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Hypertrophy Training For The Ectomorph: Program Design & The 10-8-6-15 Program!

When it comes to training for the ectomorph, he has to train just enough to stimulate growth. Here are some great tips on building a functional program and a sample pyramid routine to put on mass!

By: James Chan

Article Summary:
  • An ectomorph needs to train briefly, intensely but frequently.
  • The 10-8-6-15 program was designed by Vince Gironda.
  • If you're ectomorph, then follow this workout 3 times per week.
  • dot
    Hypertrophy Training For The Ectomorph
    dot

    By far, the most reader questions I get are from ectomorphs who want size:

    • "How do I get big?"
    • "I'm a hardgainer. How do I overcome bad genetics?"
    • "I train all the time, but I'm just not getting bigger. Help!"

    A lot of these kids sound almost frantic, and this in part lies the problem: too much stress (whether mental or physical) is not good for muscle growth. When it comes to training for the ectomorph, he has to train just enough to stimulate growth. Not more. Not less.

    Ectomorph
    Ectomorphs are usually "hard gainers" when it comes to gaining muscle mass. They typically maintain a slim appearance despite their high caloric intake. They also often have elongated muscle bellies that gives them a streamlined appearance.

    dot
    Program Design For The Ectomorph
    dot

    When people start off in any field, whether it's bodybuilding or some other interest, they tend to emulate those around them and those they aspire to be.

    So if you're an ectomorph looking to pack on some size, then you probably picked up a copy of MuscleMag or Arnold's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and started doing the routines in there. Or perhaps you emulated the big guys in the gym, and you pumped them for their "secrets" in between their sets on the bench press.

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    Ectomorphs, however, need to train differently from the big guys. You have to walk before you run. In general, ectomorphs need to follow these guidelines:

    dot 1. Eat. dot

      Bodybuilding 101, right? Yet time and time again, this is the #1 limiting factor among trainees. Eat a lot and eat often. If you are not eating 5-6 meals spaced evenly throughout the day, then you really are not doing enough to gain weight. Strive to eat the 3 square meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 2-3 snacks in between.

    Eat Often
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Eat A Lot And Eat Often.

    dot 2. Keep Your Sets Low. dot

      The ectomorph has a limited capacity for stress, so it's best not to overtrain with many sets of many different exercises. Limit your sets to 4-5 of one exercise for each body part.

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    dot 3. Pyramid Your Reps. dot

      Although programs such as 10x10 and 5x5 work great for the other body types, the ectomorph responds better to a pyramid of reps instead of a constant rep scheme. The reason is two-fold:

      1. The ectomorph can't handle too much stress and staying in one rep range for too long will overwork that particular motor unit. Pyramid training allows the trainee to briefly tap into increasingly larger motor units from set to set without overworking them.
      2. The ectomorph is still a newbie. The fact that he is still skinny means he is still at a young "training age" regardless of his chronological age. He needs to practice and warm up on the movement with higher reps before tackling heavier and heavier weight. And the ectomorph definitely needs to tackle the heavier weights in order to gain size.

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    dot 4. Rest Long Between Sets. dot

      In order to tackle the heavy weights, the ectomorph must rest longer than normal between sets. Three to five minutes between sets is a good range to shoot for. Resting this long does 2 things:

      1. Your nervous system fully recovers from the previous set, so you're fully charged to lift heavy on the next set.
      2. High rest periods coupled with lower reps (i.e. 5-7) elicit a huge dump of testosterone into your bloodstream.

    Rest
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    The Ectomorph Must Rest Longer
    Than Normal Between Sets.

    dot 5. Train Frequently. dot

      An ectomorph needs to train briefly, intensely but frequently. An ectomorph cannot handle high volume workouts, so his volume should be spread across the week. Three times a week is best.

    dot
    A Solid Approach To Training The Ectomorph
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    There is a program that (when tweaked) fulfills all of the training guidelines listed above. It is not a new program. It's been around for 60 years and is by far the most popular program in gyms all over the world. In fact, you may have been doing the program, never the realizing the name: it's Vince Gironda's 10-8-6-15 program.

    The 10-8-6-15 program is self-explanatory. Perform 10 reps on an exercise, rest. Perform 8 reps, rest. Perform 6 reps, rest. Finally, perform a flushing set of 15 reps, and you're done with that exercise.

    Vince Gironda
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Vince Gironda.

    I know what you're thinking: "If this pyramid program is so effective, and I've been doing it all this time, why aren't I huge?"

