Written by Lisa Allen, MD
One of the first things you should do when you begin training is figure out what type of build your current physique is. There are basically three broad types of body structures: mesomorphic, endomorphic, and ectomorphic. What are the differences between all of these? What differences in training should be made depending on what body type you are? Find the answers to these questions here.
- The Ectomorph – Let’s start with the ectomorph, because this one is the easiest to classify. The ectomorph is characterized by the inability to gain weight easily, an easily visible and smaller bone structure, and a generally ‘thin’ appearance. The ectomorph will typically have long arms and legs and thin muscles to go along with them. If you have ever Googled “how to gain weight fast” or any other similar keyword phrase, you are probably an ectomorph.
- The Mesomorph – The mesomorph will typically have a large, broad chest, a well-built muscular structure, a longer torso, and arms and legs shorter than that of the ectomorph. The mesomorph is the guy in high school that everyone is jealous of, because he was born to play sports and finds gaining or losing weight is fairly easy.
- The Endomorph – On the other hand, the endomorph is the guy, unfortunately, that no one is jealous of because he tends to store more weight and finds it hard to get rid of adipose tissue (fat). The endomorph has softer muscles, a rounder face, and wider hips.
Now, no one is a true endomorph or mesomorph or what have you. Everyone is a combination of the body types. For example I would classify myself as meso-ectomorph, because I have some properties of an ectomorph but more characteristics of the mesomorph. So from the above descriptions, put together your body classification.
Understanding your body classification is essential to forming your workout strategy because certain fitness principles are more effective for certain body types. A basic example of this would be the effectiveness of cardiovascular exercise for the skinny ectomorph versus the heavier endomorph. Obviously, running, biking or swimming is going to be more effective for the heavier set individual than for the one who has to fight for every pound gained.
Now there are more advanced workout principles that lend themselves better to certain body types. For example, the endomorph may choose to perform higher repetitions per set to build muscle stamina alongside strength. Typically, endomorphs have less muscular stamina so performing higher repetitions can help build up that stamina. Eventually, they could lower their reps into the ideal rep range for building muscle, which is around 8-10 reps per set.
Training the Endomorph
Since the endomorph finds it easy to put on weight, both muscle and fat, individuals classified with this body types will typically be looking to lose fat or “get cut” as we so often hear. Here are a few important principles for endomorph training:
1. You should not completely forgo lifting weights for cardio because weight training builds muscle. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism gets, which is what the endo needs. But don’t exceed 15 reps per set. After this point you are probably just wasting your time.
2. Diet is essential to the endomorph. You will need to eat as cleanly as possible and aim for balance between fat and carbohydrate intake with a higher protein intake.
3. Finally, be sure you are including cardio exercise such as running, biking, swimming, shadow boxing, or whatever gets your heart rate moving and burns the calories. Get creative with this one, because its going to be tough to stay motivated in this area.
Training the Ectomorph
Since the key concern of the ectomorph is gaining weight, the training principles for the skinny guy are going to be pretty much the exact opposite of the principles the endomorph should be following. Here is what to aim for if you are an ectomorph:
1. Keep your workouts short. Aim for about 15-18 sets total. After that point, leave the gym. I know it will be tough if you are all amped up on Jack3d or whatever your favorite pre-workout powder is, but the truth is, you need to be conserving your energy and calories.
2. Since you should be in the gym more than an hour, you will need to make your sets and reps count, so don’t slack off in the gym or you won’t get results.
3. This one is simple: eat more calories than you burn. You need to be taking in pretty much anything that gets put on the table. That being said, don’t go overboard with the KFC and Arby’s just make sure that you are getting plenty of calories and that a good majority of those calories are from protein.
4. Avoid cardio exercise wherever you can. If you enjoy running, biking, basketball or whatever you do as a hobby, try to increase these sessions to no more than twice a week.
Training the Mesomorph
If I could sum up the principles the mesomorph should follow it would be a combination of the principles for the ecto and the endo. So for best results, follow these principles:
1. Aim for the ideal rep range 8-10 reps for all of your exercises. If you want to go for strength rather than size, you may opt for 5-8 reps instead. Try different variations and see what works for you though, because everyone is different and can respond differently to different training principles.
2. Eat a clean diet full of high quality carbs and most importantly, protein. Protein is a chief concern to all of the body types alike, so getting plenty of it is going to essential for gaining mass.
3. Perform moderate amounts of cardiovascular exercise. This is where it is going to be a judgment call. Like we talked about before, it is unlikely that you are a true mesomorph, so if you think you may be endo-meso or even meso-endo, then you may want to do more cardio than if you were ecto-meso, etc.