Should an Ectomorph Workout Everyday

Should an Ectomorph Workout Everyday | The Ectomorph Workout

Those that have an ectomorphic body type arguably have the hardest time trying to build muscle mass and a physique. There are certain characteristics that make it more difficult for ectomorphs to build muscle and progress can usually be slower than what was initially expected.

Therefore, optimizing their routine becomes a priority and many ectomorphs will adopt the mindset of “more training = more results” and this has even led to the question of should an ectomorph workout everyday?

Not only will this approach lead to burnout, but it will also hinder your progress so much that you could actually see negative changes (muscle loss, poor sleep, stress) in your physique as a result of higher levels of cortisol and inadequate recovery for the CNS and muscular systems. 

In this article, I’ll therefore cover how frequently you should be working out as an ectomorph in order to see results and also give an example workout at the end. 

Should an Ectomorph Workout Everyday

An ectomorph should not work out every day as it’s essential that they get sufficient rest and recovery in order to build muscle mass. Training every day will not give the body enough time to recover in between sessions but a high-frequency training split of 4-5 training days per week can be beneficial. 

Frequency is king when it comes to building muscle as an ectomorph. Following a bro split is popular among beginners and ectomorphs because it’s what most of the top bodybuilders appear to be doing. The issue is that top bodybuilders didn’t build their physiques with a bro split and it’s not going to work for the beginner/ectomorph.

A bro split is basically a training schedule that involves training a single muscle group once per week and could look like the following:

  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Back
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Shoulders
  • Friday – Arms
  • Saturday – Off
  • Sunday – Off

On paper, it looks like a daily balanced routine offering weekend off and sufficient training time but the major issue is that ectomorphs are leaving up to ⅔ of their potential progress on the table every single week following this approach. 

The bodybuilders training a muscle group once per week are lifting poundages that you likely can’t even imagine ever lifting yourself whilst also doing so with maximal muscle stimulation. They know how to contract the muscle and make it work during a set. 

Heavy weights combined with proper stimulation is a combination that requires more time to recover, usually 3-4 days per muscle group though it could be even longer for some. 

As an ectomorph reading this, I’ll make a fair assumption that you are not lifting heavy poundages and your form is likely not optimized. I’m not going to say “bad” form but it does take a lot of time to really work your target muscle during a set rather than simply moving the weight from point A to point B. 

Lower weights combined with less active stimulation means that ectomorphs training a muscle part only once per week are missing out on a lot of progress. It’s not always the case that doing more will lead to better results, especially if you are aiming to train every day, but in some cases, more is certainly better. 

Do Ectomorphs Need More Rest

This section is actually made up of two parts because people wonder if ectomorphs need more rest in between workouts but also if they need more rest in between actual sets during a workout. For this reason, I’ll tackle both requirements in this section.

Firstly, rest in between sessions is the most important factor for ectomorphs looking to build their physique. A weight training session only stimulates a muscle and, in fact, the very process of training actually causes microscopic tears to the muscle which is almost the opposite of growth. 

It’s only when you are out of the gym consuming enough calories to fuel and recover from workouts and getting enough rest for the muscles to recover does growth actually occur. There isn’t a secret formula for getting big as an ectomorph, you simply train, eat, and rest. 

Therefore, rest days are crucial for actually growing muscle mass and you should be taking a minimum of 2 per week if you really want to grow. 

Secondly, rest in between sets can be a confusing point due to ectomorphs typically having a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers. This means they are harder to fatigue in order to stimulate growth and have different recovery capacities than the most explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers.

This is quite a big topic in itself and I cover it in much more detail in another article —> How long should an ectomorph rest between sets

To give a quick summary, ideally, you will want to rest between 1:30 – 5 minutes for heavy compound movements (5 minutes should be for your top-end set(s)) and 30 – 90 seconds for all secondary movements and accessories.

This basically means squats, deadlifts, heavy presses, heavy rows will need a longer rest period as your focus should be more on strength progression with these exercises. 

All of your isolation exercises where you are only doing single-joint movements should be a shorter rest with more focus on blood accumulation in the muscle (otherwise known as the pump). 

Why Ectomorphs Should Not Workout Everyday

I’ve touched on this above, but there are some very specific reasons why an ectomorph should not work out every day. 

