Over the years, there have developed several different types of categorising the human body. In Ayurvedic medicine that evolved from five thousand-year-old Sanskrit teachings, body types and their associated personalities were defined as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. If we go back to our high school/college days you will probably remember a guy by the name of William H. Sheldon. It was Sheldon who introduced his theory of Somotypes back in the 1940's. His basic theory proposed that there are basically three body types and each body type has a specific personality associated with it. The theories that Sheldon presented has become a central vein running through literature and research with respect to weight loss, exercise, and bodybuilding. The body type system that Sheldon introduced characterised the human body as ectomorphic, mesomorphic, or endomorphic.
Not every human being fits exactly into one of these categories but contains characteristics of each, although one is usually predominant over the others. In order to determine your body type, one needs to look back at your adolescent years to determine which category your body type you possessed before changes due to age and lifestyle transformed you into what you are today.
Image courtesy of Govt. of Western Aust. Dept. of Health
The Ectomorph Body Type
The Ectomorph is a form of opposite of the Endomorph. Physically, they tend to have:
- Narrow shoulders and hips.
- A thin and narrow face, with a high forehead.
- A thin and narrow chest and abdomen.
- Very little body fat.
- Thin legs and arms.
Training for Ectomorphs:
- Use split-training, using 1-2 bodyparts each workout to target muscle groups.
- Train each bodypart once per week.
- Get plenty of rest between workouts; never train if scheduled bodypart is sore from previous workout.
- Change training routine at least monthly.
- Increase training intensity each workout. This may mean more weight, reps, and sets.
- Make the body work hard but briefly
Sets and Repetitions:
- Use heavy, basic power movements that hit the deep muscle fibres.
- Avoid isolation or “finishing” movements.
- Keep reps in the 5 – 10 rep range.
- Do 6 – 8 sets per bodypart
- Watch out for overtraining, (it can slow gains)
- If gains in muscle and strength remain slow, shock your body into growth with such techniques as 10 sets of 10 reps for one exercise per bodypart. Only use this shocking technique once every eight weeks.
- Focus on lifting heavier weights to increase intensity and not by cutting time between sets.
- Rest at least 60 seconds between sets.
- Rest at least 5 minutes between bodyparts.
- Occasionally try forced reps, supersets, tri-sets, and other intensity techniques, but do not rely on them to heavily.
- Longer recuperation periods mean more rest days.
- Because of high metabolic rate, get at least 8hrs sleep each night.
- If possible take a nap during the day.
- Never train when tired or not completely recovered.
- Keep aerobic activities to a minimum, no more than three times per week. Too much aerobics will stall progress.
- Keep cardio conditioning at the lower end of the target heart rate for no more than 20 minutes per session. To compute target heart rate per minute, subtract your age from 220 and multiply by 0.6 and 0.8.
- Good aerobic exercise choices include stationary bike, brisk walking, and treadmill.
- An excellent diet and proper supplementation are crucial.
- Eat 5-7 small meals (Including weight gain drinks) per day every 2.5 – 3 hrs.
- Increase daily protein intake to 1 – 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight
- Protein intake should be 25 – 30% of daily dietary intake; carbohydrates about 50%; fats 20 – 25%.
- Have a protein shake 90 minutes before bedtime.
- Increase daily intake of fibrous carbohydrates whilst limiting the intake of simple sugars.
- Eat slower burning glycemic index foods such as beans, corn, yams, oats, pasta, brown rice, whole grain foods,
- Supplement with a good multivitamin/mineral.
- Keep stress levels low and learn how to relax, using such techniques as visualisation, yoga, and meditation. Stress induced cortisol levels can be detrimental to muscle building.
- Minimise outside activities that use moderate to large amounts of energy.
- Think energy conservation in everything you do.
- Drink at least 2.5 liter’s water every day (80oz)
The Mesomorph Body Type
The mesomorph is somewhere between the round endomorph and the thin ectomorph. Physically, they have the more 'desirable' body, and have:
- Large head, broad shoulders, and narrow waist (wedge-shaped).
- Muscular body, with strong forearms and thighs
- Very little body fat
- Genetically gifted; greatest bodybuilding potential.
- Long torso, full chest, good shoulder to waist ratio.
Training for the Mesomorph:
- Responds well to training that involves heavy, basic movements along with shaping exercises.
- The more varied the exercise program, the greater the results.
- Alternate 3-4 weeks of high intensity training with several weeks of lower intensity workouts to promote growth and strength and prevent burnout.
Sets and Repetitions:
- Use quick, basic movements with heavy weights before hitting muscles with isolation and shaping exercises.
- Keep reps in the 8-12 rep range. For most bodyparts.
- Use a rep combination as low as six and as high as 25 for quads, hamstrings, and calves.
