workout as intense as I can handle (do you guys get dizzy/nauseated at some point as well?).

    I’ve noticed in the past when I was working out that biking my butt of didn’t really do much at-all. But it does, at least in my head, help with finding some extra energy to do that extra set during the actual workout 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on October 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks man, glad you enjoyed it!

      Props for getting back into it. Until it becomes a habit it can be really hard to stick with this stuff.

      I’m with you—working up a sweat can be fun. Good to see you’re working some variety into your program! Sounds like a good way to warm up and get excited to train.

      Oh man ever since I started doing Marco’s workouts with supersets I find I get sweaty pretty easily. Doing a set of 300lb deadlifts followed by a weighted chin-up has me sweating like crazy.

      … and those deadlifts can make me a little dizzy. if I push myself really hard—especially when I’m not well rested and well fed. I haven’t felt nauseated from training since my first month of heavy lifting, but the deadlifts were the culprits then too.

    • Greg on January 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Dude how do you not sweat when you workout?! I’m pouring buckets and have to bring a towel to the gym so I won’t slip off the benches haha.

      • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm


    • george on December 8, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Thank goodness for this article. I’ve always been guilty for not running. I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening.

      I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat.

      • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Right on George. If you enjoy biking then a stationary bike could help. If your goal is to lose fat be sure to get in a calorie deficit! With or without the bike, that’s what matters most when it comes to losing fat.

        Good luck!

  2. Denis on October 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Running or any other slower paced cardio in a limited version (10, 15, 20, 30 min), following weight training is good for blood circulation to clear the lactic acid buildup from infected muscles.
    Personally, I recover much quicker with two 30 min cardios, as opposed to just doing nothing. This is 2 vs 5 to 7 days in regeneration process.
    And thats the only thing, I use it for. And of course pre-workout warmup.
    Would rather use a rower sometimes though.

    • Shane Duquette on October 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Right on. I’ve heard Marco recommend that to some people as well, to help with recovery—especially guys who are in the habit of training already and enjoy doing it more frequently than 3x per week.

      We actually don’t do cardio to warm up, although that’s certainly a good option. We do dynamic stretches to prime our muscles and get into solid movement patterns, followed by a couple light sets of our first pair of exercises, to practice our form and get the blood flowing in the right places.

  3. Luke Renia on October 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thank goodness for this article. I’ve always been guilty for not running. I don’t go out of the house often so I substitute 8-10 3minute rounds on a punching bag in the morning then weight lifting in the evening.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a stationary bike though, since I thought that I ought to do more cardio to get rid of my tummy fat.

    • Shane Duquette on October 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      I’d say if you’re already weight training and hitting a punching bag you’d have better luck zapping that stomach fat through nutrition. Lower the calories, keep that protein intake high!

  4. Daniel on October 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Great post again Shane! When I’ve reached my weight goals I’ll be doing more sprint intervals so I can get back to playing football (soccer). I’d love to know what you think of Crossfit?

    • Shane Duquette on October 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      That’s a tough question, as I’ve never tried it. I would say it’s a decent system for fit and athletic guys with a LOT of experience lifting weights already. You’d need great posture, great form, and great core strength to do any of those exercises safely, let alone get decent results out of them.

      Some of the stuff they do is also pretty strange, like the high rep olympic lifts. I can’t really see any justification for that. They’re explosive exercises designed to train power, not endurance. Even for guys with years of experience practicing the lifts, it would still be quite dangerous and rather pointless. (I don’t personally know much about olympic lifts — I’m just regurgitating Mike Boyle here, and that guy’s a legend.)

      There are plenty of people who come out of Crossfit quite fit though, so to each their own 🙂

      I also dig their work ethic. Those guys train hard and don’t make excuses.

    • Shane Duquette on October 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Right on man. No need to halt the sprint intervals in order to gain weight—those things are great. They aren’t required, but you’ll certainly come out a beast!

  5. Mannie on October 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Really enjoyed reading this article, was actually how i came across your wonderful site! I was a long distance runner back in high school but that was just for the extra credits (and i was good at it :P) however, its no longer something i do.

    Iv been devouring your articles whenever i am procrastinating as i have exams at the moment haha! I have a question though as i am looking to join though my question may seem a bit different to the guys around here.

    I have never been in the gym before, your usual skinny fellah weighing in at 112 pounds and 5’5 in height. My question here is that if i gain as much muscle as is possible with a great gym program and an even better diet, in your opinion/expertise do you think i will look a bit disproportionate as i am only 5’5 ?

    That is my main concern with bulking up is that it might look weird on me. Hpe you understand what i mean! I have no doubt about my dedication and discipline, but this is concern is on my mind. Finish my exams in a week and i want to get a gym membership on the same day.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Shane Duquette on October 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Hahaha I remember during exams was when I surprisingly managed to get a lot of guitar practice in 😉

      That’s a good question. You may not need to gain, say, 30 pounds, but if you’re a thin guy I think becoming stronger and more muscular, well, it has a positive effect on everyone. You’d probably even see it in your face.

      I know what you’re saying though—I know some 5’5 guys that look very muscular at around 150. I’ve always thought it looked cool, but I can see why you’d prefer a slightly slimmer look.

      You can always stop when you feel you’ve reached the level of muscularity that you want. There’s a ton of good stuff to do at that point too. Marco reached his goal size a while back and now most of his goals have to do with strength, mobility and athletics.

      • Mannie on October 27, 2012 at 3:35 am

        Ah yes thanks Shane, should have figured (haha) that i can stop gaining when i don’t feel right about my size!

        Just want to add that i believe you have a very impressive blog, brilliant!

      • on June 30, 2020 at 4:58 pm

        Hey Shane this article was an eye opener for me. What surprised me was when you stated that cardo training well not help us skinny guys look any better or improve. our appearance. I have always believed that cardio training was important part of our appearance. Even to look visibly in great shape, but now I stop and think about it. It was only when I started adding muscle to my frame weight lifting men and women starting telling me how much better I looked. It makes a lot of sense. I did years of running, and I love running. I tried sprints training workouts for the last year for cardo fitness. Now I,m just wrestling for 1hour on Sundays and my 3 full body workouts there my cardo. Thanks much for your information Shane

  6. Paul on January 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

    The progress you made is extraordinary!
    I was wondering what exactly you did to lose pure fat instead of muscles as well so that the abs and other muscle groups were more visible… Is it with the help of HIIT training on an exercice bike/running, or just a good diet (with protein shakes?)?

    • Shane Duquette on January 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Heavy weight lifting does a fantastic job of preserving muscle mass even in a pretty intense calorie deficit. To drop the fat I was eating well, doing 3 hour-long full body training sessions per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and running up and down the stairs of our apartment building for 15 minutes twice per week (Tuesday and Thursday).

      … nowadays when I lose fat I drop the stair-running. Really not a fun way to spend 15 minutes.

      • Paul on January 28, 2013 at 5:47 am

        So it sounds like the best way still is to lift as much as you can do and not to do as many reps as possible with low weights?

        You must have spend a lot of time on doing this all. Unfortunately I do not have that much time because of my superior school education… I might be able to do a full-body workout twice a week and run in between those two days.

        I still have a few questions if you don’t mind:
        1) How many reps did you do per set and how many sets per excercice and muscle group?
        2) Is it better to keep time between sets as low as possible to optimize the fat burning?
        3) Would you recommend rice, pasta and fruits to eat?

        • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

          It wasn’t very time intensive at all! We had just just graduated from university and were investing all of our time into building up our design business. We spent maybe 3 hours a week training at the university gym.

          1. 5-10 reps. 3-5 sets. More volume is great for losing weight, as it’ll result in a bigger boost to your metabolism. How much you can handle depends a lot on your fitness levels and how well you recover.

