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The Premier Ectomorph Body Type Guide [Workouts Included] For 2021

By: Zack Mathews

Ectomorph Body Type Traits

Can you relate to any of the traits of an ectomorph body type?  It can be frustrating eating everything in sight and not seing changes to your body.

Your family and friends think you are "lucky" to have an ectomorph body type but they don't understand your struggles of wanting to overcome your skinny genetics.

I understand because I have been in your shoes and now I want to give you the specific details for how a hardgainer should workout and eat.

First off, let me quickly introduce myself if this is your first time coming to VBA Fitness.

My name is Zack Mathews.

I always struggled with my weight and confidence.

I wondered why I couldn't gain weight and it wasn't until I learned the science behind ectomorph workouts and ectomorph diets that I was able to start gaining. 

Over the past few years I have gained over 50 pounds and now am happy and confident in my body.

Ectomorph body type transformation

Between learning how to transform my own body and working with ectomorph clients in person and online over the past 5 years, I know what it takes for you to see results and if you can follow this information and be consistent with it, you will transform your body.

In this article, you will learn:
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How Often Should An Ectomorph Body Type Be Lifting Weights?

 This might come as a shock to some, but when it comes to working out, you want to find a balance between intense sessions and body recover, and this sometimes means less is more.

Your body doesn’t need to workout 6 days a week, you don’t have to be in the gym for 2 hours a day, and you definitely don’t need to be doing tons of exercises for the same muscle group.

For most hardgainers, 3 - 4 workouts a week is the perfect blend of workouts and recovery time.

ectomorph body type best workout split

As you advance, you can increase to a 5x/week program, but for most beginner to intermediate lifters, one of these two plans is going to be great for you.

The Benefits Of Different Rep Ranges

Knowing which rep range to follow can be confusing.

Some workouts will tell you that you need to be doing low reps.

Others will say the 8 - 12 is the only place you should be to build muscle.

And what about those workouts that have you blasting out 20+ reps of a movement!?

Let's break down what each rep range does and how it can benefit you.

Strength Rep Range: 1 - 5 Reps

When you want to build pure strength, the low reps are your bread and butter. 

You want to stay in the 1-5 rep range and take LONG breaks in between sets.  When lifting your max, or close to it, you will be exerting a ton of energy so anywhere between 3 - 5 minutes or rest will be required.

These long breaks are crucial because your central nervous system needs time to recover.

Think about an Olympic 100meter runner, let's say Usain Bolt.

Have you ever seen him after a race?

He keeps running, will be laughing, talking to other people.

He's not tired and his muscles aren't tired, but if you told him to immediately go do another 100 meter dash, there is no way he will do the same time.

His central nervous system is fatigued and needs time to recover.  Just likes yours will when you lift heavy.

You will definitely gain muscle in this range because how can you not.  If you are improving your main lifts and getting stronger, you will gain muscle.

Hypertrophy Rep Range: 6 - 12 Reps

This is the range where you can gain the most muscle, which is why you may have seen some workout plans with most of the exercises in this range.

You don’t need the same amount of rest as you do in the strength phase.

Shoot for 1 - 3 minutes rest.

And only use the higher end if you are really struggling.

When performing reps in the 6-12 rep range, you need to be implementing a term called progressive overload.

Ectomorph Body type must use progressive overload

Progressive overload is continuously putting new stresses on your body so your muscles can grow.  You can’t just train day in and day out with only doing 8 reps of an exercise with the same weight. 

Progressive overload is the most important factor in whether your ectomorph body type will decide to build muscle or not.

The best way to implement progressive overload is by:

  • Increasing weight
  • Doing more total sets
  • Adding reps
  • Taking shorter rest times
  • Slowing down the exercise to create more time under tension
  • Adding pauses at the hardest part of the movement
  • Having better form
  • Having more range of motion

Endurance Reps: 12+ reps

The last rep range is high reps of 12+ and this is often referred to as the muscular endurance phase.

There has been a long standing myth that you can’t gain muscle in this phase and it should be ignored, but recent studies have shown that adequate muscle gain HAS occurred by performing reps in this range. 

Since the reps are higher, the rest time needs to be even shorter so 1 minute is really all you need here for your muscle to recover.

