Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ectomorph weight lifting routine to build muscle - April 2013

Here's a long overdue update on how my training's been going over the last few months, and how I've made certain changes to get better results!!

More lifts, more sets...

Something I've realised over the last few months is that the more experience you gain, and the stronger you get, the more you can/should train... In short, if you want to boost results and fine tune you're physique, you need to up the work load! But it need not be by much.

This blog is all about building muscle at home, getting all the desired results by training at home and no gym membership. Therefor I know I have to be sensible when it comes to how many sets someone could realistically get in with potentially a limited amount of time to do it. I used to perform between 9 an 12 sets per workout and train to failure each an every set, this gave me good results to a point... More recently I've found that with experience an strength the body can naturally take on more and do more, therefor you should take advantage of this an up your work load accordingly.

Nowadays I will perform between 12 an 15 sets per workout, and more often than not I won't train to failure on every set, in fact I probably only train to failure on 10% of the sets performed. I've opted for higher volume, more reps whilst still maintaining progressive overload each workout. Not training to failure means more weight for more reps which means more work achieved!

I have to reiterate that my blog is also aimed at those with an ectomorph body type like myself. This is another big factor in why I've always tried to keep intensity high but keep the workout short an sweet in order to steer clear of over training. However that all goes out the window after you've been lifting for around 3 years. You need to now get really stuck in and up the work load in order to see real results!

* I will be posting soon on why giving shoulders the attention they deserve is soooo important when building strength in other lifts, and developing a well rounded/classic looking physique.

Heres my current weight lifting routine to build muscle (I now train a 4 day split incorporating a shoulder day!!!);

I work a 2 on, 1 off program.

6-12 reps on everything.

Day 1: Back and biceps

Bent over barbell row, 4 sets
Single arm dumbbell row, 4 sets
Underhand pull ups, 3 sets
Barbell curl, 3 sets

Day 2: Chest and triceps

Flat barbell bench press, 3 sets
Incline dumbbell press, 3 sets
Dips, 3 sets
Diamond push ups, 3 sets
Tricep kickbacks, 3 sets

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Legs

Squats, 3 sets
Romanian deadlifts, 3 sets
Reverse lunges, 3 sets
Standing barbell calf raises 3 sets.

Day 5: Shoulders

Standing overhead press, 3 sets
Up right rows, 3 sets
Rear delt flys, 3 sets
Side lateral raises, 3 sets.

Day 6: Off... And so on...
4/2013-186lbs(84.5kg)@9%BF-H 6'2.5"
For more info on ectomorph muscle building please click here - Ectomorph muscle building

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stronglifts review... Part 2 ... 13 months on

Here's why I still refer back to Stronglifts for inspiration despite NOT training the program in over  a year...

As people may know from reading my first review, I never completed the Stronglifts 5x5 program. That way of training just wasn't suited to my rate of recovery, body type and life style in general. I still squat consistently today and absolutely love the movement, but my body (and becoming a new dad to twins!!) just wasn't liking squatting heavy 3 times a week.

I suppose the style of training I switched too goes against everything that Medhi preaches as I have since used a traditional 3 day bodybuilding split routine, using 3 sets for each lift and a rep range of 5-10. I've had some great results through this style of training and will continue to train this way. However I still to this day refer back to and Medhi's teachings for inspiration when my form gets a bit shaky or I have periods where I loose focus.

Medhi has got it completely sussed when it comes to correct form and safety on the big compound lifts and (plus Stronglifts new youtube channel) do a great job at communicating this in a simple straight forward way to the aspiring strength trainer or body builder.

A recent example of this is when I began to develop knee pain for the first time since I started lifting. I couldn't be sure if this was from squatting but it made me look at the form on all my lifts in more detail. My first stop was and SL's YouTube channel. After some lengthy revision/ practice it turned out that my squat form had become a bit shaky over the last few months and so it was time to tighten it up!

Long story short, squat form is back, knee pain gone and I'm lifting more than ever!

So even though I haven't trained the SL 5x5 program in over a year it still has elements that play a big part in my weight lifting journey today.

Here's a link to the Stronglifts YouTube channel... Enjoy - Click Here

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Related posts;
Stronglifts (vs Twin Muscle Workout) The Review Part 1
Stronglifts 5x5 progress report: 1
Stronglifts 5x5 progress report: 2

Monday, October 22, 2012

3 Essential tips for Ectomorph strength, muscle and weight gain

3 essential bits of info for ectomorphs looking to build strength, muscle and ultimately gain weight.

1.Get the calories your body needs to gain weight and build muscle.

This is probably the most important point. I know as I've messed up here before!

