The Ectomorph Body Type: Exercises & Workouts

by Сашка

You might have come across the concept of somatotypes, a framework that categorises people into three primary body types: endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs. 

While somatotypes aren’t an exact science, understanding yours can help you better plan workout routines and dietary plans to help you hit your fitness goals.

We’ll be taking a look at these body types, starting with this blog on ectomorphs. Unlike endomorphs, who tend to find it easier to put on weight and muscle, ectomorphs often face the opposite problem.

Their bodies seem to have a natural inclination towards staying lean, sometimes even in the face of rigorous training and calorie consumption. However, with the right training programme and diet, ectomorphs can build a strong and fit physique if they want to.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best exercises and workout plans for ectomorphs. 

What Is An Ectomorph Body Type?

An ectomorph body type is generally a slim and lean physique. People with this somatotype often have narrow shoulders and hips, a light frame, and a fast metabolism. Their rapid metabolic rate means ectomorphs burn calories quickly, making it harder to gain weight and build muscle mass.

Ectomorphs typically have longer limbs and less muscle mass compared to other body types. Their bone structure tends to be smaller, and they usually have a lower percentage of body fat. 

It’s also common for ectomorphs to struggle to put on weight and muscle in comparison to endomorphs. This body type is often referred to as a “hardgainer” because of the challenges associated with muscle gain.

It’s worth noting that most people are a combination of two body types, so you may recognise some characteristics but not others. This is completely normal!

What Characteristics Do Ectomorphic Body Types Tend To Have?

Ectomorphic body types possess distinct characteristics that set them apart from other somatotypes. These include:



  • Slim and lean physique: Ectomorphs have a naturally slender build, with low levels of body fat and muscle mass.

  • Narrow shoulders and hips: Their smaller bone structure results in a narrower frame, giving them characteristically narrow shoulders and hips.

  • Fast metabolism: Ectomorphs have no trouble burning calories at a higher rate, which can make it challenging to gain weight, whether it’s muscle or fat.

  • Small joints and bones: It’s not uncommon for ectomorphs to have smaller wrists and ankles than other somatotypes.

  • Difficulty gaining weight: Ectomorphs may struggle to put on muscle mass and fat, even with increased caloric intake and strength training.

  • Less muscle mass: Compared to other body types, ectomorphs have a lower percentage of muscle mass, which can impact their strength and physical performance.

  • High energy levels: Their fast metabolism often translates to higher energy levels, but can also mean they need more frequent meals to sustain their activity levels.

Knowing more about your somatotype can help you tailor your fitness and nutrition plans to better suit your body type. For people with primarily ectomorph characteristics, that might involve focusing on home or gym workouts that promote muscle gain and overall strength.

How Does Being An Ectomorph Affect Your Workout Style?

If you’re an ectomorph looking to put on a little more weight and muscle, you’re going to want to focus on two core areas:

  • Diet: Ectomorphs tend to have high metabolisms and require more calories to gain weight. Adding calorie dense foods, such as peanut butter and cheese, can help to increase your calories, but make sure to also include plenty of protein to help with building muscle, and carbs to provide energy for workouts.
  • Weight training: Lifting weights will help to build muscle mass and strength, areas which ectomorphs can lack. Prioritising compound exercises like deadlifts and squats will help to build full body strength and muscle, while some hypertrophy work can help with muscle mass.
Read also:
Discover the Rowing Machine: A Full-Body Workout

The following are the best workout styles for ectomorphs and a good starting point if you’re looking to build muscle and strength:



  • Compound Training

    Ectomorphs should incorporate heavy, compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, promoting overall muscle growth and strength.

  • Higher Volume Workouts

    To increase muscle mass, known as muscle hypertrophy, opt for a high volume, moderate weight approach:

    • Repetition range: Aim for 6-12 repetitions per set with moderate to heavy weights.
    • Sets and frequency: Perform 3-4 sets per exercise and train each muscle group 2-3 times per week for good muscle growth. For example, big groups like the back and chest should be trained twice a week (2x back sessions and 2x chest sessions).
    • Progressive overload: Gradually increase the weight lifted or the number of repetitions to keep challenging the muscles.
  • Focus on Progressive Overload

    To put on weight and muscle, you must regularly challenge your muscles by gradually increasing the weight you lift. This principle of progressive overload is crucial for muscle gain.

  • Limit Cardio Exercise

    While cardio is essential for overall health, too much can make it harder for ectomorphs to gain muscle and weight as it increases the calories expended each day. If you are planning to train cardio, try to keep the sessions short and infrequent. Remember, strength training should be your main focus.

  • Adequate Rest and Recovery

    Don’t neglect your rest days! Make sure you allow sufficient rest between workout sessions to help muscle recovery and growth. Ectomorphs in particular should avoid overtraining, as their bodies can require more time to recover.

  • Nutritional Support

    Ectomorphs need to eat. A lot. Be sure to pair your workout routine with a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Ectomorphs often need to consume more calories than they burn to facilitate muscle growth.

What Types of Exercises are Best For Ectomorphs? 

Most ectomorphs struggle to put on weight and muscle, so a workout that focuses on muscle hypertrophy and strength training is a great place to start. Below are a few basic exercises designed to build muscle and strength – but the real benefits come when these are paired with a personal training programme and a proper diet plan.

Compound exercises

Compound exercises are an effective way to build full body strength and promote muscle gain. Exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Bench presses
  • Rows
  • Overhead presses

Isolation exercises

Isolation exercises focus on one muscle group at a time and can help to build targeted muscle mass and strength. Examples of isolation exercises include:

  • Bicep curls
  • Leg extension
  • Leg curls
  • Lateral raises

Functional training

Functional training is great addition if you’re looking to improve your athleticism and functional strength while still improving muscle growth. Functional training focuses on exercises that mimic everyday movements. This includes things like:

  • Kettlebell training: Exercises like kettlebell swings and goblet squats enhance strength, coordination, and endurance.
  • Bodyweight exercises: Push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges can be performed anywhere and help improve functional strength and mobility.

If you’re new to weight training, take a look at our weight training guide for beginners.

Build Your Tailored Ectomorph Workout Plan

If your goal is to build muscle,

check out some of these workout plans:

  • Progressive overload workout plan
  • HIIT workout for building muscle
  • Gym workout plan for muscle gain

While all ectomorphs share common body characteristics, we all have our own independent fitness goals and ways to achieve them. Working with a personal trainer will not only provide a specific workout routine but also ensure proper form, help prevent injuries, and keep you motivated.

Work with one of our personal trainers today to create an ectomorph workout plan tailored to your specific fitness goals. You can also ask one of our coaches what to eat to fuel your workouts.

Begin your new ectomorph workout training at your nearest PureGym.

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