What’s An Ectomorph? Are They Even Real?
Is “ectomorph” a real term? Is it an accurate way to describe a naturally skinny person with a tall, narrow build? It’s a controversial word, and over the past ten years, we’ve gotten our share of flack for using it. I understand why. The somatotypes have a dark past.
Is it a useful term? We’re naturally skinny guys with a decade of experience helping thousands of other skinny guys build muscle. Many of us describe ourselves as ectomorphs. It’s a convenient way to refer to our narrower frames and thinner bones. Should we stop describing ourselves that way?
Let’s dig into ectomorph etymology and see if there’s anything worth salvaging here.
There are a few terms describing the skinny condition. Each is related, but they all mean something slightly different, describing our many different facets.
- Skinny: someone with less muscle and fat than average. We often build muscle quite fast. We can often bulk quite aggressively.
- Skinny-fat: someone with less muscle than average but too much body fat. For example, someone with upper arms smaller than 13 inches and a body-fat percentage over 20%. It’s another way of calling someone “out of shape.” They often benefit from doing a lean bulk.
- Ectomorph: someone with a narrow frame and thin bones. It’s a term referring to bone structure. Ectomorphs can be thin, skinny-fat, overweight, or muscular.
- Hardgainer: someone who struggles to eat enough calories to gain weight. This is the skinny guy who tries to bulk up but can’t budge the scale.
- Non-responder: in the past, researchers used this term to describe people who failed to gain weight during muscle-building studies. Further research showed that other factors tended to explain their lack of muscle growth. The current consensus is to use the term “low-responder” instead.
- Low-responder: someone who has a lower-than-average response to the stimulus of lifting weights. It refers to someone with bad muscle-building genetics. There’s very little overlap between non-responders and skinny guys. Most skinny guys can build muscle quite fast.
You could argue that “ectomorph” is a useful term because it describes something the other terms don’t. For example, I’ve gained 70 pounds, going from 130 to 200 pounds. I’m not skinny anymore. But I still have the same bone structure. My frame is still narrow. My bones are still thin. I’m still an ectomorph.
The Origin of the Ectomorph
The term “ectomorph” was coined by William Herbert Sheldon in the 1940s. It was part of his somatotype taxonomy, used to divide men into three body types: mesomorphs, endomorphs, and ectomorphs.
- Mesomorphs were muscular and athletic.
- Endomorphs were squatter and more overweight.
- Ectomorphs were taller, narrower, and skinnier.
You aren’t supposed to fall neatly into one category. Most people have aspects of all three. There’s nothing inherently wrong here. Not yet.
The etymology of the word ectomorph is especially interesting. The prefix “ecto” refers to the “outside” of our bodies, our endoderms, our skin. Ectomorph is a more sophisticated way of calling someone “skinny.”
The Fall From Grace
Skinny people exist. Some guys do indeed have narrower frames. But Sheldon’s goals were somewhat more nefarious than that. He wanted to link body types with personality types:
- Mesomorphs were bold and adventurous.
- Endomorphs were friendly and lazy.
- Ectomorphs were introverted, anxious, and intellectual.
Sheldon was never able to prove a connection. Moreover, he was criticized for stereotyping people based on their appearance. The somatotypes were pseudoscience right from the very beginning. They still are.
The Evolution of the Ectomorph
Words aren’t static. Once they’re released into our culture, their meaning changes and evolves. My favourite example of this is how the word “awful,” originally meaning “full of awe” or “worthy of fear and respect” has gradually come to mean “very bad.”
“Ectomorph” is no different. Once it was ousted from the scientific community, the bodybuilding community caught hold of it. They dropped the personality stuff. They didn’t need it. They had muscles.
In the bodybuilding community, ectomorph came to refer to someone with a narrower frame, thinner bones, and a propensity for being thinner. There’s nothing pseudoscientific about that. Those traits do exist. Sometimes they combine together.
Nowadays, if someone calls themself an ectomorph, chances are they’re using bodybuilding slang, not old psychological pseudoscience.
Should We Call Ourselves Ectomorphs?
As a skinny guy, I had a really hard time building muscle. None of the conventional fitness advice seemed to be written for me. None of it worked. I couldn’t gain weight no matter what I tried.
Then I learned about the term “ectomorph.” It was one of my greatest discoveries. I started finding advice for people who were underweight and struggling to bulk up. I found a community of guys all battling against their skinniness.
