When beginning a physical activity program, it’s helpful to understand what body type you are and how it might impact your fitness training. The concept of somatotypes, or body types, was first introduced in the 1940s by William Sheldon. As a psychologist, he theorized that body shape determined personality. His theory did not prove to be correct. Yet in the process of his research, he devised three main categories of body types. They are still used by nutritionists and exercise physiologists today.
Endomorphs are predominantly round, mesomorphs are mainly muscular types and ectomorphs are thin and linear. Your body type may fit neatly into one of these three categories or be an even mixture of two types. Wherever you find yourself along the spectrum, you can thank, or curse, your parents. Since your body type is genetically determined, and you can’t change your genetic makeup. What you can do is tailor your fitness program to suit your body type.
Your Body Type – Endomorphs
Endomorphs are rounder, softer, and pear shaped. They may have fat surrounding their glutes and thighs which make activities like bicycling easier. Their fat makes them more buoyant and gives them an advantage during swimming. Their muscles are not well-defined and they have a higher fat to muscle ratio. Endomorphs find running and jumping frustrating. They would benefit from long distance, low impact activities to help them slim down. Also, upper body strength training to balance out being “bottom heavy”.
- Soft Body
- Underdeveloped Muscles
- Weight Loss is Difficult
- Round Physique
- Gains Muscle Easily Like the Mesomorph
Your Body Type – Mesomorphs
Mesomorphs are usually good at sports. Their body type is one with well-defined muscles on the trunk and limbs. These folks are broader in the shoulders and hips and narrower at the waist. They have a high muscle to fat ratio and look fit even without weight training. Mesomorphs who lift weights notice a dramatic increase in strength and muscle mass. They adapt quickly to strength training and would benefit from regular stretching. They should be balancing high energy activities with more mellow endeavors like yoga.
- Muscular Body
- Gains Muscle Easily
- Hourglass Shaped (Female)
- Rectangular Shaped (Male)
- Mature Muscle Mass
- Thick Skin
- Hard Body
- Gains Fat More Easily Than Ectomorphs
Your Body Type – Ectomorphs
Ectomorphs have a body type which is long and rectangular, flat chested, slender in the hips, with no defined waist. Ectomorphs have poor muscle development with relatively low body weight. This body type has difficulty retaining muscle. Ectomorphs must take in enough calories to balance their weight training caloric expenditure. Ectomorphs are built for endurance activities such as running and fitness walking. They often find ball sports or anything that requires bursts of speed and strength difficult. Since ectomorphs lack curves, they would benefit from full body activities like swimming and rowing. Also, they will benefit from regular strength training. Weight bearing activities are a must for ectomorphs who risk developing osteoporosis because of their small frames.
- Hard Gainer
- Delicate Built Body
- Flat Chest
- Lightly Muscled
- Small Shouldered
- Takes Longer to Gain Muscle
The Right Exercises
What are the right exercises for your body type? That’s the question. Don’t rush into an exercise program to achieve your ideal fitness and health goals. First, ask yourself if your body type is suited to this form of exercise? Will this exercise program help me achieve or hamper my goals in mind’?
Lanky ectomorphs for example tend to make great long distance runners, bike riders, power walkers and aerobic classes. Muscular mesomorphs are ideal for any type of strength or power sport. This includes weight training, powerlifting, sprinter, boxing, wrestling and even martial arts. Endomorphs are usually best suited to swimming. Also, very light high repetition weight training, walking and aerobic classes.
Your body type will have a definite impact on how intense you’ll have to train to achieve your desired goals.
Ectomorphs usually have a faster metabolism. They tend to lose body fat easily. Still, because of their long slender limbs, they have to work harder to achieve any type of muscular definition. Endomorphs tend to have a higher percentage of body fat. Not only that, they usually have to work harder to lose it. You must also be aware if you do have this body type to be careful when weight training. Added muscle mass can make your physique look blocky and larger rather than slimmer and leaner.
Mesomorphs on the other hand have the advantage. With their natural muscular, athletic physique, they lose body fat quickly and gain muscular size easily.
Whatever your health and fitness goals may be it’s important to look at yourself as a holistic whole. Every aspect of your life and being is a contributing factor that may affect your end results.
Slow and Fast-Twitch Fibers
Another way of classifying body types is by recognizing the individual differences that exist among muscle fiber types. The two primary types of muscle fibers are called slow and fast-twitch. Each has unique characteristics. Slow-twitch fibers (think dark meat on the turkey) are fatigue resistant fibers. They are smaller in cross section than the fast-twitch fibers. They are well suited for low intensity activities such as distance running, cycling and walking.
Fast-twitch fibers (think white meat on the turkey) are recruited for short bursts of high-intensity activities such as jumping, sprinting and weight lifting. These fibers fatigue more quickly but allow for powerful muscular contraction.
If you are a fast runner, or if you have a high vertical jump, your fast-twitch muscle fibers predominate. However, do you shun all speed related activities and prefer long slow distance? You have a preponderance of slow-twitch fibers. What if you are somewhere in between, excelling at speed or distance? then you have a fairly even mixture of the two.
What About Nutrition And Supplements?
Eating and supplementing for your body type is pretty straightforward. You’re really just allowing a program that supports your goals. For example, most endomorphs will be on a fat loss diet, perhaps the Keto diet. Therefore, your eating plan will focus on lower carbs. Your supplements should target your goals.
If your body type is ectomorph, you will want to eat more food. You can eat more carbs, with the majority being low glycemic. Perhaps a meal replacement powder or lean gainer fits into your program.
Of course, mesomorphs are all about size. They have naturally muscular physiques. Therefore, eat and supplement to build lean muscle.