Do you spend hours in the gym each week with little to no fat loss? Are you slogging away on the treadmill and doing endless sets of curls, crunches, and kickbacks with no progress towards building a muscular physique? Chances are, you’re not training the optimal way for your body type.
Look at it this way, diet, supplementation, and recovery aren’t the same across the board for every individual out there, and neither is training for muscle gain and fat loss. Yet, somehow, we’ve come to assume that just because one particular style of training worked for someone, it’s going to be equally effective for another person, even if the two aren’t built anywhere near the same.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. But, there’s no need to worry, as we’ve got a full guide here to help you figure out what your body type is, and what’s the best way to eat and train to get you maximum results!
The 3 Body Types
William H. Sheldon, PhD, MD, pioneered the the concept of body types, or somatotypes, in the 1940s. Since their introduction, exercise scientists, nutritionists, and even doctors have used Sheldon’s work to create effective diet and fitness plans tailored to an individual’s particular somatotype.
When Dr. Sheldon published his findings, he found there were three primary body types that individuals could be classified into:
Each group has its particular characteristics which separate it from the others, and with that knowledge, you can tailor your diet and training to maximize results by training and eating in the most effective manner for your particular body type.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into each body type to see where you end up! Ectomorph
Ectomorphs are easily recognizable at the gym — they’re the skinny guy at the gym that never seem to really put on any appreciable size. Ectos have a light build with very little fat on their body, and little muscle mass too.
Typically, ectomorphs have a hard time gaining weight, which is part of the reason why they don’t have much muscle on their frame. Common characteristics of ectomorphs include:
-Small frame and bone structure
-Long, stringy muscles
Ectomorphs are looking to gain muscle mass and put on some size. To do that, they should prioritize heavy, compound lifts (squat, bench, pull up, deadlift) for the majority of their training sessions. Plus, compound movements work several muscle groups in a single exercise, giving you a lot of “bang” for your lifting “buck”.
Ectomorphs generally do best with 3 full-body training sessions per week that hit all of the major muscle groups with high frequency, moderate volume, and heavy weight. This provides the perfect combination of training variables to maximize training and recovery, yielding superior muscle growth.
Ectomorphs already have a hard enough time gaining weight, so they should limit cardio as much as possible. You can still do some for overall health, but keep it limited to 1-2 10-20 minute HIIT sessions per week. three heavy, short training sessions per week, leaving plenty of time for muscle recovery.
Eating for ectomorphs can be a somewhat challenging task. Ectos usually face one of two problems — they get full really easily, and tend to undereat, OR their metabolism is so fast that their body just burns up whatever they put in it.
The best way around this is to break your meals out across the day so you’re eating 5-7 times per day instead of only 3. Still keep your normal breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also make sure to include a mass-gainer protein shake in between those meals, and maybe even have a bedtime snack to make sure you’re getting in enough calories!
Ectomorphs should consider eating fattier, more calorically dense foods such as whole milk, peanut butter, avocado, nuts, and fatty cuts of meat to make sure they’re getting all of their calories in each day.Endomorph
Endomorphs are generally solid-bodied individuals, but soft. They gain muscle and fat very easily, and typically lack definition in their muscles. Endomorphs are generally short in stature, with thick arms and legs. They have strong muscles, but they’re covered in layers of fat. However, endomorphs do tend to be strong compared to ectomorphs and naturally excel in leg movements, particularly the squat.
Typically, endomorphs have a easy time gaining weight, plus a slower metabolism, which makes shedding fat incredibly difficult. Common characteristics of ectomorphs include:
– Stocky build
– Typically shorter- Soft, round physique
– Easily gains muscle and fat
– Slow metabolism
– Lacking definition
– Wide / thick joints
Endomorphs have the exact opposite problem of ectomorphs when it comes to training, they put on weight (i.e. fat) incredibly quickly. So, that means cardio is a must in any endos training plan! 3-4 sessions per week of either HIIT or steady-state cardio, or a mixture of the two either after your weight training, or on your rest days from the weights.
Now, endomorphs still need to hit the weights frequently. Endomorphs respond well to higher volume training, which lends itself to a 4 day per week weightlifting program following an upper / lower split. Endos looking to build muscle and lose fat should train in the 10-15 rep range, and keep rest between sets to around 45 – 60 seconds. They can also increase their caloric burn during workouts by supersetting non-competing exercises such as the bench press and row. This will ignite your metabolism, keep muscle growth churching, and shed fat all at once.
Coupled with a slow metabolism, endomorphs also tend to have a more robust appetite than ectomorphs, and they’re more likely to binge on unhealthy snacks when they get hungry.
To enhance weight loss efforts, endomorphs should dial back their calories a bit, but avoid the temptation to follow any kind of starvation or crash diet, as that only makes your body more likely to store fat down the road.
Endomorphs should try to eat smaller meals, evenly spaced throughout the day to prevent any drops in blood sugar and spikes in insulin. This fends off cravings and prevents you from demolishing a whole bag of potato chips when you get ravenous. Eat plenty of protein and fibrous vegetables, while limiting carbs and alcohol. Focus on lean meats to amp up the protein, but spare the calories that come with fattier cuts of meat.Mesomorph
Mesomorphs are strong, solid, and athletic. Remember the star quarterback from your high school? That’s the quintessential mesomorph. They are naturally fit, muscular, and lean. Mesomorphs don’t have to worry about cramming food down, feeling hungry, or gaining fat. They have a naturally high metabolism and easily put on muscle with little to no fat gain too. In other words, mesomorphs are the ideal body everyone hopes they have, but few rarely do…
Typically, mesomoprhs can gain muscle and shed fat much easier than ectomorphs or endomorphs, due to them winning the genetics lottery. Common characteristics of ectomorphs include:
– Athletic build
– Typically tall
– Lean, muscular physique
– Easily gains muscle
– Fast metabolism
– Wide shoulders
– Narrow waist
Mesomorphs are natural athletes and respond well to pretty much any type of training they do, which harkens back to their stellar genetics. Full body, upper / lower, bro split, it doesn’t matter. Mesomorphs will gain muscle following any form of training program provided they are following the principles of progressive overload. It also helps to change things up from time to time and experiment with all sorts of different training programs to see which one really works best, but ultimately, any training program will benefit mesos.
As for cardio, since mesomorphs don’t gain fat easily, they can do it at their leisure more or less. 1-2 HIIT sessions per week should be enough to ensure cardiovascular health and minimal fat storage, even during a mass gaining phase.
Mesomorphs have a naturally high metabolism, which bodes well for their diets. They can eat higher carbohydrate diets without the fear of getting soft, squishy, or pudgy, and can indulge in some extra calories from time to time as well.
Basically, as long as their consuming sufficient calories and hitting their protein macros, mesomorphs have the freedom to eat as they please, within reason. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, and requires more calories to maintain, so eat until you’re satiated, but don’t feel the need to stuff yourself constantly as is the case with an ectomorph. Focus on a wide variety of whole foods, and your training and genetics will take care of the rest!
Getting a muscular physique isn’t an impossible feat if you’re not blessed with the best genetics. Ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs can all gain muscle and lose fat provided they follow a diet and training regimen suited to their own individual needs.