The 3 Body Types: Endomorph, Ectomorph & Mesomorph

Ever wondered why a training routine that appears to be followed by a celebrity doesn’t seem to be working for you? Or what may work wonders for your friends figure has no effect on your shape whatsoever? This is because we all have different body types and need to account for this when planning a workout or nutritional plan.

To begin, identify what somatotype (body type) you are, untrained. This means what your body would look like without any training.

Ectomorphs are naturally thin with a small bone structure, meaning small wrists, narrow shoulder width and thin muscles. This makes it difficult to put on weight, both fat and muscle.

Endomorphs are softer and curvy, naturally hefty with a round shape and thick joint. It is easy to put on weight, both fat and muscle.

Mesomorphs have a naturally athletic physique with an upright posture and broad shoulders, small waist, T shape or a rectangular shape with thick skin. They can even have good definition and muscularity without lifting weights or doing much exercise.

It’s possible to be a combination of the above somatotypes. It is rare to find a person who is at a total extremity. The term phenotype is defined as “The observable physical or biochemical characteristics of an organism, as determined by both genetic makeup and environmental influences.”

This scale uses three digits, each of which describes how prominent a certain body type is. For instance, a pure endomorph (hefty build) would be a 7-1-1. A pure mesomorph (athletic build) would be a 1-7-1. A pure ectomorph (thin build) would be a 1-1-7. A totally average person would be a 4-4-4 and would have a little of each body type.

There is a clear visible physical distinction between the three phenotypes, but what is not visible and often ignored is the biochemical and metabolic differences between the three phenotypes.

Each phenotype has its advantages and disadvantages with regards to training and these need to be respected in order to achieve a goal or a change in body shape.

An ectomorph will find bodyweight exercises easy with practice such as pull-ups, dips, push-ups, chin-ups due to having a lighter weight than a meso or endo. Ectos are also able to achieve the best definition because of the ease of losing fat, and the natural lean structure.

Ectomorphs may have a disadvantage in gaining muscle mass, but find it easy to stay lean and are better suited to lower intensities. Losing fat can be more difficult as they have less to lose and will inevitably lose a small amount of muscle which they have less of. Endos will find losing fat easier as they can afford to lose some muscle, as with mesomorphs.

Endomorphs have the most limited range of effective workouts and may be unable to do some effective exercises such as pull-ups, dips, push-ups, and chin-ups due to being heavier.

However endos are able to solely focus on strength gains at first since they are naturally big and can often put on size quickly, shortening the time needed for muscular gains. Endos trying to lose weight can do a variety of exercises.

Mesomorphs advantages are broad shoulders, small waist, thick skin, hard body, strong posture and the readiness to gain muscle and lose body fat and can push their bodies very hard.

Training to your body type will work on your strengths, improve weaknesses and help you achieve your goal without overtraining or injuring your body with wasted hours doing the wrong kind of workouts.

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Training Advice for Mesomorphs

This is the best body type to be in and is characterized by the presence of broad shoulders, a small waist, thick skin and a hard body. Also a strong posture, the readiness to gain muscle and lose body fat, the mesomorph is naturally very strong.

Mesomorphs have bodies are actually designed for the stress of sports involving strength and power such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, rugby and other sports that require great physical exertion, but are unlikely to excel at pure endurance sports such as triathlons or marathon running.

This body type can handle high intensities well and respond better than with low intensity workouts. Needing less rest than other body types they can handle high frequency training efficiently due to their finely tuned recovery systems.

This can be because they are advanced lifters or athletes though an untrained mesomorph will still have a good posture with a decent amount of muscularity even without ever looking at a dumbbell.

Their bodies are physically stronger and therefore less prone to injury. Because of this they can attempt advanced training programs such as HTF (High frequency training), Hypertrophy specific training, German Volume Training, Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty HIT Program.

Metabolic circuits are useful with little rest as the mesomorph body can withstand a great deal of stress. Whole body movements with free weights or suspension kits rather than fixed pathway machines will use more muscles and keep the body in postural alignment rather than accentuating deviations with isolation exercises.

Weight lifting techniques will boost your progress whether your goals are sporting related, or in the pursuit of a better body. Techniques such as drop sets, rest pause training, eccentrics, forced reps, burns, negatives and variations of supersets keep the body guessing and challenge the muscles. This increases the intensity and overloads the muscles to a greater extent. The more stress your muscles are under, the more they will become stronger and grow to respond to that extra stress.

