How To Choose a Workout Based on Your Body Type
We are all born unique. And when it comes to dieting and exercise, your diet and training routine should be unique to who you are.
You were born into what the fitness world calls a “somatotype” or a body type. Your genetic makeup makes you predisposed to react differently to what you eat, how your body processes food, and what training does for your body. Unfortunately, too many people use their body type as a crutch to blame for their lifestyle choices.
Not you however. You are going to use this knowledge to tailor a dieting and training program that will maximise your strengths and hone in on your weaknesses. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about a body type and how to identify yourself in one. We’ll show you how to train and eat better because of what you know, not in spite of it.
What are Body Types?
Body types, or somatotypes, are 3 classifications we use to describe what your body was born to do. These somatotypes aren’t strict boundaries between people. Use them as a tool to understand how your body tends to measure up.
Knowing your body type is power. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Think of it this way. You now have insight on how your body responds to the types of food you eat, the way your metabolism functions, how your body builds muscle, and how well you can handle carbohydrates. That kind of information is invaluable in the gym.
Your metabolism is one of the key areas of difference. In this frame, we talk about metabolism as a measure of how fast your body can turn food into energy. Ectomorphs and Mesomorphs tend to have faster metabolisms, but endomorphs can overcome the deficit with specific metabolism-boosting training routines. We’ll touch on those later.
Your body type also defines how well you can process carbohydrates. Your body breaks down carbs into glucose for energy. The more efficient that system is, the less fat your body will store. Knowing how your body reacts to carbs can help you plan your meals better. You can actually time when you consume your carbs for maximum results.
Look, you are who you are. Your body type isn’t an excuse for not achieving something. It’s powerful and valuable information. Look at the chart below to see how your body measures up. Don’t worry if you find that you don’t strictly adhere to one category. Everyone has at least one trait from another body type, but you will find that your genetic makeup falls predominantly in one type. That being said, let’s look at each of the three body types and highlight how to eat and train better for that type.
The person with ectomorphic qualities would typically be called ‘thin’. They have a taller, thinner frame that doesn’t readily put on weight. As we touched on in our Gaining Weight article, they don’t just not put on fat, they don’t put on muscle readily either. Their muscles are slim and lean, their limbs seem longer and thinner, and they have a narrower shoulder and hip ratio than most.
As we already covered in the gaining weight article, if you want to put on muscle, your diet needs to accommodate that goal. That means eating a lot of calories. Your body type is especially good at handling carbs so plan to increase your carb intake accordingly. Ectomorphs can handle a ratio of 40-50% carbs for healthy body maintenance. You can even add more than you already are if you want to add muscle mass.
Your metabolism is almost too efficient at burning calories, and you probably aren’t eating enough to add mass to your frame. Eating plenty of protein and adding in carbohydrates on your training days will help add those critical calories to your daily diet.
The workout plan for an ectomorph means creating a training program that focuses heavily on the resistance training and less on the cardio.
Light cardiovascular exercise is important for your heart and lung health. But keep it light. Otherwise, you will activate that efficient calorie-burning metabolism into undoing all your efforts in the gym. If you perform an effective strength training exercise, you will naturally be burning calories through your whole-body movements already.
Your body type doesn’t stop you from putting on muscle mass. You should go into any training routine knowing that your body isn’t holding you back. The formula to add muscle mass works for any body type, but for you, you need more emphasis on certain parts of the training.
Although we won’t get into muscle anatomy here, your muscle fibres respond to different types of training. Higher reps and lighter weights will trigger a response called Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy.
This is the fancy term to describe an increase in muscle size. When weightlifters talk about the “pump” after a strenuous workout, this is what they mean. Your muscles get pumped up in size, therefore making your body appear larger.
To do this, focus on 15-20 reps of around 50-65% of your max weights to trigger this muscle response.
Full body training routines will include lifts like the deadlift, the bench press, squats, and Romanian deadlifts. Perform 3 strength training routines a week to focus on each area of your body, allowing time in between to rest and recover.
The endomorph body is better understood as the stocky body type. The people with this somatotype tend to have more fat stored on their body. They have wider hips and narrow shoulders, giving them the appearance of being “pear-shaped”. These curvy individuals are seemingly predisposed to store fat rather than build muscle. Their metabolism is naturally slower than other people’s. They struggle to lose weight and seem to gain fat readily.
The constant battle for a person with an endomorph body type is should you cut weight or build muscle.
Before you can get muscle definition, you need to start by losing some of the fat that you would easily accumulate. This means eating a diet that promotes burning fat while maintaining your muscle mass. This is not always fun. You should cut between 300-500 calories from your diet after you’ve determined what your Basal Metabolic Rate should be. Once you know what your body needs every day, that slight deficit will turn your body to burning stored fat for energy.
Make sure that your calorie cuts are to your carbs and not your proteins. You need the protein intake for continuing to build muscle. Stick to a 15-30% carb ratio with a 40% fat intake for your entire diet. Aim for your carb intake to be heavier on your training days when you need that fuel.
And now we can focus on the building muscle part. An endomorph will have naturally stronger leg muscles, able to perform well in squats and lunges. You need to build up your upper body strength to even out the muscles over your body.
Endomorphs need cardio that keeps them moving. A good High-Intensity Interval Training routine will keep your body laser-focussed on burning fat while retaining muscle mass. Find a routine that you can stick with, because constant cardio will be the key to developing a fitter, healthier body.
As for strength training, this will be a process that continues to cut fat and reveal the muscle underneath. Moderate to heavy weights will help build that lean muscle mass and kick the metabolism into higher gears to burn away fat.
Try using a guide of 60-75% of the max weights you can lift and sticking with a 12-15 rep set for your best results. Spend your time in the beginning with the highest-impact movements like overhead presses and bench presses. This will activate the underdeveloped upper body muscles. Move from these barbell exercises to targeted free weight exercise like curls and weighted lunges and pull-ups. Try to continue the flow of your strength training routines, keeping your rest times short and abrupt.
The person with mesomorphic qualities are described as the athletic types. They won the genetic lottery in that they don’t tend to store fat well but build muscle quite easily. They often don’t need to go to the gym to have a well-defined body. They put on muscle easily and their metabolism burns quicker than most. They have a solid mid-section, a broader shoulder, narrow waist lines, thicker upper sections and naturally low fat levels.
The mesomorph doesn’t have much to do to adjust their diet. Rapid weight gains and losses aren’t going to be a factor for mesomorphic bodies. Keep maintaining that healthy balance of carbs, fats, and proteins to encourage your body to build better muscles. Your body is going to respond best to a 40/30/30 ratio of carbs/fats/proteins.
Your body has a natural inclination to remain in a good balance of metabolizing your food and building muscle mass easily. Encourage this with constant moderate cardio and a strength training routine 3-4 times a week.
Encourage your body to have a well-rounded approach by focussing on a push-pull-legs routine. Each day, you focus your energies on one specific body movement, moving from barbell exercises to free weights and finally to bodyweight exercises. In fact, mesomorphic bodies respond better to bodyweight exercises than other body types. Try to add weights to your bodyweight exercises to increase muscle mass. Hang weights from a belt when performing pull-ups. Hold dumbbells when doing lunges. Raise barbell weights over your head when performing crunches.
Body Type Training Takeaway
Your body type is your greatest asset in the gym. It’s your personal blueprint to define your training and your diet routine. That kind of information can supercharge your efforts in the gym.
You can focus on in on the routines and foods that will have the most effect. You can better define your results if you focus on how to train with your body type and not in spite of it.