The Definitive Guide to Ectomorph Body Type (Best Workouts & Diet)

By Mark / a few months ago

Find out if you actually are an ectomorph and discover the optimal way to build an impressive ectomorph body quickly and easily.

Which Body Type Are You?

Are you doing bodybuilding all wrong? You could be - if you don’t fully understand what body type you have, and how to make the most of its potential. Misunderstand this key issue and you could spend hundreds of hours slaving away in the gym, yet achieve next to nothing.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you truly understand your body type you can reverse this. You can create an optimal body growth plan that enables you to build muscle and lose fat quickly to achieve impressive body composition.

Knowing and understanding your body type puts you on the fast track to bodybuilding success.  So what are the body types, and which one are you?

Way back in the 1940s, an American psychologist named William Herbert Sheldon postulated that all human bodies fall into one of three main ‘soma’ types:

  • Ectomorph
  • Endomorph
  • Mesomorph

The easiest way to understand these three body types is to see how they typically look for men:

And here is how they look for women:

To put it simply, ectomorphs are the taller, skinnier guys, while endomorphs are the shorter, broader type. Mesomorphs are the lucky ones in the middle who have the ‘Goldilocks’ combination - not too tall or too short, and not to thin or too broad.

As a result, people with each of the three body types build muscle in different ways, and end up with a very different look:

The optimal bodybuilding plan for you will largely depend on which body type you are. So it’s important to find out which category you fall into. If you’re not sure, you can take a simple test to find out.  

The Classic Ectomorph

If you find that you fall into the ectomorph category, then this article is for you. We are going to delve deeper into the best ways to build an ectomorph body that will look truly impressive.

Let’s start with a definition of the ectomorph body type from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

The extreme ectomorph has a thin face with high forehead and receding chin; narrow chest and abdomen; a narrow heart; rather long, thin arms and legs; little body fat and little muscle; but a large skin surface and a large nervous system. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily; if he becomes fat, he is still considered an ectomorph, only overweight.  

What does that look like in practice? To give you some idea, here are some celebrities who fall clearly into the ectomorph category:

So in summary, an ectomorph can be generally described as ‘a skinny guy’ - at least compared to the other two body types. If you fall into this category, you are likely to be:

  • Taller than average
  • Lightly built
  • Thin-shouldered
  • Have small joints
  • Lean in a muscular sense
  • Long-limbed

If you are a typical ectomorph, then you are likely to have the following traits as far as bodybuilding is concerned. You:

  • Are a ‘hardgainer’ - you find it difficult to gain muscle
  • Have a fast metabolism - you can eat a lot without getting fat

So as we can see, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to this body type (as there with all three body types). You must understand exactly what these are, and then design your bodybuilding program around these strengths and weaknesses.

Your goal, of course, is to take advantage of your strengths and use these to gain leverage and maximize your growth. But you also need to be very aware of your body-type weaknesses, and work hard to neutralize them.

We can achieve both of those goals through a careful choice of diet and workouts. Let’s look at how we can get maximum advantage...

Best Diet for Ectomorphs

Perhaps the best thing about being an ectomorph is that you can eat a lot. While your calorie-conscious endomorph friends munch miserably on a lettuce leaf and a celery stick, you chomp away at big meals.

In fact, you have to eat a lot if you want to build muscle. Because while fat people may envy your fast metabolism, for you it is an enemy to battle with. Your body will burn through a lot of calories just to keep you alive. So you have to work hard to consume the extra calories needed for muscle growth. You will need to a lot of calories every day.

But when you do need to cut, you will find it easy. You should be able to lose fat without any problem, so you never have to worry too much about low-fat or low-carb diets. You simply cut back on your meal size a bit...easy!

Here’s some good diet advice for ectomorphs:

Here are some more strategies that will help you build more muscle, faster:

Track Your Calories

This might seem counter-intuitive. After all, losing fat is not your big problem...wo why count calories?

Ectomorphs need to count calories for precisely the opposite reason to most people. You need to ensure that you are eating surplus calories, so that you are able to build muscle.

Use a free tool like the MyFitnessPal calorie chart to calculate how many calories you are consuming each day. Then you need to work out how many calories you are burning every day. For you to build muscle, you need to be consuming more calories than you consuming.

If you find that you are not generating a calorie surplus each day (on average), then you need to increase your food intake. Start stepping this up steadily until you start to notice some real gains happening.

Choose High-Calorie Food

For an ectomorph, the big problem is getting enough calories into your body every day. So it’s important to make the right food choices. Otherwise, you will find yourself full after each meal, yet still not consuming all the calories you need.

This makes your food choices important, and rather different to the needs of other body types. For example, oatmeal is generally considered to be a great meal choice for healthy bodybuilding. And while that is certainly true, ectomorphs need to think twice.

That’s because oatmeal provides only a modest calorie intake whilst also suppressing your hunger. Perfect for mesomorphs - but not so great for ectomorphs. The last thing you want is to feel full when you have consumed very few calories.

