Blame your parents, genetic luck (or lack thereof), or something “in the tap water.” Either way, you drew the bodybuilding short stick: you’re a loud and proud ectomorph.
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Sure, you hit the height lottery — a lucky six-footer — towering three inches taller than the average guy. And you never have to second-guess your fast food trips or fatty binges.
But your limbs are lanky, shoulders are narrow, and muscles are hardly responsive.
No workout will alter your DNA to that coveted “mesomorph” status. But with Doug’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs, the transition from skinny to beefy doesn’t have to be impossible (or borderline illegal).
Check out this potentially game-changing aesthetic workout for ectomorphs.
About the Creator – Doug Lawrenson
With a routine (literally) dubbed “Doug’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs,” it’s clear this mysterious Doug figure was banking on a little first name recognition.
(If you swapped in “Arnold” or “Ronnie,” nobody would question which Arnold or Ronnie.)
This “Doug” fellow is Doug Lawrenson, a workout guru idolized on Muscle & Strength for his workout routines that rack up millions of views (nine or so boast 1+ million apiece). His hottest programs go a few steps beyond basic bulking, cutting, or lifting:
- Doug’s 6 Day Cutting Routine
- Doug’s 5 Day High Definition Routine
- Doug’s 4 Day Split Workout
- Losing Fat & Cutting, Without Losing Muscle (surprisingly, he didn’t add his moniker)
- Training and Exercise for Children and Teenagers (a four-part series)
Lawrenson’s MO — aside from branding everything with his first name — is tackling a new approach for mainstream goals (ex: not a run-of-the-mill split, but a shredding split).
Looking at his extensive resume, he fits the definition of “jack of all trade” to a T, at least from the fitness perspective. Lawrenson is a former Army trainer, retired gymnast and diver, and a personal trainer turned professional bodybuilder (the latter progression taking just 12 months).
But here’s the kicker: Though he claims to have a fifth-place victory at the “British Championship,” trains aspiring bodybuilders, and is a “Natural Bodybuilders Association” judge … he either did this all pre-internet (good ol’ 1983). Or my Google search skills are subpar.
What is Doug’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs?
His resume might have crater-sized gaps and miss a few critical details, but Doug Lawrenson’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs isn’t quite a jumbled mess.
Here’s the skinny (pun intended).
This 4-day, 10-week, intermediate split is for the cookie-cutter ectomorph — hard gainers who, no matter how heavy they lift or how many protein shakes they chug, can’t seem to pack on mass.
If you have a gym membership (like 64.19 million Americans) and four 60-minute free time slots to spare, this program could trigger muscle growth from the nutritional and weightlifting standpoints.
The only gear you need is:
- A barbell & dumbbells
- Functional equipment (ex: a pull-up bar, dip set-up)
- An adjustable bench & squat rack
- Standard gym machines (ex: row, cable, leg curl, leg press)
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If you’re relying on your handy-dandy home gym to give Lawrenson’s program the ol’ college try, you could swap out those machine exercises and replace them with free-weight alternatives.
Before You Load the Barbell & Get Your Pump On …
The defeated ectomorph in you is at the end of his rope, willing to try any routine that’ll shock those stubborn, stringy muscles into doubling in size (or at least looking tanktop-worthy).
But if you want to maximize gains and minimize injury risk, always read the fine print!
Start With a Warm-Up
First and foremost: begin every training session with 5-10 minutes of light cardio to loosen up tight muscles, drive blood flow from head to toe, and enter the “zone” mentally.
Use these 5-10 minutes to exit your comfort zone by hopping on the treadmill and jogging, pedaling slowly on the recumbent bike, or jumping rope in the corner.
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Alternatively, you can hop aboard the foam rolling warm-up trend while it’s still blazing hot. Though it seems like a ridiculous fad, a 2019 meta-analysis found that the increased muscle temperature and blood flow will briefly enhance flexibility for some 62% of trainees.
If it’s any solace, Jeff Nippard is a foam rolling maniac!
Keep a Steady Tempo
Capping a 10-rep goal with 12 reps is uber-satisfying for three reasons:
- The principle of progression suggests you’re ready to tack on 5% more weight next week.
- Along with strength gains come mass gains.
- Those stubborn muscles are finally responding to something.
Counting reps doesn’t require a biomechanics or kinesiology degree. But how often do you think about your rep tempo? While following this program, Lawrenson suggests a classic 2:1:2 tempo.
For the newbies, that means five seconds per rep distributed as:
- 2 seconds in the eccentric phase (muscle lengthening or lowering the weight)
- 1 second in the isometric phase (holding the rep at the top & squeezing the muscle)
- 2 seconds in the concentric phase (muscle shortening or lifting the weight
If you were benching, you’d gently lower the weight for two seconds, pause briefly for one second at the chest-level, and drive the bar back up for another two. According to NSCA standards, this meets traditional hypertrophy science to the letter (it’s not just a bodybuilding gimmick).
