In our first article, “Does Genetics Really Play a Part in Growing Muscles?“, we broke down the meaning of different factors and how each of them plays a part in muscle development in different body types. In this two-part article, we will go into detail exercise routines that will work best for each one. This article is pretty lengthy but it is written with the hope to solve some unanswered questions along with having a clear understanding of how to move forward. Let’s get started…..
There is much information from personal trainers, fitness specialists, and coaches that encourage workout programs to lose weight or tone muscle effectively based on your body type. For example; a person that has a relatively trim frame with shoulders and hips of the same width will need a totally different exercise program as compared to someone with a body type that is curvy. Exercises for optimizing your shape is so much more effective than doing a standard “one size fit all” exercise program.
First of all, it is important to note that a person’s body type comes down to your family genes. Unfortunately, it is not possible to alter your body shape as factors such as our bone structure, genetics, and hormones predispose you towards one body shape or another. We have no control of which area the body stores fat, however, we can control how much fat the body stores. You can exercise for your body shape to lose, bulk, or tone.
The three body types are Ectomorphic, Endomorphic, and Mesomorphic. The majority of people will most likely have a combination of two of them but not all three. We will briefly explain each body type below, and go into detail what is needed to achieve a healthy weight and get the best results for your body type.
If you are Ectomorphic, your body shape is tall, lean, and some may say with having long limbs. Darryl Hannah falls into this category. Although there are a few reasons why they are considered thin, the major cause lies in their genetics. In addition, their metabolism is fast so they burn calories at a faster rate than they put on. They are able to keep the weight off in general. Ectomorphs can also be considered “skinny fat,” which means that they are a relatively low weight or a small size yet still have access weight stored in places they probably do not want it!
Basic Ectomorphic Features
- Delicate or fragile build
- Tall and lean physique
- Lightly muscled
- Takes long to build muscle
- Does not gain weight easily
If you fall into this category, you may have difficulty with building muscle or just gaining weight in general than most people. The primary focus here is on building muscle mass (bulking), by getting stronger on each exercise (this applies to women too), through training with heavier weights. Think intensity, not volume. Because ectomorphs lack in strength, they should take longer rest breaks between sets – 2 to 3 minutes. The best workout for such body types is compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats, shoulder press, bench press, pull-ups, rows, and various single leg movements. Compound workouts will get more of a hormonal response than isolation movements.
Cardio is still required to keep up general fitness but not to the same extent as the other two body types. Keep cardio activity limited to small amounts. Do away with “steady-state” cardio and add sprinting to your workout at least once but no more than twice a week.
They may feel that they are eating a lot, but the primary reason for not gaining muscle is because they are not getting in enough calories. Ectomorphs should consume anywhere between 3000 to 5000 calories per day to gain and add muscle. Try adding calorie dense ingredients into a ‘weight gain’ shake, such as coconut oil, nut butter, avocado, flaxseeds, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with ground up oatmeal. To get bigger you must eat enough to create a caloric surplus which means your total calories must be higher than the body is burning. Gains should be controlled and gradual to avoid gaining too much within a short period of time.
Eating 5-6 times two to three hours a day is very doable. Ectomorphs need to eat a lot of all the macronutrients and not just protein. Include a diet of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein-rich foods such as green vegetables, whole grain bread, legumes, dairy products, and meat.
The Top Exercise For The Ectomorphic Body Type:
Weight training is required every second day to build muscles. The idea is to target each major muscle group into an upper/lower body split workout.This will allow recovery time while working on each half. The best way to determine the right amount of weight is to aim for 6 reps for heavier weights. Do two to three sets of each exercise.
The target muscle groups and exercises:
Shoulders: Seated dumbell and barbell press, barbell shrug, shoulder presses
Biceps: Bicep curls, bent over rows, horizontal rows, pull-ups, pull-downs.
Triceps: Triceps extension/pushups, close grip bench press, dumbell pushups, chest press
Legs: Barbell and box squats, deadlifts or isolation exercises such as dumbell lunges, leg presses, and various single leg exercises if squats are not your thing.
If you are Endomorphic, your body frame is rounded with curvy features, like Mariah Carey. These body types find that they put on weight more easily as their body’s metabolism is slower than the other body types. As a result, the percentage of how the body stores fat is higher. Watching what and how you eat is a must for Endomorphs.
