All About Body Types

Combination Body Types

Thankfully, we are not all the same person. We don’t look the same or act the same. Some of us are short and others are tall. Some of us are broad and some of us are narrow. To get to the point, you have a particular body type.

These body types are influenced entirely by genetics and can significantly determine the rate at which your body loses fat and gains muscle.

During the 1940’s a doctor by the name of William Sheldon created the use of somatotyping. Somatotyping explains what your body type is, in particular as it relates to your genetic make-up. In other words, your somatotype is your special body type. Your particular body type can determine your ability to perform certain tasks, dictate the rate of your metabolism, and ability to either gain or lose weight easily. Certain nutrition and exercise programes have to be matched to your body type in order to optimally reach your goals.

There were three somatotypes that Sheldon came up with. Bellow is a chart and an explanation of the three types.

Here is the info on how to train for the three different body types. If you are somewhere in between two body types and recommendations would be a middle approach.

Endomorph:

Endomorphic body types are usually rounder, as they tend to store body fat easily. The fat stores tend to go into the hips and thighs for women, and in the abdominal area for men. An extreme example of a endomorph is a Sumo wrestler or football lineman.

If you are an endomorph, you may find it difficult to lose weight. Unfortunately, you might attack your weight loss efforts through diet alone, but it doesn’t work as you tend to gain it back. Sometimes you might not eat at all, but this is not good because you have to eat regularly to keep you calorie burning engines running. Eating smaller, lower density meals throughout the day will work the best.

In regards to exercise, you should weight train at least three days a week and do cardiovascular exercise 4-5 times per week not only to burn more calories, but for cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, you are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Low fat consumption and frequent aerobic activity is necessary.

An Endomorph’s biggest concern should be the losing of fat and adopting a lifestyle that keeps it off. Strength training should be done to get a better muscle to fat ratio and therefore improve metabolism. Use moderate weights at a fast training pace (very little rest between sets and exercises). You should lower your calorie intake (but not try to starve yourself) and should eat frequent but small meals. Sugars, sweets and junk food should be eliminated from your diet. Engage daily in some activity like brisk walking, biking, etc., and try to increase the amount of time you spend each week.

A balanced diet rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates are necessary for healthy body function.  Foods high in protein and fiber would make great choices, as they should be the majority of your caloric intake.

Note: The aim of the endomorph is to lose and/or control body fat, as it is the most difficult task.  This will require a consumption of calories less than the combined burned calories from activity and BMR.  You can calculate the amount of calories that you will need to consume by using the Personal Health Tool.

The Endomorph more commonly has more fat storage, particularly around the midsection.  Commonly referred to as fat, overweight, or obese.

Fat Burning Rate: Slow

Muscle Growth Rate: Fast

Energy Endurance: Low

Advantages/Disadvantages

+Can gain muscle mass as well as the mesomorph

-Very difficult to burn fat

-Usually less energy

Fundamental Exercise Plan

When doing resistance training, the focus should be on low resistance with more repetitions.  For each exercise, 4-5 sets and 10-12 repetitions is ideal.  This will not only burn more calories, but will develop muscle as well – essential for fat loss.

Cardio training is top priority for this body type and should be performed after resistance training.  That means low intensity training on a treadmill, stair climber, bike, or cross trainer is a must.  Focus should be aimed at a low intensity workout with long durations.  Track your heart rate and stay within 50-65% of your maximum heart rate according to your age.

Mesomorph:

A person who is mesomorphic is usually muscular in build and are quite athletic. Most ectomorphs and endomorphs are either envious or despise mesomorphs. A perfect mesomorph is like one of those guys you see in one of those late night exercise product infomercials.

If you are a mesomorph, you can have more “bad” eating days without it catching up to you. However, you can increase body fat if you don’t exercise regularly. Plus, in order to be really lean, you have to have good eating habits.

Your weight-lifting efforts should be combined with heavy lifting days with lower reps, and light weight lifting days with higher reps. Variety is essential to your exercise efforts. Your ability to do cardiovascular activity and your lifestyle usually dictates whether you should do moderate or intense cardiovascular activity. Usually, a combination of moderate and high intensity staggered 3-4 times a week is sufficient.