The Best Rep Range For Ectomorph Weight Gain

People will tell you the hypertrophy rep range is the best for building muscle.

And most of the time this will be correct, especially if you are a complete beginner.  Studies even show this is the best rep range for building muscle.

It doesn't always take into account the whole picture though.

If you are someone who has been trying to gain weight for months and has always stayed in the 6 - 12 rep range, that's actually the worst range for you.

The worst?!

Blasphemy!

You don’t know what you are talking about Zack!

Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Hold on one second before you delete this guide and go make fun of me to your friends.

What I am saying is this.

Your body is constantly adapting to the stresses you are putting on it and it's beneficial for you to switch your rep ranges every 3 - 4 weeks if you are an intermediate to advanced lifter.

Beginners can get away with staying in a certain rep range for longer, but I would recommend no more than 8-12 weeks.

This is what I do with my ectomorph body type clients.  They have workouts phased every 3-4 weeks to keep their body growing and getting them stronger and having better endurance over time.

FREE Ectomorph Workout Programs

Here are two 3x/week workout program designed exclusively with ectomorph weight gain in mind.

I've used this with many clients in the past with great results.

It is structured in a way that allows you to hit all your muscle groups multiple times a week, and focuses on the bigger compound movements.

It will help you build muscle and get stronger.

Choose between the beginner or immediate program and run it for 4 weeks.

I was feeling generous and even added videos for each exercise so you can learn how to do the movement and hear my lovely voice.

Track your progress on all the lifts so you can be implementing progressive overload.

You do remember what progressive overload is right?!

Ok, good.  Have fun with these workouts.

Ectomorph Weight Gain Beginner Program

Workout #1 - Lower Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
Incline DB Chest Press 3 x 6- 8 2 minutes
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 x 6 - 8/side 90 seconds
TRX Rows 3 x 6- 10 90 seconds
Split Stance One Arm Shoulder Press 2 x 10 - 12/side 60 - 90 seconds
Goblet Squats 2 x 10 - 12 60  - 90 seconds
DB Bicep Curls 2 x 12 1 minute
Bench Dips 2 x 12 1 minute
Band Pullaparts 2 x 20 1 minute
Side Planks 2 x 30 - 45sec/ side 1 minute
Workout #2 - Full Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
KB Deadlifts 3 x 10 - 12 2 minutes
DB Chest Press 3 x 6 - 8 60 - 90 seconds
Reverse Lunges 3 x 8- 10/leg 60 - 90 seconds
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 2 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
DB Rows 2 x 10 - 12/side 1 minute
DB Shrugs 2 x 12 1 minute
DB Overhead Tricep Extension 2 x 12 1 minute
Face Pulls 2 x 20 1 minute
Russian Twists 2 x 8 - 10/side 1 minute
Workout #3 - Full Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
Weighted Step Ups 3 x 8 - 10/leg 2 minutes
Seated DB Shoulder Variations 3 x 8 - 10 60 - 90 seconds
Posture Pushups 3 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
Split Stance One Arm Pulldowns 2 x 10 - 12 Use assistance if needed 60 - 90 seconds
DB deadlifts 2 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
Barbell Bicep Curls 2 x 12 1 minute
Barbell Skullcrushers 2 x 12 1 minute
Bent Over Rear Delt Flys 2 x 20 1 minute
Isometric Plank 2 x 30 -60 seconds 1 minute