- Because of natural genetic advantage, watch out for overtraining under the mistaken notion that more training will make growth faster.
- Constantly keep the body off guard by varying the training intensity with exercises, sets, reps, weights, and rest.
- Be sure to regularly include light, moderate, and heavy training days.
- Use a combination of slow moderately paced (with full range of motion) and fast reps.
- Regularly alternate intensity techniques into the workouts: partial reps, forced reps, forced reps, descending sets, compound sets, and pre-exhaustion.
- Without proper rest, the natural advantage you enjoy will never be fully exploited.
- Get 7.5 – 9hrs of sleep every night.
- Never train a body part that has not fully recovered.
- Take an extra day of rest away from the gym if your motivation, energy, or strength level is lacking.
- To maximise muscle gains, do no more than three cardio workouts per week for 20-30 minutes (5 minute warm up, 15-20 minutes in your target heart range, five minute cool down.
- Keep the heart working in the middle of the target heart range?
- Recommended activities: stair climber, treadmill, brisk walking, or stationary bike.
- Limit running to no more than two miles three times a week, even with no other aerobic activities.
- Some mesomorph’s reply on wind sprints to condition and build the legs while aerobically conditioning the heart.
- Keep protein intake to at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
- Keep the carbohydrate intake moderately high, about 60% of total calories; choose vegetables, brown rice, low fat beans, lentils and pasta and whole grains.
- Limit fats; stay lean with a diet containing 15-20% total fats.
- Eat a variety of lean proteins such as skinless chicken, turkey, egg whites, lean beef, and fish.
- Don’t try to do too much to fast; that would make you susceptible to injuries, over training or burnout.
- Slow down and listen to your body. Gains will continue year after year if you’re patient and follow guidelines given.
- Be patient but persistent.
- Drink at least 2.5 litres (80 ounces) of water daily.
The Endomorph Body Type
The Endomorph is physically quite ‘round’, and is typified as the ‘barrel of fun’ person. They tend to have:
- Wide hips and narrow shoulders, which makes them rather pear-shaped.
- Quite a lot of fat spread across the body, including upper arms and thighs.
- They have quite slim ankles and wrists, which only serves to accentuate the fatter other parts.
- Wide bone structure.
- Slower metabolism.
- Weight gain is easy, though fat loss is difficult.
- Tends to store fat, which hides muscle gains.
Training for the Endomorph:
- Needs more frequent workouts, especially aerobic conditioning.
- Develop a pool of 3-5 effective exercises for each bodypart and from those select 2-3 exercises for each bodypart.
- Train abdominals at the beginning of your workout.
- Do whole body workouts for the first months of training; later try a split type of routine.
- Training goal is to speed up the metabolism, minimise bodyfat.
- Change the training program every second or third workout.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment in your training; frequently try something new and different.
Sets and Reps:
- Each workout must be high intensity, sacrifice poundage’s for minimal rest between sets.
- Do no more than eight sets per body part.
- Use moderate poundage’s. Avoid training with heavy weights and low reps.
- Keep your rep range in the 9-12 range for upper body and 12-25 rep range for legs and calves.
- Keep intensity high and rest between sets to a minimum – no more than 60 seconds.
- Use high-intensity training principles such as burns, iso-tension, continuous tension, supersets, tri-sets, and giant sets principles to help bring out maximum muscle shape and definition.
- Descending sets (where you drop the resistance after you’ve reached muscle failure) also add intensity; use this approach on the last set for a bodypart exercise.
- Train more frequently, but rest at least 48 hours between workouts for same body part.
- With slower metabolism you won’t need as much sleep. Try to get 7.5 hours of sleep per night.
- Aerobic conditioning is a key component to looking good.
- Use low or non-impact aerobics such as brisk walking, stationary cycle, and treadmill or stair climber to avoid stress to joints.
- Do a cardio workout a minimum of three ties per week, preferably five for 20 minutes in the target heart rate zone, with a five minute warm up and five minute cool down.
- Keep fat intake low.
- Eat a variety of lean protein in moderation
- Consume dairy products that are nonfat.
- Avoid late night snacking; if you must, have healthy, low fat foods on hand.
- Eating smaller, frequent meals keeps the blood sugar level and metabolism up, and controls the appetite
- Count your daily calories.
- Skip the second helpings; eat slowly.
- Walk away from each meal feeling slightly hungry.
- Eliminate drinking soft drinks and alcohol.
- Participate in a variety of fun aerobic activities to keep the metabolism revved, such as hiking, walking, biking, swimming, racket sports and martial arts.
- Plan on participating in some aerobic activity daily. Make time for rest and relaxation.
- Drink water and lots of it, at least 2.5 liters (80 oz) daily.
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. Conversely 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.