A Mesomorph has a naturally fit body but to maintain it or improve it they should exercise and diet corretly for their type. Strength training can be done more often and for longer sessions then would be good for an Ectomorph, but you must still be carefull not to overdo it. You should train with moderate to heavy weighs and at a moderate pace, not resting too long between sets. You will find you gain muscle quite easy (some women and even men might not want to get too bulky, but this won’t happen suddenly. When you are happy with your muscle size simply train to maintain it). Stick to a good healthy diet to keep you lean and muscular, and watch for any slow creeping fat gains. Engage in and enjoy aerobic activities, sports, etc. but do not overdo.

Fat Burning Rate: Fast

Muscle Growth Rate: Fast

Energy Endurance: High

Advantages/Disadvantages

+Able to grow and retain muscle mass more

+More muscle mass enhances the cardio training’s effectiveness resulting in more calorie burn

-Rare body type

Fundamental Exercise Plan

For this particular body type, it is personal preference.  If muscle growth is desired, follow the plan of the ectomorph.  If general cardiovascular health and toning is desired, follow the plan of the endomorph.

The only potential threat here may be the overconfidence in body look leading to a lack of any kind of physical fitness.  This laziness could result in poor cardiovascular health among other things.

Basic Nutrition

A balanced diet rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates is the norm here.  In the same manner as the Exercise Plan, there is some flexibility.  If body fat loss is desired, follow the nutrition plan of the endomorph.  If body composition maintenance is desired, follow the nutrition plan of the ectomorph.

To calculate your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) and get an idea of how many calories you should be consuming, use the Personal Health Tool.

The Mesomorph, in the area of fitness, is the most genetically blessed of the three body types.  Men of this type are usually muscular with broader shoulders, and women are typically of the coveted hourglass frame. Commonly referred to as an athletic build.

Ectomorph:

A stereotypical ectomorph is a tall basketball player who is lean. They often find it difficult to gain lean muscle mass. At a young age, they can usually eat lots of food without gaining a pound of fat either. (Think of the teenage high school basketball player that can clean the fridge out and not gain a pound.) Most often, a person with this body type is trying to find ways to gain weight for optimal athletic performance and strength. They also have the God given ability to be active for long periods of time, without getting out of breath.

If you are an ectomorph, it is important that you eat enough and not over-train. When you train with the weights, you have to eventually train heavy and the sessions shouldn’t last more than 45 minutes. Most of your movements should be compound movements e.g. bench press, leg press, dumbbell row, etc.). Your non-sport aerobic conditioning should be kept moderate in intensity, frequency, and duration, as you may over train. Therefore, you are more likely to breakdown muscle for fuel. With that in mind, adequate protein is necessary to build muscle. You also need adequate amounts of carbs and fat to insure you support your energy and muscle building efforts.

Ectomorphs should concentrate on gaining weight in the form of good lean muscle tissue (some women that are too thin may also want to put on a little fat to look more feminine). Weight training should be done but not too often or for too long each session. Weight should be fairly heavy and workout pace slower (longer rest periods between sets). Diet should be high in calories (good quality food not junk) and you should eat more then you’re used to and often. Aerobic and other activities (sports, dancing, etc.) should be kept to a minimum, at least until you are happy with your weight and looks.

Common references to the ectomorph include “hard-gainer” or “ruler-shaped.”

Fat Burning Rate: Fast

Muscle Growth Rate: Slow

Energy Endurance: High

Advantages/Disadvantages

+Fast metabolism prevents from easy fat accumulation

+Leaner figure emphasizes muscle growth making smaller gains more noticeable

-Very difficult to add muscle weight

Fundamental Exercise Plan

The ectomorph will need to focus on high intensity lifts that work as many muscles as possible.  That means compound exercises like bench press, squats, dead lifts, and pull-ups are a must.  Isolation exercises that work smaller muscles need not apply.  Those muscles will be stimulated in part with the compound exercises.  Each exercise should be done in 2-3 sets with 6-8 repetitions.  Each set should be done with enough resistance to just make it to the 8th repetition before failure.

This high intensity plan stimulates muscles to naturally grow in the fastest way possible.  The high intensity releases the body’s own growth hormone that is essential for efficient muscle gain.

