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BODYBUILDINGPRO.COM Guide to Ectomorph Training Training Database Advanced Training Tips Guide to Ectomorph Training

Training for the Ectomorph

Sometimes putting on size is hard to do. The body type which is classed as having the hardest time putting on muscle mass is the body type known as "the ectomorph" (or thoracic). To begin this article, let's review the definition of the ectomorph:

Ectomorph: The ectomorph is the extreme somatotype. An ectomorph is characterized smalls bones and very little muscle mass. An ectomorph will have a very steep angle in his or her thorax, and the ribs are closer together. Ectomorphs are generally better endurance athletes than bodybuilders by nature, and may excel in cross country running. That is not to say an ectomorph cannot take part in bodybuilding. It is very possible to achieve great gains in mass and strength regardless of being an ectomorph.

If you don't already notice, it is the hardest, absolutely most difficult task for the ectomorph to gain muscle size, when compared to the endomorph or mesomorph body types. However, once the muscle mass has been developed, no matter how long the struggle to get to that level, the results are sometimes much more impressive than other body types. Thanks to the small frame structure of the ectomorph, less muscle tends to look like more. Some classic, and very huge bodybuilders in the past have been known to be ectomorph. Frank Zane for one, and even Arnold Schwarzenneger at one point in his life. Although once he became an adult, he realized that he has the frame and joint structure of an ectomorph with the ability to gain muscle mass of a mesomorph, making him an ecto-mesomorph. Below, several training and nutrition tips are listed which should help the ectomorph to put on muscle mass and quickly and effectively as possible:

Stick with Basic Movements, and Lift Heavy!

The ectomorph will need to lift heavy weights and stick with basic movements for each body part to achieve the greatest amount of muscular development and growth hormone release. The table below illustrates a list of body parts and the basic exercises which should be performed for each

Muscle Group Specific Exercises
Body Part Exercise
  • Squats
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts
  • Donkey Calf Raises
  • Dumbbell or Barbell Incline Bench Press
  • Chin-Ups
  • Barbell Rows
  • T-Bar Rows
  • Dumbbell Presses or Military Press
  • Barbell Curls
  • Seated Incline Curls
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Skull Crushers

Rest Between Sets

Rest between sets for the ectomorph should be increased to a level slightly higher than their mesomorphic or endormorphic counterparts. Intensity is very important in all training, and there are two great ways to accomplish this, as illustrated below:

(1) Training with heavier weights with longer rest periods between sets. (2) Training with shorter rest periods, but with lighter weights.

Because intensity is so important for the ectomorph, longer rest periods and heavier weights lifted during each set would be the way to go, as described in number (1) above.

Rest Between Workouts

Ectomorphs should allow a minimum of 72 hours between training the same body part. Also, ectomorphs should decide for themselves if they have rested enough before working the same body part again. If you feel sore, do not workout the sore body part that day. Wait until you are fully recovered before hitting the same body part.


Ectomorphs should get around 8 hours of sleep per night. Because the metabolism of the ectomorph is so fast, many calories will be burned during those hours sleeping, and it is important not to sleep to long, as the body will need to get those calories somewhere for energy, and will begin to take them from muscle tissue if no other source is available.

EATING - Probably the Most Important Thing for the Ectomorph Nutrition is probably the most important part of training for anyone, ectomorphs included. Ectomorphs need to learn how to eat the right kinds of food, but most importantly, they need to learn how to eat enough, and during the right intervals. Ectomorphs need to eat a lot. Simple enough right? You would be surprised just how few ectomorphs eat enough to gain the muscle mass they are looking for. You should structure your meal plan in the way listed below:

(1) Eat six small meals per day. (2) Eat 1 - 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would want to eat 150 - 225 grams of protein per day. (3) Keep protein intake to no more than 25% of your total daily intake or calories. (4) Have a protein or weight gain shake 90 minutes before bedtime. (5) Calories directly from carbohydrates should make up approximately 50 - 60% of your total daily intake. (6) Keep your fat intake to no more than 20% of your total daily caloric intake.

So as you can see from above, it may be slightly more difficult for the ectomorph to gain muscle mass than his or her mesomorphic or endomorphic counterparts, but with a lot of hard and smart training, and the appropriate emphasis on diet, you will be able to see some great gains very quickly. Good luck!

Take care,

Matt Canning

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