          2. Yep! Nowadays I recommend doing supersets/circuits to keep the time between sets low. I wasn’t doing that at the time, though.

          3. Not very much! Us ectomorphs handle carbs well, but generally when dieting you don’t want to be eating all that much starch. I’d keep that to mainly surrounding your workout. Veggies, protein and some fat for your typical meal.

          I hope that helps.
          Good luck man!

  7. N33 on January 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Hey there,

    I was wondering would sprints help with burning off excess fat around the belly?

    Iv been in the whole process of gaining weight ( im an ecto) for 10 weeks and had gained 8 Kgs in 7 weeks. I have done so with about 70-80% of my calories coming from clean food. Since then i havent gained weight as i am on maintanence calories.

    Even though i have made noticeable muscle gains on my body, iv gained fat around my belly that i didnt have before. Incredibly frustrating.
    Maybe i upped my calories too much. But now i am completely un comfortable with this sudden belly fat esp around the lower abs. Hence the question on sprints helping me to start burning off the fat.

    Thanks for any feedback!

    • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      Congrats on the 8 kilos man, that’s awesome! 70-80% of your calories from nutritious food is pretty solid, and it’s likely a an overabundance of calories resulting in the fat gain. (Although it could also be something more insidious, like having your macronutrients way off.)

      To burn fat the main thing you need to do is cut back on the calories, with most of that reduction in calories coming from starchy carbs (i.e. keep your protein intake high).

      If you’ve got time and energy to spare, yeah for sure add some sprints alongside your workout routine – on rest days perhaps. The workouts will likely result in most of your results, but the sprints will help as well!

      I hope that helps man, good luck!

  8. Jared on February 26, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Hi Shane,

    I’m new to your site and am considering purchasing the product soon (I’m also a raging ectomorph achieving little to no results in the gym). One concern I had was that I go to play soccer once a week and spend some hours running and such. I don’t see this as something that will affect muscle growth and endurance. Do you? Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Nah that’s nothing to worry about at all!

      Glad you did wind up deciding to join us man. Pumped to see what you can do with the program. I’m thinking you’ll see some improvements on the soccer field, if anything 🙂

  9. Armid on May 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Hey, awesome read!!!

    I’m actually hoping to get this program soon!
    I’m an ecto but do cardio(kickboxing) 3 x week, ( i compete a lot) you reckon this may hinder me?


    • Shane Duquette on May 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      That’s awesome man, hope you do decide to join us!

      Nah you should be fine. Kickboxing is pretty explosive stuff and martial artists generally do pretty kickass jobs of bulking up. Should help keep you lean, too 🙂

  10. Marcus on August 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Really well written, ambitious article. I’m 23, just discovered I’m a textbook Ectomorph. I have been jogging a lot for the past year and improved a lot in that field, I have also lifted weights/done pushups/sit-ups etc and have already gained a lot of muscles. I’m definitely going for having great endurance, but I still want a “normal” looking body, and I’m not quite there yet. My abs need some more work, for instance.

    Do you think my running will get in the way of this in the FUTURE? I run 3-4 times a week at a fairly high speed, 40 minutes each time, and finish off with some strength excercise. Some days, I only focus on lifting weights for example. And like I said, while the process has been slow I’ve still noticed my muscles have gotten bigger, especially my shoulders and arms. So, would you say this is going to be counterproductive if I want to gain more than I already have…? That I will hit a brick wall in the muscle-department soon? I want to make it clear that I’m NOT looking for a body builder-body, so to speak. Just a normal, healthy yet muscular body.

    Thanks a bunch if you’re willing to answer! 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on August 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      If you want a normal body that’s probably a lot easier than you think! Just start eating more McDonalds and more time sitting down :S

      But I think what you mean is that you want a normal healthy and athletic body though, like you said, i.e., one more similar to … David Beckham? I’m totally just guessing here. I mean Usain Bolt and Ryan Reynolds don’t have bodybuilder bodies and yet they’re very elite in their own respective ways (athletics / aesthetics). Obviously Bolt and Beckham both do a lot of running, although both have very different goals and physiques. (Bolt is wicked strong and can bench 305 pounds – pretty sweet.)

      Running and training can be a little bit counterproductive together, as they require your body to adapt in different ways (endurance vs strength/power) … but they aren’t THAT counterproductive. You can still make awesome progress towards both goals. David Beckham and Ryan Reynolds probably do a lot of running. This guy is aaalways jogging around the neighbourhood with his shirt off, and he’s a fitness model! (He also lifts weights quite a lot, because, well, his career depends on him looking a very specific way.)

      Marco runs too and plays a ton of rugby. Different type of running (more so sprinting) but still lots of running at varying paces. And Marco is prrretty jacked. Different goals and different ways to get there.

      I, on the other hand, don’t run at all. I don’t really enjoy it, so I get my “cardio” in by doing weightlifting circuits, i.e., I just lift weights with less rest time and get my blood pumping and heart rate up that way.

      Does that answer your question / help at all?

  11. Marcus on August 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Also, shouldn’t it be possible for us ectomorphs to be great runners AND athletes if we spend twice as much time (and eat twice as much) practicing the latter?

  12. Matija on October 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    First, I’d like to say that this is truly amazing blog and great source of information for me. I’m 177 cm in height and 69 kg in weight and I’m trying to gain more muscle mass. I’ve been struggling to get past 70 kg barrier for some time now and now I believe I’ve found possible culprit. It seems I’ve bee running too much. On average four times a week for about 5 miles. And I’ve been wondering why I can’t accomplish any gains. On top of that I’ve been doing some yoga and pilates but lacked in any more intense strength training.
    I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Cut back on running entirely as an experimenter and introduce some home strength and explosive cardio with adding in some supplements as you recommend in post about them. I don’t really feel comfortable in gym environment and due time restrictions prefer to do exercises at home. So I’ve come across some Bob Harpers DVDs like “Pure Burn Super Strength”, “Body Rev Cardio Conditioning” etc. Workouts are intense and present very big challenge for me. I can modify using heavier weights if necessary. No extra equipment required besides a mat and some space. I’ve been doing those workouts for about 5 times a week for period of three weeks and accomplished some better definition and gained about 2-3 kg in weight (started with 66 kg). I’d be really glad to read your opinion about my improvised workout regime and do you think that those hour long intense workouts can be enough to gain some good muscle mass?

    • Shane Duquette on October 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      I’ve got a bit of a moral issue with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels (and The Biggest Loser in General). I don’t know whether it’s intentional or not, but I think they’re having a negative effect on people’s attitudes towards fitness and, especially in the case of overweight people, their body image.

      One of my main issues is that they mislead people into thinking that the effectiveness of a workout plan is correlated with how much it hurts, burns, exhausts you or sucks. That isn’t true when it comes to fat loss, and it absolutely 100% isn’t in any way true when it comes to building muscle. Feeling sore, tired, exhausted, etc should not be how you judge the effectiveness of your workout, and instead how much closer to your goals that workout gets you. Lots of guys doing Bony to Beastly walk out of the gym feeling more energetic than when they stepped in, and they wake up every morning feeling like they haven’t been hit by a truck. Every time they go to the gym they’re measurably stronger, and every time they step on the scale they’re measurably heavier.

      Anyway, that’s just one of the personal pet peeves of mine, and when using those DVDs I’d be wary of that.

      On the other hand, the fact that you’re gaining weight IS a good thing (assuming the weight you’re gaining is lean/muscle) and measurably so. Sounds like it’s working brilliantly well. Congrats Matija – that’s super badass!

      The other, and arguably most important, benefit of what you’re doing is that you’re improving your health and fitness levels tremendously! All forms of exercise, whether that’s cardio or strength training, does a million different incredible things for you, from increasing cognition and brain power to improving mood and alleviating anxiety to increasing your lifespan and reducing your chance of falling ill. If you enjoy the type of training you’re doing, even better. That’s a big part of turning it into a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle where you can actually start to see the long-term benefits of what you’re doing as well as the short-term ones.

