How To Build Muscle if You Are an Ectomorph ?

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What is an ectomorph?

The ectomorph is one of the three most common body types (somatotypes), characterized by a “thin frame” and difficulty to gain muscle mass as well as fat. People that belong to this somatotype are usually skinny, lean and have a high metabolic rate.

When exposed to a constant unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, ectomorphs can actually gain some weight, which will most probably be belly fat, while their arms and legs will stay unusually thin.

Ectomorph characteristics

Studies have shown that when strength training, the ectomorph body produces low levels of myogenin (a member of a large family of proteins related by sequence homology, the helix-loop-helix (HLH) proteins. It is essential for the development of functional skeletal muscle.), which limits their capacity to build muscle mass.

In addition to the low muscle mass, the myogenin deficiency limits the energy reserves to the muscles and does not allow the ectomorph to train intensive and hard enough. This means that there is not enough stimulus for the muscles to grow.

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The good part about being an ectomorph

As mentioned before, ectomorphs have a really hard time putting some meat on their frame. This opens an opportunity for the ectomorph to eat more liberally, including junk food. Because of the fast metabolism, mos of the weight they put on them will be lean muscle rather than fat.

A fit and shredded body is an easy goal for the ectomorph; The effort they need to put in to create a visible six pack is really small. Most of the professional models belong to this somatotype.

On the other hand, a bodybuilder that has this body type can never be very massive (compare Frank Zane and Dorian Yates for example).

Training errors that ectomorphs make

– Too much cardio – if you are an ectomorph,  you need to forget about long cardio sessions – ectomorphs are already skinny and lean enough, that too much cardio will only make things worse.

– Too many weight lifting sessions. Two to three weight lifting sessions a week are just enough for an ecto to make some progress. A bit more than this, and they will start losing weight again, by not allowing the muscles to recuperate.

Not sleeping enough

How to gain weight and muscle for ectomorphs

So how do you gain weight correctly? The answer is simple:

  1. Even though it’s very difficult, you need to train yourself to eat 5 times a day or more. That means eating every 3 hours or so. If you are going to gain some weight you will need to have about 18-20 calories per 1Lb of weight and you need to distribute those calories between your total number of meals.
  2. Your daily protein intake should be about 1-1.3 grams per pound of your body weight (but do not forget that you have to give your best in training). Depending on your weight, every meal needs to be healthy and have somewhere between 20 and 50g of protein as well as 40-80g of good quality carbohydrates.
  3. Also, do not forget about the vitamins, minerals and the dietary fiber (to help with the digestion) your body needs, so you should add fruits and vegetables to your meals. Green leafy vegetables with the meal and fruits like apples, pears, apricots, raspberries, strawberries etc. after your meal are a good start.
  4. Drink at least 2 liters of water a day, it helps to improve the digestion, as well as noticeably improve the condition of your skin, etc.

Adhering to these rules, you will not only gain muscle mass, but also improve your health

Getting back to the first point, we want to tell you that by the word food we mean healthy foods like lean meats (chicken, beef), fish (salmon, tuna, sardines tilapia etc.), eggs, cottage cheese, whey protein., oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, spinach , kale, cabbage, broccoli etc…

Various junk foods like hot dogs, chips, deep fried foods, fast food burgers should not take a place in your diet.

Eat right, watch your health and everything should come in place…

Ectomorph training

Ectomorph training should consist of basic mass exercises like DEADLIFTS, BARBELL ROWS, BARBELL BENCH PRESSES, FREE SQUATS, SHOULDER PRESSES. The workout should be high intensity and short in length. The goal is to create the maximum amount of muscular hypertrophy in the shortest length of time so as to burn the least amount of calories.

The ectomorph should be using a rep range within 5-8 reps for upper body and 10-12 reps for lower body. Only 3-4 weight workouts should be performed weekly. During the bulking phase, cardio should be kept at minimum and only light cardio exercises should be performed.

Do not forget about the training program, by the way, we laid out a great training program for gaining muscle mass.

Ectomorph diet

Caloric intake must be kept at a maximum at all times. In order for the body to grow, calories must exceed that which are burned in the course of daily activities, and ectomorphs have unusually fast metabolisms.

Ectomorphs don’t have to count the calories. They can usually eat pretty liberally and eat as much as possible. This, however, doesn’t mean that ectos can turn exclusively to junk food or overeat on sweets. Remember to stick to a healthy diet, containing protein from lean meats, low fat dairy, eggs and fish as well as complex carbs.

The amount of protein consumed per day should be in the range of  1 – 1.3 grams per pound of body weight. The amount of carbs should be anywhere around 2 grams per LB up to 4 grams per LB of body weight.

In terms of caloric make up during the bulking phase,  about 25% of the calories should come from protein, 25% from fats and 50% from complex carbohydrates.

Muscle building supplements

1. Protein shakes – they are essential of you want to get all your protein on a daily basis, but you are not able to eat enough foods. You can combine whey, egg and casein throughout the day. The post-workout shake should be whey because of the faster absorption, the shake before sleep can be either egg or casein.

2. Take BCAA before exercise, they will provide the body with more energy and sustain anabolic process.

3. Add 10 grams of creatine a day, which not only increases the volume of the muscle cells, but also improves energy processes.

To sum it up : The basic rules on training/nutrition for ectomorphs

Most of the training should revolve around the big basic moves: squats, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift, chin ups. Cut the isolation exercises as they do not provide enough stimulus for muscle growth.

Compound exercises performed with moderate to heavy weights and repetitions in the range of 5-8, will activate multiple joints and the larger muscle groups, which causes the body to produce testosterone and other anabolic hormones, important for gaining quality muscle.

– short but intense training up to three times a week,
– focus on the basic exercises,
– eat at least 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of carbs per LB of body weight per day.



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