What is an ectomorph?
The ectomorph is one of the three most common body types (somatotypes), characterized by a “thin frame” and difficulty to gain muscle mass as well as fat. People that belong to this somatotype are usually skinny, lean and have a high metabolic rate.
When exposed to a constant unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, ectomorphs can actually gain some weight, which will most probably be belly fat, while their arms and legs will stay unusually thin.
Characteristics of the ectomorph body
Studies have shown that when strength training, the ectomorph body produces low levels of myogenin (a member of a large family of proteins related by sequence homology, the helix-loop-helix (HLH) proteins. It is essential for the development of functional skeletal muscle.), which limits their capacity to build muscle mass.
In addition to the low muscle mass, the myogenin deficiency limits the energy reserves to the muscles and does not allow the ectomorph to train intensive and hard enough. This means that there is not enough stimulus for the muscles to grow.
The good part about being an ectomorph
As mentioned before, ectomorphs have a really hard time putting some meat on their frame. This opens an opportunity for the ectomorph to eat more liberally, including junk food. Because of the fast metabolism, mos of the weight they put on them will be lean muscle rather than fat.
A fit and shredded body is an easy goal for the ectomorph; The effort they need to put in to create a visible six pack is really small. Most of the professional models belong to this somatotype.
On the other hand, a bodybuilder that has this body type can never be very massive (compare Frank Zane and Dorian Yates for example).
Training errors that ectomorphs make
– Too much cardio – if you are an ecto, you need to forget about long cardio sessions – ectomorphs are already skinny and lean enough, that too much cardio will only make things worse.
– Too many weight lifting sessions. Two to three weight lifting sessions a week are just enough for an ecto to make some progress. A bit more than this, and they will start losing weight again, by not allowing the muscles to recuperate.
– Not sleeping enough
How can ectomorphs gain muscle
Most of the training should revolve around the big basic moves: squats, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift, chin ups. Cut the isolation exercises as they do not provide enough stimulus for muscle growth.
Compound exercises performed with moderate to heavy weights and repetitions in the range of 5-8, will activate multiple joints and the larger muscle groups, which causes the body to produce testosterone and other anabolic hormones, important for gaining quality muscle.
Ectomorphs don’t have to count the calories. They can usually eat pretty liberally and eat as much as possible. This, however, doesn’t mean that ectos can turn exclusively to junk food or overeat on sweets. Remember to stick to a healthy diet, containing protein from lean meats, low fat dairy, eggs and fish as well as complex carbs.
The amount of protein consumed per day should be in the range of 1 – 1.5 grams per LB of body weight. The amount of carbs should be anywhere around 2 grams per LB up to 4 grams per LB of body weight.
Muscle building supplements
1. Protein shakes – they are essential of you want to get all your protein on a daily basis, but you are not able to eat enough foods. You can combine whey, egg and casein throughout the day. The post-workout shake should be whey because of the faster absorption, the shake before sleep can be either egg or casein.
2. Take BCAA before exercise, they will provide the body with more energy and sustain anabolic process.
3. Add 10 grams of creatine a day, which not only increases the volume of the muscle cells, but also improves energy processes.
To sum it up : The basic rules on training/nutrition for ectomorphs
– short but intense training up to three times a week,
– focus on the basic exercises,
– eat at least 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of carbs per LB of body weight per day.