      With most calisthenics, aka body weight, exercise programs you soon hit a plateau as far as gaining muscle mass goes though. In order for muscles to consistently get bigger and stronger you need to progressively overload them with heavier and heavier weights. At a certain point your body weight will become too light and you’ll stop progressing. Adding more reps will increase your muscular endurance, but it won’t increase your muscle size, power or strength. There are ways to progress the exercises, although if you’re looking to build a significant amount of weight I’d start building a home gym so you can transition to a heavier style of training that actually optimized for building muscle!

      (Cardio-specific training is important too, so you may want to continue doing yoga, pilates, running or doing a workout dvd once a week or so to fully max out on all health benefits.)

      If you do decide to take a heavier approach you can maximize on the OTHER health benefits of exercise: increasing your bone density, making it easier to stay lean/healthy, improving your strength, improving and strengthening good posture, reducing your risk of injury, making you more athletic, lengthening your lifespan even more, counteracting a lot of the effects of aging, etc etc.

      In regards to your particular goals, it’s also how you add muscle mass in the most effective way possible.

      (And it’s a ton of fun.)

      So long story short I think you should definitely continue on with your current training plan, you should keep your mind open to going heavier “soon”, when your muscular gains slow, and you should check the blog later this week (Thursday I hope). We’re posting an article on how to set up a sweet home gym optimized for building muscle, and then some detailed how-to as far as training at home goes. The equipment is very very minimal, so I think you’ll really dig it! We’ve got a ton of members who train at home and do a kickass job – just as well as the gym guys.

      Sign up for the newsletter (top right of the page) and we’ll shoot you an email when it’s live 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on October 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      Whoa am I ever verbose. I should write novels.

      • Matija on October 15, 2013 at 5:06 am

        Thank you for your detailed answer. It really helps a lot. I think you could easily write a book just combining all the posts and answers on your blog. And it would be a good one. 😉
        I’m not very familiar with Biggest Loser series as DVDs I have are not part of it. But I guess the approach he uses is similar to the ones I do have. I’m aware that my muscle growth using them is limited due to issue of increasing resistance but I still have quite a way to go to find them to easy.
        The biggest reason I’m trying this approach at the moment is the fact that you can do this exercises right at home and you need a bare minimum of equipment – a mat and a set of dumbbells. Which I like due to my financial limitations and a fact you need minimum space. But I’d definitely like to read about setting up a home gym and would think about of investing in a few extra items. At the moment I have no idea where to start. I’ve already subscribed and I’m looking forward to your further posts.

        • Shane Duquette on October 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm

          Hehe we actually require LESS equipment than that. No mat, no TV and just ONE dumbbell.

          Strength training is simple too when you break it down to the fundamentals. You’ll see what I mean. I think the post will be one of our most informative yet 🙂

          It’s not about the DVD becoming easy, but more so about hitting the point where it stops making you stronger.

          Those programs will stress your aerobic system (making them hard) for much longer than they’ll stress your anaerobic system (making you big and strong).

          Stressing your aerobic system is good, so you don’t even need to stop. What you may find though is that you want to add in some heavy stuff soon, as your anaerobic system stops being stressed.

          Sounds like you’re on the right track!

          Ahahaha so true! An FAQ book or something.

          Glad it helped 🙂

  13. LKH on November 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm


    Thanks for your great post. Really enjoy it 🙂

    My height is 180cm and weight is 73kg. I workout regularly about 4 times per week.

    Previously i’m a skinny guy but now my body shape consider normal after i started workout. Now the problem is that i have belly fat. So 2 weeks ago i started doing cardio by running on treadmill for 20mins for 3 times per week.

    is that enough for me to get rid of belly fat? is it recommended to do cardio every day?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on November 6, 2013 at 12:36 am

      Props for getting yourself out of skinnyville man – that’s great 🙂

      If you want to get rid of belly fat it’s not a matter of doing cardio necessarily, but more so about entering into a calorie deficit.

      Cardio will allow you to burn more calories, yes, so it can help you lose fat – if and only if you’re also eating fewer calories than you’re burning overall.

      You could just as easily continue lifting heavy and doing your strength training workouts + eat to burn fat.

      Whether you do cardio or not is really up to you. Personally, when losing fat I just stick to my strength training and maybe shorten my rest times a bit to get my heart rate up a little more.

      At most I might walk around more or do some active things (went biking with a friend today) … but I don’t really consider cardio part of my routine.

      Burn the belly fat and keep your muscle with a calorie deficit, lots of protein – about a gram of protein / pound bodyweight / day (study), and lifting heavy.

      And then do cardio if you like doing cardio 🙂

  14. Igor on January 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Hey Shane,
    A friend of mine showed me your website as we are both skinny and looking to gain weight. I think this article is very well written and I like your style of writing. I have a question regarding cycling (biking or whatever you want to call it). I have been road cycling for the past two years during the spring, summer and fall; its very cold in New York during the winter and parts of spring so maximum 5-6 consecutive months out of the year. I have built up an incredible amount of stamina on my road bike and I recently, in September, finished my first 100 mile ride; needless to say I LOVE biking. However I started going to the gym in the beginning of January because I really want to gain mass and be in an ideal shape before I turn 27 in July. I’ve noticed that I’m not capable of lifting as much weight as I was when I was 22-24 years old and I did go to the gym sporadically. I fear that this is because I lost a decent amount of weight when I started biking, approximately 25-30 Lbs over the course of 2 years. I have 6 months to get into the shape that I want and I consider myself skinny fat despite others telling me I’m skinny. I weigh 150Lbs (up from 145 at the beginning of January woohoo!) and I’m 5’8″, a quick body fat test using the body fat analyzer at the gym stated I was at 14.7% body fat.

    I want to gain weight and get big as soon as possible but I cant place myself into a category of whether I am an ectomorph or more average in regard to how I approach nutrition and muscle gains. My biggest concern is that if I get back on the bike come spring time I will lose a ton of my gains from the winter. My average ride is 30-50 miles and constitutes for a 2-3 hour exercise. I love biking but I also want to be in the shape of my life by my next birthday because it will be my gift to myself and something that I dreamed about for a long long time. I’m just now starting to get into the whole weight lifting thing and its proven to be a challenge strength wise because my gym partner is significantly stronger and bigger than me and has been working out for over a year now. I go to a really uncomfortable type of gym where muscled gorillas grunt and generally make you feel uncomfortable if you’re holding anything less than a 30lb dumbell so its a bit embarassing for me.

    If you can tell me what you think about my concerns regarding biking and getting into shape at the same time I would really appreciate it. The article seems to indicate that biking would be an impediment to my gaining mass so I am a little disappointed. Looking forward to your response.

    • Shane Duquette on January 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Hey Igor,

      I’ve got a lot of friends who are really really into biking. If you’re anywhere near as passionate about it as they are then I definitely understand why you’d be loath to give it up, and I’d be the last person to tell you to give up something that you love!

      Will doing 2-3 hour cardio sessions cause some interference with your weightlifting and muscle-building goals? Of course. Your body will be adapting to two different stimulus that oppose one another. Will that make it impossible to build muscle? Hell no.

      Seems to me like keeping up with a sport that you love is well worth the small downside, right? Given that you love biking and you’re eager to build muscle, well, I’d do both, just accept that you might gain at a slightly slower pace.

      Also, as far as endurance activities go, biking isn’t even so bad! With biking all you’re doing is pushing – There’s no eccentric, aka, the lowering under tension part – and that’s often the thing that damages muscle the most. Biking and weightlifting go together surprisingly well for that reason.

