Often times, genetics is invoked as an excuse for skipping leg days, for a lack of results when training hard - hard, but wrong, for lagging body parts, and the list could go on forever. We all know these excuses, but what if they aren't just excuses?
Did you ever hear the comment: "oh, he's an ectomorph, of course he looks that way!"? While it may sound envious, it may just be true - even if what they want to actually say is ‘a mesomorph’, not an ectomorph, but we’ll explain each somatotype below.
Back in 1954, psychologist William H. Sheldon classified the human bodies under three somatotypes: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. It sounds like alien names, don't they? In his research, Sheldon also stated that these 3 body types influenced personality, behavior, diet and overall lifestyle. Disregarding the psychological debate this implies, let's see how this affects weight lifting, workouts, types of workouts and the fitness of choice.
Your somatotype is determined by your genes, so there is not much you can do to change this. But the fact the someone is an ectomorph, doesn't make them necessarily thin. Or a mesomorph, for example, is not necessarily a bodybuilder, such as an endomorph is not always just fat.
A typical ectomorph is tall and slim. Their bodies usually have little fat and little muscle. It's the body type that has the most struggle with weight gains. However, this body type has the highest metabolism. For them it’s easy to get muscle definition, as there are little to no fat layers to cover them.
- long limbs and narrow waist
- delicate frame and bone structure
- flat chest
- lean muscle mass
- fast metabolism
Since it's they have a predisposition not to gain muscle, ectomorphs must focus on maximizing weight gains by utilizing split training that targets major muscle groups and isolated muscles. The key is to often change the routine and use short, but high intensity exercises, gradually increasing the weights. So the focus is to achieve an anabolic effect.
- Squats, deadlifts, bench presses stimulate many of the muscle fibers and help increase testosterone levels, which greatly helps with muscle building. Compounds movements are excellent for an ecto, as they work more major muscle groups at the same time.
- Heavier weights and longer rests between sets are also key for an ectomorph, because this doesn't stimulate the release of cortisol, which hinders performance.
- Ectos are recommended to eat post workout meals shortly after their training, especially meals high in protein and carbs. More sleep is needed from them in order to properly repair and grow muscles during their recovery periods.
Typical endomorphs are the opposite of ectomorphs. They are solid, they easily gain weight, especially fat, with an amazing potential for muscular hypertrophy. While gaining strength comes easy, the fat tissues that cover muscle mass are harder to get rid of due to a slow metabolism.
- wide hips and narrow shoulders
- stores body fat around upper arms and thighs
- shorter limbs
- curvier frame
- slow metabolism
Gaining strength come very easily to endomorph, but losing fat weight doesn't. Because of this, the focus of an endo's training must be increasing the metabolic rate in order to melt fat. HIIT workouts and cardiovascular training is great for endos, coupled with an adequate calorie restricted diet to go with it for better results.
- Iso-tension, supersets, HIITs are the recommended exercises for endos, with a minimal rests in between sets.
- Lighter weights and longer intervals are recommended in order to increase the metabolic rate and burn fat more efficiently.
- Squats and Romanian Deadlifts are amazing for endos since they are naturally strong in leg exercises, especially because they have strong muscles in their upper legs.
- Weight training sessions help boost their metabolic rate if coupled with cardiovascular exercises.
- Endos should wait at least 30 minutes after training to have their post workout meals. A calorie restricted, low carb, high protein meal diet is recommended over any other diet. Also, because of a slow metabolism, endos don't need as much sleep in their recovery periods.
Generally blessed with an athletic physique, typical mesomorphs find it very easy to gain and lose weight. They are naturally strong and have a predisposition towards bodybuilding and weightlifting. Mesos respond very well to heavy weight training and toning exercises, but a versatile and eclectic routine is expected of them for maximized results.
- muscular, full chest, long torso, broad shoulders
- large bone structure
- large muscles
- strong and athletic
- rectangular shaped body
Mesos can train better than endo, and gain fat faster than ectos. But they have quite an easy time both losing and gaining weight. However, to maintain muscle definition, they are required to focus more on resistance training and exercises from a wider performance spectrum. Their focus usually is size, strength and endurance.
- Lifting heavy for size and definition helps grow and tone the inherent muscularity of this body type.
- High intensity & low intensity workouts are both recommended, because a split approach to their training will enhance their strength and keep body fat at bay.
- Weight training with a full range of motion and momentum (fast reps exercises) produces great results.
- Compound sets, forced reps and pre-exhaustion lifts are also recommended for training alternation.
- A high protein, low fat diet is recommended for mesos above any other diet, in order to prevent body fat from sticking around. If you are a meso, you should also be extremely cautious of over training! A lot of mesomorphs fall into this trap and they end up exhausting themselves, or worse - causing muscle strains and pulls.
Other than these 3 very popular and wide spread body types, there exist mixture types. So if you cannot identify yourself with any of the 3 above, you may just have a mixture of traits from 2 of them. There is also the possibility of missing one or more traits from the body type closest to you. After all, all of our bodies are unique and not all mesos are ripped and shredded. Some ectomorphs may be even bigger and more defined than a mesomorph due to hard work, adequate training and determination.
This information on genetics and body types is meant to help you create your own workout, according to your body’s needs. Maybe you were an endo all along, but you’ve been doing resistance exercises more appropriate for a mesomorph. Sometimes taking genes into account can help of a better understanding of anatomy, science and most importantly: how to train properly.
We hope now you know more about yourself and that these tips helped you think of new strategies to maximize your gains and achieve the wanted results. Do you know your somatotype? Do you train according to it? Let us know!