We all know that ectomorph – a person who has been slim and delicate her entire life even though she out-eats everyone at the table. She is regarded warily by her endomorph friends; those with the nice, soft, round body builds who efficiently store body fat, sometimes by just looking at food (it seems). And perhaps we all would like to be a mesomorph – the one with the muscular, compact build, a high metabolism, and muscle cells that respond favorably to even the suggestion of physical activity.

You have a body type

Body types are a thing, it’s true. Since the 1940s it’s been widely noted there are three basic categories for body types:

Ectomorph – long frames, and lean muscles that resist building up
Endomorph – larger frames with proportionately high-fat storage
Mesomorph – proportionately built and muscular

While these categories are good for generalizations, we most often find we’re somewhat of a mix. However, it’s usually pretty clear which category we fit best.

That said, does it mean ectomorphs can never build muscle? Or endomorphs tone up and slim down? Or mesomorphs… well, never mind.

Your body type has an exercise type

Everyone has a basic body package provided by their genes. That’s a fact, and there’s not much you can do about it. There is, however, a lot you can do to keep your body healthy and fit—and you’ll be happiest with the results when you work with your body type and not against it.

Tips for the ectomorph body

The good news is, your body is good at processing carbohydrates into energy—and having a fast metabolism means you lose fat easily. The bad news is, you find it difficult to bulk up and struggle to become more muscular. Still, here are some things to keep in mind for building muscle:

  • Focus more on compound exercises which are multi-joint movements working several muscles at one time, and only finish up with a few isolation moves (these work only one joint and fewer muscles); this means the deadlift and the squat can be your best friends.
  • Train with heavier weights, but give yourself plenty of rest in between sets, aiming for 5 to 10 reps and 6 to 8 sets per session.
  • Focus on one or two body parts per training day to avoid overwork. If your muscle is sore, give it a rest from training.
  • Keep cardio sessions to a minimum and think of them more as stress reduction than a workout.
  • Don’t overdo it; too much working out can be counterproductive and actually speed up your metabolism, making it even more difficult to build muscle. Three short (>1 hour) strength-training sessions a week complemented with two low-intensity cardio sessions should help your muscles develop.

Tips for the endomorph body

Your body is very efficient. It’s extremely good at storing fuel, and most of your muscle and fat are kept on the lower half. Unfortunately, such efficiency can lead to too much-stored fuel that becomes fat. The hard truth is that you have to watch your diet more carefully than people with other body types (translation: watch your carb intake). However, here is some useful information when it comes to exercise:

  • Forget the treadmill – you need interval-based workouts which utilize a rhythm of low- to high-intensity exercise with intermittent rest periods to maximize fat loss. Sprints and box jumps are good interval training moves, or if you’re worried about your joints, the sled push spares them and is just as intense.
  • A medium-intensity cardio workout is another friend (in conjunction with a lower calorie, high fiber diet) for shedding fat, and you need to block off about 30 minutes 3 times a week for it. Remember to stay mindful of your target heart rate zone.
  • Ab crunches won’t help you spot lose inches around your waist. Do the ab crunches for sure, but you’ll have to lose fat everywhere to lose it around the waistline.
  • Don’t do heavy lifting and low reps; instead, try for 8 to 12 reps on 3 to 5 exercise sets for the upper body, and 12 to 20 reps for each lower body exercise.
  • After reaching a weight loss goal, you can shape certain areas a bit by using isolation exercises.

Tips for the mesomorph body

You’re in luck because your body type adds muscle easiest and doesn’t usually store much body fat. However, because your body is naturally more athletic, you may find yourself getting lazy in terms of diet and exercise. It’s still important to exercise to maintain peak health for the long term, and here are some tips for working out this particular body type:

  • Time your workouts, so you get in the proper amount of training and exertion for good body strength, combining power moves like plyometrics and interval sprints.
  • Varied training will get you better results.
  • Aim for 8 to 12 reps with most exercises.
  • Mix in 3 cardio sessions per week of about 30 minutes each.
  • Remember to factor in recovery days.

While we can’t choose our genes, we can choose what to do with them. If you’re confused about where to start, you may benefit from having a health coach help you set up a life-long plan for becoming fit and being well.

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