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Ectomorph Workout and Diet Plan: Muscle Building for Hard Gainers

Being an ectomorph gives you some special advantages over your fellow non-ectomorph lifters — you don’t add body fat. This may seem like a blessing to most but unless you’re an ectomorph yourself, you know that this advantage isn’t really all that great.

All the non-ectomorphs might be thinking “what the f*ck is this guy on about?” But this so-called advantage has a downside, and that downside is—the stuff of nightmares—the struggle to make gains.

Article brodown:

  • What is an Ectomorph?
  • The Ectomorph Workout
  • Ectomorph Diet & Nutrition
  • Conclusion – The final lift for hard gainers


What is an Ectomorph?

According to Google’s dictionary, an ectomorph is a person with a lean and delicate build of body. Don’t worry though, we ain’t gonna start calling you delicate.

After all, SpotMeBro readers have an ocean of testosterone flowing through their bodies. There’s nothing delicate about that – you’re a lean mean machine.

illustration showing ectomorph body type

Stereotypical traits of an ectomorph include:

  • Fast metabolism
  • Naturally low bodyfat
  • Narrower shoulders
  • Flatter chest
  • Smaller wrists
  • Lighter frame/bone structure
  • Struggles to gain weight
  • Not naturally strong

Basically, an ectomorph is a person with a Ferrari engine for a metabolism. Anything and everything that you eat gets burnt up as if you’d thrown it into a furnace. Whereas most guys pile on the pounds just thinking about food, you chase down calories faster than a nitro-fueled cheetah.

The double-edged sword of an ectomorph is a sharp one. Because whilst you’re naturally shredded, that super-fast metabolism of yours makes weight gain hard. If you’re on a quest to stack on size in the form of muscle this sh*t gets frustrating!

However, it doesn’t have to be this way bro. By ensuring your nutrition and training are on point you’ll be making gains in no time!

All you have to do is create a sniper like approach to out-maneuver your muscle building genetics. Here’s what you’re gonna need to do…


The Ectomorph Workout

First of all, ectomorphs don’t need to train as often as other primary somatotypes like meso- and endomorphs. This is because ectomorphs have a faster metabolism and insulin resistance, so they need to eat more calories to achieve the same muscle growth results.

That said, workouts ranging from 30 minutes to one hour are more than enough for most ectomorphs. Also, you should train from two to four days per week to avoid burning too many calories while exercising.

Your training should be intense and with minimal amounts of cardio — or none at all while bulking. Cardio will just crush calories, which you’re a natural juggernaut at anyway. Forget the treadmill and focus on the iron-house instead brother.

ectomorph body type using compound lift to work out

Compound focus

Think big heavy lifts that recruit multiple muscle groups. Compound lifts should be your go-to here bro, as they’re all multi-joint movements that call upon more than one body part.

Examples of compound lifts include:

Use this complete guide to compounds for more information.

It’s also good to go in isolation-mode and use single muscle-group exercises to bolster your body. But these shouldn’t be a priority and only an accessory once we’ve built a solid foundation of swoleness. Until then it’s about getting you to move heavy weights in big movements to force muscle growth.


Example PPL split for hard gainers

Check out the following example of a PPL split designed specifically for the hard gaining ecto-bro:

Day 1 – Push

  1. Back squat – 3 sets of 6 reps
  2. Bench press – 3 sets of 8 reps
  3. Standing kettlebell press – 3 sets of 8 reps
  4. Cable crossovers – 3 sets of 8 reps
  5. Skull crushers – 3 sets of 10 reps
  6. Tricep dips – 3 sets of 10 reps

bench press performed in ectomorph workout

Day 2 – Pull

  1. Trap bar deadlift – 3 sets of 6 reps
  2. Romanian deadlift – 3 sets of 8 reps
  3. Pendlay row – 3 sets of 8 reps
  4. Lat pull down – 3 sets of 10 reps
  5. Standing wood chops – 3 sets of 10/10 reps
  6. Bicep cable curl – 3 sets of 10 reps

Day 3 – Legs

  1. Leg press – 3 sets of 6 reps
  2. Front squat – 3 sets of 6 reps
  3. Romanian deadlift – 3 sets of 6 reps
  4. Leg extensions – 3 sets of 8 reps
  5. Standing barbell calf raises – 3 sets of 8 reps
  6. Seated calf raises – 3 sets of 8 reps


Stick to longer rests to allow your muscles to fully replenish. Because your body already acts like a calorie hungry demon, short rests will only speed up the feast – burning more calories in the process.