Ectomorph Weight Gain Intermediate Program

Workout #1 - Full Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
Barbell Squats 4 x 6 - 8 2 minutes
Barbell Shoulder Press 3 x 8 - 10 60 - 90 seconds
Incline DB Chest Press 3 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
Pull Up Variations - Overhand  Grip 3 x 10 - 12 Use assistance if needed 60 - 90 seconds
DB deadlifts 2 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
Cross Body Bicep Curls 2 x 12/arm 1 minute
Barbell Skullcrushers 2 x 12 1 minute
Bent Over Rear Delt Flys 2 x 20 1 minute
Isometric Plank 2 x 30 -60 seconds 1 minute
Workout #2 - Full Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
Trap Bar Deadlifts 4 x 4 -6 2 minutes
Barbell Bench Press 3 x 6 - 8 60 - 90 seconds
Walking Lunges 3 x 8- 10/leg 60 - 90 seconds
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
DB Rows With Reach 3 x 10 - 12/side 1 minute
DB Shrugs 2 x 12 1 minute
DB Overhead Tricep Extension 2 x 12 1 minute
Face Pulls 2 x 20 1 minute
Farmers Carry 2 x 45 - 60 sec 1 minute
Workout #3 - Full Body
Exercise Sets and Reps Rest Time
Incline Barbell Bench Press 4 x 6- 8 2 minutes
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 x 6 - 8/side 90 seconds
Pull Up Variations - Chinups 3 x 6- 10 90 seconds
Shoulder Raise Variations - Lateral Raises 3 x 10 - 12 60 - 90 seconds
1.5 Rep Goblet Squats 3 x 10 - 12 60  - 90 seconds
DB Bicep Curls 2 x 12 1 minute
Dips - Use assisted if needed 2 x 12 1 minute
Band Pullaparts 2 x 20 1 minute
Side Planks 2 x 30 - 45sec/ side 1 minute

Workout Terminology

Ectomorph body type workout overview

Since reading a workout program can be like a foreign language to some, let's discuss a few of the main points based on the photo above.

To begin, let's understand the numbers after the exercise. 

We will take the barbell bench press as the first example. 

The first number is a set. 

A set is the total number of rounds that you will be doing an exercise.  So for this example you will be doing the barbell bench press for 4 rounds. 

The second number is repetitions.

This number tells you how many consecutive times you will do that exercise before you get a break.  So you will bench press 4 times, take a break, perform 4 reps again, rest.  You do this on and off for a total of 4 rounds.

A superset means you will be doing more than 1 exercise consecutively WITHOUT taking a break. 

For this example, superset #1, you will perform a dumbbell shoulder press 8 times, then a chest supported row for 10 reps, and then rest. 

You will repeat this for a total of 3 rounds. 

Sometimes you can even do a triple or quad set where you perform 3 or 4 exercises without a break.  Performing supersets allows you to get more work done in a shorter amount of time, but will also fatigue you quicker.

AMAP stands for “as many as possible”. 

I often throw this in for pull-ups or pushups since everyone is at a different level.  

Rep Tempo is not part of the workout above but is important to talk about. 

When executing an exercise, you want to do it in a controlled fashion, and sometimes a workout might read something like barbell bench press - 5 x 6 - 3 second negative, 1 second pause.  Negative means how long it takes you lower the weight. 

So instead of lowering the bar quickly to your chest, you slowly lower it for 3 seconds, and then raise it back up.  This allows for a different type of stress on your muscles and can help your muscles grow. 

A 1 second pause, or sometimes called a 1 second stretch, means will pause for that amount of time at the hardest part of the movement.  This makes you lose all momentum with the lift and makes you push a little harder to finish the exercise.

Need a better explanation of those?

Here are a couple of quick videos demonstrating rep tempo and pauses.

Nutrition Overview For An Ectomorph Body Type

Now that you have an understanding of how you need to workout, you also need to have a strong understanding of nutrition.

If you do the workouts above and don’t worry about what you are eating you will get stronger, but you will not see significant changes to your ectomorph body type. 

You have to make eating is a priority, which was something I didn't think was that important in the past for my own weight gain journey.

I always thought I could do a really hard workout and that would be enough to grow.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately that is completely wrong and I set myself back quite a lot with this thinking.  Once I learned how hardgainers are suppose to eat, that’s when I started gaining weight.

Ok, ready for some more terminology?

teachusmore

In order to gain weight, you MUST be in a calorie surplus.  What does this mean? It means you need to EAT EAT EAT.

Gaining weight is all about energy balance. 

Everybody has a maintenance calorie amount.

This means that there is a certain of amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight.  This is a neutral energy balance. 

Your energy being taken in (in the form of food) is equal to the energy your body is using (in the form of exercise, eating, breathing, etc.). 

To gain weight your energy intake (aka food) needs to be HIGHER than your energy output.  This will put you in a calorie surplus.