      If you were previously more muscular and much heavier … you’ll actually probably have a very EASY time building muscle anyway, since the muscle nuclei you built up in the past will likely still be around, allowing your body to construct new muscle much more rapidly. Guys who were previously stronger and more muscular build muscle very very easily until they surpass their old peak weight.

      We’ve got a marathon runner who’s doing great! I think you’ll able to accomplish your goals 🙂

  15. Jared on June 24, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Hi Shane,

    Your opinion please. I’m a skinny guy who has decided to start packing some muscle in for an upcoming Karate fight tournament I have in several months. What I’m worried about is whether I am doing too much Karate weekly that it would affect my muscle gain. I do Karate twice a week, 2 hours each and pack a giod sweat after it. What do you think? Can I still get muscle and continue my Karate as normal? Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on June 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Of course! The interference effects are small, if you’ll even experience any at all. The main thing is that you’ll need to consume enough calories/protein to fuel muscle growth, and that may be a little bit harder because you’ll be burning more from the extra activity. This article may help in that regard:

  16. Arjun on July 21, 2014 at 4:55 am


    I have been an ectomorph all my life. I am 33 now. I have been working out seriously for the last 3 years and pretty happy with my results. A month ago, I had hit a plateau. I changed up my execise routine(Drop sets) and went on diet of higher than usual calories. My muscles grew, but so did my waistline by 3 inches. I have lost my paunch before but it came at the price of losing my hard gained muscle mass. This has happened to me before. Any suggestion of losing the gut but keeping the muscle mass.

    • Shane Duquette on July 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      Congrats on the muscle growth Arjun 🙂

      As for some advice on cutting:
      Keep your protein intake very high, drop your calories from the other two macronutrients instead.
      Don’t lose weight too too quickly. A pound or two per week should do the trick.
      Keep training for building muscle — when cutting this is more important than ever.

      I hope that helps!

  17. Suddu on September 23, 2014 at 2:11 am

    Well written shane! I have been an ecto all my life too. I am 21 now and I am working out with heavy weights + strict diet as instructed by my trainer + protein supplements (as I am a vegetarian). The results are good.

    I have the following doubts:

    1) My work timings ensure that I get to work out only in the night (8-10ish). Immediately after my workout, I have a huge list of stuff to be eaten. That is followed by dinner. I get only around 30 minutes time before I sleep after I eat all this. So will all the food that is being consumed by me post workout be lying idle and eventually get wasted as I sleep without giving enough time for digestion?

    2) I have grown some muscles now, but a couple of sports events are gonna be played in my company, so I would be required to practice for the same. This would require a lot of running type activities from my side. Considering I am an ectomorph, would I lose muscles by running and exerting myself? Is it OK to workout along with heavy sports practice? Can any addition in my diet help?

    Kindly solve my queries

    Thanks in advance


    • Shane Duquette on September 23, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Congrats on your good results, Suddu 🙂

      1. What do you mean you have a “list” of things to eat? In order to maximize on your workout nutrition you’d need 30 or so grams of protein within a couple hours before training, and another 30+ grams of protein within an hour or two after training. If you’re doing that, then no need to stress so long as you’re eating enough overall to grow. Besides, your body is very anabolic during the night! The food being digested while you sleep would hardly be wasted. More likely it would be the opposite (although you’d need to make sure that you aren’t disturbing your sleep with your eating habits). Moreover, muscle protein synthesis is still peaked a good 24-48 hours later, so there’s no huge rush to get all your calories in 🙂

      2. Nope! It MIGHT slow down your progress by a teensy tiny bit, but so long as you eat enough protein/calories to grow and continue to lift well, you should be just fine! (During sports seasons many athletes will drop workout volume intensity to optimize sports performance. Two full body workouts per week instead of a four-day-per-week upper/lower split program, for example.)

      I hope that helps!

  18. 2014abs on November 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Great website, amazing transformations and so inspiring. I am no where close to where I want to be but seeing your before and after photos give me hope. I liked your video Shane, your enthusiasm and personal story is funny & endearing. Although I think you’d look a lot better without the 80s rocker hair. Regardless your body looks amazing, you should be proud if it, cause it isn’t easy for sure!

    • Shane Duquette on November 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      I’m really glad we could help you feel inspired! Good luck chiseling out those abs 🙂

  19. Nayak on December 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Hey Shane,

    Big fan of your site and videos, thanks for those.

    I had been an ectomorph since I was 10 till I was 20. Then something happened with my body 3 years ago (The only thing I did was to eat and rest) and I put up over 12 pounds over a course of 5 months and looked considerably healthier. Now, I had the impression that I might lose it again, being an essentially bony guy, but I didn’t, below a healthy limit. I have sort-of developed into an ecto-meso-morph. BUT. I continue to have narrow shoulders (although wider than before), thinner-than-ideal arms, and a small chest – which always keep bothering me and create an inferiority complex. I have a day-job now and have some amount of mental stress too. And I have never touched the 153-pound body again, which I had attained after that initial mass gain (I’m 5’7″ by the way). I also developed Vit-D3 deficiency about a year and a half ago, and that weakened my muscles a bit. The doc forbade Bench-press & deadlifts.
    I am confused, low in confidence and desperately looking for ways to look stronger and more masculine. And I don’t completely understand my body.

    Please help me out.

    • Nayak on December 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Correction: I put up over 22 pounds over a course of 5 months.

    • Shane Duquette on December 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Hey Nayak,

      It sounds like you’d benefit from nutrition geared for weight gain (article here) and weightlifting for muscle gain (article here). That would increase your bodyweight through your muscle mass, and you’d strengthen your bones, ligaments and tendons while doing it. No need to start with deadlifts and bench presses either or even ever do them if your doctor is telling you not to. They certainly aren’t mandatory in our program, and we recommend that every beginner start with easier progressions at first. We write a little bit about that here.

      You don’t even have to go to the gym if you don’t want to. You could do the entire thing at home (article here).

      I hope that helps! And good luck!


      p.s. If you want a full step-by-step guide to all of this, as well as a membership in the community and personal coaching from us, check out our program.

      • Nayak on December 30, 2014 at 12:58 am

        Thanks a lot Shane, for the swift reply.

        However, the problem is that I can’t use any kind of barbell-lifting exercise as it is puts a lot of pressure on my backbones (which went weak due to the D3 bdeficiency, although slowly recovering).

        Do you think a combination of the following will be enough? Do you recommend any?

        1. Pushups, Chin-ups, Pullups & Bench dips (with focus on Time-under-tension)
        2. Cable rows & Cable flies (focus on chest, shoulders & lats)
        3. Bicep curls & Wrist curls

        I really like your program but I can’t afford $197 as I am located in India and that amounts to a lot. Do you have any non-integrated programs, say, a consultation program? I may be able to afford those.

        Thanks 🙂

        • Shane Duquette on December 30, 2014 at 8:21 pm

          I’d still focus on the main movement patterns if you want balanced growth (which would be ideal for aesthetics/athletics). Check this article out.

          No need for barbells anywhere. Instead of heavy deadlifts you’d do single leg RDLs, dumbbell sumo deadlifts, hip thrusts or glute bridges, etc—whatever is okay for your back. Same thing with the squat movement pattern—split squats, bulgarian split squats, one-legged squats, etc.

          Then you could add in some of the funner glory muscle exercises you’re gunning for, like some extra chest flys, bicep curls (and tricep extensions).

          Whatever you decide to do, anything (safe) is better than nothing! Your plan looks like it would only build your upper body, but that’s still a helluva lot better than building nothing! 🙂

  20. andy on January 20, 2015 at 4:27 am

    Great site, Shane.