Set your stop clock for 90-120 seconds between sets. Not only will this allow you to muster up the power to demolish heavier lifts – science has proven it to be an optimal rest time for muscle building.


Bro-tip: You’re here to get stacked, jacked, and racked like a mutha, right? Rest up bro! Ignore the 30-second broscience bullsh*t.



plate of high protein food for ectomorph diet plan

Ectomorph Diet & Nutrition

With all thing’s bodybuilding, the lack of a great nutritional plan is the downfall of all potentially great physiques. In order to chase, and successfully achieve the goals that you’ve set for yourself, you’ll first need to clean up what you’re putting into your body — or at least organize it.

As an ectomorph, your body allows you to eat tons of food without adding even an ounce of body fat to your frame. Many bros may deem this unfair, but you know that you’d do anything for a little extra muscle mass, even if it means having a slower metabolism.

So, the only logical step to take is to damage your metabolism in order to slow it down, forcing you to eat less. Kidding! F*ck that noise bro, you’re just gonna dial in your diet with muscle building foods.


Counting Your Calories

We need to bump up your caloric intake. Sure, you might’ve been eating doughnuts and burgers, thinking that you’re getting your fair share of calories. No. We’re not going to get our calories from junk food. Instead, we’ll do things the right way.

We’ll kick it old school and give you some numbers to run with so that you can get your estimated number of calories that you should be consuming each day. Note that this is just an estimate and should be used to guide you and should not be considered ‘your number.’

We generally don’t like calculating caloric needs with the inclusion of body fat mass (we’ll typically do calculations based off lean body mass) but for the ectomorph, it doesn’t matter.

ectomorph training tricep dips

Basal Metabolism

Your basal metabolism (BMR) is the number of calories you need to sustain life at complete rest. It’s the bare minimum.

First off, we’re going to need to calculate your estimated BMR. To do that, simply multiply your body weight by 10.

If you weigh 170 pounds, your BMR will be 1,700 calories a day (170 x 10 = 1,700). Simple, right?

As you know, those 1,700 calories will do absolutely nothing to help you make any kinds of gains. So, we need to find a way to add to that, and we’ll do that by adding more calories based on your daily activities.


Caloric Needs

To calculate your caloric needs, you’re going to have to add some more numbers together and do a little math. Only then can you establish an estimate for the number of calories you should be consuming on a day-to-day basis.

Have a look at the activities and their corresponding numbers below:

  • Extremely Active — BMR x 1.0 + BMR
  • Very Active — BMR x .7 + BMR
  • Moderately Active — BMR x .4 + BMR
  • Non-Active — BMR x .2 + BMR

calculator for calculating daily ectomorph calorie needs

The definition of each level of activity:

Extremely Active — Works a physical job and trains 5 or more days a week

Very Active — Works a physical job and trains 3 days a week or works a desk job and trains 5 days a week

Moderately Active — Works a desk job and trains 3-4 days a week or works a physical job and does not train

Non-Active — Neither works out or works a physical job

Don’t be frightened if you don’t quite understand what’s going on — we’ll explain.

Remember the example of the 170-pounder? Well, his BMR was 1,700. So, let’s just continue to use him as an example for this guide.


Calculating Daily Needs

To calculate the daily caloric needs of our 170-pound example, we need to multiply his BMR with the number corresponding to his level of activity and then add his BMR to that number.

The math will look like this if he lives a very active lifestyle:

1,700 (BMR) x 0.7 = 1,190

1,190 + 1,700 (BMR) = 2,890 calories a day

Our 170-pound ectomorph will need an estimated 2,890 calories a day to supply his metabolic needs. Did somebody say steak and eggs? Gotta get that protein in bro!


food groups for ectomorph calorie needs

Macronutrient Breakdown

Next, we’re going to get the numbers needed for your macronutrient needs. Those numbers will look like the following:

  • Protein — 1-1.2 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat — 30% of total calories
  • Carbs — Remainder of calories

Again, this might be confusing to some, but we’ll break it down below.


To get the protein needs of our example, we need to multiply his body weight with 1.2 (that is if he decided to go on the higher end of the scale).

170 x 1.2 = 204 grams of protein

204 x 4 (number of calories per gram of protein) = 816 calories



To get the amount of fat that he needs, we need to calculate what 30 percent of 2,890 is.

0.3 x 2,890 = 867 calories reserved for fat

867 ÷ 9 (number of calories per gram of fat) = 96 grams of fat



To get the number of carbs is a simple case. All we need to do now is to add the number of calories from both protein and fat and subtract that from 2,890.

