Bulk vs. Ripped

I went to the gym, and they told me I am 24% body fat. I get the bloated look a lot. I eat lots of chicken, beef, whey protein, and cottage cheese. I don't eat a lot of sweets at all. I also don't get a lot of fiber either. Do you [what] may cause my bloated look? Your thoughts?

[Also] do you have any other ectomorph routines besides the 5x5 program you could recommend me? - Brad S.


My Answer: What's causing your bloated look? Well, you're at 24% body fat. If you want to look lean and ripped, then you should bring your body fat down by at least another 10%.

Bloat is different from being fat. Bloat means you're eating foods that you can't digest very well. And because you can't digest these foods very well, it ferments inside your intestines and gives you gas. Those gases expand inside your intestines and tummy and you have a bloated stomach. You can be skinny and have a bloated stomach if ate a bean burrito with root beer float. Dairy, beans, creamy sauces and wheat based foods (pastas, breads) will give people this bloated feeling.

But if you don't have a bloated stomach, but just have a smooth layer of fat all over, then that's different. You've got excess body fat and you need to get lean. The thing is that you're also asking for a ectomorph workout, a workout designed to put on weight. So which is it? Are you skinny? Are you fat? Or are you skinny-fat (skinny overall but fat around the midsection)?

Forget about getting big on some bulking program, because you'll get big but smooth. People won't see big muscles, they'll just call you fat. At 24% body fat, you need to work on building muscle and burning fat at the same time. To do this you need to lift weights with short rest periods. I recommend following the training principles in the Bigger Engine program.


 Hi James, I was reading some of your previous posts, and I read something that confused me. I've worked out about 4 years now, and I thought I it OK in my head until i read this: In one of your posts you talk about diet for the poor guy. In this post you basically recommend bulking for ectomorphic teens. What do you define as bulking? Because for me, a hypercaloric diet is bulking isn't it? Or do you consider bulking as a junk food diet? 

I'm questioning this, because I'm, or was, an ectomorph, and after I discovered your blog and bought your books I've gained almost 7kg of lean mass. I've always aimed at 3000 calories, because if I didn't eat this much in the past, then I wouldn't see any results. When I started your training system Neo-Classical Bodybuilding, I automatically kept the minimum of 3000 calories. But now that I'm big enough, I'm searching for ways to cut my body fat from 9-10% to the minimum without losing all the size. 

I'm already training on the Bigger Engine program. It's awesome! Keep in mind that I have tendency to be lean, I thought that it may work doing it 3 to 5 times a week but still eating 3K calories. But now that I've read your blog post, I need to ask: do I really need to eat this much? 

Well thanks for all the knowledge you have passed on to me. Greetings from a Brazilian bodybuilder, Alexis  


My Answer: When I wrote the post Poor Man's Bulking Diet, I wrote it with the skinny teenager or college student in mind. Bulking means you gain weight at all costs. You don't care if you gain some fat in the process, because you're looking at increasing body weight as opposed to increasing lean muscle. People who would need to go on a bulking diet are people who are extremely underweight for their athletic or aesthetic goals. Skinny teenage boys or skinny college kids who want to increase their body weight would go on bulking diets. Their metabolisms are so high, that they need the extra calories, even if it is junk calories.

The problem is that skinny teenage lifters and skinny young men don't always have the finances to eat all the time. And that's why the post is called the POOR MAN'S Bulking Diet, because the foods are relatively inexpensive and easy to make.  Perfect for the poor skinny college student who's too lazy to cook.

You, on the other hand, have gained a lot of muscle and now feel good with the size you've got.  Now you want to lean down even further than you already are and be ultra-ripped.  If that is the case, then bulking diets are not for you.  But don't drastically cut calories all of a sudden.  Keep the minimum 3000 calories and keep doing the Bigger Engine program.  Stick with this diet and training plan as long as you see progress of some kind: more muscle, more size, leaner look.

Once you stop making progress of any kind, then switch to a decompression program.  Reduce your caloric intake, but you'll need to work down from 3000 calories gradually.  Reduce your daily intake by 500 calories and monitor your progress.  If you're getting lean, then stick with 2500 calories.  Once you stop making progress, then trying reducing the daily intake by another 500 calories.  Once you've stopped getting leaner or you start to lose muscle mass, then bump the calories up to 3000 again and do a different strength training for fat loss program, such as those outlined in Strength and Physique V1.



I'm Eddie, and I have an ectomorph body type. I am not an advanced bodybuilder. I've done the routine that I read in an article of Bodybuilding.com. Doing this routine for a month, there hasn't been any noticeable progress in my body. 

Then I read your article Hypertrophy training for the ectomorph, the 10-8-6-15 program. Do you think I should change my routine to the 10-8-6-15 program? I would really appreciate it if I get an answer from you. 

thanks :))


My Answer: I don't know what this other article was you read at Bodybuilding.com, but if you didn't gain any muscle on that program, then you may need to reevaluate what it is that you're doing or not doing that's keeping you from gaining muscle.  If you want to do my program instead, then you have to follow the principles of the Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph program to a T:


  1. Eat, eat, eat.
  2. Keep you sets low.  Four sets per body part is enough.
  3. Pyramid your weight.
  4. Train the whole body every other day.
If you don't follow these precepts, or if you decide to modify them in any way, then you won't make progress.  Four sets per body part done 3 times a week means just that.  Don't add more sets and exercises.  Don't start doing a split routine where your chest workouts are separate from your back workouts.  Don't eat an all Ramen noodle diet and expect to get big.

What you get from it is what you put into it.  So follow directions.
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