    I have a doubt. I dont eat much, weigh only 160 pounds at 178cm, but i still have belly fat. i do lift heavy …. i tried going on a caloric deficit but only felt tired and weak since my intake is already low, so reducing it further made me too tired. So what do i do – do i increase my calories drastically to lose fat?

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Hey Andy,

      Your question is a very complicated one. In order to lose fat you do indeed need to reduce your calorie intake. Without a calorie deficit you won’t lose weight. But it sounds like that isn’t serving you very well. You may want to begin by leanly building muscle (and hoping for a tidbit of fat loss while you do it). That will raise your metabolism, increase your insulin sensitivity, increase your lean mass. All of that will make it easier to lose fat afterwards.

      It may also simply be that your fat loss approach wasn’t ideal. There’s much more to lifting than just lifting heavy, for example. And to lose weight you just need a calorie deficit, but to lose weight while feeling good, while maintaining muscle, while staying healthy… that’s a lot more complicated!

      Does that help / make sense?

  21. Mike on February 5, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Hi Shane, I am a 34 year old out of shape, overweight ectomorph. Wife, 2 kids, long hours at desk job, long commutes, lousy diet. I am 6’2″ and about 175. Used to be an athletic ectomorph in my late teens and only weighed about 140. I am trying to make sense out of what I should do first. My ideal weight is 185 with a V shaped torso, right now I have a U shaped torso. Should I try to lose 20 lbs and then gain? What is your best advice? Thank you! Love the website. Please email me about the payment plan options.

    • Shane Duquette on February 6, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Ahaha I’ve never heard someone say they have a “U” shaped torso. And I understand the frustration. We see that a lot—ectomorphs getting older and developing a gut… while still being too skinny for their liking.

      I would train for muscle, eat for muscle… but eat in a calorie deficit. So you’d be doing everything to build muscle, but you’d be losing weight overall. Given your circumstances—having previously been more muscular, being a little overweight, currently being detrained/untrained—you should be able to build some muscle while you drop the fat. Not that much muscle, but some. When you get to your target leanness, you can then transition into a lean bulk until you get to your target muscularity.

      You’ll need to zigzag a bit to get to your goal, but it works very well 🙂

      And I just shot you an email about the payment plan.

  22. Micah on March 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Hey:Im Currently Been weight lifting for 5-6 months I Currently weigh 172 pounds mostly muscle. I want to start cage fighting/ mma 2x a week on my rest days i was wondering I this will interfere with my muscle building routine

    • Shane Duquette on March 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      It will probably have some effect, yeah, especially since MMA uses your muscle such a tremendous amount. Hard to say without more details, but you might want to scale back your lifting to a couple days per week. You’ll still grow wonderfully well, it’ll just be a different path to get to muscleville 🙂

  23. Sam on April 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Hello! This was a very helpful and interesting read. However, I was wondering if boxing/kickboxing is recommended for our body type? I’ve been doing it for a month, 2-3 times a week with some floor exercises before each session. Usually the whole workout (including the floor exercises and stretching/foot work etc) lasts for less than an hour and the actual time spent on the ring boxing is only 6 minutes. (2 minutes each round) It’s something that I love doing. I lost some of my ‘fats’ and had been more lean, but obviously my weight has been pretty much still the same. What do you think? Should I continue doing it or maybe add a different set of workout? Thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on May 2, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Hey Sam, glad you dug it!

      I used to be really into martial arts! I figured if I couldn’t be big and strong, at least I could still protect the ones I loved by learning how to fight. Unfortunately, I also realized that size and strength were huge factors when it came to fighting. Even though I was strong and talented for my size, that meant I was mostly fighting against younger guys and lighter gals. The bigger and stronger guys would have pummelled my glutes into the ground. That’s why weight classes are such a big deal. Interestingly, it also generally works in your favour to pack on as much muscle as you can so that you have more muscle size/strength per unit of height. So building muscle/strength/power in the gym should definitely help your game in the ring.

      Will your practice in the gym help you build muscle? Probably not. You’ve already realized that. But that’s not the purpose of your conditioning anyway. It’s probably designed to make you wicked fit so that you don’t tire in the ring, not make you into a sizeable powerhouse. I’d use the gym to bulk you up, the conditioning to improve your fitness.

      Will the conditioning make it harder to gain muscle? Probably not. It’s more to recover from, so you might want to dial back the intensity/volume with your lifting (assuming you’ll be lifting in order to build muscle) and sleeping well and eating well will become more important than ever… but I think you’d have great success building muscle 🙂

  24. Michael Villarreal on May 24, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Hi Shane,
    I really enjoyed reading your article as it was very informative. I want to explain my situation in order to get your opinion on what I should do. I am currently a college student headed into my second year. I started lifting weights to build muslce close to a year ago. I have worked on the nutritional aspect of gaining muslce and I feel comfortable in what I’m doing since I have consulted with a dietician. I played soccer and ran cross country for four years in high school so by the time my last soccer season ended I was fairly thin and did not have much muscle which is why I decided to start lifting. I started at 135lb and I am now weighing in at around 146lb. Since I am trying to minimize fat gain and put on lean muslce by aiming to gain 0.5lb per week, I have found it hard to put on weight. Also, I am currently having to eat around 3,200 calories per day which is why I consider myself to be an ectomorph. Although by this point in time I feel that I should probably be at a higher weight since I am bulking, I also have to take into consideration that I had the flu at one point and I managed to lose 5 pounds in two days, and that I failed to adequately adjust calories over time to compensate for the slow progress. In addition, though I have not gained a significant amount of weight, I am noticing growth in muscles that I had not seen before which is a good thing. Another factor that I believe to be the main cause is that 2-4 times a week I will usually do what I consider high intensity cardio which is playing soccer, basketball, or tennis for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours each session. Personally I would like to continue to do this as I definitely enjoy being active and doing cardio. That being said, if I were to limit myself to 1-2 sessions of this per week then would I see results faster? Also, what should I do when I unexpectedly lose weight? I’m asking because it usually makes me feel as though I have lost progress and I am left not knowing whether or not to compensate for it. Although, I have heard some people say that the scale should not be my main concern and that instead I should track progress with pictures to see how my body composition is changing which I definitely find truth in.
    Thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on May 25, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      Congrats on the 11-pound gain, man! Sounds like you’re a pretty fit dude, too.

      I concur. Eating 3,200 calories and not gaining weight would definitely put you into the hardgainer / ectomorph camp.

      Hrm. Losing a pound of fat requires a calorie deficit of about 3,500 calories. Two days of not eating anything would put you into a deficit of up to about 6,400 calories, so most of the weight you lost was just water / digestive system contents. It should have come back within a couple days of feeling okay again. Getting sick can definitely destroy your bulking momentum, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple workouts to get back to where you were (unless you were sick for quite a long time).

      I don’t see any problem with playing sports alongside lifting weights. That sounds like a good thing, if anything. But you do need to eat more to account for the calories you’re burning. Having some sort of sports drink (or chocolate milk) after your game would probably fix that problem right up.

      I think the scale should be your primary concern, but there will be some fluctuations that you can’t control, so we’re looking for overall trends here, not one outlier day where you’re dehydrated from drinking the night before and down 2 pounds, or bloated on a few slices of pizza the night before and up 2 pounds. If you find that weight fluctuations are throwing off your calculations, you could weigh yourself every day and then do a weekly average every Sunday to figure out if you need to eat more the next week.

