While you can’t change your genes, you can make the most of what you were born with by training for your specific bodytype. We will show you how to out-smart your genes and push your progress into overdrive with the right training, whether you are an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph.
Any exercise and nutritional advice must be tailored to the individual’s physique, metabolism and body structure, which means knowledge of your body type is essential.
For instance, you might be a skinny guy, but why are you skinny? Is it diet related, environmental, or genetic? The genetic component is what determines your basic body type and your disposition to metabolism, obesity and muscle development.
When you know your type, then and only then can you really determine how much weight to lift, how often and what to eat to maximize your gains and avoid potential health problems.
Ectomorphs — The Classic Skinny Guy Shape
Ectomorph training prioritizes muscle building and strength over cardio and interval training. This strategy reflects the reality of your classic ectomorph — they are skinny, usually tall, and have trouble gaining muscle mass. They aren’t usually athletic but this doesn’t mean an ectomorph can’t excel in sports, including bodybuilding.
The Ectomorph Training Manifesto
Ectomorphs need to train harder than other men to gain muscle mass and strength. Bodybuilders call these guys “hard gainers.” This difficulty to build muscle might be one reason why anabolic steroids have been popular.
Follow these rules and you’ll never have to resort to drugs to get results:
- Increase the volume. Ectomorphs need to train in high volumen. This means 4-6 sets in the 8-12 rep range. Keeping muscles stimulated for a longer time increases their growth most. Make sure you use the heaviest weights you can handle – don’t go light just because you have many reps.
- Plenty of rest between sets. Lifting heavy weights with high volument will mean you’ll need a good rest in between sets to ensure you recuperate properly.
- Shelf the cardio (most of the time). Ectomorphs have a low risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease so cardio isn’t a high priority. Besides, the ectomorph has a metabolism that cranks at a relatively high rate. Too much cardio will just burn valuable mass gain calories.
- Big compound exercises. Isolation exercises like the curl or the chest fly are great for muscular guys looking to shape their muscles but they’re utterly useless for the guy who barely has pecs and biceps. Big multi-joint movements like bench presses, squats and barbell rows are an ectomorph’s best friends. Use them liberally.
- Eat like a horse. Yes, ectomorphs have licence to eat as much food as they can -as long as it’s the right kind of food. Make sure the food is mostly good protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats from quality whole foods. Targeting high protein foods like eggs, chicken, fish, and steak will build muscle, and combining this with quality carbs from wild rice, pasta, and potatoes will give your body all the energy it needs for high intensity workouts.
Endomorphs — The Curvy, Soft, Chubby Guy
The advice for the endomorph is practically the opposite of what the ectomorph should be doing. This because the endomorph’s problems include:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Underdeveloped muscles
- Round shaped
- Soft body
- High body fat percentage.
The endomorph has to train in a completely different way than the ectomorph with different goals in mind.
The Endomorph Training Manifesto
Endomorphs need to prioritize the muscle hardening and fat burning approaches to training in order to make progress. If you fit the endomorph profile (think Jack Black, John Goodman) then training will likely need to become a central part of your life if you are to avoid cardiovascular diseases and obesity related illnesses such as Type II Diabetes.
- Watch your diet. Endomorphs put fat on easily because their metabolisms process calories slowly. Eat a diet low in fat and in the low-mid range for carbs. Protein will become much more of a priority as you train for muscle growth.
- Circuit training and metabolic resistance training (MRT). Endomorphs respond well to circuit and metabolic resistance training programs. That means working out with little or no rest between sets of different exercises. Circuits provide an all over body muscle hit while creating an aerobic burn. MRT routines usually use 3-4 exercises in an interval style arrangement. Exercises can be performed for 20 seconds with 10-20 seconds rest before the proceeding to the next movement.
- Endurance rep schemes. High repitition workouts with light weights as an alternative to heavier muscle building workouts will be of tremendous benefit to the endomorph. Anywhere from 15-30 reps on exercises will do nicely and will ensure muscles are getting a good aerobic burn. This is true calorie burning stuff and will get the heart rate up quite nicely.
- Cardio. Get on the bike, rowing machine or go for a run. Whichever exercise you choose, make sure you do it at least three times per week with good effort for at least 20 minutes. Depending on how “endo” you are, you may need even more cardio work each week.
Mesomorphs — The Athletic Guy
It is likely that the previous two body types mentioned in this article are a tad jealous of the guy who gains muscle merely by looking at weight rack. But that’s life — some guys are just lucky.
Mesomorph body shapes tend to exhibit tapered torsos with broad shoulders and tight, defined waists. Another common trait is bulging thighs, calves and butts, which gives them powerful athletic abilities.
Mesomorphs need training to combat the greatest risk to them — cardiovascular disease. Sedentary lifestyles combined with poor dietary discipline will work against mesomorphs and can lead to them being overweight.
The Mesomorph Training Manifesto
Because mesomorphs recover quickly from training and gain muscle easily, they are at the greatest risk of overtraining. Being genetically gifted does not make mesomorphs bulletproof so it is important that they find the ‘sweet spot’ in training volume and intensity and be aware of how much of both their bodies can realistically take.
Training rules for the mesomorph:
- Focus on endurance. Mesomorphs have poor endurance abilities and consequently their cardiovascular health needs work. Endurance cardio training 4 days per week for 30 minutes a session will be of tremendous benefit to the mesomorph. A lot of guys tend to hate this form of exercise because they can’t see it in the mirror, but aesthetic appeal here should take a backseat to a healthy heart.
- Conditioning is essential. To go with endurance workouts, mesomorphs can use High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) for a functional, superbly conditioned body. HIIT uses an interval scheme with one exercise while MRT combines 3-4 exercises in sequence with defined intervals to create a fat burning, athletic workout. Popular HIIT workouts include hill/stair sprinting, track running and stationary bike sprints. MRT workouts are effective when combining whole body exercises such as burpees, with 2-3 weight/bodyweight exercises like kettlebell swings, power cleans and explosive push ups.
- Cycling effort. Often called periodization, mesomorphs will do their bodies and minds a lot of good by cycling periods of heavy lifting with periods where intensity is dialed down and recuperation becomes more important.
What If You’re a Combination of Body Types?
In real life, body types can be more than just the three simple categories mentioned in this article. Now that you have a good idea about what characteristics to look for in each body type, you will be better able to establish what training will be most valuable to you.
However, if you are still in doubt about your body type, get a fitness test and a professional opinion on the training you need for your body type and goals. Whichever training route you go down, remember to have fun and make a lifestyle choice to improve your health and wellbeing.