As I was gaining weight, I blogged about it, and I used the term “ectomorph” to describe myself. I wasn’t talking about how I was anxious or introverted. I was anxious and introverted, but that was just a coincidence. I was using it to describe my natural skinniness.
This was ten years ago, back before the online fitness community had really taken off. Seeing a skinny guy blogging about gaining weight was rare. The blog took off, so I started spending my evenings helping my readers build muscle.
That was around the time I helped my skinny roommate bulk up. Jared was 6′ and 130 pounds—similar to my starting height and weight. He was running into a number of health issues, too. His posture was crumbling. His tendons were giving out.
As our blog continued to grow, we teamed up with a world-class strength coach, Marco Walker-Ng:
Marco had a degree in health sciences (BHSc), he was a certified strength and nutrition coach, and he’d interned with Eric Cressey (the strength coach for the New York Yankees). When we got in touch with him, he was helping his university football team bulk up, coaching a few professional athletes, and training some of our Canadian Olympic rugby team.
The three of us teamed up to create our Bony to Beastly and Bony to Bombshell programs, and we got to work helping skinny people bulk up, both through our blog and through our programs. Using our own experience, training, and research, we were able to consistently help skinny guys build muscle.
Then a funny thing started happening. People would come to our blog, see that we were using the word “ectomorph,” and accuse us of using pseudoscientific terminology to describe ourselves. That confused us.
Should we stop using the word ectomorph? Should we call ourselves “skinny” instead? Both words are slang terms for thin people. And they both describe different aspects of being thin.
The Difference Between Ectomorphs & Skinny Guys
We could call ourselves skinny, but not for long. As soon as we start bulking, we stop being skinny. We become thin, then fit, then athletic, and then strong. Having a narrow bone structure doesn’t prevent us from building muscle. We tend to build muscle quite quickly. And yet our bone structure remains the same. We’re still “ectomorphs.”
That’s where the term ectomorph comes in handy. Even after going from 130 to 200 pounds, even after filling out the sleeves of large t-shirts, I’m still an ectomorph. I still have trouble gaining weight. I still lose weight if I get stressed, sick, or go on vacation.
The same is true in reverse. Some guys are naturally overweight and then slim down. They aren’t naturally skinny, they don’t have meagre appetites, and they don’t have trouble gaining weight. They’re skinny, yes, but for a completely different reason. Their struggles and goals are almost the exact opposite of ours.
With different genetic propensities, we benefit from different methods:
- Intermittent fasting is designed to help people eat fewer calories. It’s not for us. Most of us have an easier time building muscle when we eat more often.
- Keto diets are designed to help people eat fewer calories. Again, it’s not for us. Most of us have an easier time eating bulking diets rich in nutritious carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, tubers, and legumes.
- Strength training is designed to make people stronger for their size. That’s great, but most of us want strength and size! We’re better off doing hypertrophy training.
Is There an Ectomorph Diet?
Most people are trying to eat less without being devoured by their cravings. We’re trying to eat more without feeling perpetually full. These are opposite goals that require different methods.
- More protein: we want to eat at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound bodyweight per day.
- More calories: When actively bulking, we want to eat about 250–500 calories more than usual, allowing us to gain 0.5–1 pound per week.
- More carbs: many overweight people find it easier to control their weight when restricting carbs. Most skinny guys are the opposite. We have an easier time gaining muscle and strength when we eat more carbs. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are rich in fibre, micronutrients, and phytonutrients. They swell our muscles with glycogen, improving our performance. The nitrates give us fuller muscle pumps and speed up muscle growth. Carbs are a powerful ally.
- More snacks: every time you eat a balanced meal, you feed your muscles protein and energy. That’s why most muscle-building experts recommend eating 4–7 meals per day. Eating smaller meals more often also helps us overcome our smaller stomachs.
- More liquid calories: when we drink our calories, they aren’t as filling, and they digest more quickly, making it easier to gain weight. That’s the opposite of what the average person wants. But for us, it’s a godsend. That’s why we benefit from drinking milk, milk alternatives, smoothies, protein shakes, and maybe a mass gainer.
- Energy-dense foods: some foods are denser sources of calories than others. For people struggling to eat enough calories, it can help to lean into denser whole foods, such as trail mix, rice, ground meat, and smoothies.
Is There an Ectomorph Workout?