816 (protein calories) + 867 (fat calories) = 1,683 calories

2,890 – 1,683 = 1,207 calories reserved for carbs

All that’s left to do now is to get the number of grams of carbs that our example will need to consume.

1,207 ÷ 4 (number of calories per gram of carbs) = 302 grams of carbs

There you have it, bro. The complete macronutrient breakdown of what our 170-pound example will need for his muscle building adventure.

Let’s review his calories and macros:

  • Protein — 204g / 816kcals
  • Fat — 96g / 867kcals
  • Carbs — 302g / 1,207kcals

Total Calories = 2,890

As mentioned earlier, these numbers are just there to help you build a foundation where nutrition is concerned. Throw in a few scoops of muscle-building creatine and you’ve got a recipe for one Judy Dench dude.


muscle building meal prep frequency for ectomorphs

Meal Frequency

This has been a much-debated topic in recent years. Studies have shown that meal frequency has absolutely no effect on the changes of the metabolism’s speed. However, we’re not trying to make your metabolism faster, so that argument is irrelevant.

What we need to do, is ensure that you eat all of your calories eat and every day.

To get hit your macro needs in three meals would be a challenging task. Therefore, breaking your meals into 4-7 meals a day would greatly aid you in getting all of your food in.


Meal Timing

It’s not so important to space your meals out for every 2-3 hours. This isn’t a recommendation, but it is suggested. By eating every few hours, you’ll easily get all your meals in during the day.

As for ingesting your macros, do your best to keep your protein and fat intake consistent with each meal.

Carbs are a little different though. Aim to split them 50/50 with half consumed at dedicated times and the others spread out. Eat 25% of your total for breakfast and then another 25% after your workout, then disperse the remaining 50% evenly throughout your other meals.



Conclusion – The final lift for hard gainers

Being an ectomorph is fun when it comes to food, nobody could doubt that. Being a bodybuilding hard gainer? That’s challenging bro – but it ain’t impossible!

The big takeaway here is to ensure you eat enough calories to fuel your muscle-building goals. You heard it here brother – think big, eat big, get big!

Don’t skimp out on nutrition. We all love to eat food, but ectomorphs can actually eat a lot without worrying about the consequences too much. Utilize that to your advantage but keep it mostly clean and consistent. You’ll be making and seeing gains in a matter of time.

Finally, don’t forget to go in hard in the iron house! Without sacrificing form for numbers, stack the plates and make every set a challenge. Big lifts make big guys after all – so embrace the grind and leave the fluffy 16-rep sets of bullsh*t behind you.


More muscle obsessed reading reps for bros:


    1. Hi there,

      For a PPL split we suggest beginners go: Mon, Tue, Wed, Rest, etc.

      Intermediates and advance can do four to five days in a row. Maybe even six if they’re seriously advanced.

      Thanks bro,


  1. Great article man, I really appreciate it. It fits my model almost perfectly. My only question is that the fat macro you have at 30% of total calories. Most of what I’m seeing is to keep it at 50/30/20. Is the 30% fat because we are Ecto’s? Right now I’m at 50/30/20 and not making much gains. Should I switch the fat up and lower the carbs? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jason,

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. The higher fat content is because you are an ectomorph. This should not only help you increase calories without excess volume, but support your testosterone too.

      Thanks for reaching out, bro.

      Chad Stan

  2. Awesome article! Im 30 and my wife is 28. I fell off the wagon when my support/personal chef (wife lol) got sick. Since then lost any gains I had and am now the lightest I’ve been in 10yrs. This article has rekindled my hunger to eat, lift and discipline my body and mind.
    FYI over the last 2 years she fought and is now “cancer free” and we’re both ready to start our climb to conquer new life challenges and goals. With all the reading and research I’ve been doing through the immeasurable supply of information via internet this article struck a chord for me! Just wanted to say thank you for writing it and can’t wait for updates and newsletters to keep reading!

    1. Hey Troy,

      Great to hear from you buddy! Let’s get you back to your best shape and maybe ever better? It sounds like you and your wise sure have fought through a lot, so good luck in your climb back to the top as you say. If you can go through what you have and come through the other side adding a few pounds shouldn’t be hard. All of our team wish you and your wife the best of luck in your journey. We also promise newsletters will become a regular thing soon, we’re only a small team at present.

      Thank you again for the kind words. Take care of yourself, Troy.

      Chad Stan

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