Ectomorphs are slim-boned, long-limbed, lithe and have very little body fat and little muscle. This body type, also known as Vata in Ayurvedic medicine (used in India since ~3000 BC).
Ectomorphs are naturally thin, have little mass (fat and muscle) relative to their height and are relatively linear. People with an ectomorph body type can find it difficult to add muscle or even increase body fat.
Ectomorphs characteristics include:
- Naturally slim to skinny
- Small joints
- Small frame
- Lanky – long arms and legs
- Linear body shape
- Long, narrow hands and feet
- Lightly muscled – small, long and slender muscles
- Small chest and buttocks
- Low body fat (without exercising or following low calorie diets)
- Fast metabolism
- Easy to lose weight
- May find it difficult to gain weight
- Difficulty in gaining muscle mass
- Maintains relatively narrow weight/ BMI range
- Poor natural strength
The ectomorphic body type is often seen in endurance athletes, models, and basketball players.
Which Sports are Ectomorphs Good at?
Do the sports and activities you enjoy most. However, it’s worth noting that ectomorphs are naturally better at some sports than others. Ectomorphs have light bones, small joints, slender muscles. Therefore, ectomorphs often excel in sports requiring endurance and light weight, including long-distance running, triathlon, jogging and cross-country skiing.
Long limbs compensate for slower sprints and changes in direction. They also provide a decided advantage when it comes to sports requiring a long powerful stroke or jump, such as rowing, swimming, jumping, and basketball, as well as in sports calling for hitting and throwing. Long limbs allow ectomorphs to generate great speed due to a long range of motion in sports involving hitting or throwing a ball. Think of racquet sports, volleyball or baseball.1 People with an ectomorphic body type also tend to boast high flexibility.
Ectomorphs tend to have poor ligamentous support and a less robust build (compared to mesomorphs or endomorphs), which makes ectomorphs more susceptible to injury. Therefore, ectomorphs may not do as well in fast-paced aerobic-type exercise, such as sprinting and contact sports.
Long-distance swimming may not be a strength for ectomorphs due to lack of body fat, which is required for buoyancy, but they make for great speed swimmers. Ectomorphs also tend to have a high centre of gravity, making them less balanced and stable.
Nonetheless, while body types are helpful, they’re not destiny. Remember Usain Bolt. At the time, he was the unlikeliest of sprinters. Impossibly tall and lanky, towering over a field of mesomorphic sprinters. Still the world’s fastest man, his records haven’t been broken. So do what you love.
Body Composition: Muscle & Fat
While ectomorphs appear to be slim, this does not necessarily mean they have a healthy body fat percentage. Some ectomorphs may have a normal BMI, but unhealthy levels of body fat (and visceral belly fat) and less muscle mass. This is known as normal-weight obesity (or skinny fat).
Therefore, ectomorphs can benefit, as much as the other two body types, from measuring their body fat (composition). Ectomorphs tend to have less muscle mass and have a smaller frame, and so a healthy weight for ectomorphs may be a little lower than for endomorphs or mesomorphs (see the ideal weight calculator).
With age, even the super fast metabolism of ectomorphs slows down and as a result, they often gain weight. However, this is also an opportunity for ectomorphs to gain muscle.
Ectomorphs with a higher body fat percentage often want to lose fat and gain muscle, while ectomorphs with low fat and muscle tend to want to gain weight – both fat and muscle.
Little muscle mass and long limbs means ectomorphs are not as strong as mesomorphs and endomorphs. Ectomorphs are also more likely to suffer with postural problems, such as forward head, rounded shoulders, and kyphosis (rounded back).2 Therefore, a large focus of an ectomorph workout plan should be on strength training. Adding muscle will increase strength, muscle tone, shape, and posture.
When it comes to diet, ectomorphs who want to gain weight, should include nutrient and calorie dense foods for snacks and meals, such as nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, and vegetables. Also, some ectomorphs may want to try a weight gain diet.
If you are struggling to gain weight, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. People suffering with hyperthyroidism for example, experience weight loss and are unable to gain weight.