      Tracking your progress using pictures and measurements is key also, but those changes take place more slowly so we only recommend doing that every 4–5 weeks. The daily or weekly weigh-ins will be what allows you to adjust your intake each week to ensure that after 4–5 weeks you get the visual and measurement progress you were hoping for 🙂

      • Michael Villarreal on May 25, 2017 at 8:40 pm

        Thank you for the quick and concise response, I really appreciate it! As far as the two days that I was sick, now that I think back, it was likely my fault that I didn’t quickly gain back the weight as you said I should have. After getting sick I reduced my calories because I thought that my intake had reduced while it really probably increased so I limited myself in fear of gaining weight too fast. Also, what you mentioned about weighing in every day and getting an average is actually something that I have been doing for some time now and it definitely shows occasional fluctuations, but it gives me a better idea of my actual weight. Lastly, I’m really glad that I can continue to play sports while weight lifting! This is definitely ideal as I have the goal of being aesthetic and athletic. Thanks again for responding!

        • Shane Duquette on May 25, 2017 at 8:46 pm

          No problem, Michael. Good luck!

  25. Ian Coleman on August 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I’m 65, and I have maintained a regular running program since I was 25. Mostly this has been a good thing because, at age 65, I am not on any medication, which is rare for a male Canadian my age.
    But I’m an ectomorph. At age 20, I was six foot five and 175 pounds. That’s a skinny guy, but not an out-and-out weakling.
    When I was in my late teens, I took up a fairly vigorous program of weightlifting. (I followed the program you got when you bought a Weider barbell. ) My strength improved a little, but I did not gain any weight, in spite of eating roughly 5000 calories a day, every day. (This is not an exaggeration. I lived in a University residence where I could eat unlimited amounts of food, and I often had a pizza in the evening. I really did eat huge amounts of food.) Anyway, the weightlifting, far from improving my overall strength, actually diminished it. I was often tired and sleepy during the day, and finally, after a year of this foolishness, I quit. I dreaded working out too, because it was boring and painful.

    I took up running at age 25, after reading the book Aerobics by Kenneth Cooper. Very soon, (like about three months) after I started running three times a week, I was up to five miles a day. I could run easily, and with pleasure. Needless to say, I was still a skinny guy, but I was noticeably more energetic and stronger.
    I was never anything but a duffer when I entered ten kilometre races, but I always finished in the top third in my age group. But I did genuinely love to run. There was no fear of it, and plenty of real fun.
    When I was in my early forties, my knees went. I damaged them by running too hard in a vain attempt to forestall middle age. I tore the main ligaments and tendons on both. I was offered surgery, which I declined, and, over the next fifteen years, my knees slowly healed, and are now pain free, and fully functional.
    During that fifteen year period with sore and weak knees, I just kept running. Slow jogs and runs of five miles every second day were the thing. Often I ran with a limp. But by running, I maintained good bodily health, and it was certainly worth the effort.
    Of course, I’ve always been skinny. My advice to skinny guys (which I’m sure will be vigorously decried here) is forget about looking like a mesomorph, because you ain’t one. If you do succeed in bulking up it will be with a huge expenditure of effort and time which you would be better off expending by working to become successful at something for which you have real talent. Accept how you look (which isn’t really all that bad, surely) and forget about being a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding takes a natural, God-given talent, which God did not give you.

    • Shane Duquette on August 21, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Hey Ian, thank you for taking the time to comment!

      While I do disagree with the moral of your story, it’s an awesome story nonetheless, and I love how well it’s worked for you 🙂

      Plus, we love these heretical comments.

      Now, for fear of not meeting your expectations, let me offer a rebuttal:

      First, although we read all of the bodybuilding research, use many of their methods, and learn absolutely everything we can from them, this isn’t a website for bodybuilders, per se. This is a website about gaining tons of mass, and looking and feeling great as a skinny guy. More often than not we don’t come out looking like bodybuilders, but we do come out looking like visibly strong, healthy men (with a great body fat percentage also).

      Second, I think it takes substantially less effort to do a program like ours than it does to do the running regimen you’ve been following. This isn’t to knock you, but rather to praise your commitment, and to offer the argument that this path is the more reasonable one.

      Third, the injury risk is lower with lifting than with running, and so long as we do it properly, we aren’t wearing down our body in the process. Depending on how you lift, it also provides many of the cardiovascular benefits that running does.

      Fourth, you are correct that a mesomorph who also trains for muscle mass will ultimately become bigger than us, but becoming an extreme outlier is not our philosophy around here. We aren’t about becoming the next Phil Heath, we’re about getting up to the healthiest, most attractive BMI, looking like we could play the role of the next Hollywood superhero movie, and having the strength and mobility to do everything we could possibly want to do in our lives.

      Fifth, we don’t think there’s anything wrong with being naturally skinny or currently thin. Embracing our body type is something we fully agree with you on. (I wouldn’t trade my body type for any other now that I know how to get what I want out of it.) I just disagree that the best way to live a good life is to become an elite endurance athlete instead of becoming a well-rounded, strong guy who’s optimally attractive and healthy.

      Still, there’s something pretty badass about just truly running with your strengths, so to speak 😉

    • Shane Duquette on August 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      On the note of it being better to work at something in which we have a real talent, I also disagree. Not only are we perfectly able to bulk up to an objectively optimal level, but there’s also tremendous value in learning how to overcome strife.

      The guy who just does what comes naturally to him is missing a real opportunity to grow as a person, I think. For example, there was a point in your life when running had beaten you to a pulp. At that point, it was not natural for you to find a way to keep running. But you did anyway, even though it was rough. I admire that attitude greatly, just like I admire the skinny guy who has tried to bulk up, failed, and then decides to overcome that failure.

  26. Ian Coleman on August 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Well, you’re a courteous guy, Shane, and let me tell you from the perspective of age that that is a great virtue.
    Believe me, I know where you guys are coming from, because when I was in my teens and early twenties I wanted desperately to be muscular. This was for aesthetic reasons, too. I didn’t want to play sports. I wanted to be built like Sean Connery, who was the reigning male sex symbol when I was young. I would go to the movies and think, if I just stick with the weights I can look like that in a year or so. But I just didn’t have the genetics.
    If you’re an ectomorph and you succeed in bulking yourself up, you’re like an endomorph who has starved himself down. Such a man is not a natural thin man, and has to expend huge amounts of effort to maintain a body shape which is just not in his genes. It’s a lifelong, daily struggle, and making that effort is going to wreck his happiness.
    Even though I eventually damaged my knees running (and this was the result of aggressive foolishness, and would never have happened if I had been training with a knowledgeable coach), running was something I did passably well, and truly enjoyed. When I was in my thirties, I would run about thirty miles a week. Most weeks I would run every day, at a comfortable pace. Maybe once in a while I wold crank out a mean one, which might involve two continuous minutes of moderate stress. It was fun, and it kept me quite healthy.
    I have the thin man’s gift of good health. Illness of any kind has been very rare with me, and several times I have gone five years without missing a day’s work. Unfortunately I have the thin man’s curse of limited stamina. I am frequently tired. If you could assign physical strength on a bell curve, parallel to the one for IQ scores, where a score of 100 would be average and 130 would be the threshold for competitive athleticism at the college level, my score would be about 80. Well below average.

    It took me a while to understand that I was not aesthetically displeasing. One of the most dangerous periodicals you can buy today is Men’s Health. Seen that one? On the cover will be a handsome guy in his mid-twenties who is not only physically gifted, but who probably spends about ten hours a week working out. And we are being told that this is an ordinary man and that we can all look like he does with a little effort. And that ain’t so. And I had to learn that I look okay even though I could never look like that.

    A good thing about being an ectomorph is that you can’t really become overweight. If there really is an “obesity epidemic” ( I suspect that this is a media trope), it’s going to pass me by. So that’s a good thing. Meanwhile I’m six foot five (and people wrongly assume that therefore I am strong) and I look like a spear. Which is not that terrible, even if I’m not as pretty as the young Sean Connery.

    Finally, I notice that you’re big on struggle. Well, you’re young, and a young man can take a lot of abuse and bound back. But I’m old, and I kind of sort of suspect that exaltation of enduring hardship is a bit of a con. Do you really want to be tired all the time, and having to get up the nerve to make more effort? Me, I don’t enjoy that kind of thing.

