Originally Published on Coachmag
Train for the right body shape – whether you’re ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph – and you can outsmart your genes
Endomorph Body Type
Endomorphs are adept at storing fuel, with muscle and fat concentrated in the lower body. The endomorph is the hardest body type to have in terms of managing your weight and overall fitness, but to get a more balanced physique, you should focus on developing your shoulders and stripping away excess fat from your lower body. A low- to medium-intensity cardio plan will help you shift fat, as will a 1,750-calorie-a-day diet that’s high in fibre.
Are You an Endomorph?
If you have trouble shifting weight, the chances are you’re an endomorph, characterised by a relatively high amount of stored fat, a wide waist and a large bone structure.
What’s Going On?
The good news is that, evolutionarily speaking, you’re a badass: when food was scarce, natural selection favoured humans with fat-storing metabolisms. The bad news is that, now sofas and milkshakes are readily available, those genes are scuppering you. Some experts suggest heredity factors might account for as much as 70% of your body mass index (BMI).
What Endomorphs Might Be Doing Wrong
First, the good bit: there’s no point in spending hours plodding away on a treadmill. “The first thing I tell people trying to lose weight is to ditch the long, slow, steady-state cardiovascular work,” says Purdue. “Then I get them doing more interval-based conditioning to strip away fat. Sprints and box jumps are great, but if you’re heavy to the point of being worried about your joints, then moves like the sled push are slower but just as intense.”
And if you’re doing hundreds of crunches to try and shift your gut, ditch them now. “Spot-reducing fat just doesn’t work,” says Hughes. “You need to lose it from everywhere to see results around your waistline.”
What Endomorphs Should Be Doing
While much of the endomorph’s focus should be on shedding fat through aerobic exercise, we’re of the opinion that weight training is best because it carries on burning calories long after your final set. What’s more, the calories you ingest during the recovery period will help your muscles grow rather than fuelling your gut. Therefore, we recommend doing four days a week of hypertrophy training (heavy weight, low reps) alongside your cardio.
“Combine hypertrophy work – basically, muscle-building – with conditioning to strip away unwanted body fat,” says Purdue. “A four-day split might go something like: Monday, upper-body hypertrophy; Tuesday, lower-body conditioning such as sprints or sleds; Thursday lower-body hypertrophy; and a Friday ‘repetition’ day on the upper body, when you’ll do lots of reps at relatively low weights.”
What to Eat
From a nutrition perspective, a low-carb diet that still includes oats and brown rice should be complimented by a high protein and fibre intake. Nutrients such as green tea and spinach will help with the fat burning process. You’ll have to watch what you eat more strictly than people with other body shapes. “Get your carbs from vegetables,” says Purdue, “and steer clear of white bread and rice.”
Endomorphs who are sub-15% body fat should aim for 2.5g carbs, 3.5g protein and 1.3g fat per kg of bodyweight on training days. On rest days reduce the carbs to 2g. Endomorphs are more susceptible to gain fat on high carb diets, so start low and only increase carbs if progress stalls.
“There’s evidence that extra weight around the midsection indicates high stress levels or a low ability to handle stress,” says Purdue. “Try to minimise the effects of the stress hormone cortisol by getting plenty of sleep and avoiding overtraining.” And avoid sports drinks. “They’re full of carbs,” says Purdue, “and they’ll spike your blood sugar through the roof.” And, of course, steer clear of the booze.
“Get used to using your body,” says Purdue. “Work on bodyweight moves such as the press-up or chin-up, and moves that force you to use good technique such as the Turkish get-up.”
The Endomorph Cheat Sheet
- Train with intensity
- Watch your carb intake
- Build your shoulders
- Do endless crunches
- Jog for hours
- Drink sports drinks
Mesomorph Body Type
You have the body type that finds it easiest to add new muscle and you don’t tend to store much body fat. Mesomorphs tend to take their naturally athletic builds for granted, which can result in diluted workouts and poor diets. Keeping in peak physical condition is often tempered by a scattered approach to eating and training.
The key here is to make the most of your body shape. That means following a progressive plan that will make you stronger and more athletic by increasing your power without getting too bulky. To fuel your workouts, you’ll need around 2,500 calories a day, getting plenty of wholegrains but limiting your total fat intake.
Are You a Mesomorph?
If you are, you’ll know it from the jealous looks. Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym, and pack on muscle the instant they pick up a dumbbell. If this sounds like you, you’ve hit the genetic jackpot – but you can make the most of your DNA with some tactical workout tricks.
What’s Going On?
The same research that’s so unflattering to ectomorphs offers plenty of positives for mesomorphs. While the worst responders in the study mentioned above saw no change in their regulation of myogenin – a key gene responsible for muscle growth – the mesomorphs on the same programme saw theirs spike by up to 65%.
What Mesomorphs Might Be Doing Wrong
“Mesomorphs often won’t train as hard as they can,” says Hughes. “I usually give them timed workouts, to give them goals to aim for and raise their workout intensity.”
What Mesomorphs Should Be Doing
“I get mesomorphs to train athletically,” says Purdue. “So I might do sprints, box and vertical jumps or other plyometrics. They respond well to low reps and power moves. Alternatively, interval sprints will pump up their metabolism and strip away fat.”
What to Eat
Although the usual caveats apply, the good news is that your body will respond well to whatever healthy food you put into it. “You can eat a moderate amount of carbs,” says Hughes. “And err on the side of more when it comes to protein.” A basic guideline for mesomorphs to follow would be to consume meals that are 40% complex carbohydrates, 30% lean protein and 30% healthy fats. So, for example, a plate that contained vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, grilled chicken and olive oil on wholegrain bread would represent a staple dish for this body type.
Mesomorphs who are sub-15% body fat should aim for 6g carbs, 4g protein and 1.2g fat per kg of bodyweight on training days. On rest days reduce the carbs to 5g. More healthy fats will make up
for the reduced carbs without risking insulin sensitivity that can make you store fat.
“Mesomorphs respond well to creatine,” says Hughes. “It’ll aid their recovery from athletic workouts and help them work out harder.” You should also factor in recovery days. “Although the explosive nature of athletic workouts minimises the eccentric [lowering] portion of your moves, which helps stave off muscle soreness, some light movements on your rest days will help get the blood flowing and keep you fresh.”
“You’ll respond well to power moves,” says Purdue. “Try pairing a strength move with a power move that works the same muscles. For example, superset five reps on the deadlift with five on the power clean.”
The Mesomorph Cheat Sheet
- Train like an athlete
- Time your workouts
- Set personal bests
- Take your body for granted
- Eat whatever you like