Train for Your Body Type: Ectomorphs -- Part 2 of 4

Ectomorph:  Train for your Body Type

Ectomorph: Lean and long, with difficulty building muscle

Ectomorphs are good at processing carbohydrates into energy and your fast metabolism means that you burn off fat easily. The downside is that you struggle to bulk up because your fast-twitch fibres are underdeveloped. To gain muscle, you need to keep cardio sessions to a minimum and focus on workouts using compound exercises to maximise growth hormone release. You’ll also need to take on additional calories including plenty of starchy carbs and whey protein.

Are You an Ectomorph?

You’ve got the build of a marathon runner – lean, but short on muscle. It can be hard to pack on size despite hours in the gym.

What Ectomorphs May Be Doing Wrong

Three days of strength training should be coupled with two days of low-intensity cardio.  Effective abs exercises include the captain’s chair, the bicycle crunch and abs crunches while sat on an exercise ball. First, ditch the treadmill. “Ectomorphs often gravitate to long, slow distance work, but it’s the worst thing they can do [to build muscle],” says trainer Will Purdue.

And it may be tempting to pack your routine with classic bodybuilder moves such as the biceps curl, but that’s another mistake, says Purdue. “I often see ectomorphs focusing on isolation moves, whereas big, compound movements such as the squat will involve more muscles and give you the hormonal boost that helps build muscle. I still use isolation moves, but they’re supplementary to the main workout moves – 80% of moves should be working big muscle groups.”

What Ectomorphs Should Be Doing

And there’s no need to live in the gym to put on muscle – quite the contrary, in fact. “If you’re working out four, five days a week you’ll be speeding up your metabolism too much,” says trainer Hughes. “I tend to limit my ectomorphs to three workouts a week, keeping the actual training time after a warm-up to 45 minutes or less.”

What to Eat

In terms of nutrition, a diet that is high in calories, carbs, protein and fat will aid you in your quest for muscle gain. This should not be mistaken for eating precisely what you like. Rather, it just means you should eat more of what is healthy. Good news: you don’t have to steer clear of carbs such as oats, wholemeal bread and potatoes. Fats found in nuts, seeds and avocado will also bring about the right results. “Ectomorphs should respond well to carbs, which will spike blood sugar and help to drive protein to their muscles,” says trainer Mark Hughes.  Stick to the complex kind, such as sweet potatoes and brown rice.

Money Moves

The deadlift is your best friend: people with long arms should find it relatively easy, and it uses the entire body so it’ll pack on mass. Although squats and benching will do wonders for your physique, taller ectomorphs might find them difficult. “Your longer levers might give you trouble getting below parallel in the squat,” says Purdue. “That’s when I recommend the leg press.”

The Ectomorph Cheat Sheet

  • DO
  • Train with compound moves
  • Get enough protein
  • Don't only use isolation moves -- 80% of weight training should be big muscle groups
  • DON'T
  • Overemphasize isolation moves
  • Do too much cardio 
  • Skip out on weight training