Cardio training should not be overlooked as it is still essential for healthy heart functioning and normal blood pressure.

Basic Nutrition

This is the component where I notice that most trainers have it wrong.  Eating an abundance of calories without any limitation at all is a huge mistake.  Sure, your metabolism burns at an extremely high rate.  Yes, you will need to consume more calories than the other body types.  However, any extra calories consumed over the calories burned through activity or the body’s Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) will be stored as fat.  So, do yourself a favor and do not buy “high calorie shakes” or “weight gainers.”  You cannot chug yourself to muscle mass.  Instead, eat as much calories as your exercise and body burns.  Remember, you will need to increasingly consume more calories to keep up with the increasing mass of your muscles, as muscle mass increases your BMR.

A balanced diet rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates will aid in muscle recovery.  Drink plenty of water and get at least 7 hours of sleep at night.  Muscle mass grows in the recovery phase as you sleep, not while you’re in the gym.

History

In the 1940s, Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the theory of Somatypes. His theory described three basic human body types: the endomorph, characterized by a preponderance of bodyfat; the mesomorph, marked by a well-developed musculature; and the ectomorph, distinguished by a lack of either much fat or muscle tissue. He did also state that most people were a mixture of these types.
Dr. William H. Sheldon (1898-1977)
A Forgotten Giant of American Psychology.

Sheldon’s description of three body types has become an integral part of most literature on weight loss, fitness and bodybuilding.

The three body types are further described below.
Ectomorph:

  • Fragile
  • Thin
  • Flat chest
  • Delicate build
  • Young appearance
  • Tall
  • Lightly muscled
  • Stoop-shouldered
  • Large brain
  • Has trouble gaining weight
  • Muscle growth takes longer.

Mesomorph:

  • Athletic
  • Hard, muscular body
  • Overly mature appearance
  • Rectangular shaped (hourglass shaped for women)
  • Thick skin
  • Upright posture
  • Gains or loses weight easily
  • Grows muscle quickly.

Endomorph:

  • Soft body
  • Flabby
  • Underdeveloped muscles
  • Round shaped
  • Over-developed digestive system
  • Trouble losing weight
  • Generally gains muscle easily.

Conclusion

Before I let you go, I want you to understand that most of us are a combination of all three body types. In fact, Sheldon (created a 7-point scale where ectomorph was one side of the continuum and endomorph was on the opposite.

What I want you to understand more than anything, is even when genetics play out what your God-given genetic make-up might be, there are advantages and disadvantages in all somatotypes. An aesthecian I know who owns her own business is always saying- “be comfortable in the skin you are in!” Of course, she is literally talking about your skin. What I am getting at is, “be happy with who you are!”

You have the ability to determine what physical condition you want to be in. I will never grow 6 inches taller, no matter how hard I try. But I know I will also feel and look my best, when I am trying to look and feel my best.

When you know which type you are (or which mixture) and diet and exercise correctly for that type, you will make much better progress.

While some women may think that Kate Moss is the ideal, from a fitness view point she really isn’t. And many women who tend to be endomorphic will save themselves much suffering by not striving to change themselves into ectomorphs, it’s not going to happen. Conversly a true ectomorph who wishes to be a Sumo wrestler would also be in for a big disappointment.

Your goal should be to look as close as possible to (or stay looking like) a mesomorph. With the correct exercise and diet this can be attainable, and while you may be a bit upset that you have to work hard to look good while the true mesomorph looks that way naturally, at least you will still be fit and look good. And even the mesomorph will find as he/she gets older that some exercise and diet is needed if they want to continue to look good and be fit.

You may be reading this and notice that your personal body type does not accurately reflect any of these body types.  That is likely because most people fall under a combination of two types.  Some examples include Endo-Mesomorphs or Ecto-Endomorphs.

The solution to this ambiguity is simple.  Just find which body type extreme most describes your own.  For example, if it is difficult for you to lose body fat, follow the endomorph.  If you find it difficult to put on any weight at all, follow the ectomorph.

Whatever body type you find to most reflect your own, it is important to know and understand it.  There is one fundamental thing that you can never change about your body – and that is your genetics.

 

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