For today, I’d like to focus on two reasons why ectomorphs struggle to build muscle –
2. Mind Muscle Connection
Probably the most common thing we’ll all see in the gym is guys trying to use too much weight. Three plates on the bar when they can’t even squat past a quarter of the way. Curling with momentum so hard their shoulders are getting a bigger pump than their biceps. As men, we can’t seem to check our ego’s at the door. We see too many girls on the cardio machines or on the gym floor and we think they’ll all want us if they could only see how strong we are. Oh brother.
If you are a hardgainer, struggling to gain size, and claim to be “progressing” and using a lot of weight, then your form is shit! Take the weights down and focus on your form! Do you know how to properly lift? When you do the bench, your chest should actually feel a burn (not your shoulders), otherwise you are wasting time. If you mess up a deadlift with heavy weight, you’ll be out of the gym for a couple weeks, further removing you from achieving your goals. You’ll have worked too hard planning, and eating to be stopped because you got arrogant.
Take time to learn what muscles you are trying to hit with each exercise. We only have an hour or so in the gym, so we need to make it count! Change the exercise if you find some exercises work better than others. Lower the weight, and focus your sessions on getting a full range of motion. Add in mobility work if you find you are tight, and not getting full range in certain areas. In fact, that will probably highlight why you were struggling to add on size to begin with. Don’t leave muscle growth on the table!
It’s about experimentation and finding what works for your body. What may seem like a step back at first from lowering weights to accommodate proper form, will be surpassed in the long run.
Mind Muscle Connection
Now that you got the form down, lets focus on making the reps count. Once you’ve taught yourself the range of motion, you need to start mastering firing the muscles being worked. This is why I emphasize knowing which exercises target which muscles. Just going through the movements isn’t enough to get the muscle to grow. You need to cue the muscle working so that you can recruit as many fibers as muscle and fully exhaust that muscle!
Now with that said, different rep ranges will do that differently so be aware. Lower reps (1-6 ) aren’t gonna “burn” the muscle ilke 10+ reps will. This is because that’s in a more strength based range, which is about activating the CNS to move the weight. You should still feel the proper muscles firing, but you may notice it doesn’t burn as intensely as doing more reps. As the weights go up, and bigger, compound lifts are being utilized, more muscles will get recruited to help move the weight.
Make sure you hit a peak contraction on each exercise. Play around with SLIGHT changes to the angle to see if you feel a better contraction more in different areas. Heavier compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, etc) will be more focused on activating as many fast twitch fibers as possible. For smaller muscle groups, in the higher rep range, you can take these exercises and reps to failure. It is not as taxing on the nervous system, so as long as you find you are recovering, and making progress week to week, you should be at least only leaving 1-2 reps left in the tank. Don’t waste time on upping volume for the sake of it otherwise you’ll be in the gym for 3 hours doing junk sets.