There is no question about it: building muscle comes easier for some than it does for others. Being a classic mesomorph, I have always trained myself very aggressively and muscle growth came fairly quickly. The truth is that I was blessed with a specific “body type”. Mesomorphs by definition are genetically broad shouldered and muscular. With diligent training, it is relatively easy for us to gain muscle. Endomorphs on the other hand are characterized by a more pear- shaped structure and are prone to putting on more fat than the other somatotypes. And lastly, ectomorphs are generally skinny, fairly lean, and typically have a hard time gaining weight, especially muscle. This article will focus mainly on them. I will do my best to give tips and advice on how to gain muscle for this particular demographic- and I know there are many of you. However, please keep in mind that there are many people who do not fall into one particular somatotype, but rather a hybrid of two of them. So even if you don’t consider yourself to be the classic ectomorph, the strategies in this article may still be able to help you.

First of all, let me just say that I do indeed believe it is possible for ectomorphs to gain a decent amount of muscle. I know this because I have seen it happen time and again. The work may seem more grueling, but the payoff is far worth it. One of the main reasons that training seems more challenging for ectomorphs is because they tend to have longer limbs. The longer your limbs are, the more space you have to travel through when doing resistance training. Because of this, ectomorphs are always going to have a much larger range of motion when lifting. Lifting very heavy becomes challenging for this very reason. Care should be taken to build a base strength before attempting to lift heavy. This progression should happen very gradually. Ectomorphs also need to focus intently on form as they tend to be much more prone to “cheating” during lifting by using other muscle groups that are not intended for that specific exercise. A good example would be arching the low back during a barbell biceps curl. Ectomorphs may never be able to lift as much weight as mesomorphs and endomorphs, but with time and patience they can indeed make some serious strength and muscle gains. It just takes longer.

The main tool that ectomorphs should be utilizing to build muscle is purely and simply eating- often and a lot! Ectomorphs are born with a super-fast metabolism, which means they are burning more calories than most people all day long- even when they are at rest! Therefore, a high caloric intake is very important. Like everyone else, ectomorphs should be eating every three hours. It is very helpful for them to include calorically dense foods such as nuts, peanut butter, whole eggs, granola, and lean meats. Care should be taken to eat adequate amounts of lean proteins, fibrous carbohydrates, and natural sources of starchy carbohydrates in each meal, with the protein portion being the largest. Protein is of course what we need to re- build muscle tissue. However, carbs are also very important because without them, the ectomorph can tap into muscle tissue for fuel. The end result will be less muscle tissue than before! This is certainly not the ideal situation. Ectomorphs can also get away with eating substantially larger portion sizes than someone who is looking to lose weight. It can be very helpful to invest in a well- researched weight gainer supplement. Whey protein is always a good option.

One major mistake many ectomorphs make is doing too much cardio. I do believe that everyone needs to be doing a certain amount of cardio, but ectomorphs should keep it at a minimum. Cardio mainly serves to expend calories, which is the exact opposite of what an ectomorph should be focusing on. Athletes are often forced to maintain a certain amount of cardio in their training. If you happen to be an ectomorph who is also an athlete participating in a lot of endurance activities and you are still trying to gain muscle, you will have to do your best to offset the caloric burn from your cardio with sufficient nutrient/ calorie intake.

Another tip that can help ectomorphs is to focus more on compound, multi- jointed exercises that include more muscle groups. By focusing on these larger, more complex exercises, you are able to lift a greater load of weight, allowing you to put more tension on the muscle which can often lead to greater hypertrophy. Good examples of compound exercises include: squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, over- head presses, pull- ups, and barbell rows.

Another goal for the ectomorph should always be to progress in your workouts. This doesn’t necessarily mean always adding weight. Progress can also be incorporated by adding more volume, increasing frequency, and adding a variety of advanced training techniques.
It is also very important to remember to get adequate rest and recovery, i.e. sleep. This is where the muscular repair process happens. Therefore, not getting enough rest is sure to hinder your progress. 7-8 eight hours of sleep a night is always recommended, not just for ectomorphs but for everyone. Power naps during the day are also a great idea.

Well, there it is. I hope I have given all of you ectomorphs out there something to think about. You have your work cut out for you. But by incorporating these strategies, you are sure to gain a decent amount of muscle. So what are you waiting for? Make the change!