Many ectomorphs have fallen victim to the persistent brainwashing of the mainstream fitness media which continuously push the idea that skinny guys should train differently than everybody else. A medium degree of brain activation would reveal that this notion is based on manipulations designed to extract coins from men desperately trying to upgrade their bodies.
The key to getting a bigger chest as an ectomorph, or any other body type for that matter, is focusing on basic compound movements that hit the pectoral muscles without causing joint pain. In most cases, those exercises would be bench presses, dips and push-ups.
Isolation such as “pec flies” is mechanically inferior and beneficial only when inserted in a very specific contest (e.g., warm-up). To ensure maximum growth stimulus, the selected workout has to include a progression mechanism leading to heavier weights and/or more advanced versions of the selected exercises.
Why Do They Say That Ectomorphs Are Different?
One word – money.
The primary target of the fitness industry are people who are not satisfied with their overall appearance. The guys who type “how to build muscle” in Google are skinny.
Individuals who are physically intimidating by default have a lower incentive to lift weights and rarely search for new and revolutionary ways to add more “hypertrophy” to their lives.
As Brett pointed out in one of the comments – 6’5” tall guys with massive wrists rarely share the love for lifting expressed by smaller men.
Another example clearly illustrating the same principle are “beauty regimes”. Individuals like Brad Pitt who are born handsome do not spend their time looking for ways to become more attractive. They aren’t part of the demographic buying miracle lotions and face masks.
To exploit the desperation of skinnier men, the muscle scholars support the idea that ectomorphs are somehow different…that you need a special routine written by 140 IQ scientists.
And if you fail to satisfy the outlined conditions, they indirectly tell you that you deserve to remain locked in a fragile state for the rest of your existence. Luckily, they have the “right” program for you…and it’s on sale…only today.
The reality is painfully simple.
There is only one major trait that separates ectomorphs from the rest of the humans out there:
- Light bones. By definition, a man with a slim bone structure is an ectomorph.
- Short muscle bellies (optional). While you don’t need short muscle bellies to classify as an ectomorph, many representatives of this body type showcase ultra-long tendons at the following locations: biceps, hamstrings, calves, forearms.
I repeat. Those are the only major “differences” that ectomorphs exhibit in comparison to other body types.
Neither of those can be “fixed” by altering your training in any way. But the experts don’t want you to know that. The powers that shouldn’t be are much happier when you are constantly pursuing a dream that they are selling.
Once you understand the mindset that they’re trying to install in your head, working out simplifies itself tremendously.
Why Are Compound Exercises Better than Isolation?
Many people, usually promoters of 5×5 routines, glorify compound exercises by attributing insane anabolism to them. Some professors say things like: “Ronnie Coleman was bigger than Jay Cutler because the former would deadlift and bench more.”
That’s strawman marketing. Nothing more.
It’s true that multi-joint exercises build more overall mass than isolation movements, but that’s to be expected since more muscles are recruited in the first place. It’s not shocking that an exercise like the chin-up stimulates more growth than a bicep curl.
But here’s an interesting question – what builds more mass when targeted hypertrophy is the goal – compounds or isolation drills?
In other words:
What causes more biceps “swollenness” – curls or pull-ups?
What builds more chest mass – flies or bench presses?
In the first scenario, curls stimulate more bicep growth than pull-ups because they place the muscle in “solitude mode” and hit it directly while allowing you to use a lot of weight (for an isolation exercise) fairly safely. A guy who is good at pull-ups does not necessarily have maximally developed biceps whereas a curl master usually does. This happens because the back and the rear delts can end up compensating for arm weakness when performing a chin-up.
Chest flies are different, however. The pec isolation that chest flies provide comes at a price – extra stress on the shoulder joint, the pec insertions and even the elbows due to the unnatural character of the movement. This limits the weight that you can use significantly and turns the chest fly into therapeutic/warm-up/pump-up exercise at best. Anyone who does low rep flies with heavy weights is asking for trouble.
In conclusion. Isolation exercises aren’t that bad, but when it comes to chest work, they limit the parameters of progressive overload tremendously and stretch the area in an unhealthy manner.
What Are the Best Chest Exercises Out There?
The major chest exercises are bench presses, dips and push-ups. Those three in all their variations and in conjunction with steroids have built all the great chests that muscle constructors admire.
Bench presses. In terms of convenience and ease of programming, the bench press is the ultimate choice. As with other barbell exercises, the motion pattern is always the same. To make the exercise harder, you just add weight.
FAQ: What’s the best bench variation when the goal is more mass? The basic flat bench press works fine, but if you are struggling to build your upper chest, as most natties are, dumbbell benching on a small incline could be a lucrative path to explore.
Dips. I spent two years of my life doing dips as my only pressing exercise. Once I could do a set of 20 in a row, I began adding weight and worked up to 40kg for a few repetitions. Eventually, I got fairly annoying sternum pain and dropped the weight.
