Unsure if you are of the ectomorph body type? Fret not. Body types or somatotypes are simple to understand, yet complicated in a sense that we can’t exactly claim that we belong to one single body type – there are overlaps.
For instance, you could be ectomorph-mesomorph type, etc
Do not, I repeat, box yourself up into just one type. It can be misleading especially for those who have never trained before and might not have such a good understanding of one’s body.
The other thing to stress is that everyone’s bodies are unique. Much as I would like to generalise by saying that ectomorphs have fewer satellite cells (read ectomorph bodybuilding on the science of muscle growth) or more slow twitch fibers, it might not be true.
What I can say is that research shows having higher satellite cell activation is the secret to muscle growth (1).
But for simplicity’s sake, I will show you the general characteristics of each body type and you can draw from the various actionable insights provided for each type.
1. Ectomorph Body Type
- Small and narrow body frame
- Long and thin limbs
- Little muscles and fats
- Flat chest and small shoulders
- Fast metabolism
Also known as hardgainer or skinny guy. Can eat a lot and wont gain much weight. Even if he does, he will lose the weight soon enough if he doesn’t maintain such eating habits. Literally have to eat to maintain his body weight.
He has to work twice as hard and eat twice or thrice as much to make the gains he desire. The ironic thing is that when you put on more muscles, your metabolism increases and it gets even harder to maintain your muscles.
Another problem some face is the skinny-fat syndrome. This depends on your genes (where your body stores fats), though it is also likely that this group are endo-ectomorphs (high fat storage in the bellies with thin lower body).
Even if you do not have one now, be wary. As you age, hormones decline and metabolism drops, so do stay active and watch what you eat.
1.2 The Science behind It:
Ectomorphs are thyroid dominant, have an active sympathetic nervous system, are carb tolerant and have higher metabolism rates, making it difficult to gain both muscle and fats. The long limbs and short muscles do not help as well, which means you have less leverage to lift weights. Ectomorphs also tend to have less dense bones, which makes it difficult to support heavier weights.
1.3 What This Means Practically:
Train with compound movements/multi joint exercises such as bench presses, pull ups, squats and dead lifts. Minimise cardio and isolation exercises. Reduce time in the gym – aim for short and intense sessions of 45 minutes instead. Spending too much time will only increase your metabolism further and burn more calories. Hormonal levels to spur muscle growth will also not be optimal. Eat more calories than you consume. To do so, try to eat every two to four hours. Carbs should form a big part of your diet. Of course, aim to consume healthy foods such as those with complex carbs. Ensure that you consume enough protein as well.
2. Endomorph Body Type
2.1 Physical Attributes:
- Rounded/pear shaped/big body
- Looks “rounded”
- Thick limbs
- Wide hips
On the other end of the spectrum/the complete opposite of ectomorphs, the endomorph is the naturally fat body type. They are ‘big boned‘ and even eating a little can cause them to gain weight.
2.2 The Science behind It:
This is because endomorphs’ bodies are much more proficient at storing fats as compared to others.
2.3 What This Means Practically:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, weight training is and might even be more important than cardio.
This is because weight training allows you to burn calories even after your workout as muscles increase your metabolism. However, both cardio and weight training are important and should be done.
For cardio, avoid spending long hours on the treadmill. Get in some interval based conditioning which are more effective in combating fats.
Diet wise, it should comprise low carbs and high proteins and fibers. There are many foods to stay clear of as well, such as sports drinks which spikes your blood sugar level, white rice and brown bread.
3. Mesomorph Body Type
3.1 Physical Attributes:
- Broad shoulders
- Muscular frame
- Low level of body fat
- Narrow hips
The mesomorph body type is in the middle of the scale (of ectomorphs and endomorphs) and is not as common as the other two. Basically, it is the perfect body type – they gain muscles as well as endomorphs, and lose fats as well as ectomorphs.
In other words, they have the most malleable body.
3.2 The Science behind It:
This due to their high metabolism and also responsive muscle cells.
3.3 What This Means Practically:
Mesomorphs pretty much just need to show up and put in 100% commitment to ensure that they don’t waste their potential. The standard fare applies, eating healthily and eating a moderate amount of carbs proteins and fats each. They tend to respond well to power moves, athletic training and creatine which aids recovery and helps them workout harder.
(1) Contreras, B. (2011). The Truth About Bodybuilding Genetics. Retrieved from T Nation: http://www.t-nation.com/training/truth-about-bodybuilding-genetics (2) Snape, J. (2014). Ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph – what’s your body type? Retrieved from Men’s Fitness: http://www.mensfitness.co.uk/exercises/exercises-body-part/3272/which-body-shape-are-you
Articles in This Section (Ectomorph Bodybuilding):
- Ectomorph Bodybuilding: learn the science of the muscle growth formula for ectomorphs
- Mindsets: the mindset you need to succeed. Without this, forget about gaining any mass
- Principles & mechanisms of muscle building: if there’s only time for one article, read this
- How to be lean and ripped: you want to be attractively lean and ripped, not the skinny kind
- What is strength training: for beginners, I recommend strength training
- Muscle building FAQs: why can’t you gain weight? How to gain muscle fast? etc..
- Glossary of bodybuilding terms: do check this out if you are just starting out