High protein & Low GI foods
You should be taking in more calories than you burn off. Check how many calories you're on now per day, and add 200-500. Monitor and repeat until you start gaining weight. This is different for everyone and is reliant on your current activity level, in that the more active your lifestyle the more calories you'll need to gain weight. But not all calories are the same; the best way to get results is to eat clean. Eating clean will keep your hormone levels stable which is what its all about essentially. So your insulin will be stable which in turn will keep your energy levels stable/constant plus limit the amount of fat you'll store. A good diet will help your body produce and maintain good levels of testosterone and human growth hormone which are your muscle building hormones. Eat a high protein, low G.I. diet like the example here - My weight gain diet

2. Rest...

Get some sleep!
Always leave a minimum of 48 hours between workouts to allow adequate recovery and try to get 8 hours sleep a night. I say try because I know this is the variable that is often quite hard to maintain.  Take my situation for example, having young children sometimes doesn't make for calm restful nights, some nights I get 8 hours - some nights I get 4-5 hours. You just have to make the best of the situation and keep going. If you are in a similar situation, you may just notice that it takes you longer to recover or you're less focused during your workout. Try to power through as a bit of cortisol (stress hormone) can sometimes be a good thing! Cortisol is there to give you energy in times of need. For example when I've been feeling my roughest is often the time when I've had the best workouts! Important! On the flip side, long term/high levels of cortisol in your body can be detrimental to your muscle gains (plus your health in general) so you want to limit/reduce the amount of cortisol in your body as far as possible as it is a catabolic hormone. Read here - Naturally reduce cortisol

Adequate rest will also help improve your muscle building hormone levels - HGH and testosterone.

3. Start lifting weights and lift heavy. Compound movements with free weights!

No high reps here, not even for legs. Pick a weight where you can stay within a rep range of 5-10. When you're more experienced then yes high reps with moderate to heavy weight have their place, but for now just go heavy. Going heavy will give you the biggest muscle building hormone response and put more stress on the muscles which makes for bigger strength and muscle gains. Use correct form on your lifts and be safe. Click here for more details on my current weightlifting routine - Workout routine to build muscle. Stick with free weights as the extra stabilization involved means you're recruiting more muscle fibers, strengthening your joints and building more usable, real world strength and muscle.

For more info on why compound movements are the key to building muscle, click here - Compound vs Isolation lifts and The importance of squats

2010@156lbs (70.7kg)
For more info on ectomorph muscle building please click here - Ectomorph muscle building

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ectomorph Bodybuilding - Trap training

I thought I had bad genetics for traps. Turns out I was just performing the wrong type of row.

I'll be honest, I was training my upper back for over a year and achieved very little gains. I even started to accept that I probably will never make substantial gains in this area due to my genetics...

Other parts of my back progressed well whilst my upper/middle back was always underdeveloped. I'd always had that massive hole in between the boney protruding shoulder blades!!! 

So its fair to say I'd tried most of the popular rowing movements (using good form) including;

Bent over barbell rows
Bent over dumbbell rows
Single arm dumbbell rows
Inverted rows (I found this excellent for developing the rhomboids and rear deltoids - not so much the Trapezius)

I'm 6'3" and have long arms. Therefore most of the above just felt like they were giving my shoulder joints a pretty good workout and nothing else. I needed a movement that had a short range of motion, that allowed me to lift heavy weight, and that engaged the upper back muscles more directly...

Enter - Long bar rows.

This movement involves loading plates on one end of a barbell, standing one foot either side of the bar, and using a V-bar handle to pull the weight. If you haven't got a handle then you can grab the bar with your hands like I do and just remember to alternate your grip each set to hit the muscles evenly.
Whether this movement becomes more lat or more trap dominant is dependent on the angle of your upper body. More upright means more lats, more bent over means more traps.

This movement helped me massively. That's why it is so important to try different things, to see what works for you, as everybody reacts differently.

            Lat spread - Rear view

Traps - Rear view
Traps - Front view

This movement made me see that I actually had ok genetics for traps, I just wasn't hitting them properly!!

Here's a great video from MuscleLibraryTV which tells you all you need to know about form and safety for Long bar rows...

For more info on ectomorph muscle building please click here - Ectomorph muscle building

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The importance of rest periods between sets

Rest periods between sets

Training and Goal - Weight lifting for strength and Hypertrophy.

I've always been quite strict with my rest times, in that I've always rested between 90 secs and 2 mins between sets, and I've always timed my rest periods.

However, after reading various articles on the internet and watching various videos on Youtube, I thought I'd break my habit and try something different.

Since I changed my rep range to 5-10 reps on 90% of my lifts, and so broke through a couple of plateaus, I've been progressing well. To the point where I'm comfortably adding weight to the bar every workout. One side effect I've had from lifting heavier and using a medium rep range, is that I feel more fatigued after a set. This made me think about extending my rest times, so more recently I've been taking 3-5 minutes rest periods between sets.

These are the main benefits that I've noticed;
  • More energy going into the next set
  • More focus and control during my lifts
  • Generally more relaxed and composed going into the next set
  • I'm able to lift more for more reps (overall increase in workout volume generally)

One disadvantage... Workouts go on for longer which can be an issue if you're training at home and only have a small window to get the job done, this was the case for me in the early days when my sons were first born but now things are slightly more relaxed I have more workout time. 

Arnold resting between sets
In Summary

Rest periods between sets are often over looked, but play an important role in a weight training program to build strength, muscle and get in shape.

Too short rest periods may effect the volume of work you can achieve during your workout, therefor you may not be performing to your full potential. Too long rest periods will mean not enough time under tension and not enough sustained intensity to stimulate the muscles effectively.

I feel 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a good start point for beginners.

I've been having great success since I lengthened my rest period to between 3-5 minutes, however this can be different for each individual, its a case of trying and seeing what fits.

This info is taken from my personal experience, for a more detailed account on rest periods, here's some cool articles from -  Optimal rest period between sets

Related pages;
Exercise essentials