Basic Endomorphic Features
- Bulky or round body
- Can put on weight easily, especially around the midsection
- Short or stocky physique
- Slower metabolism
- Can build muscle more quickly
If you fall into this category, eating 5-6 smaller meals three to four hours a day will help to regulate metabolism. Follow proper nutrition and never starve yourself in an attempt to lose weight. This method does not work in the long term and is detrimental to your health.The primary focus here is on reducing the weight and building lean muscle mass. It is much easier to cut with a higher amount of daily calories and reduce them down than to start too low.
Reduce the intake of carbohydrates and consume more protein rich foods. Eating large amounts of carbs can lead to an increased insulin spike which is responsible for the uptake of glucose into cells. This, in turn, decreases fat oxidation. The body will convert these excess carbohydrates into fat stores. Decreasing the intake of carbs will reverse the process. Carb intake should be timed around breakfast and exercise. These are the times when the body needs it most. The body is in an anabolic state post workout and need carbs to replenish itself. The carbs eaten should consist of complex carbs, predominantly vegetables. Foods high in proteins and healthy fats work best for Endomorphs. Proteins help in maintaining lean muscle and keeps you satiated for longer hours.
Endomorphs benefit the most from cardio workouts for losing and maintenance. Add in strength training for a toned look; not bulking as in bodybuilding. The good news is this is achievable because they are able to build lean muscle mass very quickly. Other exercises such as Pilates and Yoga can also be an immense help.
Best Exercise For The Endomorphic Body Type:
Cardio workouts are your best friend. The best workout is integrating both steady state cardiovascular training and moderate to high-intensity interval training (HIIT workouts) that increases the heart rate. Studies have proven that interval training will significantly increase fat burning and overall weight loss. Start with every two days building up to 6 times a week with cardio. A consist routine helps with conditioning the muscles for strength and optimizing shape.
Do you know that weight training conditions the heart too? To get the benefits of strength training while avoiding the size gain; train two days a week using light to moderate weights with higher reps (8-15), with shorter breaks (30- 60 seconds) for keeping the heart elevated throughout the session. Building lean muscle increases the resting metabolic rate, decreasing the chances of storing fat. Always add in cardio (15-30 minutes) after each strength training session. Major muscle groups should include the back, chest, arms, legs, and lastly the abs.
Depending on your preference, ideal cardio workouts include:
Cycling: Indoor or outdoor. Start doing 15 minutes and slowly build up.
Treadmill: Start with an easy pace for 10 minutes. As you get fitter, increase time and intensity.
Swimming: 15 minutes to start with and increase in line with fitness.
Walking or Jogging: Start with an easy pace for 10 minutes. As you get fitter, increase time and intensity.
(Editor’s Note: The benefits of cycling and swimming are that your body is supported, reducing the impact on your joints. Start slowly and build up your workout.)
If you are the mesomorphic body type, you have an athletic body frame such as George Clooney, who is lean and muscular without trying to be. They generally are classified as having a “medium” build. It is easy for them to both gain and lose weight. A balanced diet and workout plan should still be the primary focus.
Basic Mesomorphic Features
- Athletic built
- Full of energy and capable of a lot of physical activity
- Females have an hour-glass structure while men are rectangular shaped
- Gain muscle easily with proper training
Mesomorphs should consume a balanced diet rich in protein and complex carbohydrates such as fruits and veggies, brown rice, lean meats and fish, eggs, legumes, and healthy fats. Their exercise routine should ideally be a combination of circuit training, high-intensity cardio, moderate weight training, core, and strength training.
The Best Exercise For The Mesomorphic Body Type:
Weight training is best combined with cardio to keep fit, maintain a healthy weight, and balance your workouts.
Achieving a lean physique for a mesomorph requires consistent cardio sessions for weight maintenance. Incorporating 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week should become a regular part of the exercise routine.
For bulking, perform 8 to 12 reps of three to four exercises with a moderate to heavier weights for each muscle group. Complete at least three sets of each exercise and rest 1 minute after each set. Reduce cardio to twice a week, preferably on off days.
For toning, switch up your weight training routine by using higher reps with lighter weights, adding in body-weight exercises and techniques such as supersets and circuit training, can encourage strength and stamina without adding additional muscle mass. You can shorten your rest times to enhance fat-burning or slow them down to increase strength.