How does the 'Ectomorph' size up?

 

main characteristics


appearance

Ectomorphs usually have lean bodies tending to be naturally thin with long (rather than shapely) limbs. Their frames are also normally the narrowest of the 3 somatotypes, and their bones and joints tend to be smaller.

Ectomorphs are usually tall, but it is not always the case; by nature, they carry less muscle mass than Mesomorphs and Endomorphs, but they do have the advantage of carrying very little body fat.

While lady 'Ectos' may be the envy of many, especially the would-be model worshipers, others may prefer the more curvaceous lines of Endomorphs, or the athleticism of Mesomorphs.

As for male Ectos, they need not typically look like beanpoles. Through a properly planned and executed exercise and nutrition program, an otherwise lanky person can achieve an excellent physical condition – as depicted in the image on the left.

Advantages

The most significant advantage of this body type is never having to watch the calories.

Well, hardly ever.

It doesn't mean carte blanche to eat whatever-whenever, but Ectomorphs do have more leeway than the other two Somatotypes have. Although not in terms of shaping up, but rather for athletic performance – this body type naturally has superior aerobic capacities, which makes for excellent performance at endurance sport.

This is primarily due to a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Disadvantages

In terms of muscle-building potential, individuals of this body type are normally considered 'hardgainers', which means they won't have it easy when it comes to putting on lean mass, or as the mainstream bodybuilders term it, 'bulking up.' 

Metabolism

The Ectomorph has life reasonably easy in this department. With a typically fast constitution, this somatotype is usually guaranteed to be able to control her/his weight with relative ease.

Exercise and nutrition considerations for shaping up

Muscle-building potential

The major drawback of being an Ectomorph is having narrower muscle bellies and higher percentages of slow-twitch fibers (see more on muscle-fiber types here). However, with a dedicated approach to weight training, headway can be made, just not quite in the vein of the other two Somatotypes.

Weight training

The primary focus for an Ectomorph wanting to get in shape is to gain muscle. The most advisable approach would be a very committed effort in following resistance training protocols.

And specifically sticking to shorter, more intense weight workouts, which focus on the larger muscle groups, and ensuring sufficient rest between training days.

These individuals should concentrate on gaining weight, supported by a solid eating plan (see below). 

Cardiovascular exercise

Cardio training should generally be kept to a minimum, and serve more to maintain a body condition – since the Ectomorph’s generally fast metabolism keeps body fat levels down, naturally.

Overdoing it with Aerobic exercise will however offset hard-earned lean mass, and will amount to shooting yourself in the foot. Unless of course your goal is sport-specific, for example metabolic endurance, which of course puts aesthetics second to performance.

Eating plan

Apart from a constitution which easily dispenses with calories, it's essential for this Somatotype to obtain a higher-than-average quantity of energy (food) to support a mass gaining program (if that’s the intention).

Therefore, due regard should be paid to getting in sufficient amounts of complex carbohydrates to bolster weight-gains. Although the diet (I hate that word) should be higher in calories – as mentioned above, it doesn't mean open season on junk food every day. Enjoy those 'pleasure foods' by all means – but ensure adequate intake of nutrition-dense foods.

Meal-frequency can be instrumental for 'hardgainers.' Meals are best not skipped, especially if you've traditionally eaten the usual 'three meals a day', and want to add mass. Again, you should look to increase daily consumption of good quality food – and more often.

Remember, these are guidelines. It almost always comes down to you: the individual, and to try things – adjusting as necessary.

An additional point to consider, particularly if you're struggling to gain weight, is to experiment with consuming an additional small meal in the late evening. This will help avoid undue catabolism (muscle-breakdown) – especially if you're following a regular training protocol.

Post-workout recovery

This is a very important consideration for Ectomorphs, wanting to gain muscle. Aside from a solid nutritional intake, recovery time and sleep are cardinal to recuperation from regular, intense workouts – and to stimulate much-needed growth.

A suggested program for shaping up

Regardless of your somatotype, if you share Al's story and want change, then the Sensible Fitness Program can provide an excellent solution if you follow it consistently – and in line with the above considerations.

Notable Ectomorph examples

Among famous sportspeople, look no further than Frank Zane, former 3-time Mr Olympia, who developed a physique perfectly balanced in mass and symmetry – as a good example of an Ectomorph.

I should however add that he was a professional bodybuilder, so it is likely that he would have had the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Another Ectomorph example from the sporting world, would be former Basketball Superstar Michael Jordan.

As for celebrities, I'd say movie stars Uma Thurman and Edward Norton are good examples of Ectomorphs.