If your energy intake is lower than your energy output, this will put you in a calorie deficit and thus weight loss will occur.

Let’s break this down into visual form to help you understand it even better.

I’ll show you what your calorie maintenance looks like using my friend Paul.  Paul has an ectomorph body type.

Copy of Skinny Fat Calorie Maintenace

See how he eats the exact amount of calories that he burns on any given day?

That’s calorie maintenance.  Your weight will stay the exact same.

You are reading this guide because you want to learn how to gain weight and muscle.

Here’s how you do that…

Paul…it’s your time again!

Ectomorph Body type needs to be in a calorie surplus
Paul is now in a calorie surplus since his calories consumed are MORE than his calories burned.

Paul is happy, and you can be too if you eat in a calorie surplus.

What about the opposite end of the spectrum?

The dreaded calorie deficit.

As stated above, this happens when you eat less calories than your body needs, and the scale will go down.

ectomorph calorie deficit (1)

Macronutrients For Your Ectomorph Diet

The 3 macronutrients that will make up your calorie surplus will be proteins, carbs, and fats.

Protein

Protein will be the building block for your muscles.

While working out you are actually breaking down your muscles, so in order for them to repair and grow, you will need to consume an adequate amount of protein daily. 

Newer studies have shown that minimum of 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is adequate.  There is nothing wrong with having more, for example, sometimes I eat 1 - 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight. 

In terms of calories, 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories.  This will become relevant shortly.

Carbohydrates

Hardgainers can respond very well to carbohydrates compared to other body types, which is awesome and makes people jealous.

A bulk of your food consumption each day should come from them. 

Carbs will provide you with the energy you need for your workouts and to get you through the rest of your day.  Similar to protein, 1 gram of carbs is equal to 4 calories.

SHeldonCarbs

Fats

Lastly, fats are also helpful in providing you energy throughout the day (not as much as carbs), and help regulate certain hormones in your body.

What makes fats unique is that 1 gram of fat is equal to 9, yes NINE, calories.

 That’s more than double the amount of protein and carbs.  So you will learn that fats are an easy way to get calories into your body if you are having trouble hitting your daily goals.

How To Track Your Nutrition

Having an ectomorph body type and gaining weight is not easy and requires more food consumption that you probably think.

The best way to gain weight is to calorie count and track your protein intake. 

By tracking these two things, you #1 make sure you are in a calorie surplus daily, and #2 you are consuming enough protein to support your workouts.  As a beginner, the carbs and fats are not as important. 

For proper tracking, you will need to download a tracking app (download MyFitnessPal), and will need a food scale to weigh your foods to ensure proper measurements. 

If you feel overwhelmed about calorie counting, don’t. 

It's a new skill you are learning and will take some time to get it down.  But with practice you'll be an expert in no time.

Ectomorph Weight Gain Meal Tracking

Find The Calorie Surplus And Protein Targets For An Ectomorph Body Type

Step 1: Finding Your Calorie Maintenance

The first step in finding out how many calories you should be consuming to gain weight will be to find the amount of calories that will keep your weight the same.

We are doing this because you need a baseline to work from.

I could easily tell you to eat 3500 calories and you will probably gain weight from that, but it’s not showing us the whole picture.

Why?

Because if you go too high above your calorie maintenance number, you risk just gaining a lot of fat.

 

Your goal when gaining weight should be to be able to put on as much muscle as you can with minimal fat gain.

 

We do this by finding your calorie maintenance and then increasing that number by a small amount.

So let’s find your calorie maintenance!

There are two ways to do.

Option 1 (Recommended): 

Download a food tracking app (again, I recommend MyFitnessPal) and input your food for the next 10 days.  Your food should be the normal stuff you eat on a given day.  Don’t try to be fancy and overeat to start gaining.

Your goal during these two weeks should be to keep your weight the exact same.

Weigh yourself everyday and track your food.  At the end of the 10 days, if your weight is just about the same as it was when you started, take all your calories and divide it by 10 to get your average.

Not only do you have an accurate assessment of what your calorie maintenance is, but you just got done with 10 days of learning how to input your food into a tracking app.

That’s a win/win.

