Limit caloric expenditure:
The ectomorph trainee's metabolism burns calories fast without even pretending it. This calls for a training routine that consumes the least calories possible while still being effective.
In quite the same way, if we are on a definition phase, we would use a low calorie diet. This will make our lift suffer due to our muscles lacking some fuel. It is therefore wiser to use a training model that has a lower than usual caloric expenditure to avoid excesive fatigue and burn out.
Nota: It is a wide spread belief that on a cutting or definition phase you should execute more sets and reps with a lighter weight to burn fat. Note this isn´t good advice, as in a low calorie diet we are restricting fuel to the muscles, while at the same time we make them go through a higher workload (poundage x repetitions) . This adds to the fact of using a lighter weight, so the body will not perceive the necessity to maintain the caloric expensive muscle and will tend to canibalize it.
Keep/raise your strength at all costs:
One of the first goals of an ectomorph should be to raise his/her strength, as that would help a lot in packing muscle mass. This should be accomplished lifting heavy weights with a moderate rep range (4-6) and a reduced training volume. While doing this, the ectomorph should strive to eat plenty, trying to gain weight as much as trying to raise the poundages lifted.
Once a decent strength is gained (1 x bodyweight bench press for 4 or 5 reps or so) , the ectomorph may derive to a more volume based routine (something like 4x(8-10) with 2 exercises per muscle group). However he will be good advised to keep and try to raise his strength as a precious treasure.
On the other hand, if you are triying to lean out, keeping strength is also important. Using heavy weights will send your body a clear advice to keep muscle, otherwise it would tend to get free from muscle as it costs so many calories.
The strength you keep will help on growing faster when you switch to a more volume based routine.
The need for more recovery:
The ability to recover from workouts in an ectomorph is low. For this reason it is a intelligent approach to train no more than 3 times a week. This way the body has one full day to recover between each workout, and two full recovery days at the end of the week.
In quite the same way, while we are dieting, the body will need more recovery from weightlifting. On a 3/weekly training routine will be easier to include cardio days to burn fat without getting in the middle of weight training.
The suggested routine follows an A/B schedule. You have two workouts (A and B) which will be alternating in the following fashion:
Monday: Workout A
Wednesday: Workout B
Friday: Workout A
and the next week:
Monday: Workout B
Wednesday: Workout A
Friday: Workout B
And so on. The workouts are:
Bench Press 4x(5-6)
Romanian Deadlift 4x(5-6)
Pull ups 4x(5-6)
Squats or Leg Press 4x(8-10)
Incline Dumbell Press 4x(5-6)
One Arm Dumbell Row 4x(5-6)
Start with a weight you can comfortably lift for 10 repetitions. For the squats or leg press, use a weight you could lift 12 times. Try your best to add 5 pounds to the lifts every week (2 pounds on the 1 Arm dumbell row). On pull ups, trye to add 2 or 3 repetitions weekly (to the grand total, not in every set).
Once you can´t raise the weight anymore on a certain workout session (say, you can get to do at least 5 repetitions on one of the sets), keep that weight for the next week and try again. If you can´t do it once again, remove 10 pounds (4 pounds on the dumbell row) next week and start over the progression.
Here is an example for the bench press:
Week 1: 4x6 with 120 lb
Week 2: 4x6 with 125 lb
Week 3: 4x6 with 130 lb
Week 4: 4x6 with 135 lb
Week 5: 6,5,5,4 with 140 lb (You could not do 4x6, try on next week same weight)
Week 6: 6,6,5,4 with 140 lb (Couldn´t do it, back off 10 lb next week and continue)
Week 7: 4x6 with 130 lb
Week 8: 4x6 with 135 lb
Week 9: 4x6 with 140 lb (You achieved it!! great)
Week 10: 6,6,6,4 with 145 lb.....
If your goal is to lean out, probably the weight progression is not a priority. However remember: That which keeps strength is the same that raises it; it is recommended you try to add more weight at least once every other week (5 pounds bi-weekly).
And what about my arms?
If you truly are an ectomorph, and have truly a hard time gaining weight and muscle, you better stick to the described workouts. Arms will be worked indirectly on rows and presses. Shoulders receive stimulus on the incline press.
However if you feel you can handle it (or you are on a cutting phase and want some direct work on your armas and shoulders), you may add some sets of curls, french presses and lateral raises.
Workout A: 3x(7-8) French press (skull crusher)
Workout B: 3x(7-8) Barbell Curl
The lateral raises, can be arranged after whichever workout you like, A or B
The Ectomorph and nutrition.
I insist. As an ectomorph you have to strive to gain weight as much as you train hard in the gym. If you are training right and you think you are eating a lot, but gains don't come your way, you need to eat even more. There's not a turn around it.
Eat 5 times a day minimum. If you just haven´t the apetite, take it as another training session and eat beyond satiety. Drink whole milk instead of water, add healthy fats without worry (olive oil, avocados, almonds). Have a snack between meals and above all eat a lot of healthy carbs: Rice, potatoes, whole grain bread and pasta.
Don´t worry if you don´t see your abs or have a little fat around your belly. If you are 5.57 feet tall and weight only 128 lbs you are underweight.
On a restricted calorie scenario (cutting) o when your metabolism is faster than usual (Ectomorph) it is better to economize training, savecalories and keep muscle at all costs by means of an intense but brief training routine.
The key to body definition is on Diet, add more aerobics for a greater effect, but don´t even try to transform your weightlifting workout on an aerobic session to burn more fat.
If you are on the ectomorph type, it is key to raise your DIET. Don´t even think on cutting if you are underweight even if you have a little stubborn fat around your belly. Focus on gaining muscle mass and that muscle will aid you on burning fat later on.