Somatotypes - Know Your Body Type
With fitness it is not really one size fits all. More often than not, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Not knowing how your specific body type works, it is easy to overload it with exercises and nutritional tips that may work well for another body type but not for yours. Weeks go by of training without any significant progress being made. Maybe in time you will get smart and figure out where you are going wrong, maybe you give up in despair. The point is you could have started out in a better position and got yourself off to a better start with a bit more insight into the workings of your own body.
There are three basic body types, ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph which are referred to as ‘Somatotypes’. These Somatotypes differ in size, build, advantages and disadvantages. They also respond better to certain types of training and diets, and similarly don’t respond well at all to others. Therefore before starting any type of training regime its always good to know what your specific body type is. A targeted strategy can save a great deal of time, pain and frustration. To know your specific body type gives you an advantageous starting point on the path to better health and fitness. Be your goals to lose weight, tone up, put on muscular bulk or just to stay fit and healthy.
Read on to get advice on the basic somatotypes and for advice on how to adapt your exercise routines, diets and lifestyle to enhance your training. Each body type will be explained in terms of advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, it can help you figure out where you lie in the spectrum and apply the relevant strategies to shape your own training to make it more effective for your own specific goals.
Ectomorphs are typically slender with smaller joints and lighter builds. They generally have narrow frames and faster metabolisms, with a lower capacity to store fat. This means that they’re often able to overeat without gaining much weight! Endomorphs naturally hate ectomorphs :D. The downside to this is that due to their very high metabolisms, Ectomorphs often struggle to put on weight (including muscle). This may even be the case even though they might eat continuously throughout the course of a day! Indeed, Ectomorphs will naturally tend to develop muscle mass/weight much slower than the other body types. They may have to work harder at forcing themselves not only to maintain weight but may have to work even harder to gain it. To maintain a healthy weight while getting stronger, Endomorphs have to ensure they are getting enough protein and should be eating smaller meals more often. Endomorphs should also incorporate strength training into their weekly workouts. Endomorphs typically excel at sports like running, soccer, basketball etc due to their lighter frames.
- Thinner, leaner appearance
- Narrower frames
- Smaller shoulders.
- Smaller joints
- Faster metabolisms
- Prone to periods of hyperactivity
- Find it harder to gain weight/muscle
- Can eat whatever they want
- Get full easily
- Difficulty building muscle
- Difficulty gaining weight
- Low body fat
Ectomorph diet advice:
- Don’t skip breakfast.
- Eat at least 50-60% carbohydrates.
- Eat more healthy complex carbohydrates, especially after a workout.
- You will need to take in more calories than they are used to put on weight.
- You may also have to consider a protein or weight gain supplement a few times a day.
- Break calories up into several small meals if you cannot stomach big meals.
- Eat more frequently. For example; 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.
- Use protein shakes as a supplement before and/or after workouts.
- Eat high-density foods for added calories, such as almonds, avocado, or peanut butter.
- Drink tons of milk.
- Eat foods you enjoy even if they are a little unhealthy (in moderation).
Ectomorph Training Tips:
- Avoid too much cardio.
- Prioritise strength training over cardio.
- Include compound lifts in your workouts.
- Train heavier with repetitions in the Strength building (5-10 rep) range.
- Take longer rest breaks (due to heavier weights used)
- If you must do cardio ensure that its HIIT style cardio
- focus on high-intensity strength workouts 3 days a week that hone in on all the major muscle groups and one to two days of cardio.
- Keep training sessions short (45-50 mins), Always rest adequately between sets, giving the body time for full recuperation, (marathon workouts should be avoided)
- Try to minimise extra activities such as Jogging, cycling, swimming etc. Save calories for the gym, if gaining muscle/weight is the main goal.
Mesomorphs typically have an athletic, medium build and can gain muscle easily. Unfortunately, they also gain fat easily, too, so they need to be careful not to overeat which many tend to do because they take their naturally athletic body for granted. Mesomorphs should get a balance of strength training and cardio and cut back on their carbohydrate intake if they want to lose weight.
The mesomorph is somewhat in between the ectomorph and the endomorph and as such, display qualities from both. He has a larger frame (bone structure) as the endomorph does, but a low body fat percentage as the ectomorph has.
The Mesomorph will tend to build muscle easily in the beginning but may have to resort to a wider verity of training and shaping exercises, to avoid an excessive bulky look if competitive bodybuilding is the goal.