The only downside of the dip is that it doesn’t work the upper chest all that much. Many gymnasts with overdeveloped lower chests, from dipping their entire life, confirm this observation. Other than that, the movement is a very solid pressing exercise that comes with a major benefit – it doesn’t load the spine, unlike all the other presses.
Push-ups. Push-ups are a very underrated exercise. If you progress by adding weight or switching to more advanced versions such as push-ups on rings and/or between chairs, you can add size to your chest. Moreover, the push-up is the kindest pressing exercises to the shoulders as it allows the scapula to move freely and does not strain the capsule as much as dips.
FAQ: What push-ups variations target the upper chest the most? Diamond push-ups, ring push-ups and decline (feet elevated push-ups)
How Big Can Your Chest Realistically Get
Unrealistic expectations are the name of the game in the world of bodybuilding. Many articles claim to contain programs for naturals and yet include multiple images of brahs on heavy steroid cocktails.
In reality, a chest like the one of Charles Bronson [actor] is among the ultimate outcomes. [Of course, individuals with extraterrestrial genetics will go further.]
Denial. Many natural lifters spend a huge portion of their careers in denial. We don’t want to accept the fact that the physiques pushed on us are of men who are not natural. We keep searching for a loophole that can help us trigger growth of amazing grandeur. Let me save you the trouble. You are never going to find it.
Example Chest Focus Routines
Variation 1: Two Times a Week Full Body
The routine below is minimalistic and hits the entire body twice a week while putting a little extra focus on the chest musculature.
|Day 1||Day 2|
|Squat –2×5, 2×8 (back-off sets)||Romanian deadlift – 2×8|
|Bench press – 2×5 (work sets), 2×8, 2×10 (back-off sets)||Weighted dips – 2×5 + 1×8 (back-off set)|
|Weighted-chins –2×5||Bodyweight push-ups – 3xF|
|Incline dumbbell press – 3×6-8||Curls–3×6-8 + 5×8 with a lighter load|
|Triceps extensions – 5×8-12||Calf raises – 3×20-50|
Progression. The lifter starts with a weight that allows them to perform 8 or more comfortable reps. Each workout, extra weight is added in small increments until completion of all reps becomes difficult. At that point, the weight is reduced by 10-20%, and a progression to a new personal best begins. This method is called cycling and prevents burning out.
FAQ: What are back-off sets? Sets done with a significantly lighter weight than the workload. The goal of back-off sets is to increase the total workout tonnage and stimulate more growth.
Variation 2: Home workout (minimalist)
|Day 1||Day 2|
|Dips – 5xF||Push-ups – 5xF|
|Pull-ups – 5xF||Horizontal bodyweight rows – 5xF|
|Push-ups – 5xF||Push-ups – 5xF|
|Bulgarian split squat – 5xF||Bulgarian split squat – 5xF|
|Calf raises– 3-5xF||Calf raises – 3-5xF|
5xF stands for five sets performed to failure but without form breakdown.
Each workout the lifter should try to do more reps. Once he or she can perform 15-20 dips and 10-15 pull-ups in a set with good form, it’s time to add weight or switch to something harder.
Since this is a bodyweight only program, and the upper body is hit two times a week with plenty of rest between the sessions, overtraining is not expected, but it’s possible once the lifter gets stronger.
If recovery becomes an issue, a deload week with the reps and sets reduced in half is an option.
Variation 3: Push-ups only
|Day 1||Day 2|
|Ring dips – 3-4×8-12||Weighted push-ups – 5×6-8|
|Diamond push-ups – 5×6-8||Push-up with elevated feet – 3xF|
The routine above is not suitable for total beginners. If you have a lower base, consider reading this article: Building a Big Chest with Just Push-ups?
Note: The programs are just examples. Many more variations are possible. Select movements that don’t cause joint pain and allow you to add weight safely.
Confusing Feelings with Actual Progress
Just because you feel that something is working, it doesn’t mean that it is. Inexperienced individuals often mistake feelings (sensations) for signs of progress.
I will never forget the first time I did ring push-ups; the exercise made my chest incredibly sore. I could feel almost every fiber in my chest even when doing activities that should not stress the muscle (e.g., walking up the stairs).
The soreness lasted over one week. I was convinced that I had finally found the secret to chest growth, but I was wrong. I did ring push-ups for months and even added extra weight to them, but my chest never reached the development advertised by the muscle authorities of this world.
Be careful. Don’t conclude that something works when you’re under the control of euphoria. Emotions cause infatuation.
The size of big, muscular men instantly turns them into authority figures in the eyes of the ignorant skinny dudes looking to get “swol”. For that reason, bodybuilders have been getting away with all kinds of comical ideas based on shadows and deception.
Sooner or later, however, we all wake up.