Option 2: 

A less accurate way to track your maintenance target would be to use an averaged number that seems to predict most people’s maintenance area.

If you multiply your weight by 15, you might get a decent estimate for your calorie maintenance.

So if you weight 150 pounds, you would be looking at 2250 calories a day.

This option is not as good as option 1 because…

    • It doesn’t take into account your activity level.
    • You might have more or less muscle than the average person, thus altering this average.
    • There is a chance you have a faster metabolism and already eat more.

 

Step 2: Finding Your Calorie Surplus

You’ve found your calorie maintenance amount. And you know you need to eat more than your maintenance amount to gain weight.

So let’s put those two together for your goal.

  • Add 500 calories to your calorie maintenance to begin gaining weight and muscle.
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Step 3: Finding Your Protein Target

Consuming adequate protein is crucial because we want to make sure you are gaining MUSCLE!

If you lift weights and eat in a calorie surplus with little no protein, you will hinder your progress greatly.

Don’t let that happen to you!

  • Eat between 0-8 - 1 gram of protein per pound (lbs) of bodyweight eat day to ensure that your calorie surplus results in muscle growth.

Step 4: Carbs and Fats

With our main goal of being to gain weight, the amount of carbs and fats you consume is less important than the TOTAL amount of calories you consume each day. 

If you are in a calorie surplus, and you hit your daily protein target, you will gain weight. 

For that reason, there is no need to track your carbs and fats at the beginning of your journey.  Your main focus should be on your consistency with your calories and protein.

Ectomorph Body Type Inconsistency will kill your progress

Best Supplements For An Ectomorph Body Type

shutterstock_549461158

Let me start by saying, if you don’t want to use supplements, that is totally fine. I am not a registered dietician, so these are only recommendations.

In your overall weight gain journey, supplements will have very little to do with your success. 

If you have effective workouts, hit your calories and proteins, get good sleep, and manage your stress, you will get much better results than what supplements can do for you.

Supplements can be an aid to help your workouts be better, help repair muscles from your workouts, and can help you hit your calorie surplus.

Protein Powder

This is the staple of any gym goer. 

Protein will help promote muscle growth, repair muscles, and is easily digestible (especially if you don't like to eat right after a workout).  A shake or two a day can help you hit your daily protein if you are having trouble doing it.

If you are going to add protein powder into your diet, find one you enjoy and that is easily digestible for you.

Creatine

Creatine helps get higher intensity work in the gym and helps with recovery. 

A normal scoop in the container is 5g and that is a good daily intake.

Ignore any recommendations that you should "load up" on this for awhile before you steady into 5g.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a great way to get a bolt of energy before you workout, which is why there are so many pre workouts on the market.

Some pre workouts have been known to make people jittery, so if you are sensitive to caffeine, stay away from it. 

Want to know another source of caffeine you can have instead of an expensive pre workout?

You guessed it...

Coffee!

Cheap, delicious, and gives you that same burst of energy you need!

Remember, take supplements based on what you feel will be best for you, not what someone says.

Those are the only 3 I have used, and it's worked quite well for me!

Wrapping Up

There you have it my friend.

Everything you need to know about weight gain and building confidence in your body!  It doesn't matter if you are an ectomorph female or male, the same principles will apply.

It’s really not that hard once you understand what you have to do. 

Be consistent with your diet and workouts, and you will definitely see progress! 

I hope this helps, and feel free to reach out if you need any help.

4 Comments

  1. Jonathan on August 12, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    This is the best guide I’ve seen out there. Thank you so much for all the free advice! When will your training guide come out?

    • zachadmin on August 26, 2019 at 3:33 pm

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for the kind words! I currently train in person in Virginia Beach and also help hardgainers all over the country through online coaching. Shoot me a message if you are interested in coaching.

  2. fritz on September 7, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I guess your friend John would rather die exhausted that “gain 5 pounds in his first month only working out for 30 minutes, 3 times a day!” 🙂
    You probably have ment a week.

    • zachadmin on September 10, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      haha! wow nice catch, thanks for leaving a comment and letting me know. I don’t care how many times your proofread an article, sometimes you just don’t catch something. Appreciate it, hope you found the article helpful.

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