Most people know resistance training is the best way to stimulate muscle growth. Bodyweight training and resistance bands are fairly popular, and they can work, but weight training is popular for a reason. Lifting weights is the simplest, fastest, and easiest way to build muscle.
Most beginner programs are designed to make you stronger for your size. Consider programs like Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5×5, or GreySkull LP. Even workouts marketed towards people who want to bulk up are often designed for overweight people trying to get leaner, not skinny guys trying to bulk up.
There’s a whole mythology surrounding strength training, too. Bodybuilding makes you big and fluffy, whereas strength training makes you hard and dense. None of that’s true. The muscles we build with strength or hypertrophy training look and feel exactly the same.
Hypertrophy has its own mythology. Ask most guys who started off thin, and they’ll preach the benefits of hypertrophy training. It’s the best way to get bigger and stronger, whereas strength training will only make you bigger for your size. It gets more interesting when we look at the subtext:
- Strength training is for people who are too big and too soft. It’s to help them get denser and harder.
- Hypertrophy training is for people who are too small and weak. It’s to help them get bigger and stronger.
So what makes an “ectomorph workout” unique is that it’s designed for someone who wants to get bigger and stronger. There’s no unique physiology we need to work around, we just need a workout program designed to help us accomplish our goals.
- Start each workout with big compound lifts for your bigger muscles. Think of exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, chin-ups, and rows. If you’re still a beginner, start with beginner variations of those lifts.
- Add isolation lifts for your smaller muscles. Train your arms if you want bigger arms. Train your neck if you want a thicker neck. Do lateral raises to broaden your shoulders. Add in some planks and crunches if you want thicker abs. Add in some extra chest flys if your chest is lagging.
- Get almost enough rest between sets. With 2–3 minutes of rest, you’ll have recovered most of your strength, especially if you’re still relatively thin. That tends to be long enough. Rest for longer if you need to.
- Lift close to muscle failure. Go all the way to failure sometimes. Take some of your isolation exercises all the way to failure to learn what it feels like. Try to stop just shy of that on most of your sets.
- Do enough sets per muscle per week. If you’re doing a full-body routine, that means training your muscles 3x per week, doing 4–8 sets for each muscle every workout.
- Lift in a moderate rep range most of the time. Anywhere from 4–40 reps per set stimulates muscle growth quite well. However, the extreme ends of that rep range are somewhat situation. 4-rep sets suit deadlifts quite well. 40-rep sets are good for masochists who want to feel like they’re burning in Hell. Most of the time, doing 6–15 reps per set works better.
Should Ectomorphs Avoid Cardio?
The idea is that ectomorphs are already struggling to eat enough calories. Cardio will only burn more. And that’s true. Cardio burns calories. But not very many. Plus, it tends to improve digestion and increase appetite. There’s no need to fear it.
Cardiovascular exercise is important for everyone. Everyone benefits from having a strong heart, a robust vascular system, and powerful lungs. Even ectomorphs.
If you’ve just started lifting weights, it’s okay to focus on lifting for a few months. You don’t need to add everything all at once. But once you’re in the habit of lifting weights and finishing up your first bulk, consider adding some cardio to your lifestyle.
If you’re new to cardio, even going on walks can work wonders on your health. Maybe that means going on a 30-minute walk most mornings. It’s okay to ease into it.
The word “ectomorph” has shady origins. It’s pseudoscience in psychological circles. But words evolve. Ectomorph is almost never used to refer to someone who’s introverted, anxious, and intellectual. Nowadays, it’s mainly used to describe naturally skinny guys. That’s fine.
Over the past few years, we’ve started calling ourselves “naturally skinny” instead of referring to ourselves as “ectomorphs.” It communicates the same thing but with less baggage, and we’ve found that fewer people get confused by it.
Still, it’s handy to have a term that describes us, encompassing our struggles. It’s still the dominant term for naturally skinny guys in many bodybuilding circles. I can see why. It’s useful. We tend to have different goals, and we tend to benefit from different diets and training styles.
Alright, that’s it for now. If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for naturally skinny guys. If you want a full foundational bulking program, including a 5-month full-body workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. Or, if you want a customizable intermediate bulking program, check out our Outlift Program.
