Ectomorphs Training – Training and Diet for Skinny Athletes

Ectmorphs tend to be very skinny. They have small bone and muscle structures, have a hard time packing on muscle (or fat) and are basically human furnaces. It’s not hard for them to sport six pack abs, but it’s extremely difficult for them to gain muscles.
I used to be an ectomorph – I had and still have narrow clavicles, I could eat a whole bucket of Vanilla ice cream and my stomach would not protrude at all! My body was torching food like a machine, and as great as that may sound to some people, it sucked for me because I really, really had to stuff myself in order to gain weight.
How to train
Forget about the routines you read about in the magazines. You have to stick to low volume, mid-high rep, intense, heavy workouts. You can’t afford to screw around in the gym with the machines and expect results. Gaining muscle is extremely hard for ectomorphs, and you have to make the best of what you have. This means sticking to the heavy, basic compound movements. Don’t worry about bicep curls or tricep kickbacks, your arms are going to grow from heavy pulling and pressing by doing things like barbell rows and bench presses. Ectomorphs have limited recuperative abilities, so don’t train 5 days a week. 3 times a week with a rest day in between is good for beginners. You don’t want to spend too much time in the gym either – more isn’t better. Simply go to the gym, get things done and leave. If your workouts last longer than 45 – 60 minutes, you have a problem.

Training and Diet for Skinny Athletes
How to eat
This is obvious: you have to EAT A LOT in order to GROW, and I think this is what people are having a hard time doing. Here’s why:
Imagine Jay is a skinny kid who just started to work out. At 5 foot 9, he is only about 105 pounds. He eats 3 times a day and tries to stuff himself full every meal. 2 months later, Jay weighed himself, and he is still 105 pounds. What happened?
The problem with many people when it comes to eating is that you don’t know how much you should be eating. You might THINK that you are eating a lot of food, but the truth is that’s probably not the case. If you are eating a lot of food, you should be growing already, right? The key is to count your calories and your macronutrient. Grab a pencil, and write down how many calories you are eating per meal (obviously you can also do this on the computer). In fact, you should really be counting the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats you are taking per meal. It’s a drag to count calories and your macronutrients everyday, so only do it for the first week. By the end of the first week, you should have a pretty good idea how much calories and macronutrients you are eating per meal, and how many calories you are eating per day.
To recap:
– Calories (in kcal) – BW (in lbs) x 20
– 3 – 5 g of carbohydrates / body weight in lbs
– 1 – 1.5 g of protein / bodyweight (in lbs)
– 10% of your total calories should come from healthy fats
Now that you know what you are doing, you can start to fiddle with the numbers. Are you eating too much fat? Make sure your fats are only about 10% of your total caloric intake. Are you taking enough carbs? Be aggressive with carbs and be sure to be taking 3 to 5 times your bodyweight in pounds of carbohydrates (in grams). For protein, make sure you are getting anywhere from 1 to 1.5 times your bodyweight in pounds of protein (in grams). Try to actually sit down and calculate these: if you do it yourself, there’s a better chance that you will get those numbers into your head. If the calories are making you fat, cut down or start doing cardio. If you are still not seeing any results, bump up the calories even more and make sure you are training properly and you are getting enough rest.
Other things to consider
  • Make sure to rest up. Sleep is very important if you want to grow.
  • Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day. There is no need to go crazy with your water intake, but taking anywhere from 2 L to 3L of water is a good call. Don’t wait till you feel thirsty to start drinking.
  • Cardio is fine, but just make sure you aren’t doing excessive cardio that would impede your recovery
  • Although it’s important to train heavy, make sure you train with the right form.
  • If you want to take supplements then take them. Just remember that supplements should not replace whole foods.
  • You want to be eating more than 3 meals per day. If it is too hard at beginning, ease it in. Start with 4 meals a day, then eventually work up to 5 (or even 6 depending on what your body type is like). You want be eating a set amount of protein per meal, and you want to be center your high GI carbs around your workouts and low GI carbs at all other times. GI, or the Glycemic Index, is am easure of how much insulin response your body gives when you ingest carbohydrates. Examples of high GI food include white rice, white bread, white pasta and examples of low GI food include steel cut oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat brown bread.
  • Make sure your breakfast and your post workout meals are the biggest meals of the day. It’s best not to eat any carbs before you sleep. At this stage, I don’t recommend doing any carb cycling – just be consistent with your meals and you will start growing.
Training aspect
If you have little or no experience at all, here is what I recommend you should do:
  • Go workout every other day – because of your limited recuperative ability, going to the gym everyday will just burn you out real soon. I understand that you feel enthusiastic about training, but when it comes to building muscle, “less is more”
  • Upper body/lower body split – you won’t be having a “chest day” or an “arms day” if you don’t have a chest or arms to begin with. Focus on building a strong foundation
  • Use machines to learn how to “feel” your muscles contracting before moving onto free weights – if my workout buddies have trouble feeling their chest being worked when they are doing the bench press, I will tell them to hop onto the pec dec fly machine and start doing the flyes. It doesn’t take them long to start feeling what I mean by “contracting the pectoral muscles,” and when they go back to the bench press they can really start to feel their chest.
  • Master basic body weight movements: push ups, pull ups, parallel bar dips, bench dips, inverted row, prisoner squat – you want to be able to do at least 20 reps on these ones (it will take you a while to build up to doing 10 – 20 pull ups in 1 set, so take it step by step)
  • Learn the correct form to the compound movements – this is especially important with exercises like the bench press and the squat where you are most prone to injury
  • Be consistent – don’t skip any gym sessions
I feel like most people would fall into this category. If you have trained for a few years (2 – 3) or can do everything that is listed above, then you are ready to start doing what the “big” boys do:-)
  • Just that we have been training for a few years doesn’t mean our recovery abilities will automatically be like that of a 250 lb bodybuilder (steroids…). We would still want to be training every other day.
  • It will be wise to improve the split here; I suggest Chest/Biceps, Legs, Back, Shoulders/Triceps (you are free to switch them around; in fact you are encouraged to do so every 4 weeks)
  • Heavy compound movements will still be the staple of your workout – they are the exercises that give the biggest bang for the buck.
  • You can start throwing in some isolation exercises (yay!)
  • Avoid going to negative failure – you want to be struggling to get that last rep, but there is no need to be screaming and yelling like some guys do because they are going to absolute failure, not positive failure
  • If you are training heavy, you generally want to extend your rest period – 2 minute is a good mark
  • This is not a permanent stage! Once you have packed on enough mass, you can modify your workouts (we will talk more about this later in the blog)
Here’s how it’s going to work: you want to be using a weight heavy enough for you to struggle to get the prescribed number of reps. Once you can hit more than 6 (or 8 for certain exercises), you will want to increase the weight. In most gyms, the smallest increment of weight is 2.5 lbs, so that will be a 5 lbs increment (2.5 lbs on each side of thebar). Progressive intensity guys! Overload is the way to go for skinny guys.
You also want to be changing up your routine every 4 weeks or so. These won’t be drastic changes – simply switching barbell movements to dumbbell movements, seated movements to standing movements etc. You can also change up the order of exercises or your splits.
Sample workout

Training and Diet for Skinny Athletes



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