The ectomorph body type (somatotype)

June 7, 2017 by John Quinn - Product Owner - mPort

The ectomorph body type (somatotype) is typically long, slender and thin. They find it hard to gain muscle or fat mass.

While they can easily get lean and hard, their lack of musculature severely limits their chances in sports requiring mass. Power and strength sports are perhaps not suitable as their slight build leaves them susceptible to injuries, but they dominate endurance sports and gymnastics.
Body Shapes_Ecto_single

Naturally low levels of body fat allow ectomorphs to keep a high strength to body weight ratio as well as undergo less physical stress during repetitive movement long-duration activities such as running and cycling compared to mesomorphs or endomorphs. At very low levels of body fat this can be detrimental to health, and for females in endurance sports it can result in a cessation of periods and iron deficiency. Because of their smaller surface area, ectomorphs can regulate their body temperature and breathing more efficiently than mesomorphs and endomorphs; a trait that is particularly important in aerobic endurance activities.

Famous athletes with an ectomorph body type (somatotype) include Frank Zane, Ulisses William Jr., Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, Kevin Garnett, Manny Pacquiao, Usain Bolt, and Bruce Lee.

Tendencies of the ectomorph body type (somatotype)

  • Hard to gain muscle (known as a “hardgainer”)
  • Slender frame
  • Narrow shoulders and hips
  • Narrow chest and abdomen
  • Small bone structure
  • Very fast metabolism

Sports benefit

  • Light frame makes them suited for aerobic activity like gymnastics
  • Smaller body surface area also enhances their suitability for endurance activity
  • Their body is better at thermo regulation, important in endurance based sports

Nutrition tips

Nutrition is very important for ectomorphs. Carbs should consume between 30-60% of their total calorie intake, depending on whether the goal is mass gain, maintenance, or fat loss. Higher carbohydrate ratios augment lean mass gains, while lower carbohydrate ratios tend to accelerate fat loss. The majority of the carb intake should be post-workout. They should focus on eating lots of starchy, unprocessed carbohydrates (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, quinoa). High calorie protein shakes which include whey protein and blended protein powders during the day while focusing on casein protein powder before bed for a slow release form of protein to nourish your muscles while you’re sleeping. Weight gainer powders with extra calories will help for putting on size. Ectomorphs can eat 6-8 high calorie meals spread out evenly through the day (every 2.5 to 3 hours). At least 25% of total calories should come from protein, with the remainder from fat.

Exercise tips

Workouts should be centered on heavy compound movements while limiting cardiovascular training. Do not spend your time on high repetition sets of single-joint isolation exercises (concentration curls, etc.). Ectomorphs will benefit greatly from multi-joint compound exercises listed below:

  • Bench Press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull-Ups
  • Rows
  • Shoulder Press

These are the key exercises that are going to add the most amount of muscle mass to your body in the shortest amount of time possible. Make sure you’re doing some variation of all of them at least once per week, and focus on lifting heavy enough to stimulate growth (ideally within the 5-8 repetition range for most of your training).

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For more information on the physical traits of each body type, including exercise and nutrition tips.


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