- Athletic looking.
- Medium-sized body structure. Symmetrical build.
- Broader shoulders.
- Gains muscle easily.
- Small waist.
- Responds well to exercise.
- Seems to burn fat easily.
- Low body fat.
- Any excess body fat tends to be carried in the lower body.
- Large musculature.
- Tend to eat in moderation.
Mesomorph dietary advice:
- Focus on getting a healthy mix of complex carbs, proteins, and fats.
- Include a good source of protein with every meal.
- If weight loss is your goal, cut back on carbohydrate and consider switching to a higher protein, lower-carb diet.
- Keep carbohydrates at 40-60% to keep the balance.
- To measure portions for meals. 1 portion size = the amount of food you can ball in your fist.
- Break meals into 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day.
- Eat enough calories to maintain muscle mass.
- As with any body type, protein (1 – 1.5 gr.), per pound of bodyweight is necessary.
- Mesomorphs can get away with a little higher fat in the daily diet.
Mesomorph workout advice:
- Training in the muscular hypertrophy (8-12 repetition rep) range for best results.
- 30secs – 1 min rest periods between sets.
- Undertake some cardio to stay lean, however, don’t overdo it. 2-3 times a week at most.
- Combine an equal mix of cardio and strength training weekly for best results.
- In the early stages of training, use resistance training (compound lifts if possible) with rest times minimised.
- As progress is made, can begin to tailor your training to your specific needs.
- Unlike the Ectomorph and Endomorph, the Mesomorphs body structure will usually respond faster to training stimulation, extended or prolonged training sessions aren’t as necessary unless a weak body part or other training deficiency is being brought up to par.
Endomorphs generally have a larger bone structure and more overall body fat. The endomorph’s body is a hoarder, storing energy for when it might be needed later, They are generally better at storing nutrients than the Mesomorph and the Ectomorph. This comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Roman soldiers would fatten up during peacetimes and then later use up that stored energy marching off all of the fat whilst on war-campaigns. However, in the comfort of 21st-century living and no campaigns to march to, fat storage can easily go wrong! It can be difficult for an endomorph to lose weight, but not impossible! They typically have thicker, stronger leg muscles and weaker upper body muscles. The endomorphic body type is the complete opposite of an ectomorph. This individual will usually be larger in appearance with heavier fat accumulation and less muscle definition. They find it hard to drop the weight even though they try several diets or workout programs. They often struggle with cycles of weight loss and weight gain throughout their lives.
- Rounder body shapes.
- Have a wide waist and hips (waist dominates over chest)
- Medium to large joints and bones.
- Larger frame.
- High levels of body fat (often overweight).
- Low muscle definition due to adipose tissue.
- Tend to gain muscle fairly easy, although can be obscured by fat.
- Tend to gain fat even easier!!
- Tend to find it difficult to get rid of excess weight/fat.
- Generally have strong leg muscles.
- Find losing weight difficult.
- Often fatigue easily and lack energy.
- Slower metabolisms.
- Large appetites. Often feel hunger sooner after eating than Mesomorph/Ectomorph.
- Have little success with diet and exercise programs that work for the other two groups.
- Have moderate to poor carbohydrate tolerance.
- Respond better to higher protein and low or moderate carbohydrate intake.
- Cannot get away with overeating, excess calories are stored as fat.
- Have to put in extra effort to lose weight, this can be frustrating.
- Tend to lose fat slowly, even when observing a stricter calorie diet and exercise regime.
- Can put on weight easily once any exercise is stopped.
- Respond better to longer, frequent cardio sessions.
- Often need to increase their active rest activities.
Endomorph dietary advice:
- For the endomorph, a strict diet should be adhered to.
- Keep the carbohydrate intake low. Approximately, 30-40% of your daily intake should be from carbohydrates. Don’t go over this.
- Get carbohydrate intake from vegetables, brown rice or oats or other complex carb sources.
- Carbs are ok if cycled and used strategically at training times. For example, some at breakfast if your day is going to be physical, or before/after a heavy cardio session.
- Ensure you are eating enough fibre to trick the body into thinking it’s full (also great for bowel health). This can help prevent you from binging on unhealthy snacks and foods later.
- Use effective portion sizes. 1 fist-size = one serving. Be strict with yourself, might take a bit of adjustment.