    For one thing, most people take the "everything and kitchen sink" training approach that they see in magazines. Ask yourself this: Is your chest program bench press, incline press, dumbbell press and dumbbell flyes? If you're doing this many exercises for the chest with a rep scheme of 10-8-6-15 on each exercise, then you're overtraining! If you're an ectomorph, then you should be concentrating on one exercise per body part and that's it.

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    The second thing is because of this "kitchen sink" approach, the workouts become too long and to compensate you fracture the workouts and follow a split routine. You end up training each body part only once or twice a week. This is great for intermediate and advanced lifters, but it sucks for beginners and ectomorphs.

    Remember what I said about high frequency training for newbies? Weight training is a skill and like any skill, it needs to be practiced frequently for you to get bigger and stronger.

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    The 10-8-6-15 Program
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    If you're ectomorph or a beginner, then follow this workout 3 times per week. For each exercise perform 4 sets with a rep scheme of 10-8-6-15. Rest 3 minutes between sets.

    That's it, nothing fancy. For ectomorphs, simplicity and consistency are the way to go.

    About The Author:

      James Chan is a police officer for the University of California and is also a certified personal trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. For more of his insights into strength training and bodybuilding, visit his blog.

    Hypertrophy Training For The Ectomorph: Program Design & The 10-8-6-15 Program!
    strengthandphysique@yahoo.com

    Back To James Chan's Main Page

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    bardia9999

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    bardia9999

    Nice

    Article Rated:
    Jan 22, 2012 2:10am | report
     
    KateDaRunner

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    KateDaRunner

    hope it works cos I'm desperate here!

    Aug 21, 2012 10:12pm | report
     
    AfterBefore

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    AfterBefore

    Always learning more!!

    Article Rated:
    Sep 9, 2012 9:52pm | report
     
    jochris26

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    jochris26

    Hey James,

    Nice article and lots of great tips. I think one extremely important factor that ectomorphs and all bodybuilders who are looking to add muscle alike miss out on one crucial thing and that is technique. So many guys try to race through their reps. Hypertrophy occurs at 40 seconds to approximately 120 seconds. If people would lift using a tempo that maintains a 40 second minimum stress on their muscles...they WILL see growth. If I were to identify the second more important factor it would be form.

    Thanks again for the great info!

    Jo Chris

    Oct 9, 2012 8:12pm | report
     
    THEGREATONE80

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    THEGREATONE80

    i will begin this one next week for 3 wks

    Jan 10, 2013 4:30pm | report
     
    QueenofNorway

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    QueenofNorway

    Amen! I'm glad I read this! I know the food part is a challenge for me....

    Feb 17, 2013 4:47pm | report
     
    kent2012

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    kent2012

    HI, i'm beginner & ectomorph. i want to do this program, is it good way to start??!!

    May 5, 2013 3:09pm | report
     
    kent2012

    Rep Power: 0

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    kent2012

    HI, i'm beginner & ectomorph. i want to do this program, is it good way to start??!!

    May 5, 2013 3:09pm | report
     
    SergioVicini

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    SergioVicini

    wow, seems like the workout I've been doing for months is way longer than this one...blaha's 5x5....anyways I'll give it a try to this one when I get back home :)

    Article Rated:
    Jun 16, 2013 9:04pm | report
     
    rjdante

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    rjdante

    has anyone tried this and did it actually work? and how much weight do you use? light weight? heavy weight? or midweight? or mixture?

    Jul 1, 2013 1:08am | report
     
    seniorbrusko

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    seniorbrusko

    What is the weight on the 15 reps? the weight on your 1st set?

    Sep 6, 2013 2:13am | report
     
    athlete800m

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    athlete800m

    Senior brusko, you will work out your weights for each rep range when you start doing the exercise. Obviously you will be lifting heavier on the 6 reps than the 15 reps. Its whatever you can lift (with good form) for the set amount of reps.

    Sep 8, 2013 3:17am | report
     
    steveoreano

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    steveoreano

    what about calfs,abs, shoulders,triceps? you could argue that tri's are worked with bench, but it doesn't get exhausted, shoulders dont get a really good workout with lateral raises. hmm I may have to modify it a bit

    Feb 17, 2014 4:16am | report
     
    bastionnl

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    bastionnl

    Should every exercise be performed to failure?

    Mar 3, 2014 3:33pm | report
     
    • Body Stats
    • ht: 5'11"
    • wt: 178.79 lbs
    • bf: 10.0%
    SFBodybuilder

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    SFBodybuilder

    What about abs?

    May 19, 2014 2:41pm | report
     
    Showing 1 - 15 of 15 Comments

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