“The narrow waist and tiny joints are actually a blessing, as it will make every pound of muscle on your body look like three pounds. Often slender-boned bodybuilders of 190 pounds are mistaken for 220 pounds or more due to this illusion.” – Ron Harris
As a hardgainer, you should understand that your genetic capacity for muscle growth is not quite on the same level as those lucky, genetically gifted mesomorphs, who can put on muscle just by thinking about bench pressing! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not too far from the truth.
You’re going to have to train smarter, be more disciplined, and have the perseverance to overcome the genetic shortcomings of the ectomorph body type you’ve been endowed with.
Especially, if you are training naturally… which is the ONLY way I recommend!
That being said, you should have no fear… even as an ectomorph you can build muscle and develop an impressive physique. Just take a look at Frank Zane, a 3 time Mr Olympia who trained in the same era with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, Frank is one of only 3 people to ever defeat Arnold in a bodybuilding contest!
Frank Zane stands at 5’9″ and typically competed at 185lbs naturally. However he was quoted as saying that he has won shows both naturally and with steroids.
If so he was probably using lower doses of steroids (remember this is at a time when you could get them legally from your doctor.) Frank has stepped on stage at a ripped 195lbs during bodybuilding competitions and the extra 10lbs could be from drugs. Although maybe not… Only Frank knows for sure.
Even though he may have used some steroids to achieve his Olympia shredded physique, I want you to realize that he is mostly natural and wasn’t using steroids at anywhere near the same capacity as the pro bodybuilder’s of today do.
To me, Frank represents the full genetic potential of an ectomorph. His body type in this picture would now be considered an Ecto-mesomorph because of all the muscle mass he has added. Also, take notice of his smaller frame, thin wrists and ankles. These are classic traits of the ectomorph as you are about to learn.
Now, if I’m losing you with all the ecto-meso-“morph” terminology, then this article should bring you up to speed.
Somatotypes and Body Type Classification
There are three basic somatotypes or body types as proposed by Dr William H. Sheldon back in the 1930s that are used to classify individuals based on their physical traits and characteristics. It is not a perfect classification system, because even though some people fit these descriptions exactly, others will be a mixture of two or more somatotypes (i.e. an ecto-mesomorph.) Never-the-less, it is a great starting point for determining your genetic traits, your capacity for building muscle, and designing a program that maximizes your body’s potential.
Here are the three somatotypes:
• Ectomorphic: characterized by long and thin muscles/limbs and low-fat storage; usually referred to as slim.
• Mesomorphic: characterized by large bones, solid torso, low-fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist.
• Endomorphic: characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure.
The True Hardgainers
Most people that are considered to be true hardgainers fall into the ectomorphic category. Since this website is dedicated to helping ectomorphs realize their full genetic potential, we will be focusing our attention on this body type specifically.
As an ectomorph, your metabolism is in overdrive, meaning you are rather lean, and thin and experience difficulty in gaining weight of any kind (muscle or fat.) You most likely lack significant physical strength and this is obvious because you are also lacking in muscle mass. The extreme ectomorph has a fragile and delicate physique, with a lighter skeletal structure, small wrists and joints. The ectomorph may be slightly taller than the average person, and thus has longer limbs, which are not advantageous to moving heavy weights. Recovery ability of the body is also more prolonged than mesomorphs and endomorphs.
Common Physical Traits of the Ectomorph:
• Flat Chest
• Delicate Build
• Lightly Muscled
• Stoop Shouldered
• Young looking
• Narrow Bones
Common Personality Traits of the Ectomorph:
• Preference for privacy
• Socially Anxious
• Mentally Intense
• Emotionally Restrained
As you may have guessed or probably know from experience, all of these characteristics are not favorable in your quest to pack on muscle mass, size, and strength.
After considering this, you may wonder if being an ectomorph really has any benefits. Are you doomed to being scrawny for the rest of your life? You may also wonder whether you should even bother trying to lift weights to begin with. Maybe you should just stick to endurance sports?
To quickly answer these questions I say Yes, No, Yes, and NO! Just because you do not have the genetic propensity to become a massive pro-bodybuilder does not mean you cannot pack on slabs of lean muscle mass to your body. You can, although it will require more work, focus, and desire.