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Interesting! I really appreciate learning that the TERMS may have come from a dubious scientist, but the body types are real. I understand the skepticism though. But bros coming on here saying this website is bogus is kinda like if people said, “What?! The science behind healing magnets has been disproven!! There’s no such THING as magnets!!”
Ahaha, yes! That’s the perfect analogy!
Ectomorph has been a very useful term for me. It has provided a way for me to understand my condition, and what I can do to work with, rather than against it. It has helped me to see what my qualities are, rather than trying to figure out whats ‘wrong’ with me.
The Term “naturally skinny” implies that I have the same strengths, weaknesses, and qualities as someone with another body type, that what works for them will work for me. My experience tells me this is not the case. It only describes my skinniness, not the particular quirks of my metabolism, or my bone structure, that is not going to significantly transform by eating and lifting more. So “naturally skinny” doesn’t work for me. Hardgainer is ok, but less descriptive. My own experience has proven out that using ectomorph as a body type has value, at least for me.
I hear ya, Alex. It was the same for me, a very valuable term to learn. When I finally found information for ectomorphs, that was when I realized that there were other people out there struggling with the same issues, and then learning how to overcome those common issues is what helped me finally build muscle. It’s not that I needed a totally atypical approach to training or anything, it’s just that I needed to focus a little harder on hypertrophy training, and I needed a diet that made it easier to eat more calories.
That’s interesting about how “naturally skinny” resonates with you less. I see what you mean. It doesn’t imply that we have a thinner bone structure or might struggle with higher non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or have a more adaptive metabolism, or anything along those lines. And hardgainer describes the difficulty with gaining weight, but it doesn’t describe the thinner bone structure. It’s less complete as a term.
As per your email questions, I think it’s good to stick to “ectomorph” vs something like “hardgainer.” “Hardgainer” is more on the side of labelling oneself as having a weakness, which this body type is not. Your article does suggest other weaknesses that people may associate with “ectomorph,” but hell, I guess it’s impossible to find a term that will make everyone happy…
Now, when it comes to marketing efforts in things like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, I would on the other hands probably use “hardgainer” as I imagine it’s likely to actually either be a term ectomorphs search for or will quickly understand. But you know that way better than I do, just my copywriting mind drifting off.
Thank you, André. This is really helpful 🙂
The way I use the word, I don’t see being a hardgainer has being a bad thing. But I think we’re using different definitions of the word, and your definition is correct, too. I normally use “hardgainer” to mean someone who has a hard time gaining weight, even when intentionally adding calories into their diets. So it’s someone with a fast or adaptive metabolism. For instance, someone with higher non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) driving their metabolism up whenever they try to eat a bulking diet. Or maybe someone whose appetite completely turns off as soon as they gain a bit of weight, making it hard to keep eating in a calorie surplus. But they often build muscle just fine once they get into a surplus.
I think you’re using hardgainer to mean a sort of non-responder. Someone who has trouble building muscle even when they’re doing everything correctly. Sort of a genetic disadvantage for building muscle, maybe having a harder time pushing themselves during their workouts, having stubborn muscles, or requiring higher training volumes to stimulate muscle growth. For that, I’d say “non-responder,” but it’s not a word I really use at all, I normally just prefer finding the limiting factor and addressing it. Everyone can grow, some just have it easier than others.
But, yeah, being a non-responder has nothing to do with being naturally thin, an ectomorph, or a hardgainer. In fact, it seems like skinny guys are often able to build muscle much faster than the average person, and often more leanly, too. Especially while they’re still relatively thin. We’re just so far away from our genetic ceiling. We can explode into size.
So you’ve brought up a really good point. If I talk about hardgainers, different people view that word differently. There are multiple definitions that are widely used. To a lot of people, it will sound like I’m talking about a genetic disadvantage.
Shane, I do agree with how you view hardgainers – it’s sort of what I think myself, probably because of having been educated by you three (I joined b2B back in 2011 or 2012).
And also, after thinking it through a little more, I concluded that I actually don’t agree at all with my previous point.
I almost started down the dark and twisted rabbit hole of declaring an innocent word of being loaded with some secret, negative meaning. We could use a little less of that.
So I gracefully concede 🙂
Cool article, though. I agree with Lautaro. As always, you demonstrate that b2B has a lot of brain-powered effort behind what you guys do, which is still so ridiculously amiss in the health & fitness industry.
Thank you so much, man 🙂
Back in 2011–2012! A true original member! That’s so cool!