    • Shane Duquette on August 23, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Having been very skinny myself, and having dealt with the skinniest guys around, I can tell you with a great degree of confidence that even the hardgaineriest of ectomorphs can get far bigger and leaner than Sean Connery in a very short timeframe without more than around 3 hours per week in the gym, with an extremely low risk of injury, and with an overall very positive effect on their health. How long will it take a very skinny guy to get to Sean Connery levels? I’d say 6 months on average if he follows a wise lifting and diet plan consistently.

      However, it can be very hard to do if you aren’t doing it properly. Even just eating enough to gain weight is a difficult and uncommon enough problem that many skinny guys just try to force-feed themselves, fail, and give up, thinking that it’s unrealistic to gain muscle. It’s not, but we do need to be pretty clever with our diets.

      We can run into similar issues if we build our workout routines around methods that only stockier guys excel at.

      You may also be overestimating the effort that it takes to maintain a bigger, more muscular physique. Once you get the physique you’re after, it’s incredibly easy to maintain your physique. It requires far less time in the gym, far less intensity, far less specificity, and the needs for a caloric surplus are gone, so you can go back to eating a comfortable, normal amount of food. You go back to listening to your appetite. Here’s our article on changing your set point.

      There is no lifelong, daily struggle. There is just an initial struggle to gain weight/muscle, and then you can coast along maintaining it with extremely minimal effort.

      Regarding Men’s Health, eh, it’s not the best or the worst. Some of the guys on the cover are fitness models, they’re photographed with exceptional lighting while pumped up and flexing, and then they’re photoshopped. It’s not usually a great idea to compare how you look in some candid photo to how a guy on a magazine cover looks. Still, though, it’s not that bad. Charlie Hunnam was on there, and a skinny guy can have a physique like that in no time if he works a little for it (and 3 hours per week is plenty), and he can maintain that with almost zero effort. You get stuff like that on there sometimes.

      There is indeed an obesity epidemic.

      With struggle, I’m not saying that we should actively seek out struggle for no reason. I’m not talking about doing CrossFit until you puke 8 days a week because you care more about how challenging a workout routine is than how effective it is. I’m not talking about cutting out all sugar, alcohol, coffee and junk food because you want a totally clean diet even though it really doesn’t matter. Rather, I’m saying that if we really want something, and it’s difficult to achieve it, it might still be worth going after. Want to be a doctor but getting into med school will be hard? That’s a good struggle. Want a wife but asking a girl out is hard? Probably worthwhile to do it anyway. Want a family but raising children is hard? Again, a worthwhile struggle.

      And the types of people who accomplish their goals, even if those goals are difficult to achieve, tend to attract great people into their lives, and tend to live the lives they actually want.

  27. Ian Coleman on August 23, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    I’ll have to admit that you sound reasonable. If I can just get back to my original point, extrapolating from my data set of one datum (me), I have found aerobic running pleasant and healthful, and I believe that it is the form of exercise that does me the most benefit. My experience with weightlifting was not only very unpleasant, it was fruitless. When I lifted weights I just got tired, and did not change my overall body shape. Not even a little. This was over the course of a year, when I was nineteen.

    The thing you have to admit about ectomorphs and mesomorphs is that they are two different kinds of people, with different reactions to physical effort. When I was in university, I knew a guy who was on the hockey team. A very strong, heroically well-built guy. (Six foot three and about 190 pounds) One of my little self-inflicted odeals at that time was running up stairs. I lived in a ten-storey student residence, and I would run the stairs from the basement up to the roof. I could do about one-and-half trips and I would be exhausted. The hockey guy would do ten.

    He got mononucleosis. I asked him, how did you know you had mono? and he said that he first suspected that he was sick when he got tired. And then he said, he normally never got tired. That was a revelation to me, as I was tired pretty much all the time, from working out. What I mean is, I had to come to terms with the fact that strong people are working with a completely different set of tools, and there was no way I was ever going to be anything but a failed imitation of a strong man, no matter what I ate or how much I lifted.

    And you can see that phenomenon in the physical histories of many people. Have you ever seen Edward Norton in American History X? Norton bulked up for that movie, but at no time does he look like a true mesomorph like, say, Vin Diesel. He looks like an ectomorph who has bulked up. If Diesel had never worked out he would still have been wonderfully strong when he was twenty, and Norton could never have been that strong, no matter what.
    You pretty much have to concede that mesomorphs have a huge natural advantage in life. It must be wonderful to know that you can handle most jobs without getting tired, or that you can beat up most people, or that people will admire you on sight because of your obvious superiority. But if you have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Being an ectomorph is to be not very strong, but it’s nowhere nearly as bad as being an endomorph who must diet or become obese. That’s got to really bite.

    • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2017 at 11:22 am

      I’m not arguing with you at all about the benefits of cardio. Doing modest amount of cardio is great for general health and mood. What I’m trying to say is that you could have gained muscle if you had just figured out how to lift and eat in a way that suited your body type. I too struggled at 19, as did most of our members, but we found a way around it.

      From 17–22 I was 125–130 pounds at 6’2 (BMI of 16.7), and for the life of me I couldn’t get past that 130-pound mark no matter what I tried. And then I figured out how to lift and eat in a way that suited my body type, and I was able to move up to 185 pounds after just a couple years. Modest training always. I’ve never lifted than three days per week, the workouts were never longer than about an hour, and in my last thorough checkup, I discovered that my cardiovascular fitness is good and my bone density is (literally) off the charts—all just from the modest lifting. (Doing supersets is good for cardio, doing heavy deadlifts and farmer carries is great for bone density.)

      While bulking up, it would make tired and sore, yes, especially at first. But then my body adapted to it, growing fitter, better able to resist the stressors of lifting. Now I feel more tired if I DON’T go to the gym at least once per week, and I feel my best if I go 2–3 times per week. Now, instead of draining me, the workouts pump me up. They clear my head, improve my concentration.

      Most importantly, when you gain the weight you want, you can go back to eating a regular amount of food. You still keep the muscle, but there’s no more stress on your digestive system. That frees up a TON of energy.

      Ectomorphs and mesomorphs are different, yeah, sure, but we can bulk up too. If anything, because we’re starting thinner, we seem able to gain more weight more quickly at first (although ultimately we can’t get quite as big). You are correct that after a bulk we’d look less like Vin diesel (who is probably an endomorph), more like Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love, Brad Pitt in Fight Club/Troy, Dave Chapelle, Edward Norton in American History X, Matt Damon, Christian Bale in Batman, Andrew Garfield in Spiderman, etc. These guys all look GREAT, though. Most Hollywood sex icons and even most Hollywood superheroes seem to be ectomorphs.

      I guess the point where I’m disagreeing is that you think we have been dealt a poor hand. I disagree. I think our hand is actually pretty great, we just need to learn how to take advantage of it.

  28. Ian Coleman on August 29, 2017 at 1:40 am

    Okay, I’m going to have to concede that you have more expertise than I do, and that you’re really helping people achieve their goals. You won the argument fairly.

    You stayed polite throughout. I hope you understand how rare it is for people to stay polite in the face of disagreement, especially when the people you disagree with don’t know as much as you do. You convinced me that you are correct because you kept arguing rationally from observed fact.

    As for me, I sure do love to run, and I sure did not love to lift weights. I may be an extreme case; I have gained only fifteen pounds since I was twenty, which is a trivial amount for a man my height. I just don’t have much capacity for growing extra flesh. I actually view this as a gift, because I know so many people my age who are trying to lose weight.

    This will be my last post, but thank you for your thoughts and you (extraordinary) good manners.

    Ian Coleman.

