If you’ve ever spent some time looking into your body type and finding out what the ideal characteristics are for training and building a physique, you may have been disappointed in some areas to learn that your ectomorph characteristics are not the best.
A small frame, unfavorable muscle fiber makeup, and difficulty building and maintaining muscle mass (or size in general) can often be disheartening and frustrating for many natural ectomorphs. Some people are blessed with good genes for building muscle and staying lean whilst others inevitably struggle.
You might therefore be wondering can an ectomorph look like a mesomorph with training and time?
An ectomorph cannot change the characteristics of their body type to be more like a mesomorph or endomorph. These characteristics are mostly genetic so you can never become another body type. Through training, you can however build muscle mass and build your physique up enough to look like a mesomorph.
Body types are often used too definitively and this often leads to a negative mindset towards training and dieting which is usually unjustified. Ectomorphs in particular find their body type frustrating as building muscle mass and a physique is usually a long and difficult pursuit.
In this article, I’ll therefore cover what your body type indicates, whether or not you can change it over time, and even what some of the hidden advantages are that you might not be considering.
Can an Ectomorph Become a Mesomorph
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is different in some way, the body type classifications are broad terms and a lot of professionals in the field don’t even believe in them as a result of how broad they are.
Personally, I like the three body type classifications (ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph) which are otherwise known as somatotypes because everyone will have some characteristics that relate to each type.
I’m an ectomorph, the image below from my early training days shows my bone structure is narrow and small, I find it hard to hold much muscle mass without consuming high quantities of food and I need to be lifting heavy weights to hold on to my muscle mass.
I don’t see it as a disadvantage or an excuse, being able to relate it to a classification does help with my exercise programming and diet plans though. For those that hate being an ectomorph, the bad news is that there is nothing you can do about it and you cannot become a mesomorph.
Someone who is small cannot will themselves to be taller, genetics do not work that way. What I will say is that with training and dieting, you can still change your physique to look like a different body type.
There are countless examples of ectomorphs who have gone on to build world class physiques, gain significant amounts of muscle mass and even become champion strongmen!
What Is the Difference Between an Ectomorph and Mesomorph
You are probably wondering whether an ectomorph can become a mesomorph for one particular reason, mesomorphs generally have the ideal characteristics for building a physique. Endomorphs gain weight easily and quickly whereas ectomorphs struggle to gain any weight at all.
A mesomorph, however, maintains a naturally lean physique with higher than average levels of muscle mass. Also, it’s worth noting that this is before they even begin training! You’ve probably come across some of these people during your time at school as they would have been the natural athletes.
It would be a mistake to refer to mesomorphs as the average physique, they are far from overage and are often most peoples desired physique which is the result of a few favorable characteristics:
- High metabolism
- Favorable muscle fiber composition
- Naturally muscular
- Low body fat percentage
- Good nutrient partitioning
An ectomorph has some similar characteristics in terms of having a high metabolism and low body fat percentage but this is where the similarities end (though there are some other benefits to being an ectomorph).
Most ectomorphs are also referred to as “hardgainers” and find it difficult to build much muscle mass. They typically have a narrow frame, small bone structure, and difficulty building and maintaining muscle mass.
Can an Ectomorph Look Like a Mesomorph
While you can’t change your genetic structure to technically become a mesomorph, ectomorphs can still build noticeable amounts of muscle mass that will change their physique completely.
With enough muscle mass, an ectomorph can easily look like a mesomorph and in some cases, being an ectomorph can even result in producing a better, more aesthetic physique. With a noticeable amount of muscle mass, an ectomorph can soon have a physique that looks like a mesomorph.
There are no tricks here, simply building muscle mass (and to an extent maintaining low body fat percentages) will drastically transform most ectomorphs. You won’t become a mesomorph by building muscle mass but you will certainly end up looking like one!
The issue most ectomorphs have is an inability to build and maintain high levels of muscle mass. Mesomorphs can seem to do this with relative ease and this is usually why an ectomorph will want to look like a mesomorph. It’s less about the characteristics or athletic ability and more to do with the fact that mesomorphs seem to have this naturally.
Therefore, wanting to look like a mesomorph usually means that you just want to build some muscle mass and put on some size. Below, there is a few points that will help you do this to eventually look more like a mesomorph.
Training – Training is usually the first focus for ectomorphs wanting to get bigger and a lot of thought and effort goes into creating specialized routines that are usually too advanced for a beginner to make any sort of progress with.
For ectomorphs, your primary focus should be on getting stronger on the multi-joint, compound exercises. These include:
- Overhead Press
- Bench Press
- Barbell Row
- Weighted Carries
These movements work multiple muscle groups and getting strong in them through progressive overload will lead to more muscle growth.
A specialized arm routine is not needed unless you are an advanced level lifter (which is doubtful if you are reading this), adding 50lb to your bench and barbell row will do more for your overall arm size than curling 20lb dumbbells ever will.
Diet – If you are training hard but not eating enough then you are likely getting frustrated with your body type. It’s common for hardgainers to claim they eat everything and couldn’t possibly eat more if they wanted to but do this with no calorie tracking.
As an ectomorph, getting into a calorie surplus is crucial for facilitating muscle growth and unless you know what macronutrient numbers you need to hit on a daily basis along with a calorie target, the guesswork of “eating as much as you can” will not produce results.
I have a guide on working out your calorie requirements here for ectomorphs, however, it basically comes down to ensuring you are consuming a constant calorie surplus. Bulking season is a surprisingly long period for most ectomorphs.
Frequency/volume/recovery – I’ve linked these three factors together as this is usually the key area where most ectomorphs are holding themselves back. Most of the effort is placed on training and the volume and frequency that some ectomorphs are training at will likely be leading to minimal progress in terms of their physique.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “go big or go home” hype and heavy training is needed but training only stimulates muscle growth, rest and recovery is where the actual growth occurs (something that you’ll rarely see as it’s a boring topic and not as exciting as a new training plan).
As an ectomorph, especially one that is not on performance enhancing substances, you should be looking to train with low volume (3-9 sets per body part) with higher frequency (2-3 times per week per body part).
Finally, you should get adequate rest. This is why full body splits, upper/lower, or push/pull are the best splits for ectomorphs 95% of the time. They allow high training frequency whilst also allowing 3-4 days for recovery and growth.
Being an ectomorph can often be a frustrating thing. Even if you don’t personally believe in body type classifications, I’m sure you’ve been struggling to build muscle and a physique if you’ve happened to come across this article.
Whilst an ectomorph cannot become a mesomorph, this is not something that you should be concerned about. With an optimized training routine focusing on progressive overload, a long term bulking plan, and adequate rest, the vast majority of ectomorphs should see no difficulty building muscle mass.
You may not be able to develop the characteristics of a mesomorph but you can certainly develop a physique that looks like one.