Also, I clicked your name and read the sales page on your website. You’re a sweet copywriter!
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. This is the best science-based content for skinny guys that there is. Period. Don’t let haters tell you otherwise. Nowhere else you can find articles so deep and so well-referenced with both studies and meta-analyses. You even take the extra steps of mentioning the limitations of certain studies when you cite them.
Haters/the misinformed always gonna hate, even if you are the best (in fact, especially if you are the best, because you are more exposed). You are right in not caring about it.
Thanks for existing and can’t wait for my gym to open up to properly continue the Outlift program. (I’ve been continuing it at home but it’s not the same :P)
Thank you so much, Lautaro! That means a lot 😀
Yeah, training at home can be tough. I mean, I train at home, but I’ve got my barbell home gym. Hard to train at home when you don’t have the equipment or space for it. You’ve seen our bodyweight hypertrophy training article, right? It’s definitely not the same as weight training. It’s harder, more painful. But it works.
Stoked to hear you’re liking the Outlift program 😀
Honestly, I found you guys using the terms “hardgainer” and “ectomorph”. That’s how I described myself. I personally don’t find them at all disparaging. When I discovered that there was a scientific name for my situation, I was floored. Once I understood what my body was doing, I knew where and how to look for solutions. Long story short, I found B2B. Keep doing what you’ve been doing!
Woot! Thank you, Jude 😀
This is exactly my experience. I’m 75 now, but about three years ago I was visiting my older son who had always seemed to look more muscular, even though he didn’t work out at all (but did favour a high-protein diet). I noticed that his wrists were obviously larger than mine and wondered what that might mean. Lo and behold, a web search on that led me to the ectomorph term and then to B2B. I had no idea of Sheldon’s work, but your description of the body types immediately resonated. Thanks to the wealth of information B2B provides, I boosted my diet and started gaining muscle mass, with only a small adjustment to my daily exercise routine.
Personally, I’m not sure I believe in the strict 3 body types as I’m sure even among ectomorphs there are people who gain muscle easier than others or are naturally leaner than others. Different bone size/stomach size/hormone balance also creating different muscular potential for different ectomorphs. I think it’s an important distinction though to really get that personalized workout plan that works optimally for you. For example, I would do all my workouts based on Jeff Nippard’s videos for the last 1.5 years and I only went from 135lb–141lb. After trying b2B these past 6 months though, I’ve gone up to 163lb! And with a much simpler gym, too, so I think the body type distinctions are important 🙂
Hey Sam, that’s awesome! Congratulations on those 28 pounds! 😀
You’re totally right. There are no three strict body types. The idea isn’t that someone is a pure ectomorph or endomorph, but rather that they might be 60% ectomorph and 40% endomorph, you know? I just so happen to be a fairly pure ectomorph, but the vast majority of people are some sort of blend of all three body types. And even then, it’s just a slang term. And you’re totally right. There are a bunch of genetic factors outside of being a so-called ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph.
Jeff Nippard is a true genetic beast. He talks about it himself. I think of all the naturals I’ve ever seen, his physique is raddest. He’s the top 0.01% of muscle-building genetics. What’s amazing, though, is that his content is absolutely amazing, too—completely evidence-based. He’s just an all-around badass. But I can see how his programs, which aren’t as directed at helping naturally thinner people bulk up, might not help you build muscle or gain weight as quickly. As you said, that’s where we excel 🙂
I do like the term ectomorph—I am definitely one. Always the skinny girl—didn’t play sports, ate whatever I wanted, etc. I currently receive the emails directed towards men. Is there one specific to women?
Yes! We’ve got a whole women’s site: Bony to Bombshell. That’s not to say you can’t hang out on this site, too, though. And at the moment, we send out more newsletter to the men’s newsletter. The programs and coaching communities are similarly developed/active for both programs, though 🙂
I am a physician. In medical school we used the term ectomorph. You are very correct, the term was coined by a quack doctor, but the truth is most medical terms were coined by quack doctors. Medicine today relies heavily on science, but medical science is relatively new, and many medical names were coined long ago. I have no personal preference for the terms. I just want to understand what is being said. I enjoy your blog, and find it to be inspirational and educational.
Hah, no way! I had no idea that the term was used in medical school, too.
That’s a really neat point. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Science evolves over time. Makes sense that when terms are first coined, we still don’t know very much, and the ideas are often wrong.
