There’s this guy, Shane Duquette, who has this fantastic website (from which the above image is taken) which is about the challenge lean guys face when trying to bulk up (or put on muscle mass, as those of us in the personal training like to call it).
For those not in the know, bulking up is the process of changing your physical frame from lean to er, bigger, by adding muscle mass to the frame.
This is something that is of particular interest to:
Guys (though women are also becoming more and more interested in this topic).
Those guys with a naturally lean, if not skinny, frame.
Those guys who, try as they might, struggle to add muscle to their frames.
Now, this is, to be fair, not a topic which has troubled me a great deal over the years. I tend to have the opposite problem, to be honest, and have never really struggled to add the muscle mass I’ve needed to play rugby or feel good in my skin. But I know that for a lot of guys who fit the profile above (and there are A LOT of guys who fit this profile) adding mass is the holy grail of exercising and gym life.
There are also a lot of guys who invest a great deal of time and expend a lot of energy in the gym lifting the weights and studying what they think are the right routines online, who cannot, no matter what they do, achieve the muscle growth they desire.
There are several reasons for this, which revolve around individual physiology, metabolism and applied exercise techniques, as well as routine and diet, but for those guys who are (in the terminology) ‘hard gainers’ adding mass can be a frustrating and difficult challenge.
What Duquette seeks to achieve with his site is to educate and help such hard gainers to make progress in the gym by focusing on what to eat, how much to lift and to throw some fitness hacks into the mix for those who look for tricks of the trade to spice up their workout.
One aspect of Duquette’s training philosophy is something close to my heart, which is how ectomorphs should lift to protect their joints and also achieve growth. An ectomorph is not something from the Alien movies. Rather, it is someone with a light build, small joints and lean muscle. Typically, ectomorphs have long thin limbs with stringy muscles and lean shoulders with little width to them.
One of Duquette’s arguments is that, apart from anything else, ectomorphs should get to know how to lift safely and effectively for their frame, as well as to achieve gains. This is because different body types have a different relationship to weight, technique and potential injury which, if not understood at the outset, can lead to pain, strain and frustration on the gym floor. So, to make progress lifting weights, Duquette advocates absorbing these principles and applying them to a workout before any weight is lifted.
I cannot emphasise enough how crucial this prior education in the importance of good technique is. To a large degree, success in the gym comes from going in with the right knowledge and understanding how to move with the weights that many of us use when exercising.
Without this education, mistakes can easily be made and injuries sustained. Plus, for those looking to bulk up and work with heavy (and heavier) weights when exercising, without the right technique, such lifting is just going to be inefficient.
So, take time if you are heading down the bulking road, not only to learn the dietary principles that should be followed (and there is another universe of information and debate on that topic) but also to understand how to lift, deadlift or squat safely.
Your body (as it grows if you get this education right) will thank you for doing so.
You can find about more Duquette and his approach to bulking up on his site and, if you are a hard gainer, I advise you to check out what he has to say.
In the meantime, focus on your technique before you expend energy on the gym floor because, in the long run, your body will thank you for doing so.