End Workouts With a Cool-Down
Lawrenson’s ectomorph program is no longer or more brutal than any other 10-week mass routine on the web. But if you want those microtears to repair to near-100% by next week (and spearhead progressive overload), commit another 15 minutes to end-of-workout cool-downs.
Close-out each workout with another 5-10 minutes of cardio, but a tad slower than earlier. Once your heart rate falls back into “normal” territory (about 60-100 bpm), the ACSM also recommends 60 seconds of stretching per exercised muscle.
You can chop these stretches into 10-30-second intervals, as long as you agree to two things: (i) stop if you feel pain and (ii) view these cool-downs as reverse warm-ups (relaxation).
Ectomorph Mass Building Routine Details
The next ten weeks will be a painstaking blend of learning how to fuel your body for gains, dedicating four weekly hours to training, and packing on weight (instead of dropping lbs).
Here’s a glimpse at the week(s) ahead:
Monday – Chest and Triceps Day*
- Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 4 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Dumbbell Fly – 3 sets x 10 reps (2 minutes)
- Close Grip Bench Press – 4 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- French Press – 2 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Tricep Dip – 2 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Ab work of choice**
Tuesday – Back and Biceps Day*
- Bent-Over Dumbbell Row – 4 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Wide-Grip Pull-Up – 4 sets to failure (2 minutes)
- Cable Reverse Grip Row – 4 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Standing Barbell Curl – 4 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Alternate Seated Dumbbell Curl – 2 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Concentration Curl – 2 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Quads and Hamstrings Day*
- Squat – 4 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- 45 Degree Leg Press – 3 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Hack Squat – 3 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Stiff Leg Deadlift – 3 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Leg Curl – 3 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Ab work of choice**
Don’t forget to keep your core braced nice and tight when performing squats. Feel free to strap on a weightlifting belt to get maximum support through each rep.
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Friday – Shoulders and Calves Day*
- Seated Dumbbell Press – 3 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
- Seated Barbell Press – 3 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 3 sets x 10-12 reps (2 minutes)
- Barbell Shrug – 4 sets x 8-10 reps (2 minutes)
- Standing Calf Raise – 3 sets x 12-15 reps (2 minutes)
- Seated Calf Raise – 3 sets x 6-8 reps (2 minutes)
Saturday & Sunday – Rest
* = allow yourself an extra minute to recover between exercises (three minutes rest)
** = the original routine suggests Monday & Thursday or Tuesday & Friday for ab work; unfortunately, that leaves you to your own devices to sculpt chiseled, washboard abs
Ectomorph Mass Building Eating Plan Details
Without an accompanying eating plan, the aesthetic workout detailed above is your standard hypertrophy routine (6-12 reps, two minutes rest, 3-4 sets, the whole nine yards).
But the ectomorph struggle isn’t only hard-gaining muscles refusing to respond to traditional weightlifting principles; it’s a quick-sprint metabolism that keeps you in a caloric deficit.
The trek from skinny to beefy requires calories and nutrients (and lots of ‘em).
Doug Lawrenson earns a few more bonus points in our books here, too, because he didn’t leave the hard-gainer crew stranded. Here’s how to fuel your body in-line with this routine’s methods:
What Makes the Ectomorph Diet So Complicated
We hate to be pessimistic. But when years of bodybuilding leave you five years older, zero inches taller, ten pounds heavier, and still scrawny, the truth sets in: the ectomorph struggle is real.
This blessing-or-a-curse metabolism leaves you feeling helpless. You can chow (or slurp) down 3,000+ calories and 200+ grams of protein daily, and not see a difference in the mirror.
The trick is eating more (okay, tons more) and building an ectomorph-smart diet.
Calories & Macronutrients
Lawrenson’s caloric and macronutrient recommendations are a little vague and generic. His general rule of thumb is multiplying your weight (in pounds) by 20-25 to calculate how many calories should land on your plate each day.
For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, 3,200-4,000 daily calories are the bare minimum.
If you want a more accurate caloric estimate, calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and add about 500. At that rate, you should see an extra pound on the scale in seven days!
But even though your ectomorph metabolism can handle McDonald’s Dollar Menu binges and 32-ounce milkshakes, packing on generic weight isn’t your goal; protein-laden muscle gains are.
That’s why Lawrenson’s ectomorph macronutrient guidelines are:
- 25-30% protein
- 50% carbohydrates
- 20-25% fat
Once you ditch the “carbs are bad” mindset, you’ll realize that this nutrient breakdown is almost the norm in bodybuilding circles. Except for a 5% fat bump and 5% carb drop, Lawrenson’s suggestion is more or less the traditional bodybuilder diet (as per a 2004 review study).
Don’t Forget to Include …
Coming off the ectomorphic “high” (never having to glance at a single nutrition label), you’ll realize that your previous diet wasn’t a question of “what should I eat?” but rather “what do I want to eat?”
To help you along this ten-week path, Lawrenson also dropped a few tips describing which foods and supplements are your new pals (and which are public enemy #1).
