Before I go into the “how to” on how to put on quality weight as an ectomorph, I want to talk about what an ectomorph is. So what is an ectomorph? There are three main somatotypes(body types): endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph, which i’ll give a brief introduction to.
- Endomorph: This somatotype is characterized by a blocky frame which tends to carry much body fat compared to the other two somatotypes types. The joints of this somatotype is thicker and wider. The torso is thick as well as the hips which are just as wide as the collarbones if not wider. This somatotype is also characterized by a slow metabolism, the slowest metabolism out of the three body types.
- Mesomorph: This somatotype is characterized by well developed muscle mass with a narrow waist and wide shoulders. The metabolism of this body type is typically slower than the ectomorph but faster than the endomorph. This body type has the best of both worlds because of the proportions it possesses, having the narrow waist of the ectomorph while having the broad shoulders of an endomorph.
- Ectomorph: This somatotype is the thinnest out of the three and is characterized by a thin and lanky build. The limbs are long, waist narrow, shoulders are thin and tends to be lean. Carrying little muscle mass and fat due to the fact that this body type has the fastest metabolism out of the three somatotypes and frequently referred to as the hardgainer. Having small joints such as the wrist and ankles, it makes it difficult for this body type to lift and support heavier loads.
Putting on quality weight as an ectomorph
There are a few things that must be done to put on quality weight
- We must track our macros
- We must go to the gym and train the four most important compound lifts
- We must get quality sleep everynight
- We must use the Principle of Progressive Overload
Tracking Our Macros
This is where it can get tricky. When I say “putting on quality weight”, I mean composing a body that has an attractive, healthy body fat to muscle ratio. Most people who have trouble putting on weight as an ectomorph are told to “just eat a lot.” The most commonly heard phrase from an ectomorph when asked “how much do you eat?” is “I eat a lot!” But how much is a lot?
To gain any kind of weight we must be in a caloric surplus. A caloric surplus means that we are consuming more calories than we are expending. So the first thing we need to do is figure out our total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) This is the total energy we use to operate our body in one day. This is why we need food, food contains calories and calories fuel us. There are a multitude of TDEE calculators out there on the net.
After we have done that we’re ready to start pigging out so that we can make some gainz! Wait not so fast, eating in a surplus is just part of the story. Although we’re eating in a surplus, what we eat and how much of it we eat is important. For example, eating fast food all day, everyday will definitely yield a caloric surplus but it will look different from eating a caloric surplus that comes from a well balanced, strategic diet. This is where body composition comes in.
In order for us to put on quality weight, we must track our macros. “Macros” is short for “Macronutrients.” Macros are proteins, fats and carbs. These are the three components that make up our total calorie consumption for the day and how much of each we consume is important to how our body will build. For example, if we’re eating a diet high in fat, low in protein and high in carbs and we yield a body weight of 180lbs(82kg) despite going to the gym and lifting, our body will look different from someone (180lbs/82kg) who has consumed a diet high in protein, moderate fat and moderate carbs, this is all assuming that this coincides with staying in a caloric surplus.
How to figure out our macros
Again, since we live in the age of the internet and information, we have a multitude of ways and calculators we can use to calculate and track our macros. I personally use “myfitnesspal” to keep track of my macros and daily goals. If you have a smart phone, all it takes is downloading the app and dialing in the specifics to your goal. If you don’t have a smart phone but have access to the internet you can access a great macro calculator here.
Now, the above macro calculators and TDEE calculators are great but at the end of the day, everything is a close estimate at best and therefore we will need to play with the numbers to adjust for error. We do this by consistently tracking our macros and watching how our weight fluctuates. If your calories to be consumed daily are 3260 (of course accounting for the appropriate macro placements) and you are 180lbs/82kg, eating above or below that will show how it influences your weight. How you divide these calories up by meals is completely up to you which is why I will not speak much on that aspect of diet. If you want to split it up into 2 big meals a day, fine. If you want to split it up into 3 or even 6 meals a day, that’s fine too. Just so long as you are hitting your macros on a consistent basis, or at least eating in a surplus you’re fine.
This is our bread and butter right here(no pun intended). With the above tools, we have the potential of gaining quality weight. All of this means nothing until we contextualize it though.
Rate of weight gain
Let’s keep another thing in mind, rate of weight gain. Once we have learned how to calculate our TDEE we want to track our rate of weight gain by watching the scale as well as how our lifts improve overtime. For example, and this is a rough example not based in actuality and just to illustrate my point, let’s say you gain 2 pounds per week. In the first 1-2 years a good amount of that might be muscle. After about two years, we have to consider that that same 2 pounds per week might be mostly muscle and we would want to dial back how much of a surplus we enter into during our bulking phases. We might actually want to switch to a “lean bulk” method, eating just slightly above TDEE(maintenance) to keep fat gain minimal.
After we have consistently gained weight, which we hope is mainly muscle, we will notice gains slow down and maybe stop and probably start to lose weight. This is because our new gained muscle mass comes with a higher EE(energy expenditure) which we have to account for. Muscle is active tissue and burns up to approximately 7-13 calories per pound just to maintain itself. It is advisable to recalculate and redistribute your macros/calories accordingly.
