Summarizing the Problems
The Skinny-Fat Ectomorph – Part II to review part I of this series the problems experienced by the skinny-fact ecto are problems with endocrine status, stress intolerance, volume tolerance, structure, and genetics in general. We have this big circle. A naturally hyperactive person naturally geared towards overproducing stress hormones. A person naturally geared towards over-reaching and overtraining. A person that has a hard enough time recovering from life itself. A person that doesn’t have a lot of testosterone. So what to do?
Addressing the Problems
Well the first thing is determine that you’re just not making excuses. In many instances people like me dig so far into minutia that a person starts to overanalyze things to the point that they develop ‘paralysis by analysis’. Many people simply eat too much junk, don’t get enough activity, and don’t have the metabolisms to handle the excess energy they’re consuming. Even a genetically gifted person can look like shit under the right circumstances.
Many naturally skinny people often say that as they get bigger and eat more their genetics get better and better. I believe that not only is this good advice for other ectos but is very true in general. What happens as someone with an extremely sensitive metabolism gets bigger and bigger and eats more and more? That extreme sensitivity that contributed to him being an ectomorph in the first place tends to become more and more normal. Many people simply don’t eat enough so get your mind right first. If you need any help this series of articles ought to serve as some motivation:
Having said that, providing a person is training and eating well and still having problems, the main problem is one of partitioning. Partitioning refers to what happens when excess calories are consumed. Are they directed into muscle or fat stores? The worse your partitioning, the more fat you gain when you gain weight. The better your partitioning, the more muscle you gain. This is largely impacted by training and diet, yet with those things being a given, how well you “partition” is primarily determined by genetics.
Building muscle is rarely the problem providing someone is willing to eat enough. Anyone willing to eat themselves up to 350 lbs scale weight will build a lot of muscle in the process. The problem is not building muscle all the fat that comes along with it. In a perfect world you’d be able to easily get the excess nutrients to your muscles without risk of any spilling over into fat.
Now, if you have round the clock elevated stress hormone levels your body will shut off uptake of nutrients into the muscles to make more fuel available for the brain. If you have elevated stress hormone levels and a chronic nutrient excess guess where those excess nutrients are gonna go? Straight to your fat cells. Is there anything you can do to correct this problem? Certainly. First thing you can do is improve your diet. If you’re the type that gains more fat then muscle that means you might be better off with more protein and less carbs. Get that protein on up around 2 grams per pound of bodyweight and pay more attention to your carbohydrate intake. Some people do well with 100 grams of carbohydrates spread throughout the day and a post-workout drink consisting of 50-100 grams.
Taking the Next Nutritional Step
Now take the next step. Improve partitioning beyond that. You can do that by making use of a storage tank for excess nutrients known as glycogen. It accounts for 1200-2000 calories of immediate storage in the average man and you simply learn to use it to your advantage. In other words, use cyclical or zig-zag diets. You take a couple of days and briefly deplete your storage tank (eat lower calories and do cardio, HIT, light weightlifting etc), and burn some fat. Then you take several days and slam your muscles with excess nutrients while the excess goes into your storage tank rather then fat. Then you keep repeating that process over and over. The 2 phases complement each other. The low calories increase sensitivity to he high calories. Most people can get good results with a 5, 10, or 14-day plan. A 7- day plan might consist of 5 days high calories with calories at 20 pounds per bodyweight followed by 2 days of low calories at 10-12 calories per pound of bodyweight. A 10-day plan might consist of 7 days high calories and 3 days low. A 14-day plan might consist of 11 days high calories and 4 days low. That’s a pretty cheap solution for skinny fat if you’re willing to work hard.
[What’s possible? Joel Marion actually started off at a ‘soft’ 16% bodyfat before dieting down to the 7%. He then used a zig zag approach of 2 weeks of high calories 1 week low, to gain 30+ pounds of pure muscle in 12 weeks]
Is there Anything Else One Can Do On the Nutritional End?
Another thing you can do is a bit more creative and increase the density of your diet so that you are able to send an anabolic signal at a caloric intake level that does not stimulate fat gain. To do that you consume cellular hydrating and swelling supplements such as those in leptigen. creatine, ip6, taurine, salt, bcaas etc. Do that in conjunction with my 2nd suggestion and you have a pretty good plan.
Training and Recovery
Regardless of how you look at it, fundamentally you have to match up your training load to coincide with your ability to recover from all of your combined stressors.
It’s always better to undertrain then to overtrain. Progress will be slower by undertraining but progress is progress. If you overtrain you will make zero progress. The amount of stress you tolerate is very individual. Some people can only tolerate 2 lifting sessions per week while others can tolerate 6 or 7. You need to find the right amount for you. For most ectomorphs I recommend 3 lifting sessions per week with at least one day off after every session and with 2 consecutive days off at some point during the week, such as weekends. Having a day off after every session allows the hyperactive CNS to recuperate. That one recommendation has saved the life of many a hardgainer.
Most likely you’re not gonna be able to train full bore all the time. Six weeks is about the length of time that ANYONE can make consistent strength gains when training full bore. Learn when to take rest days and off weeks. I normally recommend people take 1 or 2 ‘easy’ weeks after every 4-6 weeks of hard training. During an easy week I might recommend you split your body in half and do 2 easy sets of 10-15 reps per muscle.
Learn to identify over-reaching symptoms and when they start to appear don’t be afraid to pull back and cut volume and frequency. Most importantly, listen to your body. What’s the easiest way to identify over-reaching? Pay attention to your motivation. I tell people to rank themselves on a scale of 1-10 for energy, motivation, and sleep every day and write it in their training log. lf you can’t give yourself at least a 7 in all 3 categories take the day off. Sleep is ultra important as well.
When choosing exercises, don’t be a pussy and take the easy way out, but keep in mind it’s ok to do some isolation movements if you have problems getting stress to the working muscles. Flyes, laterals, and hack squats can be god sends.
With that in mind, a 3-day split like this works well for a lot of people:
Dumbell Bench – 3-4 x 8-10
Bicep – 2 x 10-12
Squat – 4-5 x 8
Leg Curl 4-5 x 5-8
Incline press- 3-4 x 8-10
Bicep – 4-5 x 6-8
To fully maximize strength gains, ideally on your tension driven compound movements (typically the first exercise in a workout for a given bodypart), the reps should decrease over the course of a mesocycle. An example of how you might jack with the reps on compound movements is this:
Week 1 and 2 – Sets of 8-10 (ex: 3 x 8-10)
Week 3 and 4 – Sets of 6-8 (ex: 4 x 6-8)
Week 5 and 6 – Sets of 4-6 (ex: 5 x 5)
Week 7 and 8 – Reduce training to just twice a week and take it easy, recuperate, reduce training frequency and volume.
Week 9 – Start over with week 1.
If you really have shitty recovery abilities you could just split your body in half and train twice a week. Or you could Train 3 times per week alternating between 2 workouts on an every other day basis. Pick one exercise for each bodypart and have at it.
Lats (rows and pulldowns)
Hamstrings (some type of leg curl)
Erectors and Traps (Deadlift, Rack Pull)
Hopefully that gives you some ideas. Put that stuff to use and soon you might find your genetics getting better and better.
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