1. Muscle Recovery

A lack of recovery in between sessions will not only halt your progress, it can even reverse it. Resistance training actually damages the muscle and causes tiny microscopic tears whilst also depleting the muscle of glycogen (its energy stores).

The period around training, therefore, needs to focus on replenishing your glycogen stores through food and repairing your muscles again through food and rest. The basics of building muscle are to stimulate it, give the body a reason to better handle this stimulation and damage in the future, and then recover during rest. 

It’s not too different a process from watching your skin heal after a cut. The difference is the timeline is shorter and the repair process is to grow larger and stronger to better handle the external resistance (weight training). 

For any sort of high intensity training, a muscle group will need around 48-72 hours in order to fully recover. As a lot of muscle groups are used as secondary muscle groups, you’d need an elite level program designed by a world-class coach in order to train every day and get the correct exercise rotation that prevents muscle groups from overlapping each day. 

2. Central Nervous System Recovery

Let’s say you do have a routine that allows you to train every day whilst also allowing for sufficient recovery for each muscle group between workouts. This is actually only one part of the overall puzzle, your central nervous system (CNS) also needs to recover. 

Your CNS controls hormone regulation, power, lifting efficiency, recovery, motivation, relaxation, muscle activation, muscle fiber recruitment, and an endless list of factors you’ve likely even never considered. Two key proponents of this are the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic system (rest and relaxation). 

Your CNS helps to turn on your SNS during workouts to stay focused and lift heavy whilst also controlling your PNS to sufficiently rest and recover. If you are training every day and keeping your body in a sympathetic state for longer periods of time, your ability to recover significantly diminishes. 

This is when you get to the point of overtraining. Few people truly suffer from overtraining but feeling wired, overrun, tired, lethargic are all prime examples of your CNS being overworked. Rest and recovery are genuinely crucial for optimal performance and top athletes spend just as much time focusing on recovery as they do on training. 

Training is 1-2 hours per day but the wind around that is where you see the most progress. 

3. Hormonal Balance

The hormonal balance is linked to the CNS but at a specific point, training every day will keep your cortisol levels raised. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which means when cortisol is high your body is in a state of atrophy (breaking down muscle mass).

The counter to this is testosterone, the anabolic hormone responsible for building muscle. Cortisol, despite popular opinion, is needed for muscle growth and a range of other factors for the human body not related to this article. 

The key is therefore not to eliminate cortisol but to spend more time in an anabolic state (muscle building) than you do in a catabolic state (muscle breakdown). Raised levels of cortisol over long periods of time reduce your growth potential and one of the key ways to keep cortisol under control is again rest. 

Should Ectomorphs Lift Heavy

The debate over heavyweight vs lightweight or more reps vs fewer reps is one that is likely to never end. Everyone will have their own opinion on this but when it comes to an ectomorph looking to build muscle, you really need to start adding some weight to the bar. 

Endless sets of curls are not enough to fully stimulate the muscle and force it to change and grow. Outside of hitting your muscle with enough frequency to activate muscle protein synthesis (a muscle-building state) you also need to place the muscle under significant load. 

While there are countless factors that contribute to muscle growth, increasing the weight you can lift while using the exact same form is key to progressive overload. You should be forcing your body to grow and adapt and the best way to do this is to move some heavy weight.

Multi-joint compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups also increase testosterone levels, muscle activation, and muscle fiber recruitment which are all factors that lead to muscle growth. 

I’ve never known an ectomorph get big through lightweight, isolation exercises but there are countless that put on significant size in their first year of training when they get significantly stronger hitting basic compound movements. These include:

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench press
  • Rows
  • Lunges
  • Loaded carries
  • Overhead presses
  • Pull ups
  • Dips

Focus on these exercises as a priority and look to get progressively stronger in them. Some of the best programs for ectomorphs include Starting Strength and Stronglifts 5×5 which mainly focus on getting stronger in these big lifts. 

The Complete Ectomorph Workout

There are two approaches that an ectomorph can take to get a good balance between frequency of training and enough rest, both of which will contribute to 80-90% of your progress. The first is to actually train a few days (a far cry from training everyday) but on those days you will train full body. 

The second is to train 4-5 days per week with each session being dedicated to numerous muscle groups rather than just one. 

