Knowing what your body type is can greatly affect your journey to reach your goals.
In 1940, Dr William H Sheldon introduced the concept of body types or somatotyping. Since then, many health and fitness professionals have used this concept to design training programmes and nutrition plans.
Somatotype: The quantification of the present shape and composition of the human body
The three body types
- Endomorphs – Endomorphs have high body fat, are often pear-shaped and can easily gain muscle but also weight (such as a rugby prop).
- Ectomorphs – Ectomorphs are naturally tall and lean and have difficulty building muscle.
- Mesomorphs – Mesomorphs are naturally muscular, are athletically built and gain and lose weight easily.
What we need to understand is that we never fit just one category – one category is generally just more dominant. Understanding your body type helps you to choose the right type of training and nutrition for your body type. This allows you to build the best body that you can.
How to train for your body type
Somatotyping looks at your musculature, bone structure and density. These characteristics are genetic and cannot be changed. A short individual cannot become tall; neither can you change your hip or shoulder width.
Social media, TV ads, fitness trends and fad diets are all misleading – they make us think that we can make changes to our bodies overnight. Yes, we do have a specific genetic makeup but that doesn’t mean that you can’t build muscle or can’t lose or gain weight. What we can do is to learn how to eat and to train to develop our best features.
Endomorphs are prone to storing energy (fat) and therefore have trouble losing weight; they are typically pear-shaped. They can counter this by developing muscle in the upper body and burning fat in the lower body. Low to medium-intensity interval cardio is good for endomorphs. This could include alternating sprints and walking or sled pushes and squats or lunges. It is also important for endomorphs to build muscle, as more muscle burns more energy; weight training keeps on burning energy long after the last rep. Endomorphs also need to keep their stress levels low due to the release of cortisol, as this could lead to the storing of energy.
Do’s and don’ts
- Do train with low to medium intensity.
- Do develop your upper body.
- Do ditch high-density carbs.
- Don’t do high-intensity cardio training.
- Don’t focus on core exercises; rather focus on improving nutrition.
- Don’t drink energy drinks in an attempt to speed up your metabolism.
Ectomorphs have a good metabolism and have no problem burning fat and processing carbs. Keeping this in mind, they do have trouble building muscle. To gain muscle, ectomorphs therefore need to keep cardio to a minimum. They may be built like marathon runners but doing long, slow distances is the worst thing that they can do if their goal is to build muscle. Ectomorphs need to do the type of exercise that stimulates the release of growth hormones, such as strength training (compound exercises of 8 to 12 reps) and exercises that target big muscle groups, such as squats, dead-lifts, leg presses, pull-ups and bench presses.
Do’s and don’ts
- Do focus on strength training with compound exercises three days a week.
- Do focus on isolation exercises as finishers.
- Do use supplement protein.
- Don’t overemphasise isolation moves.
- Don’t do too much cardio (don’t exceed two days a week of low-intensity cardio).
- Don’t forget to work harder to get toned.
Mesomorphs have a natural athletic build. This means that they build muscle easily and have a low fat percentage. This, however, may lead them to assume that they have fast metabolisms and they ditch healthy nutrition and proper training programmes to rely on their metabolisms to keep them healthy and fit. This is what leads to their weight gain. The key for mesomorphs to stay in shape is to follow a progressive training programme that builds strength without building too much muscle. Mesomorphs react well to strength or power training because it speeds up the metabolism and melts away the fat.
Do’s and don’ts
- Do train like an athlete.
- Do take note of your training times and rest periods.
- Do set personal strength goals.
- Don’t overestimate your metabolism.
- Don’t eat whatever you like.
* Keep an eye out for next month’s vlog on nutrition for your body type.