Your Guide to Ectomorph Body Type, Diet, and Workout Routine
Train for your body shape and follow our diet and exercise recommendations if you are an ectomorph.

What Is an Ectomorph?

The ectomorph is one of the three most commonly found body types (also known as somatotypes), marked by a “thin frame” and trouble in building muscle mass as well as fat. People belonging to the ectomorph body type are usually lean, skinny, and also have a high metabolic rate.

Ectomorphs can actually put on some weight when exposed to a constant stream of unhealthy diets and a sedentary way of life. However, that fat will probably consist of belly fat while their legs and arms will still remain unusually thin.

Characteristics of the Ectomorph Body

  • Flat chest
  • Small bone structure and delicate frame
  • Classic hard gainer
  • Small shoulders
  • Fast metabolism
  • Lean muscle mass
  • Naturally thin (1)
  • Finds it hard to gain weight

Several studies have revealed, that during strength training, an ectomorph body produces low amounts of myogenin which is a part of a huge family of proteins, which is related by sequence homology i.e. the helix-loop-helix (HLH) proteins (2). It is crucial for functional skeletal muscle’s development. This limits, ectomorph’s capacity to build muscle mass.

Moreover, apart from the low muscle mass, the myogenin deficiency also restrains the energy reserves to the muscles, and doesn’t let an ectomorph train hard and intensive enough. Therefore, there isn’t sufficient stimulus for the muscles to grow.

However, there are perks of being an ectomorph, such as eating more liberally, including fast food. Owing to their fast metabolism, most of the weight ectomorphs gain is lean muscle instead of fat.

Plus, it is easy to achieve a shredded and fit body for an ectomorph, and they only have to put in very small effort to create a visible six-pack. Most professional models are from this somatotype.

Dangerous Bodybuilding Mistakes Ectomorphs Make

Let’s take a look at some of the most mistakes committed by those seeking an ectomorph transformation: 

  • Not introducing enough diversity in their ectomorph workout routines.
  • Always seeking the perfect workout.
  • Not consuming enough food.
  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Believing that taking supplements is the magic trick to get insane muscle gains.
  • Training to failure.
  • Overtraining themselves.
  • Constantly, ignoring progressive overload.
  • Thinking that they must train, themselves, for the pump.
  • Not having a commitment and a goal.
  • Doing isolation exercises and using machines.

Ectomorph Diet and Metabolism 

Ectomorphs have a fast metabolism, which makes it easy to get lean, and eat without gaining weight. But with age, the metabolism slows down, primarily because of low muscle mass, which can end up in an unhealthy increase in body fat.

The best diet for an ectomorph is higher in calories and carbohydrates. Approx. 50-60% calories should come from the carbohydrates, 25% from protein, and 25% from fat.

Additional Nutrition Tips

  • It is better to eat every 2 to 4 hours.
  • Add at least 500 calories to your diet if you want to gain muscle or weight.
  • Go for warm foods instead of cold foods (they are better for digestion).
  • The best starchy carbohydrates are potatoes, oats, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
  • Best fruit choices are bananas, pineapple, mango, papaya, oranges, peaches, apples, and avocado.
  • The best vegetable choices include brussel sprouts, broccoli, beets, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, and carrots, especially, cooked in ghee or coconut oil.
  • Nutrient-dense snacks should, include seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios), and nut butters. 

The key is to have a healthy, balanced nutritionally-rich diet. Just because you are an ectomorph, doesn’t mean you should eat everything, including fast food.

Related: What Are The Best Foods To Eat For Muscle Growth?

Ectomorph Workout Routine

A sound strategy, for building an ectomorph workout plan should consist of first choosing a primary chest exercise, a primary leg exercise, and then a primary back exercise. Take a look at the following exercises, classified by category, and choose one from each category to build your ectomorph workout for females and males: 

Primary Exercises: Chest

  • Incline Bench Press
  • Bench Press
  • DB Chest Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • DB Decline Chest Press
  • DB Incline Chest Press

Primary Exercises: Legs

Primary Exercises: Back

Now, choose 3 to 4 auxiliary (isolation) exercises according to your fitness goals. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps are perfect. These exercises will augment your progress:

Also Try: The 7 Best Back Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles

Auxiliary Exercises

  • Standing Shoulder Press (Barbell or DB)
  • Prone Leg Curls
  • Walking Lunges (barbell, bodyweight or DB)
  • Tricep Rope Pull-Down
  • Calf Raises (seated or standing)
  • Barbell Curls
  • Decline Sit-Ups
  • Plank
  • Hanging Knee Raises
  • Dips
  • Ab Wheel
  • Preacher Curls

A Sample Workout

Chest: Barbell Incline Bench Press (3×5-8)

Legs: Barbell Back Squats (3×5-8)

Back: Weighted Pull-Ups (3×5-8)


Standing Calf Raises (3×8-12)

Plank (3xfailure)

Barbell Curls (3×8-12)

DB Seated Shoulder Press (3×8-12)

Ectomorph vs Mesomorph

The key difference between ectomorph and mesomorph lies in the body structure and size. Ectomorph is a body type, that is, characterised by small shoulders, delicate bone structure, thin body, and flat chest, while mesomorph is a body type characterised by a narrow waist, round muscle bellies, wide shoulders, and relatively thin joints.

Our history, training style, lifestyle, and genetics are the major factors that decide our body type. In addition, body type can be, changed, by doing exercise and proper dieting. Ectomorph body type has long limbs and is thin, and mesomorph is the middle, body type for which it is easy to lose, or gain weight.

The Final Takeaway

To sum it all up, the basic things you need to keep in mind, when deciding on nutrition and, training for an ectomorph body type: it is better to do short but intense training and focus on primary exercise. In addition, to that, try eating at least 1g of protein and 2g of carb, per LB, of your body weight, every day. So, if you identify as the ectomorph body type, then use this guide when deciding which foods to eat and what exercises to try in the gym.

Also Read: How to Get Tougher With 9 Effective Strength Training Exercises


(1) Dicker, Katie. Diet and nutrition. Evans Brothers, 2010.

(2) Murre, Cornelis, et al. “Structure and function of helix-loop-helix proteins.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Gene Structure and Expression 1218.2 (1994): 129-135.

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