The routine that is best for you will depend on your training experience/level (if you can’t bench your bodyweight, squat 1.5x bodyweight, or deadlift 2x bodyweight start with program 1) and time commitment available. 

Program 1 – Full Body Split

This program follows a basic strength training progression with the main focus being on compound exercises. You’ll only train 3 days per week but will also hit all of the major muscle groups 3 x per week. 

The key is to increase the weight used on the first two exercises each week by 5-10lbs depending on the exercise and muscle groups involved. Most ectomorphs should be able to progress on this routine for at least 8-12 months before their progress starts to stall. 

In this time, you can easily expect to gain 15-25lbs of lean muscle mass provided your diet is also optimized (check out my bulking guide for beginners for help with this).

Day 1 – Full Body

Barbell back squat – 3 sets x 5 reps 
Barbell overhead press – 3 sets x 5 reps
Weighted dips – 3 sets x 8 reps
Barbell curl – 3 sets x 10 reps
Hanging leg raises – 3 sets x 8 reps

Day 2 – Rest

Day 3 – Full Body

Deadlift – 3 sets x 5 reps
Barbell bench press – 3 sets x 5 reps
Leg press – 4 sets x 12 reps
Weighted pull ups – 3 sets x 8 reps
Cable tricep extensions – 4 sets x 12 reps

Day 4 – Rest

Day 5 – Full Body

Barbell back squat – 3 sets x 5 reps
Barbell row – 3 sets x 8 reps
Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Walking lunge – 3 sets x failure
Dumbbell side lateral raises – 3 sets x 12 reps

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Rest

Program 2 – Push/Pull or Upper/Lower

This program involves training 4 times per week but instead of frequency, the balance should be more on an increased volume for each muscle group. The time to progress to this is when you really start to max out your lifts on program 1 and can’t progress from week to week. 

I’ll use an upper/lower split to demonstrate which means you train your upper body one day and lower body another. A push/pull split is one that trains pulling muscles one day and pulling muscles another. The two are very similar and would therefore come down to personal choice as to which you’d prefer. 

Personally, I like an upper/lower split because you get a better pump and can engage the working muscles a lot easier.

Day 1 – Upper

Barbell bench press – 3 sets x 8 reps
Weighted dips – 3 sets x 8 reps
Barbell row – 3 sets x 8 reps
Weighted pull-ups – 3 sets x failure
Barbell overhead press – 4 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell lateral raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Barbell curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell hammer curl – 3 sets x 10 reps
Cable tricep pressdown – 3 sets x 12 reps

Day 2 – Lower

Barbell back squat – 3 sets x 12 reps
Wide stance leg press – 3 sets x 15 reps
Romanian deadlift – 3 sets x 12 reps
Barbell hip thrust – 3 sets x 8 reps
Barbell reverse lunge 3 sets x 12 reps
Standing calf raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Seated calf raise – 3 sets x 12 reps

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4 – Upper

Rack pulls – 3 sets x 10 reps
Lat pulldown – 3 sets x 12 reps
Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets x 12 reps
Dips – 3 sets x failure 
Dumbbell shoulder press – 3 sets x 8 reps
Rear delt dumbbell raise – 3 sets x 15 reps 
Incline bicep curl – 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell overhead tricep extension – 3 sets x 12 reps
Cable rope push downs – 3 sets x 15 reps

Day 5 – Lower

Lying leg curl – 3 sets x 15 reps
Barbell front squat – 3 sets x 10 reps
Hack squat – 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell split squat – 3 sets x 8 reps
Leg extensions – 3 sets x 20 reps
Standing calf raise – 3 sets x 15 reps
Seated calf raise – 3 sets x 12 reps

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Rest 

The above are all examples, the exercises are less important but rather the structure itself is what makes for the best ectomorph workouts. 

The inclusion of compound movements, good training frequency for each muscle group, and most importantly plenty of rest is what will lead to the most progress with your training and physique. 

Final Thoughts

There are no scenarios where I feel that it would be beneficial for an ectomorph to workout everyday. 

I firmly believe there is no single best method when it comes to training and building a physique but what I do know is that stimulating the muscle is important, challenging your body through progressive overload is important, lifting heavy is important but above all else, rest and recovery are crucial. 

Therefore, instead of looking at how you can train more, you need to reverse this thinking, find a way to train less, get more from your training sessions but most importantly, find ways to get more rest.

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