Great comments, everyone.
I think the term ‘ectomorph’ gets the job done. And I find that this term helps get the point across when I’m talking with someone about the topic. A lot of people either haven’t heard this term before or don’t know much about it anyway, and, if ever, they’ll use the term casually. That means I will likely never have to clarify that I’m not applying the term as it was originally coined by the quack doctor.
However, an older friend of mine who’s a psychotherapist, the other day, told me that he did study the theory about body types/personality in college, a long time ago.
The thing I think it is important is that we have clarity of what we have in mind, what we mean, when using the term ‘ectomorph’, or any other terms really. Once that part is covered, we should be fine. And this article is very informative on that very aspect.
Thanks for posting this and for all the work you guys have been doing into empowering and helping ectomorph guys develop their physical potentials.
Thank you, Doug! 😀
I’ve found it a really helpful term in my own life, too 🙂
Body types are definitely real. All you need to have to see facts is your eyes. I can easily see differences between different body types and can immediately spot one of us in a crowd. How can some people not see this is beyond me.
A month ago I’ve decided to track my calories (in surplus) and my protein intake (1g/lb) to see how much weight I would gain in 30 days. The struggle was real and I’ve never ate this much food. Well, guess what? I did NOT gain a single pound. If my endomorphic friend ate like this she would probably gain 20-30lbs in the same time frame.
Body types are different and you gotta know yours. I am adding another 300 calories and see what happens.
Ahaha yeah, I hear you. Simply looking around shows that different people have different shapes, trend towards different body weights, have tendencies to overeat or under-eat, can eat different amounts at meals, and struggle to have a healthy body composition for vastly different reasons.
And yep, good plan. Adding 300 calories sounds like a great idea. Keep weighing yourself every week and adding (or removing) calories as needed. Your metabolism adapts, and we tend to have especially adaptive metabolisms, so our calorie goals are always a moving target.
If ectomorph means skinny with belly fat and struggles to build muscle – then ectomorph it should be called!
Nothing wrong with that word to me.
Glad to hear it. Thanks, Rob 🙂
My advice would be not to use the terminology if it’s giving people fits. You can’t change people and their perceptions, so change the terminology. You don’t even need a nomenclature per se, just “guys who have to work overtime to gain muscle”, or something along those lines. As long as your terms are defined, I myself couldn’t care less what you use, but if ‘ectomorph’ and such has negative connotations, you won’t get rid of those, so get rid of the word.
I hear ya, Anthony, and I think that’s wise advice. Better to find a better word than to redefine a word that carries a ton of baggage along with it.
With that said, I do think ectomorph has some negative connotations, but perhaps not among the people it describes. It seems to be the bigger and more naturally athletic people that want to simplify things: just do sets of 5 reps on the squat, bench, deadlift (and maybe row and overhead press), eat a ton of food, and bulking up will be no problem. They seem to hate the term, for whatever reason.
But judging by the other comments, it seems like self-described skinny guys have no issue with the ectomorph term. And I never did, either. I always found it really useful, especially when I was at my skinniest. It helped me find information that was more tailored to my specific goals and struggles.
On the other hand, for whatever reason, the word bodybuilding seems to carry a ton of negative connotations. We’re technically a bodybuilding site, in the sense that we help people bulk up, build bigger muscles, get leaner, and improve their appearance. But when people think of bodybuilders, they think of bodybuilding culture—steroids, thongs, millions of isolation lifts, training 10 times per week, doing fasted cardio in the morning, being big but weak, being vain, etc. So we don’t really use the term very much. Too much baggage.
Yessir. And nothing but an orange spray tan underneath.
As a guy who has been through high school and seen first hand the morphing of almost everyone into a healthy weight/height ratio … except myself, it’s nice to know that there is a term for those like me. And to top it off, now I can describe someone who appears to have been bitten by a ‘radio-active spider’ during summer break.
Ahaha that’s when I noticed, too—in high school when puberty was making all of my friends bigger, but I was only being stretched thinner. I think it was at around 16 that I first became underweight, and then it peaked at around 21, when I reached my full height without having gained any weight.
I think “naturally skinny” is the most useful term. It’s immediately identifiable by those with no exercise background where “ectomorph” may be a foreign term. It’s no more or less accurate than ectomorph either.