In fact, lots of ectomorphs have gone on to make incredible transformations adding 20, 30, 50, even 100+ pounds to their smaller sized frames in a matter of months rather than years. This all depends on your intelligence as a lifter, your desire and passion to make this type of transformation, and your ability to master the principles of gaining mass.
In short, even as an ectomorph, you can create a classic, muscular physique. Not only that, but there are even some unique benefits to being an ectomorph that you may not have considered. Let’s take a look at these now.
The Benefits of Being an Ectomorph
Besides all of the seeming draw-backs of being a skinny ectomorph trying to pack on some quality muscle, we do have a couple of advantages over the other body types.
1. Less looks like more: Because of the ectomorph’s smaller skeletal structure, a little muscle goes a long way. If through hard work and discipline one is able to add some decent muscle to their lighter frame it will tend to look better, more defined, and create the illusion that the individual is bigger than he really is.
2. Melting the Fat Away: The ectomorph has a super fast metabolism making fat burning particularly easy. If too much fat is added in a bulking phase, it is fairly easy to slightly lower your caloric intake and burn it off quickly or to simply increase your cardio. Although this is an advantage for the ectomorphs, it is also a double-edged sword, as one must be careful not to burn off any of your hard earned muscle while doing so.
3. Enjoying your Food: Because of the ectomorph’s rapid metabolism, one must eat tons of high-quality food to grow and maintain their muscle gains. If you love food then this is a plus. Although sometimes it may feel like a chore having to pack so many calories away, at least you are not feeling deprived. Plus, it gives us the ability to cheat a little on our diet without destroying our progress.
4. Deadlifting: Even though longer limbs make it harder to move weight in a lot of the exercises, including bench pressing, and squats; The advantage goes to the ectomorph in deadlifting (one of the best mass building exercises), where long arms give us the mechanical advantage to move some serious weight.
5. Aging like Fine Wine: As we get older our metabolism begins to slow down and fat storage tends to increase. For most people that sucks, but for the gym going skinny guy this means the ability to add more muscle to their frame and the shift into a more mesomorphic metabolic range.
A lot of time skinny guys can’t see any positive benefits of their body type, and that can lead to a depressed state of mind. A depressed state of mind will be of no help to you and will actually keep you trapped in the very state you are mentally resisting. What you resist persists.
Of course you’d prefer to have more muscle, who wouldn’t, but in order to realize this goal, you must first accept yourself for the way you are, where you are, and who you are. Only after you can accept yourself and your body in this way, can you objectively step back and then map out a plan to get where you want to be in life and actually follow it to completion.
Acceptance of reality and a deeper understanding of it as it truly is… is the first step to changing your experience of it.
You MUST stop focusing on the negatives and start being grateful for the positive aspects of being an ectomorph.
The Proof Ectomorphs Can Build Muscle
Knowing your body types advantages and disadvantages is a vital key to unlocking the door to muscle growth and positive change. It is important to remember that you cannot achieve muscle hypertrophy (aka growth) by working against your body. The Awakened Warrior realizes this and works with his body and his genetics in an effort to overcome his weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
With the proper training, nutrition and recovery methods you can totally transform your body and reach the true potential of your ectomorph genetics WITHOUT USING DRUGS LIKE STEROIDS. In fact, here is some solid proof that you CAN gain weight and build muscle naturally as an ectomorph:
EXHIBIT A: Vince DelMonte was able to pack on 41+ lbs in six months by eating like a mad man and lifting heavy weights. Vince also explains exactly how he pulled this off and reveals the program he used in his No Nonsense Muscle Building Program.
EXHIBIT B: Anthony Ellis was able to gain 32 lbs in only twelve weeks by following a basic workout program of three days a week. He spells out exactly how he did it in his breakthrough program Gaining Mass.
EXHIBIT C: Through hard work and dedication, I was able to pack on thirty pounds of muscle and jump from 130lbs to 160lbs. With everything I’ve learned over the years, I believe I’ll be able to pack on another 20 or 30 pounds in the very near future and I’m going to show YOU how to do it too!
So as you now realize, the ectomorph who wants to gain muscle is starting off at a huge disadvantage in comparison to guys blessed with better muscle-building genetics. However, once the ectomorph accepts this and decides to start using a training and nutrition program that is designed with the ectomorph body type in mind… good things start to happen! I’m not going to tell you it’s easy… because it’s not…… yet it can be done!
To Your Success in Training and in Life,