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HIIT Workouts For Skinny Fat & Ectomorphs

Should You Do Them Or Avoid Them?

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1

HIIT Workouts For Skinny Fat And Ectomorphs

Let’s talk about a style of workouts that you may love, hate, or not understand at all…HIIT workouts for skinny fat and ectomorph body types.

Sure, they can make you break a crazy sweat and leave you breathless, but if your main goal is to build muscle and achieve a toned, defined physique, they might not be your best bet.

What Are HIIT Workouts?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training.  This is a style of workout that revolves around getting your heart rate up by doing lots of exercises and/or taking very short breaks.

People think they are effective because they sweat a lot and are gassed after.

Sure they are good for improving your cardio health, can give you a nice state of mental clarity, and they can build a little muscle.

But that’s not what you’re here for.  If you have a skinny fat or ectomorph body, you are trying to build muscle so you need to do workouts that optimize that.

Why Are HIIT Workouts Not Ideal For Skinny Fat & Ectomorphs?

Building muscle requires specific implementations like progressive overload, pushing your working sets close to failure, and allowing adequate rest between sets. Unfortunately, HIIT workouts often make it challenging to execute these principles effectively.

Imagine this scenario: you're doing a HIIT routine with multiple exercises, and one of them in a biceps curls. 

You quickly perform 10 reps of the biceps curl and move on to the next exercise. 

Here’s the problem in this hypotethical example.

If you had taken proper rest and given it your all, maybe you could have pushed yourself to 20 reps. We know that muscle growth primarily occurs in the last few reps before failure so by stopping at 10 reps, you're missing out on the majority of the muscle building effect.

Makes sense, right?

This is why HIIT workouts aren’t the best option for skinny fat and ectomorphs.

Are Hiit Workouts Good For skinny fat?

Should You Avoid HIIT Workouts All Together?

Don’t get me wrong.

I have nothing against HIIT workouts. I stated some of the benefits above.

If you genuinely enjoy them and/or are short on time, they can provide mental clarity and improve your cardiovascular fitness. 

However, when it comes to optimizing muscle growth, you need to focus on a purely hypertrophy based workout like I outline in my skinny fat to fit guide or hardgainer workout program.


If you absolutely love HIIT workouts but still want to prioritize muscle growth, here's what I would recommend if you were my client: 

  • Perform 3 hypertrophy focused skinny fat & ectomorph workouts and do 1 HIIT session each week.
  • Alternatively, you can do 3 - 4 hypertrophy workouts and add a short 5 - 10 minute circuit at the end of your workout that will elevate your heart rate, make you sweat, and provide that feeling you are after.


As you can see, in the way I talk about doing skinny fat cardio and ectomorph cardio in moderation, you can still sprinkle in HIIT workouts.