You’ve finally found it…
Welcome to the most comprehensive guide to working out on the internet! If you clicked on this, you’re probably an ectomorph (What’s an ectomorph? Click that link to skip the introduction). If you’re not, then skim through the content below because most of it will still probably apply to you!Before we get started…
If you don’t really know what this site is about or why you should listen to anything I’m about to read, visit this page. Or, if you don’t care about that, keep reading.
If you’re an ectomorph (or for those of you who like normal English, a hardgainer), this guide might be the most important thing you’ll read. Why?
Keep reading and find out:
This might seem dumb but literally just figuring out what you are makes everything easier.
By figuring out if you're an ectomorph – and therefore a hardgainer, you can follow the rest of the tips in this guide to lift properly from the beginning!
See, I did it the hard way:
I lifted for 2 years with absolutely nothing to show for it before I even figured out that I was an ectomorph.
So what exactly is an ectomorph? If you want the dictionary definition, check out Wikipedia... If you want a definition that regular people can actually understand:
Ectomorphs are hard gainers. Ectomorphs are generally lanky and skinny, with a slightly thinner, elongated bone structure (refer to the following image; the figure on the left is an ectomorph, the middle is a mesomorph, and the right is an endomorph). If you want more info on the other body types, check out this website.
Another important thing that we’ll get to later: Ectomorphs have high metabolisms.
Now take a look at yourself:
Are you super skinny? Are you the one in your friend group that eats unhealthy stuff all the time and doesn’t gain weight? You’re probably an ectomorph.The Hardgainer Test:
You’re going to need some measuring tape for this one:
Put your hand on your forearm and slowly move your hand down your arm towards your wrist. Right where your hand meets your wrist, you should feel a bony protrusion from your arm. This is easier to feel when your palm is facing the ground.
Now, take the measuring tape and measure the circumference of your wrist on the hand side of this protrusion. Take a look at this picture to see where you should be taking the measurement:
Now take the circumference and divide that by your height in inches.
Is that number less than 0.1045?
If it is, then you’re a hardgainer according to Casey Butt, Ph.D. (Source)
If, for some reason, you can’t measure your wrist properly, you can also measure the smallest point of your ankle and divide that by your height. If that number is less than 0.1296, you’re a hardgainer.
Here’s where the real fun begins:
Now that you understand what an ectomorph is and you’ve figured out whether you are one or not, the rest of the guide will show you all the hardgainer knowledge it took me a few years to build up. Keep going!
So you’re an ectomorph. Does this mean you’re doomed to a gross, disfigured body for the rest of your life?Not at all.
True, building muscle is going to be more difficult for you, but there are some benefits to being an ectomorph.
In terms of physical attractiveness, the consensus is that the ideal body type is somewhere between normal bone size and slightly below average bone size.
Yes, really. Here’s an ectomorph that you might recognize:
In case you enjoy hitting yourself in the head with bricks and forgot all your celebrities, that’s Brad Pitt, a man who’s been featured as the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.
How many people have you heard hate on Brad Pitt’s looks? Probably not many.Here’s the bottom line:
Yeah being an ectomorph makes bodybuilding harder, but the rewards are much greater; if you work hard enough, you’ll reach levels of aesthetics that most people can only dream about.
It boggles my mind that people work out regularly without even knowing this basic fact.
For genetically superior people, this doesn’t matter too much; they can just swing dumbbells around and make grunting noises for 30 minutes and they’re fine.
But if you’re a hardgainer, simply understanding this will prevent you from making mistakes other people make:
(Warning: Simplification ahead. If you want to know the exact science behind muscle hypertrophy, I’ve included a few links. I’ve simplified the process to make it easier to read, but the principles are still the same).
When you’re lifting weights, you’re actually breaking down your muscle. The act of lifting causes tiny tears, or micro-trauma, in your muscles.