FWIW, several years ago I treated content from this site as “additional info” alongside my “primary sources” of SS, GSLP, LeanGains, and others. Over time that has inverted, where this is now my first stop for info about training and eating that will actually work for me, and I pull in bits of additional info from elsewhere as needed. Keep up the excellent work! I’m sure it’s satisfying seeing the work you do really making an impact in people’s lives.
Thank you, man! That means a lot 🙂
And that’s a good point. People who already know the ectomorph term might find us by searching for it, but there are plenty of skinny guys who haven’t heard it yet.
The term ectomorph doesn’t bother me even a bit. I’ve been referred to as a hard gainer as well and these terms fit my situation.
It has always been a challenge to maintain weight and muscle and it seems like the older I get and less active it’s even more a challenge. I don’t know why I always thought that as I would get older my metabolism would slow down so that I could possibly hold onto more weight for longer periods of time. But I was wrong. I’m currently 170 and fluctuate in a day from 170-175 just by eating a heaping of food and water.
My main issue that i like to voice and hopefully receive some help is the nutritional diet part (like exactly what to eat at what time of day and all). I don’t know what to eat to help me with continuing to gain muscle and weight. I’m so discouraged at times and depressed every time I step on a scale to see I’ve lost 2 pounds in my sleep. Any advice will be much appreciated and thank you for creating a platform for us all. Peace bros
There’s this idea that as people get older, their metabolism slows and they gradually gain weight. Oftentimes, like you said, that’s because they stop being as active, spending more time at the desk or on the couch, less time on their feet, less time playing sports and exercising. That’s more of what happens to the average person, though. We see a mix. A lot of naturally skinny people remain skinny indefinitely. Some gradually gain fat, becoming skinny-fat. And then, of course, the skinny guys who get into the habit of lifting weights and eating a good diet can become lean and muscular, and it tends to last until they’re well past 60.
It sounds like you already lift weights, though, yeah? And you’re already trying to eat a good diet, just confused about exactly how to do that? We include some examples of how to eat a bulking diet in our program, and you’re welcome to imitate those examples as closely as you like, but we can’t really tell you exactly what to eat. Different people have different preferences, come from different cultures, and have different budgets and interests.
One guy might enjoy cooking dinner every day, another might only want to cook up a big vat of chili on Sunday. A third might not like chili, so he makes a stew instead. And a fourth might prefer to make curries. Or eat tacos. And then there are people eating plant-based diets. People who eat lunch at work, or use a cafeteria, or in a mess hall, etc. So what we prefer to do is teach people the principles, give plenty of examples, give a big book of recipes, and then let people assemble the diet themselves.
What do you need to eat? Mostly real food. And it helps to make your main meals balanced, with some protein, carbs, and fat. That might be some salmon, peas, and roast potatoes. Or a chili, chicken curry, beef stew, stir fry, tacos al pastor, oatmeal with berries, hamburger with onions and tomatoes, trail mix, smoothie, etc. Totally up to you what you decide to eat.
As for when to eat, it helps to eat a few main meals per day. Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner is common. But you might want to add in some snacks between meal and another snack before bed. So, for a random example, here’s what a deskworker dad might eat:
8AM, breakfast: smoothie (with protein, fruit, oats, yoghurt, nuts, spinach)
10AM, snack: Quest bar and some fruit
12PM, lunch: leftover chili
3PM, snack: protein shake and some trail mix
7PM, dinner: homemade hamburgers with the family
10PM, snack: oatmeal with casein and mixed berries
You don’t need that many meals or snacks. You could eat 3–4 times per day and have no issues. But if you’re having trouble eating enough calories to gain weight, it often helps to eat smaller meals more frequently, and snacks are an easy way to do that.
You’ll probably look at this and want to make changes, and that’s perfect. Change it up as much as you want. That’s why we include a full recipe book along with the program, and even then, we encourage people to keep eating what they love, build a diet that they like. The important thing is having meals with protein in them a few times per day, to eat mostly whole foods, and to eat enough calories to gain weight, adding in more calories whenever weight gain stalls.
Now, as for for to regain the weight you lose every night, just have a glass of water in the morning to rehydrate 🙂
And for maintaining a higher body weight, just bulk a bit past your target. So if you want to effortlessly maintain your weight at 185 pounds, bulk up to 195, maintain that weight for a few months, and then go back to eating according to your appetite. Your appetite will naturally help you maintain almost all of that weight. But you might lose a few pounds as you settle back into a more comfortable diet. That’s why it helps to have that 5–10 pound buffer.