- Avoid processed foods (too many sugars/salts and excess chemicals) and get whole grains
- Eat lots of vegetables to help you feel full, the calories on greens are next to nothing generally to you can throw them in with smoothies and salads to help you feel fuller.
- Drink water. Lots of it! This will seriously help detox the system, getting rid of toxins and flushing out your system. From a weight-loss perspective, it tricks you into feeling fuller so you eat less. Drink just before and during a meal.
- Refined sugar is your devil. Natural sources of sugar only. Be super strict about this. For an Endomorph there can be no let-up. After a heavy training day or rest day maybe award yourself with a small dark chocolate (not milk chocolate!) try and aim for 70% cocoa dark chocolate at least, the higher the % the better.
- Divide your daily caloric intake by 5-6 meals
- Much of weight loss comes down to basic calorific intake vs energy output. You have to be expending more energy than you take in to create that calorific deficit to lose weight. If you are not then nothing will happen. Aim for 200-500 less than your maintenance caloric intake.
- Keep cheat meals to a minimum – Endomorphs have to be more cautious with cheat meals. Cheat days are a ‘no-no’. Use a cheat meal instead. Make sure you don’t go too far over your daily calorie allowance (if you allow yourself that is!) and stick to one cheat meal per week.
- Consider trying paleo diets or intermittent fasting, as many Endomorphs have had success by travelling these routes (consider getting advice from a local doctor or nutritionist before trying these if you are unsure about these, however).
Endomorphic workout advice:
- Cardio, Cardio, Cardio! Do as much cardio as possible! However, this does not have to mean pounding pavement on endless jogs for hours on end. Mix it up, running, rowing, stair climbing, martial arts. Confuse the fuck out of your body and keep it interesting. The main thing is to keep moving, keep your heart rate up and keep the rest periods low.
- Many people struggle with long-distance runs, if running is your strategy for weight loss, fine. Mix up the longer runs with days of shorter sprint drills, for example, 30 secs sprints, 30 seconds recovery jogs. Sprint drills have been shown to be far more effective for fat loss than steady-state running. Hill running/stair climbing or even (if you are a sadist like me) hill sprints are even more effective. A super calorie burner in half the time it takes to undertake a regular steady state-run.
- Train in the Muscular endurance (higher reps (+15) and sets (4-5 sets)) range.
- Take shorter rest periods between sets to maximise the calorific burn.
- Do compound lifts to burn more calories.
- At the end of resistance training include a short period of cardio (10 minutes 3/4 speed sprint drills or light jog to increase the EPOC effect).
- Get in long walks for active recovery as often as you can. Walking is sadly overlooked for its calorie-burning potential. Get your steps in. Take yourself out of town for a hike in the middle of nowhere. Take in some beautiful sights along the way, whilst burning calories. Aim to walk at least half an hour on your rest days.
Know your body type
Perhaps it is easily recognisable as to which somatotype you belong to, which is great as you have your starting block. Work from there and see where it gets you. Sometimes however it’s a little more tricky than that. More often than not, people turn out to be a combination of a couple of different types or sub-ranges. So for example a Mesomorph might have some Endomorphic qualities such as stubborn inability to shift fat. Likewise, another Mesomorph might have some Ectomorphic qualities, such as losing too much muscle if they undertake too much cardio. (It should be noted that Endomorphs and Ectomorphs never cross over with regards to the qualities, they are polar opposites).
What is needed here is a bit of experimentation. You will have a general idea of which body type the majority of your traits align with. You may need to eat more of a certain food, be it carbs or fats if you are trying to put on weight. You may need to undertake more cardio or increased reps with weight training. Play around, and make a note of what works. The key is in finding the balance in what works specifically for you, there is no right or wrong here. Years ago (as an Endomorph myself) I found that by undertaking sprints on a regular basis I was able to drop weight much more rapidly than undertaking steady-state cardio. I had been undertaking steady-state cardio for years and never had the dramatic weight loss results from it that I did with regular sprint drills! If only I had experimented earlier!!
Choosing a workout and dietary strategy for weight loss/weight gain very much depends on your body type and what you have to work with. For the most part, we don’t have a say in this, genetics are genetics, and we have to play the hand we are dealt.
Identify your core somatotype and find your starting place for the best way to effectively tailor your diet and exercise routines. Although we cannot change our somatotypes or genetic buildup, by taking effective measures we can optimise our training, diets and lifestyle to bend the rules in our favour.