Body Type MattersAt the point of failing in application of ‘expert’ training principles, I came to realize a very important point. Elite athletes have elite genetics and elite body types. It is ludicrous to think that their training should apply to my life, my situation, my genetics, my body type.
Our training failures have more to do with applying methods not built for us than for lack of effort or desire.Regardless of my age, current sport, or fitness goal, the most important element of self awareness in training has always been body type. When I got it right, my training would fit my genetic code and my results would soar. When I got it wrong, it was like trying to put a round training peg into a square genetic hole, frustration and failure followed.
Classifying Body TypesAny effort to identify distinct body types faces certain challenge. Every person has a unique genetic composition, with physical implications. The study of somatotyping , with its origins in 1960’s pyschological research of William H. Sheldon, classified body types into three groups along a spectrum; ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. The first fruits of these classifications were related to cultural stereotypes. One study found that endomorphs are likely to be perceived as slow, sloppy, and lazy. Mesomorphs, in contrast, are typically stereotyped as popular and hardworking, whereas ectomorphs are often viewed as intelligent but fearful. While each of the three groups of body is determined by calculations, it is possible to understand these classes largely by the characteristics of each. Ben Creicos has compiled nine questions to calculate estimated body type. A few important criteria from Creicos’ analysis are summarized in the following table:
Spotting the Difference
|Body Looks…||Long and narrow||Square and rugged||Round and soft|
|Body Tends To…||Stay Skinny||Lean and Muscular||Carry Extra Fat|
|Shoulder Width Is…||More narrow than hips||Same width as hips||Wider than hips|
|Training Challenges Are…||Gaining muscle mass and strength||Balancing growth with definition||Reducing body fat|
Training VariationsEquipped with knowledge of body type, the individual can use a wealth of research for selecting the right nutrition and exercise strategy. The following summarizes key findings related to training and nutrition variations depending on body type.
|Exercise Plans||Nutrition Strategy|
|Ectomorph||Heavier Weights||Engine is “high reving”|
|“Hard Gainer”||Shorter Workouts||Target Daily Caloric Surplus|
|Longer rest between sets||Tolerate carbs well|
|Low Reps (6 to 8)||Diet Composition:|
|Low Sets (14-16 per workout)||55% carbs|
|Recuperate between workouts||25% protein|
|Cardio to healthy minimum||20% fat|
|Mesomorph||Emphasis on Quality||Body a powerful machine|
|“Genetically Gifted”||Isolation exercises||Target calories based on cycle|
|Shape and separation focus||Tolerate carbs and protein well|
|Variation of reps (6 to 12)||Diet Composition:|
|Variation of weights||40% carbs|
|Standard sets (16-20)||30% protein|
|Cardio for wellness||30% fat|
|Endomorph||Lighter Weights||Large bone structure|
|“Big Guy”||Longer workouts||Higher body mass and fat|
|Short rest between sets||Doesn’t tolerate carbs well|
|Higher Reps (10 to 12)||Diet Composition:|
|Higher Sets (20 – 25 per workout)||15% carbs|
|Extra sets as possible||50% protein|
|Extra cardio for fat burning||35% fat|
Avoid One Size Fits All SolutionsOver my lifetime I cannot count the number of one-size fits all solutions that have come and gone. There is no one diet for everyone, and there certainly is no one strength and endurance training program for everyone. Who you are matters, and you need a diet and exercise program that is designed for you, your body, your genetic code, your present physical condition. When you see a one-size fits all solution, be skeptical and embrace only those things which are compatible with your body type.
Things Can ChangeVarious factors, including age, can affect your body type. A diligent approach to training requires us all to be monitoring the scale, the mirror, and our dimensions. This has been true in my own experience. When I was 15 years old I had a growth spurt, shooting up from 5’10” to 6’5″ in less than nine months. I went from a full-body 14 year old to a string bean at 6’5″, my weight staying near 165 pounds at both heights. I went from mesomorph to ectomorph in a year. As we age and our lifestyles gravitate toward sedentary behavior, our bodies tend toward the endomorph. A lifetime of training calls for a lifetime of awareness and diligence as our bodies go through hormonal changes with age.
Get Some HelpDetermining where you stand on the spectrum from ectomorph to endomorph requires a bit more than looking at a few pictures, descriptions, or questions on a short survey. It also involves how your body reacts to different forms of nutrition and training. In order to reach your highest potential, reach out to a qualified personal trainer today.
Books in PrintSchwarzenegger, Arnold with Dobbins, Bill. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Simon and Schuster, New York. 1998: 164-170. Hatfield, Frederick. Fitness: The Complete Guide, International Sports Science Association, Carpinteria, 2016: 609-610.
InternetArsenault, Kyle. “The Best Exercise and Eating Advice for Your Body Type”, LIVESTRONG.COM, Accessed March 18, 2018. Creicos, Ben. “What is Your Body Type? Take our Test!”, BODYBUILDING.com, Accessed March 18, 2018. Sims, Stacy T. “The 3 Body Types Explained”, RODALE Wellness, Accessed March 18, 2018. Wherrell, Jen. “Body Types and Weight Loss”, My House Fitness, Accessed March 18, 2018.