So you’re skinny, or an ectomorph if you want to use the proper term, and you want to put on some muscle. What do you do?
You lift, drink lots of protein powder and stay away from dodgy food. But things aren’t going your way.
Are you making these mistakes?
1. You aren’t eating enough
You are probably eating a bit more than you were, but have you worked out the exact amount of calories you need to consume? Just as when you are losing weight and you need to take in less calories than you expend, the opposite is true with muscle gain.
With our skinny guide to weight gain, you can work out exactly how much food you need to eat. But for a rule of thumb, there is an easier way.
The average male needs 2500 calories a day, and a woman 2000, so add 500 calories to that and you have your target.
If that doesn’t work, eat more. Just don’t eat junk. You can’t out train a bad diet.
2. You are overtraining
It’s good when you get the bug, better when you commit to the bug, but it’s not good when that bug gets you injured.
You can throw all the fitness cliches you want at it. “Leave your ego at the door” being one of them. But the message is clear. If you train too hard, with weights that are too big, you will get injured. You’ll have to take time out, and then you are basically back at square one.
So have a sensible plan; speaking of which…
3. You don’t have a plan
Bane had a plan, and he managed to take over Gotham with it. Hostile takeovers of fictional cities doesn’t have to factor in your new workout and diet plan, but you do need a plan in the first place.
The gym for a newbie trainer is a bit like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Everything is shiny and new (though not as tasty). You can’t go in there and lift willy nilly. Ten seconds here, a set there, a rep or 2 there, a drinks break and 22 press ups. That is not a plan.
If you are an ectomorph, then you really need to be sensible. To start with, seperate the muscle groups you need to work on, and focus on the key exercises such as your squats, deadlifts and benchpress.
4. You aren’t being realistic
Rome, Wembley and the gym you workout in have one thing in common. They weren’t built in a day. If you want results in a week, then you will only be disappointed.
In this fast paced 21st century world, we all want results NOW. But your body is not a computer game, so you need to take time. If you are naturally skinny, then it will take longer than you probably want for muscle gains to happen.
If everything is going well, and conditions are bang on, then you’ll be looking at 1-2lbs of muscle growth a month. So don’t go thinking you can look like Phil Heath after one drop set.
5. You aren’t fully committed
You can’t dabble if you are skinny and want to gain some muscle. It takes a good time for your body to show real changes, hence the magical “12 week body transformations” that you always see.
This is 3 months, which is a fair whack of time. If you workout for a month and then have a month off because you are busy, then come back in, and carry on like this; prepare for failure.
Yes you need to have a life, but gaining muscle when you are skinny can be a real challenge, so you have to go all in.
6. You aren’t using the right rep ranges
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding rep ranges, novices often think that the more reps they do, the bigger the muscle growth will be. This is not the case.
The optimal rep range for hypertrophy (muscle size increase) is around the 8-10 rep range. This doesn’t mean you can just pick the up smallest weight and stop when you’ve counted to 8, it means using a weight which you can just about manage to lift in an 8-10 range.
7. You aren’t overloading
You need to start where you’re comfortable, not where you want to be. We know that. But you also need to progress. Just as when you get good at a computer game, you move onto the next difficulty level, you need to push yourself with weights.
Progression is the key here; you won’t see gains if you stay comfortable. Get to a weight where you are just about comfortable, and move up. This should become your new comfortable weight over time, and this process should continue.
Remember though, that you need to be patient, as well as realistic. It takes time to move from “world class” to “legendary” on FIFA, and it takes time to move from a 100kg deadlift to 120kg.
Gaining muscle isn’t easy, but therein lies the joy. If you’re skinny, it can sometimes seem impossible. But as long as you eat, eat, train and recover, you’ll be okay in the long term.