Spread across your daily 6-8 meals, don’t forget the following:
- Low glycemic index foods (whole grains, brown rice, sweet potatoes)
- Essential fats (olive oil, sunflower oil, salmon, walnuts)
- Meal replacement or protein shakes (particularly right before hittin’ the sack)
- Weight gain shakes
- Daily multivitamins to fill in the remaining nutritional gaps
The former bodybuilder is also firm on what you shouldn’t snack on: simple sugars, like candy, fruit juice, and traditional table sugar. However, since these are the same natural sweeteners in fruits and veggies, shunning them entirely might be a bit too dramatic.
We’re going to place double (or even triple) emphasis on the weight gain shakes. Because ectomorphs are notorious for light or easily fulfilled appetites, drinking your calories is a last-resort for gaining healthy weight.
Off the Beaten Path: Supplements
Doug’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs stops short of recommending supplements directly, though they could give your stubborn metabolism and muscles an extra kick. If you don’t want this routine to fail miserably like the rest, think about using these ectomorph-friendly supplements too:
When you set your eyes on a “beefier” physique, creatine is a pure mass wishing well.
The research proves creatine’s merits time and time again; a 2003 review study discovered that creatine boosted muscular strength by 8% and weightlifting performance by another 14% (compared to placebos). The heavier you lift, the more tearing, and the more potential growth.
In three months’ time, your lean mass gains can topple an extra 6.5 pounds.
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Weight gainers are incredibly calorie and nutrient-dense shakes designed to fill the gaps in aspiring bodybuilders with low appetites (hello, ectomorph community!). Most powders have 1,000+ calories/scoop, 50+ grams of protein, and rich mineral and vitamin profiles.
If scarfing down yet another salmon fillet or brown rice bowl sounds nauseating, these shakes are a far friendlier option.
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Doug Lawrenson doesn’t specifically mention protein shakes in his guide. But if you’re eyeing thicker, more well-defined muscles on a low-appetite, shifting some of your protein to beverage form can be a more reasonable alternative.
Each scoop has about 20-40g per serving, sitting in that “sweet spot” for post-workout refuels. Sip it on your short journey home from the gym or cap off your protein recs with an evening shake.
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Aesthetic Workout for Ectomorphs Pros
1. It Falls In Line With the Science
For the most part, Doug Lawrenson’s program “fits the bill” from the scientific perspective. The gold standard consensus for gains — by the ACSM’s standards — is:
- 2-3 sets per exercise (check!)
- 8-12 reps per set (also check!)
- 2 seconds eccentric & concentric (check & check!)
- 8-10 multi-joint exercises (sort of …)
The macronutrient balance (30/25/50) is also within bodybuilding and ectomorphic guidelines.
2. It Covers Classic Ectomorph Concerns & Troubles
Ectomorphs are no strangers to bodybuilding forums. But whenever they ask for advice from their blessed mesomorph counterparts, the answer is always the same: “lift more” or “lift heavier.”
Doug Lawrenson knows it’s not that simple (because if it were, ectomorphs wouldn’t exist). The lifting principles, strict “no cardio” rule, nutrient and calorie suggestions, and 6-8 meals per day recommendations turn that beefy pipe dream into a more realistic goal.
3. A Primarily Upper Body Focus
Normally, we’d argue that the lower/upper-body emphasis should be near equal to prevent pipe cleaner legs attached to an inflated, Popeye-esque upper-body.
But if your physique is only capable of an extra 20 pounds, would you rather it spread equally head-to-toe? Or land on those glamor muscles that catch eyes at the gym, beach, or park?
The 2.5 upper-body days a week makes sense.
Aesthetic Workout for Ectomorphs Cons
1. There’s a Risk For Undertraining
Four training sessions a week might be within your usual regimen. But when you’re targeting each muscle group every seven days (once a week), your gains might take the roundabout journey.
A 2016 study discovered that twice a week training maximized hypertrophy, and three times per week might be equally as productive (or better). Hitting each muscle once weekly for only 9-12 sets at a time might seem a little too dainty; detraining isn’t likely, but stalled growth is.
2. Ab Work Caught the Back Burner
The good news is that Doug Lawrenson didn’t nix the ab work entirely. The bad news is that his definition of ab work is saying, “do it on Monday and Thursday.”
Considering a ripped core is a focal point in a beefy, muscular physique, it’s surprising that core exercises were more of an afterthought than anything.
Doug’s Mass Building Routine for Ectomorphs Conclusion
After all this, the routine’s mastermind — “Doug,” who’s lacking an online footprint — is still a mysterious “bodybuilder” on the Muscle & Strength forum. In fact, most commenters asking questions were addressing him as “Steve” (but that might just be a tech flub).
For ectomorphs, this Doug Lawrenson aesthetic routine is worth a try, especially if other mass-building routines proved disappointing. It’s the whole package (hypertrophy weightlifting principles and nutritional recs), and it sparks growth in those stubborn upper-body muscles.
But after a few weeks and seven days between each workout, you might steamroll into the opposite extreme: undertraining. Think about switching to a “three days on/one day off” strategy to bump your frequency further into that hypertrophy sweet spot (twice a week).
Otherwise, commit ten weeks to this plan and watch those pythons grow and cannonballs round.