Changing the repetitions during your workouts will also aid strength gains by preventing your body from adapting to a certain rep range and more importantly it works different muscle fibers. Increasing the quantity of muscles fibres recruited during a workout leads to greater muscle growth and quicker body composition changes.

Any alterations in the speed of lifting and lowering of any exercise can help vary the workout so the body is always being challenged and making progress.

Flexibility can be an issue with mesomorphs due to the large amount of muscularity. Regular deep stretching such as Self mysofacial release will help increase the range of movements and so increase the amount of muscle fibers used.

Changing the workout style is an important point you should consider. Different workout programs challenge and exert the body in different ways that will increase your progress and make your body more physically able.

Although mesomorphs are capable or training super hard, explosively and with heavy weights at high intensities, a new comer with little or no experience of training would benefit from a 2 months introductory program.

As for cardiovascular exercise, a mesomorph should do approximately 2 cardio sessions a week that last anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes to keep the heart and lungs healthy.

For this body type high intensity interval training is the most beneficial. Not only will it help speed up gains, it helps to burn fat and stay lean without losing important muscle mass. Interval sprints and other explosive exercises should be used.

Mesomorphs have the easiest task at gaining muscle and keeping it but still need to do resistance training regularly. They can push their bodies very hard without overtraining and will see results fast.

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Training Advice for Endomorphs

Endomorphs carry more body fat than other types and tend to be softer and curvier. While this may sound like a disadvantage, they can lose fat with correct eating habits and by training hard, they can afford to lose a small amount of muscle on the way. In fact many of the best fitness models are endomorphs with a little mesomorph and when trained can have a curvy shapely toned body.

Endomorphs aiming to burn body fat need to eat a hypocalorific diet. In addition to controlling your caloric intake, as an endomorph it is vital to control insulin secretion. This can be done by limiting carbohydrate consumption, especially high glycemic carbohydrates. Managing insulin levels will aid fat loss and avoid crashes and cravings.

One way to control your caloric intake is to eat frequent small meals. Waiting for long periods of time with no food causes your body to send signals to the brain telling it the body needs food. Sporadic meals encourage overeating on those meals.

Smaller frequent meals with the right quantity of carbs, protein and fat will prevent overeating. Including fat and protein in a meal will slow down the digestion of carbs, and slow down gastric emptying.

Eating smaller meals controls the secretion of insulin. For instance, eating a 400 calorie meal will result in less insulin secretion than eating a 1,000 calorie meal.

One of the physiological mechanisms that cause endomorphs to gain fat easily can be poor insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity refers to the cells response to insulin or insulin’s efficiency on cells. A cell that is very insulin sensitive needs less insulin to uptake glucose than a cell that is insulin insensitive.

The hormone insulin is anti-lipolytic and prevents fat oxidation increasing fat storage. Therefore, if one has poor insulin sensitivity then more insulin will be secreted and fat oxidation will be blunted and fat storage will be increased to a greater degree than if their cells were more insulin sensitive. In order to lose fat or keep fat gains to a minimum one must control insulin.

The consumption of carbohydrates leads to a large output of insulin since insulin is necessary for the uptake of glucose into cells. Eating large amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day will lead to elevated insulin levels, thereby decreases fat oxidation.

Limiting carbohydrates to times when your body needs them and so earning your carbs will aid in muscle growth and limiting fat gains. Endomorphs should limit their carbohydrates to breakfast and pre/post workout and obtain their carbs from green vegetables in other meals throughout the day.

Training for an endomorph should include cardiovascular exercise to increase stamina and endurance and burn calories. Cardiovascular training is very important for endomorphs, as they are prone to storing and carrying excess body fat. By implementing cardio into your regime, expect an increase in metabolism, a greater feeling of well being, an increase in fat reduction, and increased endurance.

The use of low-intensity cardio, done before breakfast allows one to burn more calories while not hampering recovery and tapping into fat stores when glycogen depleted.

HIIT is more intense than low-intensity cardio. Interval training involves alternating periods of work and rest (or lower levels of work). Bursts of power walking, jogging then walk recoveries or even sprints with walk recoveries shift body fat and retain the muscle and shape.

