Written by Virginia Bain
Are you an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph?
Your body will fall into one of the three typical body shapes; the idea that human body types are genetically pre-set into one of three camps is nothing new, you will tend to be a combination of two types, but will lean more towards one main one. These are:
- Ectomorph: Lean and long, with difficulty building muscle
- Endomorph: Big, high body fat, often pear-shaped, with a high tendency to store body fat
- Mesomorph: Muscular and well-built, with a high metabolism and responsive muscle cells
However, what do these three terms mean in reality? In short, ectomorphs stay lean despite hours in the gym, endomorphs struggle to shift their gut, and mesomorphs pack on muscle with ease. Learning which body shape you were born with, and understanding what that means for your training and diet plans, will help you train smarter to maximize your potential and get closer to building the body that you’ve always wanted.
Whatever your characteristics, you should know that regardless of your body type, anyone can get lean or put on considerable muscle mass – and, equally, get fat if they’re not careful.
It might be harder for a skinny chick to follow in DLB Olympia’s footsteps, but it’s not impossible.
Below offers more information on how to identify your own body type – or mixture of types - and learn how to tailor your fitness tactics to it: what you should be doing in the gym and the kitchen, plus what moves make the biggest difference.
Ectomorph Body Type
Ectomorphs are good at processing carbohydrates into energy and your fast metabolism means that you burn off fat easily. The downside is that you struggle to bulk up because your fast-twitch fibres are underdeveloped. To become more muscular, you need to keep cardio sessions to a minimum and focus on intense workouts using compound exercises to maximise growth hormone release. You’ll also need to take on more calories a day including plenty of starchy carbs and whey protein, possibly from a supplement.
Are You an Ectomorph?
You’ve got the build of a marathon runner – lean, but short on muscle. It can be hard to pack on size despite hours in the gym.
What Ectomorphs Should Be Doing:
Compound movements, sets in the eight-to-12 rep range and quite a lot of volume are what you’re looking for, so a system such as German Volume Training is ideal. This was Popularized by muscle expert Charles Poliquin, GVT prescribes ten sets of ten reps in key moves such as the bench or squat.
And there’s no need to live in the gym to put on muscle – quite the contrary, in fact. If you’re working out four, five days a week you may be speeding up your metabolism too much. I tend to limit my ectomorphs to three workouts a week, keeping the actual training time after a warm-up to 45 minutes or less.
Moves That Make a Difference:
The deadlift is your best friend: people with long arms should find it relatively easy, and it uses the entire body so it’ll pack on mass. Although squats and benching will do wonders for your physique, taller ectomorphs might find them difficult
The Ectomorph Cheat Sheet
- Train with compound moves
- Get enough protein
- Use isolation moves as finishers
- Overemphasize isolation moves
- Do too much cardio
- Ectomorphs have to work harder on the weights in order to gain a toned physique
Endomorph Body Type
Endomorphs are adept at storing fuel, with muscle and fat concentrated in the lower body. The endomorph is the hardest body type to have in terms of managing your weight and overall fitness, but to get a more balanced physique, you should focus on developing your shoulders and stripping away excess fat from your lower body. A low- to medium-intensity cardio plan will help you shift fat, as a diet that’s high in fibre.
Are You an Endomorph?
If you have trouble shifting weight, then chances are you’re an endomorph, characterized by a relatively high amount of stored fat, a wide waist and a large bone structure.
What Endomorphs Should Be Doing:
While much of the endomorph’s focus should be on shedding fat and this may lead you to think that cardio is the answer, I am of the opinion that weight-training is best because it carries on burning calories long after your final set. What’s more, the calories you ingest during the recovery period will help your muscles grow rather than fueling your belly. Therefore, I would recommend doing four days a week of hypertrophy training (heavy weight, low reps) alongside your cardio.
A four-day split might go something like: Monday, upper-body hypertrophy; Tuesday, lower-body conditioning such as sprints or sleds; Thursday lower-body hypertrophy; and a Friday ‘repetition’ day on the upper body, when you’ll do lots of reps at relatively low weights.
Moves That Make a Difference:
Endomorphs should get use to using their bodies, Work on bodyweight moves such as the press-up or chin-up, and moves that force you to use good technique such as the Turkish get-up.
The Endomorph Cheat Sheet
- Train with intensity
- Watch your carb intake
- Build your shoulders
- Do endless crunches
- Jog for hours
- Drink sports drinks
Mesomorph Body Type
You have the body type that finds it easiest to add new muscle and you don’t tend to store much body fat. Mesomorphs tend to take their naturally athletic builds for granted, which can result in diluted workouts and poor diets. Keeping in peak physical condition is often tempered by a scattered approach to eating and training.
The key here is to make the most of your body shape. That means following a progressive plan that will make you stronger and more athletic by increasing your power without getting too bulky. To fuel your workouts you will need an adequate amount of calories and be sure to be getting plenty of complex carbs and protein but limiting your total fat intake.
Are You a Mesomorph?
If you are, you will know it from the jealous looks. Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym, and pack on muscle the instant they pick up a dumbbell. If this sounds like you, you’ve hit the genetic jackpot – but you can make the most of your DNA with some tactical workout tricks.
What Mesomorphs Should Be Doing:
Mesomorphs should try to train athletically, so they might do sprints, box and vertical jumps or other plyometrics. They respond well to low reps and power moves. Alternatively, interval sprints will pump up their metabolism and strip away fat.
Moves That Make a Difference:
Power Moves! Try pairing a strength move with a power move that works the same muscles. For example, superset five reps on the deadlift with five on the power clean.
The Mesomorph Cheat Sheet
- Train like an athlete
- Time your workouts
- Set personal bests
- Take your body for granted
- Eat whatever you like
I hope at the very least, you have gained a better understanding of why your body is the shape it is, and how to get the most out of your time at the gym. Sisters in Shape would love to help create a personalized plan for yOU!
Post by SIS Coach, Virginia
As a full-time Sales Manager and mother of two teenagers, Virginia understands the need for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Her passion for fitness began 15 years ago as a personal trainer. Since then, she has also gained certifications in holistic nutrition and sports nutrition. Virginia finds strength in being a SiS coach and empowering other women to live like the Power Women they are.
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