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A Muscle Building Guide For Ectomorphs

Posted by JoeHurricane - May 8th, 2015

It's said that ectomorphs have the hardest time gaining muscle. Generally, compared with other body types, ectomorphs have smaller bodies, and faster metabolisms. The result is it tends to take longer to gain muscle. Whereas others can seemingly put on muscle just by looking at a dumbbell rack, ectomorphs feel like no matter what they do, packing on muscle remains out of reach. If this sounds like you, here are some tips to go out and get those gains!

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What Is An Ectomorph?

There are three main body types we can use to describe ourselves. There are endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs. Endomorphs are generally the biggest bodies out there. They tend to have a tough time losing weight, but putting it on isn't much trouble. Mesomorphs are in the middle,  and don't gain weight as easily as endomorphs, but they still find it relatively easy to gain size. Then you have ectomorphs.

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Ectomorphs are usually classified as 'hard gainers'. They can often be picked out by characteristics like narrow shoulders, and extremely lean physiques with bones potentially more prominent than other words, they are pretty skinny. As you may have guessed, ectomorphs are the ones who usually can't put on muscle as easily as endo or mesomorphs. Genetics are probably going to determine what body type you have.

Ectomorphs – Are They Really Hard Gainers?

Personally, I would class myself as an ectomorph. In my opinion though, after learning more and more about bodybuilding, there is no such thing as a 'hard gainer'. Basically, being an ectomorph can be a good thing. Why? Well, for one thing, you probably need to eat more than most people. As I said, ectomorphs tend to have fast metabolisms, and anything they eat seems to go right through them.

The fact ectomorphs seem to 'burn' through food so easily, means they actually may have the most efficient bodies of any of the body types. Efficient, because food isn't just going in one end and out the other, it is being used to perform vital functions, it's just that those functions might not be totally geared toward building muscle. Another thing to keep in mind is most people are made up of AT LEAST two different body types – for example there are endo-mesomorphs and ecto-mesomorphs.

Eating For Ectomorphs

So more food... what's not to love about that? A lot of people will tell you more food also means more junk. Listen to any good bro science advocate, and they will tell you to eat fast food, eat lollies, and frankly all kinds of crap, just to put on weight. I say...what's the point? Whether you have a fast metabolism or not, you still need to be getting quality calories and nutrients if you want to maximise your gains. If you live on crap, you'll probably look and feel like it too. Like anyone else, you can have cheat food on occasions, but if you focus on junk food just to get more calories, you will be cheating yourself out of optimal muscle gains.

Another thing that happens is an ectomorph will say “I'm eating HEAPS! But I still can't gain any weight.” Why? Because heaps of food isn't an accurate measure of just how much food you are really getting. For example, if you are eating a lot of low calorie food, such as vegetables, you might not be getting enough total calories. Even if you are focusing on carbs, and forgetting about fats, it will make it that much harder to gain weight, given fat contributes more than twice as many calories as carbs.

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Instead, like anyone who is looking to put on muscle, you should figure out your macros. The general rule is 250-500 calories above your maintenance intake. Again, this is a BASE, especially for ectomorphs. You might need to eat more like 700 calories above your maintenance number. I touched on this in another article (link to Eating & Metabolism article). Focus on all three macronutrients, but don't be afraid of having more carbs than other people too. You don't have to go crazy, but if you're looking to get 3000-odd calories each day, carbs can be a good way to top-up your calories.

Training For Ectomorphs

Now that you have a solid eating platform to launch from, we can talk about how ectomorphs should go about training. There's no magic set-up here either, and the same rules that apply to others looking to gain weight, apply to ectomorphs as well. You might want to stay away from the bro-science here too – follow their rules, and you should only lift heavy weight and focus mostly on low volume training.

Don't get me wrong, there is always a place for that kind of training, and for some ectomorphs, it will work. But everyone is different, and low volume just won't work for everyone. Instead of preaching about a low volume set up, I like to think more about the exercises you are doing in the gym, and how intensely you are training.

Compound movements. Bench presses, overhead presses, squats and deadlifts. These are the core lifts of any good training programme, and these should be an ectomorph's focus. They shouldn't be the only exercises you are doing though – you can't omit accessory work if you want to make maximum gains. If you want to go into bodybuilding, accessory work is even more important from the beginning, to build and shape all of your muscles.

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Like anyone else, your intensity needs to be high. Training muscles twice a week is a good starting point. By doing this, you can determine whether your muscles can handle more regular training. If you notice you get fatigued easily and can't train as intensely as you would like by hitting muscle groups twice a week, you can easily switch to just once a week. Don't be afraid to train either way – they both build muscle, depending on the individual, and you can always makes things intense. Don't be afraid of training frequently either – Scott, for example, is an ectomorph, but we all know he isn't lacking for muscle, and he is one person who exemplifies how effective training 5-6 days a week can be.

Check out the sample training routine in this article; you might like to try it if you find yourself struggling to gain muscle.

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If you are an ectomorph trapped in the 'hard gainer' world, it's time to leave that world behind. Don't get caught up thinking gaining muscle is harder, and don't think you can eat whatever you like. The reality is you need to do much the same things as anyone else, and really plan out your training and meal plan for optimal results. For more information, watch this video (7 Muscle Building Mistakes Natural Lifters Make!), to learn all you need to know for maximizing your results as a natural athlete. Instead of ruing being an ectomorph, take it as an advantage, get out there, and reach your goals. You only get out what you put in.

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7 Muscle Building Mistakes Natural Lifters Make!

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How many grams per lbs bw for clean bulking do you recommend for ectomorphs?


Good article. Someone is gifted by God, others need to work to get it!  ecto's need to work harder and harder to be monster!

JoeHurricane  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks @ycaner! @scott_herman's right, hard work is always a necessity...makes hitting the gym that much more fun!

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Yeah, and that is most of us! haha we all have to work hard @ycaner!


awesome article , love it!


now thats what I call a complete article! Excellent job!