    • Shane Duquette on August 29, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Ian 🙂

      It sounds like you’ve come to love your body and what it can do, and even as you’ve aged, it’s been serving you well as a result. I think there’s a whole lot to be learned from that. Thank you.

      And not trending towards obesity is definitely an advantage that many of us ectomorphs share. Truly something to feel lucky about 🙂

  29. 108thdude on September 25, 2017 at 6:08 am

    I wish I would have read this when I was in the army. I’m almost 25 and only 135lb at 6’1. I was actually 128 when I enlisted in 2011 and I struggled constantly through my military career making tape. I could always pass a PT test with a 275/300 score but I’d almost always fail tape. The “heaviest” I ever got was 145 which is still the bare minimum of the army standard for that hight/age.

    I see now where my flaws were but at the same time still out of my control at the time. My unit in Ft. Bragg focused heavily on running pt, because there was a large number of soldiers with poor run times. So I had no choice but to run an average of 15 miles a week just for pt even though my run time was sub 12:30 when a 13:00 time is the minimum time for a max run score. Then not to mention all the other forms of cardio we performed through out the week. I was just doing way too much cardio and being starved of calories from the militarys meal plan.

    Now that I’m out and free to perform my own work out routines, I’m pumped to make the adjustments I need to actually become bigger and more strong. Funny how it works out that way.

    • Shane Duquette on September 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you for the comment, 108thdude. Sounds like a necessary sacrifice you had to make while serving your country, and I wouldn’t fault you for that. As Roosevelt said, “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

      Definitely exciting to have more freedom over your exercise routine, though! Let us know how it goes, if there’s anything we can do to help, and good luck!

  30. Marco on July 9, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Shane.
    I’m skinny-fat trying to get rid of my love handles and belly fat.

    I already lift weights three times a week but i have a question about fat loss.
    Apart from the beneficial effects of walking for other reasons (ex. heart…), is burning 300 calories by walking the same as NOT EATING 300 calories?

    I know, the question seems silly, but if fat loss is just a matter of calories, why not sitting on the couch all day and just doing some exercises three days a week?

    Could you explain IF there’s a difference between burning calories by doing cardio (ex. walking) or simply by NOT EATING those calories?

    Is there an advantage, in terms of fat loss, in doing “some” cardio (instead of NOT EATING)?



    • Shane Duquette, BDes on July 12, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Hey Marco, great question.

      Losing fat is ultimately about getting into a calorie deficit: burning more calories than you eat. So, yeah, you can do that by either burning more calories or eating fewer calories. But which is better?

      So, first of all, both approaches will work. And in terms of simply burning fat during a cut, both will produce near-identical results. However, in terms of general health and long-term body composition, the research tends to favour getting leaner by burning more calories. We’d call that having a high energy flux (g-flux), and people with a higher g-flux tend to be leaner and healthier (study).

      Why would a higher g-flux be associated with better health and body composition? There are a couple reasons. First, the more active you are, the better it is for your cardiovascular health. Second, if you’re eating more calories, you’re probably going to be eating more micronutrients and protein. That means that you’ll be less likely to run into vitamin and mineral deficiencies, more likely to be eating enough protein to build a muscular physique.

      So in terms of developing a great longterm lifestyle, it’s better to be more active and eat more food. But for a short-term cut, it shouldn’t have much of an impact on your results. And you can always start exercising more and burning more calories once you finish losing weight and switch to focusing on gaining muscle and strength, which would raise your metabolism a great deal anyway, giving you many of the benefits of having a high energy flux.

      This is all to say that it’s totally up to you 🙂

  31. […] with an emphasis on cardio. Now, don’t get me wrong: cardio won’t kill your muscle gains. But some guys cut by reducing their calorie intake and only doing cardio. That’s a sure way […]

  32. […] can probably get some of these benefits by doing cardio along with your bulking routine, but the best path to good health likely involves some heavy lifting. There are some upper-body […]

  33. […] A combined lifting and cardio approach to exercise often works well (study, study). […]

  34. […] burn calories to keep them lean, light, and cool. Cardio tends to come naturally to […]

  35. […] heart rate up. Those short rest times wreck muscle growth (study), transforming the workout into a cardio workout. Most of the exercises you’ll be doing won’t be good for stimulating muscle growth […]

  36. […] take creatine and then use low-level light therapy (study), stop smoking if you smoke (link, link), work on your cardio and sit less (link, link), and work on becoming healthier (study, study, link). Or, according to […]

  37. […] it’s possible that if you’re more physically active, or if you’re doing cardio while bulking, you’ll be burning more calories and have a higher tolerance for sugar. You could still play […]

  38. The Squat Guide (for Size) – Outlift on September 20, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    […] it’s important to improve your cardio as you bulk up, so even then, goblet squats can still have a role in a good bulking routine, but they’ll […]

  39. The "Big 5" Approach to Bulking – Outlift on September 20, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    […] as a byproduct. This might mean doing squats in moderate rep ranges (6–10, say) to improve cardiovascular fitness along with muscle […]

  40. […] clear, strength training isn’t terrible for gaining muscle size. It’s better than cardio, better than Olympic weightlifting, and it might even be better than calisthenics and […]

  41. […] of whether you’ve stimulated muscle growth.  If your program has more emphasis on endurance, cardio, or strength, the soreness might indicate stimulation of whole separate type of adaptation. In […]

  42. […] then moved into a more accepted pre-workout routine by doing some cardio and static stretching with a goatee. Unfortunately, that approach has since been studied and judged […]

  43. […] a hardgainer, if you engage in a lot of cardio, then you will burn a lot of calories and might end up in a caloric deficit. Remember, that in order to build muscle, you need to maintain a caloric surplus at all times. So […]

  44. […] Also check out:Should ectomorphs do cardioCardio whilst bulking […]

  45. José Ángel on June 11, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    Hi, Shane!

    So, let me tell you I started working out following your guide on bodyweight two weeks ago and I already gained more than a pound and a half!

    So, after reading the wonderful article, I understand that going for brisk walks at a slow pace each weekday for 30 minutes – even on my workout days – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – won’t kill my gains since it’s LISS.
    Am I right?
    Please, let me know If I am wrong.

    Thanks, Shane!
    José Ángel

    • Shane Duquette on June 11, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Hey José Ángel, congrats on your gains, man! That’s awesome 😀

      It’s not that HIIT would kill your gains and LISS wouldn’t. Both can be combined with a good muscle-building program if you do it properly. But you’re correct, yeah. Going on brisk walks while bulking up won’t harm your gains at all. That sounds like a great way to do it 🙂

      Keep it up, man. Good luck!

  46. however on June 17, 2023 at 6:44 am

    Cardiovascular exercise can cause a number of negative effects on the body. One of the biggest is the increase in cortisol that comes with prolonged exercise. Cortisol is a hormone that’s released in response to stress, and it has been linked to an array of negative health effects, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and decreased immune function.

    • Shane Duquette on June 18, 2023 at 10:25 am

      We produce cortisol for a reason. It gives us energy during stressful situations, and it helps regulate our metabolisms, blood pressure, and immune systems. It only becomes bad when it’s produced in excess.

      Lifting weights and doing cardio both increase cortisol, but that’s completely fine. Stressing ourselves produces stress hormones, but when that stress passes, we produce recovery hormones. That’s how we rally for vigorous exercise, recover, and adapt. That’s how we grow bigger, stronger, and healthier.

      Exercise decreases immune function in the very short term, but only to a minor degree, and as we adapt, our immune systems grow stronger. As a result, in the longer term, people in the habit of exercising have stronger immune systems (study).

      Cardio isn’t linked with weight gain, unfortunately (study). It’s associated with weight loss. Lifting weights can be associated with weight gain, though, if you’re eating a good bulking diet.

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