This means that ectomorphs should focus much more on foods that are both high in calories and calorie dense, such as:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Whey protein
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts

Eat Often

The best thing about being an ectomorph, perhaps, is that you get a free pass to eat as often as you want. Forget three square meals a day - you may be better off aiming for six...or more!

A good ectomorph meal strategy would be to have three large meals a day - the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner - and then have three healthy snack meals in between. This will help to keep your energy levels high throughout the day, and also make it easier for you to consume all the calories you need.

Drink Protein Shakes

As an ectomorph, your biggest challenge is putting on muscle. And to overcome that problem, you need to eat plenty of protein. A great way to do that is to simply drink protein shakes.

Go for high-quality products, such as the ones made with first-class whey isolate. Then make your protein shake in a blender, adding in extra, healthy ingredients such as:

  • Peanut butter
  • Oats
  • Yogurt
  • Fresh fruits

Eat Late at Night

A bonus benefit of being an ectomorph is that it’s OK for you to raid the fridge late at night. It’s a good idea to eat a meal late in the evening. This helps prevent catabolism during the night, enabling you to keep all the muscle you have gained during the day.

Ectomorph Diet Plan

Getting the right nutrition is essential for ectomorphs. Here is a great diet plan that will help you stay on the right track when it comes to consuming calories. As discussed above, the general idea is to eat six meals a day - with three major meals and three smaller snacks spread throughout the day


  • 1 scoop whey isolate
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Cocoa powder or chocolate syrup to taste

Use a blender to create a smooth shake from these ingredients, and a enjoy a healthy meal with lots of calories and protein.

Snack #1

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 tablespoon jam
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter


  • 150 gram skinless chicken breast
  • ¼ cup green salad
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup brown rice

Snack #2

  • 1 serving creatine monohydrate powder
  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup fat-free milk


  • 150 gram skinless chicken breast
  • ¼ cup green salad
  • ½ cup brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Snack #3

  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 1 scoop dextrose monohydrate
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 serving BCAA powder
  • 20 gram dark chocolate
  • ¼ cup grapes

Workouts for Ectomorphs

Working out can be frustrating for ectomorphs. You may find yourself putting in many hours at the gym, yet still not making significant gains. Meanwhile, your endomorph and mesomorph buddies put on muscle with hardly any effort at all, it seems.

Being an ectomorph means having a fast metabolism, and your body will tend to turn all the calories you consume into energy instead of muscle. That may be great for marathon runners, but it’s not so ideal if you want rippling muscles.

Life isn’t fair, huh? But don’t can fight back. You simply have to adapt your workout schedule to suit your body type. Here are three ways ectomorphs can successfully build muscle in the gym:

Let’s look at some more ways ectomorphs can get on track towards outstanding results in the gym:

Focus on Compound Exercises

You need to make the most of your time in the gym, so don’t waste your time on isolation exercises that only work a few muscles. They won’t help you much at all.

Instead, focus on the compound exercises that work several major muscle groups and deliver maximum muscle gain for the time and energy invested. These include:

  • Squats
  • Bench presses
  • Deadlifts

Don’t get stuck in a rut of doing the same exercises every time though. Mix things up by doing variations of each exercises. Instead of just doing straight squats, for example, you might also add in goblet squats, hack squats...and so on.

Lift Heavy

Performing easy reps many times might be good for endurance, but it won’t do much for your muscle mass. As an ectomorph, you need to concentrate on building the most muscle.

That means lifting heavier weights for a smaller number of reps. If you can do more than six reps before failure, your weights are probably not heavy enough. Push yourself hard to lift progressively heavier weights.

Allow for Recovery

Because they struggle to put on mass, many ectomorphs try to compensate by going to the gym more often. They may put in an hour a day six or seven days a week - or even go for two workouts a day.

Unfortunately, this is just setting yourself up for failure. You need to allow plenty of time for your body to recover, especially if you have the ectomorph body type. Muscle-building does not happen in the gym. Quite the contrary, in fact - you are actually tearing muscle apart while you are weight training.

Muscle repair and growth happens between workouts. So you need to allow plenty of time for your body to grow your muscles before you go back to the gym and tear them apart again. Working out 3-4 times a week is plenty for most people. A workout session does not need to be any longer than around 45 minutes.

Get More Sleep

This follows naturally from the previous point. Most muscle growth happens while you are sleeping, so common sense says that you need to get enough rest each night.

Eight hours is an absolute minimum for most people. Nine or ten hours will probably help you grow muscle faster. You will sleep better if you keep to a regular routine - going to bed and getting up at much the same time each day.

The Ultimate Ectomorph

So if you have been frustrated by your results in the gym to date, don’t give up. With a different approach to working out, plus a more effective diet plan, you can turn things around and starting building the body of your dreams.

Here are some more great tips for packing on muscle when you are the ectomorph body type:

Is this going to be easy? No! But is it doable? For sure!

If you want to build the ultimate ectomorph body, the opportunity awaits. Get started today, and you may find yourself looking at a stronger, more muscular person in the mirror just a few months from now.

About the author


Hello, I'm Mark. I'm a bodybuilding champion and have been active in the industry for over 10 years. I created this website to provide fellow bodybuilders with useful information to help them achieve their dream physique.