Doesn’t everyone lose a couple of pounds overnight? After all, we’re still burning calories and exhaling and perspiring moisture when sleeping.
Yeah, that’s normal 🙂
It was literally the term “ectomorph” that led me to B2B and to finally understand my body type for the first time in my life. It was such a refreshing feeling finding a community of people just like me, and I never would’ve done so without the word “ectomorph”. I’m actually super proud to rep that title.
It was the same for me. Learning the term helped me find better information. That’s why we’ve leaned into it. I’m glad it helped 😀
I first heard the term ectomorph as a kid visiting a science museum. There was a display explaining the 3 somatotypes. Ectomorphs were supposed to be good at cardio but bad at building muscle.
It’s a helpful term because it describes a particular group of people who share certain physical attributes, strengths and challenges. I first came across B2B because I wanted to know if it was possible for ectomorphs to gain muscle, and what that would even look like. Very glad I did, thanks guys!
So happy to help, DB. Thank you 😀
I have always taken at face value the descriptors of Ecto / Meso / Endo I learned at high school as indicators of body type.
What drew me to your program specifically was this focus on the Ectomorph body type, which helped me clearly aim towards the program that was right for me and suited my body type.
Not once have I ever considered, let alone heard anyone else, refer to this as being linked to personality type.
So I would say to whoever has commented on that has willfully ignored the decades since the re-appropriated definition. b2B didn’t reinvent the wheel. Medical science as a collective took the term and re-categorized it, of which B2B made it accessible, and understood, and put in to context.
I was not aware of the association of these body types to debunked personality types either.
Hardgainer is ok I guess – sounds like something an ectomorph came up to sound a little tougher/cooler though.
That being said, I am working on some biohacking content for ectomorphs and went with the title, “EctoMega” – I think I am going to stick with it.
Cuz you know, Bony to Beastly was taken
Hey Shane, if the somatypes theory is even halfway relevant we should use the term ectomorph to describe our body frames (but not our personalities). If it’s not then just give it up.
Thank you, Jean-Baptiste. I agree 🙂
I kind of like this term anyway, it supports the fact that we are different and we exist. From what I read in your articles and IIRC it implies a smaller stomach along with many other characteristics so it’s valid because we find them in many of us. The part of Sheldon’s theory regarding personalities or behavior should just be ignored. Let’s just keep the physical characteristics part.
I am proud to be an ectomorph, but sometimes i feel more like a xenomorph
Stop hunting people!
Being an ectomorph presents difficulties, but these difficulties are made much worse is you don’t recognize that they cannot be overcome with methods that work for mesomorphs.
Speaking for myself, if I ever saw a barbell, I would be perfectly content with its location at that time. It would never occur to me to pick it up, is what I’m saying.
I am 70. I do not take any prescription drugs, and I can walk five miles without pain or fatigue. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno who have both had hip and knee replacements, cannot rise from a chair and walk into the kitchen without discomfort, because both men destroyed their health with manic bodybuilding.
I do calisthenics. I can do 50 push-ups, for example. Has this resulted in big muscles? No. It has just made my shoulders stronger and more flexible, which is a good thing because, if I fall, I can break my fall without getting hurt.
My advice to ectomorphs, delivered from the 70 years of being an ectomorph? Accept your limitations, because if you try to exceed them you’ll hurt yourself.
“Speaking for myself, if I ever saw a barbell, I would be perfectly content with its location at that time.”
Ahahaha that’s amazing.
To be fair, Ferrigno and Schwarzenegger destroyed their health with drugs, not weight training. If they had stayed natural, they wouldn’t have jeopardized their heart health, they wouldn’t have been lifting as much weight, they wouldn’t have been training as often or as manically, and I suspect they would be fine.
Walking and push-ups are fantastic. Sounds like you’re doing great. Thank you for the wise words 🙂
Your capacity for being gracious is really quite extraordinary, Shane. Good manners and good will all the way seems to be one of your operating principles. Very impressive, and I wish I’d been more like you when I was younger, as this would have saved me a lot of unnecessary trouble.
Arnold and Lou are very easy guys to cheap shot, and I couldn’t resist. Nevertheless, their achievements in youth still stand, and should be respected, even if they came at considerable cost as they grew older.