Since your basal metabolic rate accounts for such a large component of your daily calorie burn, the more you can do to increase it up higher, the better off you’re going to be.

A solid running sprints workout can boost the metabolism for a whole day after it has been completed, and so is very beneficial for endomorphs.

Endomorphs should focus on increasing their metabolism through their training.

A short intense routine that focusing on circuit training using whole body movements rather than fixed pathway machines should take place. Using kettle bells, medicine balls and Olympic lifting gear will help to increase the endomorph’s metabolism. This can last for 25-30 minutes and be repeated 3 times per week for maximum benefits.

For maximum EPOC circuits should be fast and intense. Short rest periods (45-60 seconds) with moderate weights will increase the heart rate, resulting in a greater breakdown of fat tissue. Compared with cardio, circuits will increase EPOC, calories burned after training for up to 72 hours after a session.

Endomorphs are strong and do not need to concern themselves with the risks of overtraining such as with ectomorphs. Endomorphs can push themselves far harder and need to do so in order to shift fat that they naturally store.

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Training Advice for Ectomorphs

Ectomorphs have long lean limbs with a limited amount of muscularity. Whilst this gives them great definition, the ectomorph has a limited capacity for stress. Weight training with a hypercalorific diet will help gain muscle, but it’s best not to overtrain with many sets of many different exercises. Limit your sets to between 3 and 5 sets of one exercise for each body part.

It is easy to over stress and over train the slim ectomorph physique. Try not to remain in the same rep range for longer than 2 weeks or the motor unit will be overworked. Pyramid training allows the trainee to briefly tap into increasingly larger motor units from set to set without overworking them.

The ectomorph must rest longer than normal between sets, between 3 and 5 minutes to allow the nervous system to fully recover between sets, and allow for 100% effort in the following sets. Lifting heavy weights will increase muscle.

High rest periods coupled with lower reps (i.e. 5-7) increase the release of testosterone into your bloodstream.

An ectomorph needs to train briefly, intensely but frequently. An ectomorph cannot handle high volume workouts, so his volume should be spread across the week. Three times a week is ideal.

In order to avoid overtraining, an ectomorph needs to start a training plan slowly and steadily, building up volume gradually. Aim for 3 short sessions altogether the 1st week, then wait a few weeks before increasing the intensity or volume.

Overtraining causes stresses to the body and not only slows down any gains; it can also result in reduced muscle mass and strength. Plus each time you do not succeed it lowers your confidence about being able to gain some decent muscle. Also do not add more sets than necessary for your workout. Doing so will not increase gains. Each progressive set decreases in intensity since you get more fatigued.

If you over complicate things then you’re more likely to make mistakes and try the wrong training methods.

Keep workouts shorter, always under an hour each time to prevent overtraining which is a very important factor. Training over one hour increases the chances of overtraining since it taxes the recovery systems so much and adds unnecessary stress to the body.

20-30 minute workouts are more intensive since more is being done in less time. Shorter, more intense sessions are less likely to wear out joints and cause overtraining.

Changing the exercises is another key point to increase hypertrophy. If you keep the same workout for over 2 months, it is likely your body will adapt to those exercises. In this case you will hit a plateau and all your hard work will be in vain because you won’t be making nearly as much progress as when you initially started.

Continuity is vital. Regular training with scheduled rest days will aid recovery. This body type is the least strong and needs all the help it can get to recover and grow without getting injured.

The ectomorph can attempt a range of exercises as their bodies more suited to intensive weight training since it is anaerobic, requiring limited endurance. However certain types of workouts with little rest such as circuit training will not be beneficial.

Circuit training, whilst very effective at stripping body fat and increasing the cardiovascular system at the same time, involves very little rest and often high reps. For an ectomorph this constitutes overtraining.

Benefits are the ability to perform any exercise compared to an equally progressed endomorph or mesomorph due to a light bodyweight. (pull-ups, dips, push-ups, chin-ups) and are very able to achieve the best definition because of the ease of losing fat, and the natural lean structure.

Ectomorphs may have a disadvantage in gaining muscle mass, yet with the right diet they can put on some muscle.

Even though they may not be able to lift as much as an endomorph or mesomorph, they are still receiving the benefit of working out, which is isolated apart from other body types.

Because of their versatility in workouts, ectomorphs have the widest range of effective workouts.

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