Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Have you tried different workouts but find it difficult to reach your fitness goals? Perhaps you should start with identifying your body type!
After your shower, stand in front of the mirror and analyze your body. What do you see? Unless you have some sort of genetic muscle anomaly, your body will fall into one of the three typical body shapes.
The three body types existed since 380BC thanks to Plato, but was really popularized by the American psychologist William Sheldon in the 1940s.
Since Sheldon’s conclusions were published it has become widely recognised that most people have one of three body types. These are:
Ectomorph: Lean and long, with difficulty building muscle
Endomorph: Big, high body fat, often pear-shaped, with a high tendency to store body fat
Mesomorph: Muscular and well-built, with a high metabolism and responsive muscle cells
To put it simply, ectomorphs stay lean despite hours in the gym, endomorphs struggle to lose fat, and mesomorphs gain muscle with ease.
So, what’s the big deal about these three body types?
Knowing which body type you are born with, will help you train smarted and maximize your workouts to achieve your fitness goals.
Falling between categories
If you do not fall between those three body types, you’re not alone. You can fall between these body types, which is actually more accurate.
“The three body types exist but probably never in their pure form,” says Professor Lars McNaughton from Edge Hill University, “We all have some aspects of endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy.”
In comes the Heath-Carter method, which is a rating system for these in-between types. On a score of one to seven (or more) you are rated to identify which body types you fall in between.
“You are scored in an order with endomorphy first, then mesomorph, then ectomorphy,” says McNaughton. “So a 1-7-5 would be a mesoectomorph – a tall muscular person with little fat.”
The Heath-Carter system dictates an extreme mesomorph would be rated 1-7-1, an extreme endomorph 7-1-1 and an extreme ectomorph 1-1-7. It is rare to find these scores as almost everyone is a mix. Knowing your score will help you plan your workouts and diets more effectively.
The chart below shows where athletes from various sports fit in the Heath-Carter system. It’s a good starting point for identifying your own body type.
If you are ectomorph-dominant, you can eat carbohydrates all-day-everyday and not gain a kilo. Your ability to burn off fat easily might be envied by many, but the downside is that you struggle to bulk up as your fast-twitch muscle fibers are underdeveloped.
This means you have to put a lot more effort in compound weightlifting to maximize growth hormone release and minimal cardio sessions. An ideal workout week will consist of three days of intense compound strength training (deadlifts and squats especially) coupled with two days of low-intensity cardio. Avoid the treadmill.
Your diet will also require you to eat above 3,000 calories with plenty of complex carbs such as sweet potatoes and brown rice, and supplemented with whey protein. But make sure everything is healthy.
The golden ratio is 8g of carbs, 4.3g protein and 1g of fat per kg of body weight on training days. Otherwise, reduce the carbs to 7g. Have a protein shake before and during your workout and another one or a good meal afterwards.
Endomorph-dominants are fuel tanks. If you are an endomorph-dominant you will find that your fuel tanks are at concentrated in the lower body in the form of muscle and fat.
Bad news for you endomorph-dominants, it is extremely hard for you to manage your weight and overall fitness. But all hope is not lost, you should focus on developing your shoulders and strip away all the fat from your lower body with a low- to medium-intensity cardio plan. Ditch the slow, steady-state cardiovascular work and instead, do more interval-based conditioning like sprints and box jumps. But if you are heavy and are worried about your joints, then you can look to pushing sleds or playing with the ropes. The best exercises are aerobic exercises where you can trim fat off your entire body.
Weight training is also another great option as it burns calories long after you finish exercising. Furthermore, the calories you take in will be directed towards muscle growth instead of fat around your gut.
The magic number is four days of hypertrophy training (low reps, heavy weight) alongside high intensity interval cardio.
Your diet also needs to be limited to 1,750 calories that is high in fibre. Green tea and spinach are great supplements for fat burning. The trick is to get your carbs from vegetables and steer clear from white carbs.The golden ratio is 2.5g carbs, 3.5g protein, and 1.3g per kg body weight on training days. Otherwise, it’s just 2g of carbs. Oh, avoid sports drinks and alcohol as they are full of carbs and can ruin your hard work.
Some experts call this the ideal body type and if you are mesomorph-dominant, you are blessed with the body that can pack on muscle and lose fat easily.
But we do find that those who are mesomorph-dominant can sometimes be complacent and take their natually athletic builds for granted, which often results in poor diets and haphazard workouts.
Our advice is to use your body type to your advantage and by following a progressive plan, you will reach optimal fitness, making you stronger without getting too bulky. Options include sprints, box and vertical jumps or plyometrics. Low reps and power moves work well too.
For your diet, you are free to consume 2,500 calories a day filled with wholegrains but limiting your fat intake. The meal plate should consist of 40% complex carbohydrates, 30% lean protein and 30% healthy fats.
The golden ratio is 6g carbs, 4g protein and 1.2g fat per kg of bodyweight on training days. On rest days carbs should go down to 5g and you can afford to increase your intake of healthy fats a little.
If you’d like some help identifying your body type, we can help you! Just reach out to us for a session!