“Well, you have put on a bit of mass. What’s your goal now?”
“I’m trying to add about 10 pounds of muscle and stay at single digit fat.”
“How much do you weigh?”
“About 150… 155 on a good week.”
“Really? Man, you look a bit heavier than that. I guess it’s the height and your lean muscle which fools me.”
The trainer continues…
“What’s your routine like right now?”
“Dude begins to lay out his training split in detail.”
“Sounds pretty solid. How about your diet?”
Dude lays out his diet in as much detail as possible.
“Yeah, that’s pretty good too so far. I can’t see why you’re struggling to add mass. What about cardio?”
“Oh right, yeah I do about 3 days, 20 to 30 minutes each session of intervals after my strength training.”
“Aha! There’s your mistake!”
The year was 2005 and the skinny guy was none other than ME.
I had done all the research that was available at the time.
Looked through magazines.
Read every article that was written in the last 5 years.
I desperately wanted to build mass.
I wanted to enjoy the benefits of cardio for my heart and at the same time have ripped abs.
That’s all I wanted.
Was that too much to ask?
If you’re an ectomorph, i.e. SKINNY DUDE like me, yes it is too much to ask.
Having a high metabolism is blessing and a curse.
I still have an easy time keeping the fat demons away from me.
Give me some food, any food, in just about any quantity and it won’t create a dent in my diet, or a spare tire. Well, all within reason. I can’t live on a diet of cheesecake and expect to look lean year round.
In that sense I am genetically blessed. However, when it comes to gaining mass it can be the biggest uphill battle.
Should Skinny Guys Do Cardio
I often get this question asked either in my inbox or even at the gym.
If you can relate to being a true Ectomorph and are a skinny dude who simply struggles to add mass then cardio should not be your priority.
Let’s say you are a true ectomorph, have a body fat in the single digits or barely over 10 percent and you can’t gain any mass. Switch your priorities.
Your priority should be on the strength training part and hitting the weights using compound movements.
Skip cardio for a bit.
Don’t bother with running on a treadmill or a track.
Going for a jog is definitely a No-No for skinny guys with very little muscle mass and low body fat.
Unless you want to keep your gains from kicking in just do the same you’ve been doing so far.
By doing cardio as well as strength training you will be burning more calories. The last thing an ectomorph who is trying to add mass needs is a calorie deficit.
Create a calorie deficit and you will start losing weight.
Have a surplus and your gains should come.
They may come slowly for some but you will definitely not lose weight.
Let’s say that after a couple of months you have managed to gain some significant muscle gains.
You eat healthy and want to avoid the dreaded fat to creep up on you.
What do you do?
A great alternative to using traditional cardio is doing low impact cardio.
Walking is a great example of this.
It is easy to do, doesn’t mess with your joints the way running does and you are basically using every major muscle group.
It doesn’t sound glamorous or exciting.
I mean what athlete is known for his or her walking skills?
I don’t know of any but it is the easiest thing to do.
For most people in the modern world, between sitting at home watching T.V., driving in our cars and sitting at a desk we rarely get to move around and walk.
You could and technically should walk on a daily basis and you won’t have to worry about losing muscle. Chances are you will continue gaining muscle and not add on fat if you are keeping your eating habits healthy.
Jump Rope Workouts and More Athletic Type Training
(Here’s Bloom To Fit on the jump rope)
Let’s say you are looking for something a bit more challenging.
I know most of you are looking for something more athletic.
One exercise I recommend for skinny guys (and even those who aren’t skinny) are jump rope workouts.
Jumping rope has always been a must do routine in the boxing world.
Doing jump rope workouts are an easy and effective way to:
- Build stronger calves
- Strengthen the ankles
- Create natural muscle tension in your shoulders
- Engage the core/ ab muscles
- Burn fat
- Boost HGH
- Build cardio stamina
For a boxer one of the best ways to build their stamina is by doing jump rope drills. By combining their drills in short yet intense intervals, this helps them work on their foot speed and their ability to last short bursts of intensity in the ring.