For example, if you bulked to a preferable point and want to shed fat, recalculate your TDEE, restrict by 200 calories and consume 1-1.4g of protein per pound of body weight, designate 15-20% of calories to fat macros and the rest to carbs to maintain lean mass.
If bulking, recalculate TDEE increase calories by 200-300, consume .8-1.2g of protein per pound of body weight, distribute 20-30% to fat macros and the rest to carbs. The above numbers are rough figures, play around with these numbers to reach your desired goals.
This work is forever so we have to keep up with our energy demands and consistently account for it.
Going To The Gym To Train
I use the word train because that’s what we will be doing, training. Not “working out” or “exercising.” I believe in the power of words and the word “training” is a powerful one when it comes to reaching goals. This isn’t a play thing. This is serious work. Being skinny and frail is not something to be proud of so we go to the gym to TRAIN.
We want to train “the Big Four:” bench press, squats, deadlifts and standing overhead press. These lifts put on the most amount of muscle at one time. As ectomorphs we don’t have the time or the luxury to be in the gym training 100 sets of isolation movements. That will get us no where fast. We have to be in and out of the gym with training times ranging between an hour and an hour and a half. Anything more than an hour of intense training and we run the risk of not only injuring ourselves from overtraining but undoing the hard work of building muscle tissue.
- Bench press: Dubbed the king of chest movements, this movement works the pectoralis major and anterior deltoids(residually). This movement puts on muscle in the chest and shoulder areas.
- Squats: This is the king of leg movements and one of the most important movements we will ever do. The squat works all muscles in the legs: quads, hamstrings, calves. This movement also works the hips back and shoulders to an extent.
- Deadlifts: Personally my favorite movement and another important mass building movement. This movement works the entire body, predominantly the posterior chain: glutes, hamstrings, erectors, traps, rhomboids, you name it, this movement works it all.
- Standing overhead press: This movement works the whole body but predominantly the shoulders. Standing with the bar pressed overhead is a true test of strength. This movement also works the core and glute muscles as tightening the glutes protect the lower back from injury.
With these four movements, we cannot go wrong. I personally build my whole routine around just these four movements and it works wonders for me, taking a “power building style approach”(powerlifting + bodybuilding)
All of this hardcore training, hardcore eating is nothing without sleeping like a baby.
Getting Quality Sleep at night
Getting quality sleep is the single most important aspect of putting on quality weight. When we sleep, our hormones are regulated, muscle tissue is repaired, central nervous system(CNS) is rejuvenated.
After a stressful day of work, training and other responsibilities, we need to sleep. Stress stimuli releases a hormone called “cortisol” and this hormone is responsible for our ability of fight or flight, amongst other hormones. But too much of this hormone triggers diseases. Getting a quality amount of sleep allows the body to regulate this hormone and allowing other hormones to be released to signal repairing the body. Studies show that sleep also regulates proper metabolism function. These same studies show that chronic undersleeping contribute to increased weight gain and obesity.
Believe it or not, muscles are not made in the gym, they are made outside of the gym and more specifically in the bed. When sleeping, our body goes into repair mode, using the nutrients received from food to fix tissues that are broken, torn, aching, etc. As mentioned above, sleep plays a big role in proper metabolism function. While building muscle we want to store as little fat as possible. We want to get the best sleep quality we can because it’s when we are in deep sleep that most of our human growth hormone(HGH) is released.
Central Nervous System
The nervous system, specifically the brain, is responsible for lifting weights as well as engaging many other tasks throughout the day. We do everything with our minds first, then follows the body. It is important for the CNS to be recharged everyday and if we don’t we lose the motivation and will to complete tasks that we once loved.
Using the Principle of Progressive Overload
If you want to put on quality weight, progressive overload is not something that you should overlook. The only way to put on quality, lean mass is by consistently overloading the muscle. What do I mean by overloading the muscle? Engaging in consistent, systematic, challenges each session is the key. We want to disrupt homeostasis & stimulate an anabolic response.
How do we do this?
Generally, when designing our programs we follow a simple pattern like such: Stimulus, Recovery & adaptation(supercompensation)
Stimulus: Training induces a stimulus. We apply pressure to the nervous system & muscles to trigger a chain reaction of events that leads to building & gaining strength and muscle mass. This stage is a catabolic or breaking down phase.
Recovery: Immediately, the body is put into a refractory period where, if we are not mindful of, further stimulus will not be beneficial. During this period it is recommended that we nourish ourselves properly in order for us to transition into the next phase. During the recovery phase, the body is under going anabolism which is the forming of bonds aka building muscle.
Adaptation: Once we are fully recovered, we are stronger than we previously were. Not only have we built our bodies back up to where we were before but we built our bodies back up and then some. We have effectively super-compensated. We can lift heavier for more reps.
After undergoing all three phases, we rinse and repeat by applying a stimulus greater in magnitude than before.
So, lets recap on how to put on quality weight as an ectomorph:
- We know the three main body types
- We know that we need to be aware of how many calories we expend daily so that we can consume above that. More specifically, we have to eat this surplus in regards to proper macro(proteins, fats, carbs) configuration.
- We have an idea of the role sleep plays which emphasizes the importance of getting quality sleep every night.
If we follow these basic guidelines, we will be well on our way to putting on quality weight and transforming our scrawny physiques.