What causes your muscles to get bigger is the following 48 hours (according to John Berardi, Ph.D) where your body repairs the muscle. The muscle overcompensates for the damage and gets a little bigger.
So why is this so important? This is where the idea of rest days comes in.
Think about it:
If you work triceps every single day for a week, every time you go to the gym, you create tiny tears in your muscles. However, since you’re doing this every single day, you’re not giving your body time to recover and rebuild the muscles.
Basically, you’re spending more time in the gym and getting less results!
Since it takes at most 48 hours to repair the muscles, we take a “rest day” before working that same muscle again.
This is one of the basics of weightlifting, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve heard uneducated dudes telling me about how their new workout plan involves training the same body part multiple days in a row.
Any guy who does this and gets good results must have herculean genetics. Either that or he’s using steroids to increase his recovery rate.
However, if either of those statements applied to you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this guide in the first place, so let’s move on.
If you want a more advanced look at muscle hypertrophy, check out this article.
Another basic bodybuilding principle that a surprising number of people don’t know about is progressive overload.
Here’s what you need to know:
Your body is really good at adapting to stress. If you do the same exact exercises every time you hit the gym for a few months, your body is going to adapt to those exercises and you’ll stop making gains.
In order to keep building muscle, you have to change up your workout routine every so often.
You can do this by increasing the weights, increasing the number of reps, or switching up your workout and hitting the target muscle at different angles. (known as muscle confusion)
There's a bit of controversy surrounding muscle confusion (some sources state that it takes around 6 weeks for your muscles to adapt to a particular exercise), so programs that solely rely on muscle confusion aren't the magic solution to making you big.
With that said, however, if youre already using progressive overloading, it might definitely do you some good to switch up your workout routine every now and then.
Do you want to become the strongest person you’ve ever met?
If so, then this probably isn’t the guide for you. Getting strong and becoming aesthetic aren’t 100% the same thing, though they are related.
According to science, a portion of strength training has to do with mind-muscle connection; when you do strength training, you’re actually training your brain activate your muscles more effectively.
Don’t believe me? Check out this article from bodybuilding.com for more info.
Does this mean that you can gain strength without necessary gaining muscle size?
Yes, according to Brad Schoenfeld, PhD (if you’re interested, read more of his stuff), and from personal experience as well.
My weight lifting goals were the following:
I wanted to become aesthetic, but I also wanted functional strength (as opposed to “gym strength,” more on that later). If that sounds like you, then keep reading!
If your goals are different, however, you should probably read this article instead.
Having big arms is great and all, but there’s actually a little bit more to getting aesthetic than lifting as heavy as you possibly can to impress that girl two benches over.
Let’s start out with what, in my opinion, is the most important thing any guy should have:
This is formed by your shoulders, lats, and waist. Ideally, you want broad shoulders, broad lats and a narrow waist; these things together make your torso look like a V from the back – hence the name “V taper.”
As a case study, check out Captain America's back.
If you ask a girl what the most attractive muscle is, most of them will probably say abs or biceps. But the problem with that is there are a lot of subtleties in musculature that induce a subconscious attraction that most people can’t consciously explain.
Broad shoulders is a sign of high testosterone in men, so by shrinking your waist and ballooning your shoulders, you create the illusion that you’re a testosterone-fueled maniac to potential mates.
Check out my other blog post for more information on the V Taper.
Check out this article to learn about a mistake that a lot of beginner lifters make (this makes building a good physique much harder).
Some people claim that there’s an ideal ratio your muscles must be; however, I try to use these ratios as a guideline but not a rule.
While it’s definitely true that ratios matter more than just absolute size, some people take trying to reach their ideal ratios to the extreme. As a personal opinion, I also find that these ratios are somewhat arbitrary.
Here’s the bottom line:
Use the following numbers as something to work towards; goals are much easier to follow if they’re completely defined. Aim for these numbers, but remember that they aren’t exactly the same for everyone, and they’re just guidelines, not laws.