Here is an example of a jump rope drill you can do:
- Grab a jump rope and a timer
- Set that timer to 30 second intervals
- Jump rope for moderate to intense activity for 30 seconds
- Rest for 30 seconds
Perform drills for a total of 15 to 20 minutes
You can ideally perform these drills after completing a strength training session. You can also jump rope on rest days from strength training however, I would recommend not doing high intensity intervals on those days. Simply get your heart rate up, work on your athleticism and save some for your next training session.
Training with jump ropes is ideal for any level of fitness. If you are a beginner or more advanced level you can do these types of drills.
If you are an ectomorph or skinny guy this type of training and workout is one I highly recommend if you are looking for something that will help you keep your body fat down all while building your conditioning and developing muscle in your lower body.
How Much Cardio Is Too Much For Building Muscle
So back in 2005 I was training with high intensity sprints 3 to 4 days a week on top of doing weights.
Although this seemed like a great idea at the time, a personal trainer showed me that this was not the best approach for me if I wanted to gain mass.
As an ectomorph training 3 plus days for 20 to 30 minutes of sprints on a treadmill was simply too taxing on my body and sending my already high metabolism into overdrive. A better approach for me would have been training with sprint intervals for 2 days per week at the most.
Working on conditioning as well as strength training is very important if you want to achieve an athletic physique.
For an ectomorph who is just starting to train it is best to lay off on cardio. However, for anyone who has been training for more than a few months it is always a good idea to work on conditioning at some level.
I do want to point out that for ectomorphs it is always a good idea to keep an eye on how our bodies react to cardio work.
Although cardio is a great tool for fat burning, when done right it can help develop muscle as well.
This is where most of us mess up.
We either do too much cardio, such as my 3 to 4 day interval training, or simply do steady state cardio which is something to avoid at all costs.
One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that when I first began going to the gym, which is now over a 10 years ago, I would jog as many as 5 days per week and lift weights 4 days per week.
I dropped from an already skinny 145 pounds down to a measly 135 pounds. The weight just melted off in 3 months. Even I knew this was not a good thing.
That’s how fast my metabolism was working and the results were not good. I looked more like “The Machinist” than “The Dark Knight.”
As any ectomorph can attest we have high metabolic rates and going out for a long jog keeps us skinny.
Training With High Intensity Intervals
In order to build muscle while working on our conditioning one of the best ways is to add explosive intervals done in short sequences.
Here are some benefits of doing short athletic intervals:
- Build muscle in our lower body
- Helps with developing muscle in the upper body
- Boosts HGH
- Burn fat without sacrificing muscle gains
- Provide cardio benefits without looking skinny
- Helps you build an athletic physique
Rather than doing long running or jogging for 30 minutes straight the best way to train is by doing intervals in short periods of 20 to 60 seconds of activity followed by a rest period long enough to recover.
For example you can sprint for 30 seconds and rest for 30 to 90 seconds and repeat this sequence anywhere from 5 to 10 times.
Examples of Athletic Interval Training:
- Hill Sprints
- Sled Push
- Sled Pull
These types of exercises not only help with conditioning but also build core strength and help build stronger leg muscles.
Along with the core there is muscle development in the following areas:
- Core/ Abs
- Legs and Lower body
- Upper Body, including arms, chest, back and shoulders
How Often Should You Do Cardio
Athletes such as NFL players, Rugby athletes, MMA and UFC athletes use these types of conditioning workouts to get an edge. Rather than risk losing muscle you can add on muscle and improve conditioning at the same time.
For best results work with these types of exercises anywhere from 1 to 2 times per week.
Keep your sessions short, explosive and intense.
Coupled with your strength training there is no way you can go wrong.
Final things to keep in mind
If you are a beginner or desperately need to add muscle, simply wait on doing cardio until you have been training a few months.
Once you have put on a bit of muscle mass begin to introduce cardio into your training sessions.
Make sure you keep your conditioning sessions in intervals and ditch jogging or long running sessions.
However, walking is highly encouraged for any level of strength training, even for ectomorphs.
Examples of intervals can range from jump rope training to sprints, hill sprints, sled pushes and sled pulls.
Short burst intervals are ideal even for an ectomorph and highly recommended if you have been training for more than a few months.
Training with intervals will help you develop a muscular body all around but don’t overdo it. Stick with 1 to 2 sessions of this type of conditioning and you will be safe.
There you have it.
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