Not all bodies are created equal, so it’s crucial to know your body type before settling into an exercise routine.
Hitting the gym thrice a week but still can’t get the results you want? It might be because you aren’t working out according to your body type. By that, we’re refering to the concept of somatotypes, which was popularised in the 1940s.
According to the theory, still widely used in the athletic world, there are three distinct body types – ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph – and each of us falls into at least one of these categories. According to the concept, just as different types of plants require different amounts of water and sunlight to thrive, different body types require different forms of conditioning to be in their best shape.
As such, many personal trainers, nutritionists and doctors tailor their programmes with somatotypes in mind, believing it’s essential to train and eat for your body type in order to experience a significant change.
Know your body type
If you eat a lot but find it hard to gain weight, you’re an ectomorph – long and lean with relatively little muscle and body fat. Conversely, if you exercise and go on a diet consistently but find it hard to shed the pounds, you’re an endomorph – round in appearance with lots of muscle and body fat. If you’re naturally athletic and gain and lose weight without too much effort, you’re a mesomorph, with large muscles and a strong bone structure. As Edmund Neo, co-founder of The Strength Yard, puts it: “Mesomorphs hit the genetic jackpot. They’ve got the best of both worlds as they have high metabolism yet pack on muscle easily.”
Not a mesomorph? Don’t fret – very few people belong to only one of the three body types, and most of us are actually a combination of two. For example, endomorphs are pear-shaped, with a lanky upper body and high fat storage in the hips and thighs, while endo-ectomorphs are apple-shaped, with high fat storage in the mid-section and a thin lower body. And if you are, say, a meso-endo mix, you gain muscle as quickly as you do weight.
The right workout for your body type
The whole point of understanding your body type is so you can plan around it to efficiently achieve your ideal weight or physique. Some people require less reps and more rest to see a difference while others require the reverse. If you can’t quite figure out your body type at the moment but will be checking into the gym soon, work on multi-joint exercises. “Multi-joint movements benefit people across all body types, albeit at varying intensities and depending on their skill level,” says Edmund. These include squats, push-ups, lunges, leg presses and dead lifts. According to Edmund, they not only help you torch more calories but also increase your resting metabolic rate, which is how many calories you burn when you’re resting.
Are you what you eat?
Naturally, watching what you eat is also important. “One big part of the equation is nutrition,” says Edmund. Whether you’re an ectomorph looking to gain weight, or an endomorph looking to burn fat while preserving muscle mass, he suggests keeping a food diary so you can keep track of your food consumption and weight. However, you shouldn’t adopt an extreme diet, as gaining or losing weight too fast is unadvisable. “Generally speaking, for losing weight, keeping it to around 1kg a month helps to prevent muscle loss. As for gaining lean muscle, one should ideally aim for 0.2 to 0.5kg a month, as any more would have you at risk of putting on fat instead.”
You can’t expect to get different results if you keep doing the same thing, so if your fitness regime hasn’t been doing you any favours, it’s time to learn more about your body type and the specific exercises you should be doing to achieve your fitness goals.
Training for Your Body Type
If you’ve been consistently exercising and eating healthy, but find it hard to shed the pounds, you’re an endomorph – round in appearance with lots of muscle and body fat.
- Do three to five exercises for each body part.
- Workouts should increase in intensity, as the goal is to speed up metabolism.
- A low- to medium-intensity cardio plan will help you with weight management.
- Because of slower metabolic rate, get at least 7.5 hours of sleep.
If you’re naturally athletic and gain and lose weight without too much effort, you’re a mesomorph – displaying large muscles and a strong bone structure.
- Keep to an eight to 12 rep range for most body parts. Because of natural genetic advantage, be careful not to overtrain.
- To maximise muscle gains, do no more than three cardio workouts per week.
- Get about 7.5 to nine hours of sleep.
If you eat a lot but find it hard to gain weight, you’re an ectomorph – long and lean with little muscle and body fat.
- Use split-training, focusing on one to two body parts each week to target muscle groups.
- Train heavier in the five to 10 rep range, and get plenty of rest between workouts.
- Keep cardio to a minimum to become more muscular. If you must do cardio, go for High Intensity Interval Training.
- Because of high metabolic rate, get about eight hours of sleep.