These ratios are assuming a pretty low body fat (good thing you’re an ectomorph because you already have a good body fat %).
One of the most common misconceptions people have about working out is that they think they'll get big as long as they work out.
This is actually wrong; working out is only half the equation.
Well, for normal people it is, anyways. For ectomorphs/hardgainers on the other hand, I would say that working out is only about 40% of the equation.
No seriously, hear me out.
When I first started working out, I made serious noob gains... for about 2 weeks.
For the next 2 years I worked out every other day at the minimum and made absolutely no progress.
My muscles barely grew, and my lifts stayed the same; I completely wasted that time.
Because I was using the same faulty logic that a lot of people also seem to use. I thought that if I just worked out consistently, paid attention to each rep, and built some smart workouts, I would get big.
What I’m about to tell you is the reason why most people have trouble gaining (and even losing weight). This is vitally important to an ectomorph’s success.
After those two years of no results, I got a calorie tracking app, and actually took note of every single thing I put in my mouth. I counted calories, and made sure I got enough protein.
And then what happened? I started ballooning up.
You don’t necessarily need to be as strategic about your food intake as I was, but you definitely do need to pay attention to how you’re eating.
Remember in part 1 when I said that ectomorphs have high metabolisms? This is why eating right matters a lot more to us than to other lifters; if we don’t eat enough, we burn through all those calories and we don’t have any left over to build muscle.
Check out this blog post about how to eat properly as an ectomorph.
More science words? Yeah sorry, but this is important.
First, the most basic of the basic: how do muscles work?
Muscle fibers do one, and only one thing: contract. To flex your arm, you contract your bicep muscle. To straighten your arm, you contract your triceps muscle. Got it? Good.
At no point to muscles “stretch out.” Every motion your body is capable of making is through contraction.
The Concentric portion of the lift is when whatever muscle you’re targeting is contracting. Let’s take the bicep curl as an example. As you’re lifting the dumbbell from the bottom to your shoulder, you’re in the concentric phase of your lift.
When you get to the top of the movement and pause right before you begin lowering it, you’re in the isometric stage. The isometric phase is the part of the exercise between the concentric and the eccentric phases where the weight is not moving at all.
Then, as you can probably guess, the eccentric phase is when you slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting point. In this phase, the muscle is slowly lengthening back out to its starting size.
Well, there are a few advanced techniques that you can employ to help you break through plateaus if you know the different phases.
You see, each phases has different strengths. This means that, if you’re lifting a heavy weight, you’ll hit muscle failure in the concentric phase first, the isometric phase second, and the eccentric phase last. (For more information on how to use this to your advantage, check out our article on heavy negatives).
As a quick demonstration of how you can use this to your advantage, check out the following example.
Let’s say you’re bench pressing. As you’re pressing the last rep in your set, your arms start shaking and you realize that you can’t finish the rep no matter how hard you push. Your spotter then lifts up the bar to the top of the lift.
You just hit muscle failure, so that means that you can’t lift anymore right?
Once your spotter lifts the bar to the top, you can slowly lower the bar back down to your chest. How can you resist the bar from falling onto you when your muscles just failed a second ago?
It goes back to the fact that your failure tolerance is higher on the eccentric phase of the lift than on the concentric. Again, if you want more info, check out our article on heavy negatives.
If this text explanation is difficult for you to follow, check out this video that talks about how to use this technique with your shoulders:
As you’ve probably noticed by now (if you’re an experienced lifter), most of the stuff I just went over is for beginners. So where’s all the advanced stuff?
Well, sticking in every single tip and trick I have into a single guide is pretty difficult. Above, I’ve covered the most necessary information that hardgainers should have before they start lifting.
For all the advanced stuff, I suggest checking out the rest of the blog, which is updated regularly.
Also, if you want the really good stuff, I suggest you sign up for our email list right below. We send some top secret tips that only members of our super-secret mailing list get. Check it out: