Ok, so you're an ectomorph. A "hardgainer". Someone who probably feels like they just don't have the genetics for building muscle. You work out hard and eat well, but have little to show for it. Still skinny. Still weak. What's the point of trying anymore? The truth is... anyone can build muscle. Look around the internet and you'll find countless stories of people going from skinny to jacked. So what's the secret? Proper training, nutrition, and recovery. That's it. This article will focus on the training side of the equation. The following ectomorph training plan is simple, effective, and free.
The entire goal of this training routine is to stimulate maximum muscle growth while allowing for maximum recovery. As such, you will never be working out two days in a row. This will be a simple one-on, one-off split, hitting all the major muscle groups from multiple angles. You will need to eat a lot of nutritious food in order for this to work. Slack on your diet and you will gain no strength and no muscle, so don't do it!
Day 1: Chest
Gaining chest size is a primary goal for just about every lifter. A big chest conveys strength and power. Someone who is not to be messed with. We'll hit the chest from every angle with the following three exercises:
1. Decline Bench Press, 3 sets of 5 reps
2. Incline Dumbbell Press, 3 sets of 10 reps
3. Flat Dumbbell Flies, 3 sets of 10 reps
The decline bench press is very effective since it brings the pectorals through their full range of motion. Pro bodybuilders are big advocates of the decline bench. The decline position puts the shoulders into a more ideal position and is less likely to cause pain. Work your way up to 3 heavy sets of 5. Use the same weight for all three sets.
Switch to dumbbells and crank out 3 sets of 10 reps in the incline position. Go fairly heavy and be sure to squeeze at the top for maximum fiber recruitment. This will stimulate the upper chest and help hide those jutting collarbones.
Finish off your chest with dumbbell flies in the flat bench position. At this point you should be fairly fatigued, so you likely won't be handling anything too heavy. Focus on form and squeezing at the top. Flies help with overall mass and give your pecs a nice full stretch at the bottom.
Day 3: Back, Biceps
Remember to rest a full day before this workout, and before every workout. You're going to need it anyway since today is deadlift day - maybe the most taxing mass-builder there is.
1. Deadlift, 3 sets of 3 reps
2. Low Pulley Row, 3 sets of 8 reps
3. Pullups, 3 sets to failure
4. Preacher Curls, 3 sets of 10 reps
Work your way up to 3 sets of 3 on the deadlifts, adding weight for each triple (Example: 215x3, 305x3, 355x3). The last rep of the last set should feel like a major challenge. If you're not breathing heavy, feeling like passing out, etc. then you're not going heavy enough.
Use a close overhand grip on a straight bar for the low pulley rows, or a v-handle if available. If you have straps, use them. Your grip will be toast from the deadlifts and the straps will help your back do more of the work.
Pullups are pretty self-explanatory. Remember, chinups are not pullups. Use an overhand grip and go to failure on each set. This will finish off your back for the day.
Preacher curls are probably the best bang for your buck when it comes to biceps exercises. Use a challenging weight and a full range of motion. No half-reps to look tough for your buddies. Stretch it out and squeeze at the top.
Day 5: Shoulders, Traps, Triceps
If you want to look big, then you need wide shoulders, big traps, and thick triceps. These muscle groups make you look big even with your shirt on. You may need an extra day for your CNS to recover if you went hard on the deadlifts last workout. This is fine and better than working out in a fatigued state, so rest another day if you aren't ready.
1. Seated Military Press, 3 sets of 5 reps
2. Seated Dumbbell Press, 3 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Barbell Shrugs, 3 sets of 10 reps
4. Bent Lateral Dumbbell Raises, 3 sets of 12 reps
5. Overhead Dumbbell Extensions, 3 sets of 10 reps
Use a barbell for the military press and work up to 3 heavy sets of 5, using the same weight for all three sets. Don't use your chest to help cheat by leaning way back. Keep the form strict. Use less weight if needed.
Switch to dumbbells and do 3 sets of 8-10 with a challenging weight. It's ok to cheat a little here as our goal is to stimulate any leftover fibers from the military press.
Do the barbell shrugs in a power rack so you don't have to worry about lifting the weight all the way from the floor. Use straps if you have them. This will help transfer the weight to your traps and keep you going if your grip starts to fail.
Grab some light dumbbells and do the bent lateral raises with very strict form. Hold at the top for a two-count on each rep. We're hitting the side and back of the shoulders here.
Finish this workout by grabbing a heavy dumbbell with two hands and doing a set of overhead extensions. Then grab a lighter dumbbell and do a set for each arm, weak arm first.
Day 7: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
The last day of this routine focuses exclusively on the legs. Squats are the main lift, and no, leg presses are not an acceptable substitute unless you have some kind of injury that prevents you from squatting. Squats are hard, but so is gaining muscle if you're a little crybaby... man up!
1. Squats, 3 sets of 5 reps
2. Leg Extensions, 3 sets of 12 reps
3. Leg Curls, 3 sets of 12 reps
4. Standing Calf Raises, 3 sets of 12 reps
Work your way up to 3 heavy sets of 5 with the squats. Use any stance you want, just make sure you get down to at least parallel with each rep. Form is crucial on the squat. Make sure you're squatting and not doing a modified good morning.
Leg extensions will give your quads a direct hit and help develop the muscles around the knee for added stability. Do these slowly and controlled. Squeeze at the top.
Do the leg curls lying down, seated, or standing. It doesn't really matter...they will all hit the hamstrings. It is important to keep the hammies as strong as the quads or you'll end up with imbalances and probably a knee injury sometime in the future.
Do the calf raises in the standing calf machine if you have access to one. You could also do them one leg at a time, on the edge of a step while holding a dumbbell.
You should include a few supplements if you really want to maximize your results. Whey protein is a must. Creatine, glutamine, and a pre-workout will really help as well. Protein will help build the muscle, creatine will help with volumization and strength, glutamine will help with recovery, and the pre-workout will help you tear it up in the gym. Remember, though, supplements are not a substitute for food. If you're not gaining, you should be eating more.
This routine has everything you need to get big. No body part is spared, except for the abs which you can work on the off-days. Remember to raise the working weight as you progress through this routine. Also remember that you need to eat big even on your off-days, and especially before your workouts. Hardgainers should never work out on an empty stomach. Eat 200-300g of rice and some chicken or other protein about an hour before your workout. Then take your pre-workout about 30 minutes later and you should be ready to rip. Consume a whey protein shake immediately after the workout, along with 5g of creatine, 10g of glutamine, and a simple carb source such as a banana or other fruit. Follow the ectomorph training plan, eat a lot, take your supplements, and enjoy the gains!