I am going to let you in on a little secret…no two bodies are the same. Shocking, I know. With that, we have to realize that every individual goes through their own unique fitness journey to reach his or her fitness goals. Knowing your body type is the first step in setting attainable and realistic goals.
There are 3 main body types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. Each body type has it’s own challenge, but knowing how to properly train for each body type will help to make your fitness goals attainable.
Ectomorphs tend to be long limbed with very little muscle. This body type can sometimes lead to a relatively low body weight but high body fat percentage. Ectomorphs are more resistant to fat and muscle mass gains due to their metabolic functions.
Individuals with this body type may find it hard to put on muscle mass. To help gain lean mass, ectomorphs should first focus on building quality muscle mass in all of the large muscle groups. The best way to achieve this is by building an exercise plan that utilizes compound exercises. Compound exercises involve more than one joint and more than one muscle group through the range of motion of the movement. Examples of common compound exercises are squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and pull-ups. Once ectomorphs begin to build muscle mass, they can then move into doing more auxiliary (isolated) movements that focus on a specific muscle. Examples of isolated exercises are bicep curls, hamstring curls, leg extensions and calf raises.
How often + how much:
Less is more for ectomorphs. It is already challenging for those who have this body type to gain lean mass so you want to avoid over training, which can lead to muscle breakdown and injuries. It is recommended that Ectomorphs perform compound lifts 3 days a week and have at least a day of rest between lifting days. It is okay to do other physical activity on rest days but listen to your body! More often than not, properly resting your body will help you achieve your goals more than overexerting yourself every day. Compound exercises should be done with 3-4 sets and between 5-8 reps. Auxiliary exercises should be done with 3-4 sets and between 8-12 reps.
Mesomorphs have more of an “athletic” body type. They are proportionally built and tend to find it easy to gain and lose both fat and muscle mass. Mesomorphs can build muscle quicker and easier than any other body type.
Resistance training is key for mesomorphs looking to gain or maintain lean muscle. Because it is so easier for them to gain muscle mass, using moderate to heavy weight is recommended to stimulate muscle growth. Compound exercises will help give you more “bang for your buck” but mesomorphs can include more auxiliary (isolated) movements and focus on a specific muscle group each training session. On the flip side, mesomorphs may find it easy to gain fat as well so it is important to pair aerobic conditioning with weight training. Examples of this could be incorporating high intensity interval training, pairing Plyometrics with weight training exercises, cycling and incline walks on the treadmill.
How often + how much:
No matter what your body type is, overtraining is always a risk. It is recommended that mesomorphs include 3 weight training workouts and 3 cardio-based workouts a week. The weight training should be done with moderate repetitions and moderate to heavy weights. Aiming for 8-12 reps, with a weight that will make the last 2-3 reps challenging.
Endomorphs tend to have fuller and curvier figures. Endomorphs may have a high body weight along with a high body fat percentage. A slow metabolism can make it hard to for this body type to keep their body fat percentage down and they may find that they easily can put on weight in the form of fat mass.
Aerobic training will be most beneficial for endomorphs to jumpstart the reduction of fat mass. Utilizing both high intensity interval training (HIIT) and steady state aerobic training is recommended. HIIT involves doing an exercise for a specific amount of time (i.e. 30 seconds) & then resting for a short period of time (i.e. 15 seconds), repeating and then resting for a longer period of time (2 mins). This style of aerobic training constantly changes one’s Heart rate (HR) level. Steady state aerobic training involves keeping the HR at a constant, moderate level for a long period of time. An example of this could be walking at a slight incline on the treadmill for 35-40 minutes. Once an endomorph, sparks up with fat mass loss with aerobic training resistance training can be added to aid the fat loss and also begin lean muscle gain.
How often + how much:
One thing that will be important for endomorphs when achieving their fitness goals is consistency. This includes at least 4 days a week doing moderate aerobic training for at least 30 minutes. This will help to stimulate fat loss for endomorphs. Pairing this aerobic training with 1-2 days of resistance training using moderate weight and high reps (10-12) will also aid in fat loss and lean muscle gain.
Most likely you will not fall perfectly into one of these body types. Most people have a mix of characteristics from all of these body types. There is no magic formula for training or nutrition to get to your body goal. No matter what fitness level you are when you start working towards your goals, it is going to take time, hard work and most of all, adjustments to achieve your goals. Our bodies are forever changing which means what our body needs is constantly changing as well. You have to be willing to make adjustments to your lifestyle in order to reach the goals you have.