TV fitness presenter Sy Chenh on the science of gaining mass for Chinese and East Asians

One of the most frequent questions Sy Chenh, a specialist exercise instructor and fitness T.V. presenter gets asked by Chinese and East Asian guys is “how do I get bigger?” Followed by “because I eat and train loads”. This is quite a common dilemma for Chinese and East Asian men who eat and train regularly with little or slow progress. 

Sy Chenh gives Nee Hao Magazine readers a low down on the body types, and the science behind packing on the mass. 

To understand the situation a bit better we have to be able to accept two simple facts for people who want to gain muscle mass but find it difficult to.

Firstly a large portion of Chinese and East Asian guys who want to gain weight are genetically skinny people, this may sound like a ‘you don’t say’ kind of statement but let’s just delve into a little bit of exercise physiology to understand my point.

Most people are classified (although not exclusively) into three body-types, Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph, each body-type has different characteristics in terms of composition and metabolism.

For this article we will concentrate on Ectomorph, this is the body type of what we call ‘hard gainers’ and they display traits such as;

* Small frame and bone structure

* Flat chest and small shoulders

* Smaller joints

* Lean and thin

* Fast metabolism

Many Chinese and East Asian people are this body-type and by accepting this scientific fact, it’s easier to accept that you will have to work harder to make gains if you are an Ectomorph.

The second fact is to accept that although it doesn’t seem like it, your diet and your training is most likely to be wrong or ineffective. Let’s briefly talk about both.


So after considering the first point about body-type you should have come to the conclusion that due to a rapid metabolism you will most likely need to increase you calories to feed this whilst leaving enough to grow lean muscle, this will possibly see you eating more than the big guy next to you. During a period of trying to build lean mass, 3000kcal per day is not unheard of, this will most likely be split into 6 meals of 500kcal with 20-30 grams of protein in each throughout the day, ideal for digestion but also to increase insulin production, one of the most important hormones to grow.


The biggest mistake the people with an Ectomorph body type (and in fact almost everyone else) makes when training, is attempting to grow certain areas of the body i.e. bicep curls to get bigger arms, lateral raises to improve shoulders, chest flies to get larger peeks, etc.

Although shifting weights is the correct stimulus to gain muscle, growing is largely a hormonal event during your sleep and the exercises which signal the body to produce and release these hormones is large compound moves involving many muscles, such as dead lifts, squats, pull-ups, bench press etc. Therefore focus on exercises which use at least two joints and drop the habit of doing single joint moves.

So to summarise, if you want to gain bigger muscles, eat bigger meals with less fat, more protein and lift with bigger movements.

This article is not meant to address the exact diet, training and rest strategy for you , its intention is to help motivate you by addressing the ‘WHY?’ and showing you that gaining a strong lean physique is not impossible, just science.

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