I am pretty active,but nursing injuries now. I haven't started lifting heavy yet.

I have come across many sites that suggest ectomorphs to train with compound moves only while a few others opine that ectomorphs who have long and thin bones, low muscle mass have to make certain changes to their lifts because of the difference in body structure. But I have a feeling that there is more to be addressed abt heavy weight training for female ectomorphs

Being a woman, I have low upper body strength and low muscle mass makes things worse.

Can anyone let me know by their experience if things are different for a female ectomorph?

  • Firstly somatotypes are completely bunk. There are no such things as ecto/meso/endo-morphs. Secondly what are your goals?
    – user2861
    Sep 12, 2013 at 0:07
  • I want to gain strength but my injuries forced me to put ahead muscle gain in the priority list... Sep 13, 2013 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


Greg Knuckols wrote a good article regarding the differences between men and women as it pertains to weight training:

  • Muscles behave the same on everyone: all that matters is cross-sectional size of the muscle and neural stimulation.
  • Women's skeletal structures are different where the legs join the hips: this affects what correct form looks like for a woman vs. a man.
  • Waist and hip size are typically different: women tend to have smaller waists which means lower weight for squats, and hips can be wider which means greater hip range of motion.
  • Fewer fast twitch muscle fibers: this limits the absolute amount of weight a woman can handle, and suggests that a woman can do more reps at the same percentage of their max than a man can. These observations do bear out in practice.
  • Hormonal factors: without "vitamin S" (steroids), women have lower testosterone levels and have a slower rate of increasing muscle mass.

What all that means is that you have to temper your expectations of progress from what any suggested program promises. While it is very possible for women to safely squat 225lbs (a little more than 100kg) it will take a lot longer for a woman to do that than a man. It may not happen in the first year.

Regarding Ectomorphs (or endomorphs, or mesomorphs)

No one is 100% one or the other, and any psychological profiling on somatypes has been sufficiently proven to be false. The use of somatypes to dictate training or eating is just not helpful. What people are talking about when they diagnose themselves as one somatype or another are:

  • Ectomorph: I can't gain weight to save my life (AKA hard-gainer)
  • Mesomorph: I'm happy with the way I look (does this person truly exist?)
  • Endomorph: I gain weight just looking at food (AKA fatso, or me)

In each of these cases there are hormonal and structural differences in people where this seems true enough to be concerned. There are several hormones that factor into whether you tend to gain or lose your fat or muscle. Your skeletal structure is dictated by your genes, and to a very limited extent the stress that they have to support. What I'm saying is whether you have a large frame or a small frame that isn't going to significantly change by lifting weights. You may get a bit more bone density because you are supporting the weight of the bar in addition to your body weight, but that isn't going to change a small framed person to a large framed person.

Hormones that affect your body composition include (but are not limited to):

  • Leptin--tells your body that you've had enough food
  • Insulin--the energy storage hormone (either to your muscles or to fat)
  • Glucagon--the energy release hormone (both from muscles and fat)
  • Testosterone--triggers HGH1 and mTor
  • HGH1--Human Growth Hormone triggers muscle and bone growth
  • Triiodothyronine (T3)--thyroid hormone responsible for triggering the body to burn fat

This is by no means exhaustive or a list of everything these hormones are responsible for. People who have a hard time gaining weight, muscle or otherwise can have an overactive thyroid or high leptin sensitivity. Most likely the problem is the latter issue. The body is likely signaling that it is done eating well before it truly is. Many times people with high leptin sensitivity may have difficulty eating more--it can make them feel physically sick.

The bottom line is that if you feel like you lack enough muscular size you do need to eat more. If you have a high leptin sensitivity you probably need to eat a lot more than you do now. In either case you'll want to have a good amount of protein. A good rule of thumb is 1g protein per pound body weight, or 2g protein per kilogram body weight per day.

  • To gain weight: increase how often you are eating, and the amount of carbs that you have with each meal.
  • To maintain weight: keep eating the way you are eating.
  • To lose weight: decrease the frequency and/or amount you are eating, and reduce the carbs to about 120g / day.

An "ectomorph" or hard-gainer will need to eat more often with whatever sized meals they can eat to increase their weight. You should see the scale move, and a thicker you. The important thing is to monitor how much fat you are gaining with the muscle. If you are gaining fat more quickly than muscle, you need to slow down your intentional overeating.

  • Thanks Berlin for clearing things on workout plan somatotypes. I got my thyriod tested last year and it was fine. My appetite hasn't undergone much change in between. So, I believe it must be high leptin sensitivity. Will look out more on that... Sep 13, 2013 at 10:33
  • BTW, Berlin, you said I am not going to become large framed if I lift heavy. Looks like I had a very big misconception in this regards... Sep 13, 2013 at 15:58
  • To be clear, you'll be able to add muscle, and your bones will be slightly thicker. Both of these things will help you do more with the you that you have. But if you are done growing your skeleton will be pretty much the same size it is now. If you are 5 feet tall now, you'll still be 5 feet tall when you add muscle. Sep 13, 2013 at 16:10
  • Did you mean if I'm past my growing age, lifting wouldn't affect my bones now? I'm 25 YO Sep 14, 2013 at 7:07
  • 1
    The only change will be bone density when you are past your growing age. Weight training is great at either reversing or preventing osteoporosis. More bone density can support more muscle and make your bones much harder to break. These are good things to help you transform your body. Sep 14, 2013 at 15:15

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