When putting together the right workout plan for your body, there are several things to consider—most importantly what body type you have naturally. Bone structure helps determine what your body can support, and this is determined by genetics. There are three principal categories that most people fall into:
• Endomorph Body Type. This body type consists of higher fat percentages, is shaped like a pear and is much more likely to store fat.
• Mesomorph Body Type. This is commonly thought of as the “V” shape frame in the torso. Mesomorphs bulk muscle more easily and have a fast metabolism.
• Ectomorph Body Type. This is the lanky individual who has difficulty putting on weight of any kind—muscle or fat. High metabolisms are common in people with this body type.
Working with your body is easier than working against it. For this reason, tailoring your program to your body type can help you stick with it.
People with this body type will often benefit from weight training. The more lean muscle mass they have, the higher their basal metabolic rate will be, and, thus, the more calories they will burn every day. It’s also important for these types to engage in a good portion of low-intensity cardio training for about an hour per week on top of strength training, especially in the lower body.
The critical thing with this body type is avoiding injury. Keep walking to 20 minutes at a time for the first six weeks or so. Or, get cardio exercise in the form of the elliptical, the rower, or other machines that are easy on the joints.
For lifting weights in this population, consider squats, lunges, and deadlifts as you develop the strength you need to support your frame for more sophisticated movements.
For ectomorphs, heavy strength training may be problematic. They are lean with likely high metabolisms, and as such, they should train to this. Think circuit training that involves moderate resistance.
People with this body type can often go for longer durations as well. High-intensity interval training can do great things for developing a six pack or toning their arms and legs, as this will help burn through any extra fat stores they have.
Body weight exercises are generally a good idea with this population. This way, they don’t overload themselves too much and they’re still able to really thrive in their fitness goals. This isn’t to say to avoid strength training at all, but only to say that it’s likely best to not make heavy weight training the primary focus. Also, interval training, in general, can be a great way for ectomorphs to stay engaged in their workouts.
For this population, consider a lot of the regular dumbbell exercises, focus on isolating muscle groups like you do with bicep curls, and go strong with aerobic exercise.
Mesomorphs bulk muscle easily. They will likely get a lot out of training with heavy weights—just be sure to focus on form. With people of this type, the upper body likely has broad shoulders and a tight waist, allowing for most typical barbell exercises as well as high-intensity interval training. Also, for this group, powerlifting can be extremely useful.
General Guidelines, Not Rules
Remember that body types are not a hard science—they are more generalities. This is because there are a host of factors involved, some that can be controlled, like diet and exercise, and others that can’t be, like genetics.
Interested in the science behind health and fitness? Explore the ISSA’s certified fitness trainer course to learn how to improve your training and boost your fitness. Then, take it to the next level and use that knowledge to help others as a certified personal trainer.
Erin Mahoney is vice president of education at International Sports Sciences Association.