Workout Tips

The Ectomorph Dilemma

It’s great to be lean but not when you can’t put on muscle. Here’s the defining traits of an ectomorph and some solutions for adding size.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES
The Ectomorph Dilemma

There are three main bodytypes: the ectomorph, the endomorph and the mesomorph. Each has it’s challenges…and advantages.

The ectomorph is the proverbial “hard gainer.” Some general traits of these lean-bodied somatotypes are: a flat chest, small shoulders, thin, small joints, droopy shoulders, long fingers, long toes, long skinny necks and, on the upside from a physique standpoint, they are relatively lean.

Ectomorph Challenges

Ectomorphs have an extremely efficient metabolism. They are at a disadvantage when it comes to adding size because the pace at which their body uses fuel often eats in to the stores needed to add new muscle.

Long-held conventional wisdom dictates that if you are having trouble gaining muscle, you should increase your caloric intake by 500 per day.

Another, lesser-used approach may have more merit. Examine the ratios of the current calorie intake. Most ectos will find that their protein intake is much lower than it should be — well below the 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day that is usually recommended. So a good initial strategy may be to make sure that they’re meeting that goal, then after a few weeks, if no muscle has been gained, increase to 1.75 grams per pound of bodyweight while also increasing caloric intake slightly.

Ectomorph Training Tips

Being an ectomorph is not a sentence to mediocre muscular development purgatory! Follow these training tools to breakout of what some consider a genetic prison and be thankful you don’t have to bust your balls to get lean.

>> Train with at least 9+ sets per bodypart. Normal prescriptions call for 9-12 exercises for smaller bodyparts and 12-16 for larger ones. Keeping to or exceeding these guidelines is often needed to see the same results as the other bodytypes.

>> Minimize single-joint moves. Curls, pressdowns and dumbbell lateral raises won’t be as productive as squats, deadlifts, leg presses and benches because they don’t have the same hormonal impact. Sticking to heavy compound moves helps get hormones like GH and testosterone on your side.

>> Muscle groups can be trained more frequently than endo or mesomorphs because, generally, about 2/3 the recovery time of a mesomorph is needed.

>> Train often with 15+ reps per sets with a weight that brings you near failure. The enhanced volume can help you trigger additional muscle breakdown.

>> Minimize or eliminate aerobic training (read: cardio). The caloric deficits that result will counteract your ability to put on size.

>>  Missing a meal is much worse than having a bad meal. Having the constant calorie influx helps to combat the speed with which your body tends to break down fuel.

>> Consider investing in an appetite enhancer in order to keep you stuffing your food hole. Echinacea has been shown to boost appetite with a dose of about 1 g per serving before meals, for up to 8 grams per day.
 

Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. His new book, Built to the Hilt, is now available at Amazon and EliteFTS. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com.

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