January 30, 2019


Hardgainers. Skinny. Pinner. Growing up as an ectomorph, you get used to being called ‘skinny’ or lanky; especially during the adolescent stages of life.

As I went from a teenager into an adult, it went from being called skinny, to people saying your ‘genetically gifted’ because of your fast metabolism and small joint structure. Let’s take a closer look at the 3 different body types, before we establish the ‘new rules of lifting for ectomorphs’.

Image result for ectomorph body types projectnext

The above diagram does a great job of generalizing what the different body types need to do to look good, although so many online articles give young lifters the wrong impression, by saying that the best way to pack on size is to hit isolation exercises for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Without many resources as a young lifter, I searched all over the internet for the answer, and the result I usually got was something like this;

Like most of the online articles you will read, the workouts cater to lifters who want to lose weight and tone up, not for those who need to build strength and size in the right places. And here we have the secret to overcoming your genetic disadvantage as an ectomorph; building size and strength in the right places.


The answer for this question is simple; powerlifting. Powerlifting consists of mastering 3 compound movements; the squat, the deadlift and the bench press and trying to get heavier at each while keeping your form. These three movements are quite basic in terms of human function; a pull off the floor, a full leg activation squat, and a standard pressing movement.

These movements have been around since the dawn of man; picking things up off the floor, moving things around with your legs and pushing weight. Compared to a bicep curl or quad extension that isolate muscle groups; the big 3 use a large variety of joints and muscles to perform the movement. Building up these movements will not only lead to more functional strength, but more functional size in the right places.


Keeping this in mind, do not forget to add your isolation movements, but save them for after your compound movements. Workouts should be short in terms of volume, but done heavy and TAKEN TO FAILURE. Instead of 3 sets of 10 on your deadlifts, work with 3 intense sets of 4-6. This way you will be adding strength while adding size. Here is a 3 day split example of incorporating heavy compound movements into your program.

Day One-PUSH

  1. Bench Press- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  2. Overhead Press- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  3. Incline dumbbell press- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  4. Shoulder Lateral Raise- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  5. Skullcrushers- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  6. Rope pushdowns- 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Day Two- Pull

  1. Deadlifts- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  2. Barbell Rows- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  3. Pull-ups- 3 sets of AMRAP
  4. Seated Row- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  5. Barbell Curls- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  6. Hammer Curls- 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Day Three- Legs

  1. Squats- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  2. Leg press- 3 working sets of 4-6 reps
  3. Walking lunges- 3 sets of 10 steps each leg
  4. Quad Extensions- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  5. Lying Hamstring Curls- 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  6. Calf Press- 3 sets of 8-12 reps


As you can see the first two compound movements are only taken to sets of 4-6 reps; keep in mind that when working with heavy loads and low reps, long breaks and full recovery between working sets are essential. In addition, the word working means that these sets do not include your essential warm-up sets. Warm up sets will prep your body for the heavy loads, which helps with avoiding injury and actually finding appropriate weight for working sets. Here’s an example of a pull day workout, assuming my working sets on deadlifts would be at 225 lbs:

  1. Warm up on cardio 5 – 10 min
  2. Deadlifts - a. Warm up set with just the bar- 10 reps b. Warm up sets with 50% of max – 3 sets of 6-8 reps c. Warm up sets with 75% of max- 3 sets of 4-6 reps d. Working sets with 100% of 4-6 rep max- 3 sets of 4-6 reps

With all the breaks and resting times to ensure you are at full strength before your next heavy sets, the compound movements of the workout should take just under half of your full workout time!


  1. To gain the right muscle in the right places, ectomorphs should incorporate standard powerlifting into their workout regime.
  2. These movements should be done heavy, with long breaks and with good form.
  3. Powerlifting movements will add the size and strength you desire, but do not forget about your other movements for full function and aesthetics!
  4. Book a session today with me and learn these complex movements so you can see the results you desire!

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