An ectomorph workout is a training program designed to build mass for skinny individuals. The ectomorph body type is often described as having a flat chest, small shoulders, and thin waist. These individuals are often described as thin or skinny and have trouble putting on weight, possibly due to a faster than average metabolism (i.e. they are a “hard gainer”).
Building muscle and gaining weight is primarily a function of three things: your training program, diet, and recovery.
Manipulating these three things correctly can help an individual with an ectomorph body type build muscle, get stronger, and increase their overall size.
- 1 Summary (4 Easy Steps)
- 2 Ectomorph Training Principles
- 3 Ectomorph Workout Plan Recommendations
- 4 Ectomorph Recovery Plan
- 5 Extra Resources for Gaining Weight & Muscle
- 6 Real Results & Success Stories
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
Summary (4 Easy Steps)
Here’s what this guide will help you do.
- Pick a training program
- Calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)
- Calculate your macro profile
- Track your calories
That’s it. The rest is just details and tips for your success.
Ectomorph Training Principles
In order to build muscle and gain weight, the three most important training principles are:
- Train the largest muscle groups of the body with a focus on compound lifts
- Provide the body with adequate resources to fuel growth by being in a caloric surplus
- Adequate recovery
Ectomorph Workout Plan Recommendations
Beginner Ectomorph Workout Routines
A good starting option is the Ivysaur 4-4-8 Program.
- Utilizes 3 training days per week
- Focuses on big compound lifts
- Trains the full body each session
- Progresses weekly, allowing for faster progress
Another great choice is the Greyskull LP program, which is another 3 day full body strength workout. It increases each session instead of every week, but the overall progression rate is the same as Ivysaur 4-4-8 (15 lb per week or 7.5 kg per week).
- 3 training days per week
- Equal volume between overhead press and bench press
- Equal volume between chin ups and barbell rows
- Includes direct arm work (triceps, biceps)
- Includes ab and shoulder work (shrugs)
- 5 exercises per training session instead of 4 exercises
I think Ivysaur 4-4-8 is slightly better than Greyskull LP because of the 3x weekly bench pressing in Ivysaur 4-4-8. Bench Press can typically handle higher frequencies, so I think it is suboptimal to split volume evenly between the overhead press and the bench press in Greyskull LP. Still, this is a minor complaint and I still recommend running Greyskull if you find it appealing.
Intermediate Ectomorph Workout Routine
5/3/1 Boring But Big (BBB)
As progress on the above program stalls, then I recommend moving to Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Boring But Big.
- Utilizes 4 training days per week
- Focuses on big compound lifts
- Has gradual progression built in, allowing it to be run for a long time while continually making gains
Progression on These Programs
Combined, choosing a beginner and intermediate program listed above should be able to take you through your first year of training.
Ivysaur 4-4-8 or Greyskull LP with their weekly/daily progression, should provide somewhere between 3 and 5 months worth of steady progress. It will start easy, but gradually become quite difficult. Successful execution of the program will require that diet and recovery are dialed in, which we will discuss below.
Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Boring But Big, with its monthly progression, should be able to provide you with a solid training regimen for the remainder of the year. Diet and recovery will be even more critical here, as the training frequency will be increased from three times per week to four times per week. It is a brutally simple program that has helped thousands of people increase their size and, run correctly, it will help you grow too.
Ectomorph Recovery Plan
You don’t build muscle when you’re working out. You build muscle when you’re recovering from working out.
Getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night is essential to allowing your body the opportunity to build muscle and burn fat. It is also when your body has the opportunity to recover from fatigue, which accumulates in your body and, at adequate levels, reduces your ability to train at optimal levels.
- Sleep Study #1
- These study participants got 8.5 hours of sleep each night and lost 2.33x more fat than a group that got 5.5 hours per night.
- The 5.5 hour group lost 1.6x more lean muscle mass than the 8.5 hour group.
- Sleep Study #2
- Not getting enough sleep reduces circulating levels of testosterone and IGF-1 (a growth hormone).
There is a ton of supporting research that suggests sleep is a crucial part of any strength and muscle building endeavor. Sleep cannot be sold, so you don’t hear it discussed much by the fitness industry, but it is just as essential as exercise and diet. It is the third leg upon which the bar stool of fitness sits.
Can’t get 9 hours? Shoot for 8.
Can’t get 8 hours? Shoot for 7.5.
The point is that the more sleep you get, the more gains you will make.
That’s it. Getting to eating, lifting, and gaining!
Extra Resources for Gaining Weight & Muscle
While the above information is all you need to get started, if you think you need some extra guidance, here you go.
Reddit /r/GainIt Community
A entire subreddit community dedicated to gaining weight, mass, and muscle.
Most importantly, read the FAQ section (below). It will very likely answer any remaining questions you have.
Bulking Recipe Ideas
Here are some great recipes for meals that help you gain weight. The calories are listed next to most of the different recipes, along with whether the recipe is for a meal or a shake.
Muscle Building 101 (TheFitness.wiki)
Real Results & Success Stories
Here are real people that used Lift Vault programs and a sensible diet to gain weight and muscle. They did not always run one of the programs recommended above, showing that there are many paths to gaining weight and muscle, but they all use adding weight on heavy compound lifts and eating at a caloric surplus.
M/23/6’2 [158 lbs to 198 lbs] (1 year)
He used a PPL routine, running it about 5x per week.
M/18/6’1″ [140 lbs to 194 lbs] (3 years)
M/23/107 lbs to 126 lbs (5 months)
This person had success running PHUL, but more importantly actually started eating 3 meals a day + a protein shake.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the key principles of an ectomorph training program?
Gaining weight and muscle, for the vast majority of people, including ectomorphs, is straightforward. Hop on a linear periodization program that utilizes heavy compound lifts, eat in a caloric surplus, and give your body adequate recovery. That’s it.
What are some tips for eating more calories?
There are plenty. The trick is finding ones that you will actually do. For me, a shake with milk, eggs, protein powder, coconut oil, peanut butter, a banana, and spinach every morning was an easy way to get nearly 1,000 calories in for breakfast. This put me in a good position to hit my caloric goals by the end of the day. Eating calorically dense food: red meat, whole milk, nuts, avocado, and rice are also smart strategies. More detail is provided in the “diet” section above.
What are the most popular ectomorph workouts?
Can ectomorphs gain weight and get stronger?
Yes, of course. Just about everyone, including ectomorphs, have been able to gain muscle and size by lifting weights and eating more – just like everyone else. The same rules apply. I don’t mean this as an insult and I don’t say it with malice. This is, in fact, good news. Many people have been where you are and have successfully achieved their goals of getting bigger and stronger. It is very possible and if you follow the correct steps, it is inevitable.