Issue 13 • May 2013Total body

Train for your Body Type: What are you Morphing Into?

Do you know if your training matches your specific physique goals? Learn how to train your unique body type for maximal results!

News Flash! All bodies are NOT the same. However, many fitness fanatics continue to engage in “cookie-cutter” workouts, yet wonder why their bodies fail to change despite their sweaty efforts. The truth is that if you desire a physique change and are not training for your specific body type, you may be wasting precious gym time. Although you may have increased fitness levels, your physique will probably stay the same. It’s time to make a refreshing change to your workouts in order to see some serious results!

As tempting as it may be to believe, we are not always chained to our genetics. Yes, genetics play a part in determining body structure, but with the proper guidance, we can actually manipulate what we see in the mirror. In a sense, we can actually morph into a different physique.

There are three primary physique types: ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs. An ectomorph is a naturally “skinny” person, usually consisting of small joints and a smaller frame. The ectomorph is able to stay fairly lean due to a higher metabolism. Muscle is difficult to gain for the ectomorph. Contrastingly, the endomorph is inclined to gain body fat rather quickly and finds it difficult to lose due to a decreased metabolism and larger bone structure. The endomorph commonly builds muscle easily, but may be frustrated as fat can quickly mask muscle definition. Lastly, the mesomorph has a naturally athletic physique and may find it easier to gain muscle and lose fat than the previous two body types.

Keep in mind that these body types are not cut-and-dry. Many people are a combination of two types (usually ecto-meso or endo-meso), and training philosophies specific to each body type can be combined. Based on this knowledge, you can choose exercises and training principles specific to your needs. (NOTE: nutrition is another critical factor in determining results, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Ectomorphs: Since ectomorphs are lean with little muscle, these individuals should focus on gaining lean muscle tissue in order to build a more athletic physique, increase strength and overall health. (A note to women: muscle won’t make you “bulky”! Toned arms and shapely legs require muscle to be present.) A consistent weight training routine is necessary. However, lengthy training sessions should be avoided due to the ectomorph’s high metabolism. Longer sessions will only leave the ectomorph depleted and may cause the breakdown of muscle tissue. In other words, more is not always better. Stick to multi-joint exercises like squats, bent-over rows, and pull-ups for maximal muscle gains. Lifting heavier (with good form) is a must, with longer rest breaks (60-90 seconds) between sets.

Endomorphs: The endomorph usually needs to lose unwanted body fat, which is the culprit for hiding muscle and negatively influencing overall health. Embracing a healthy fat-loss lifestyle is crucial in order to maintain a lean physique. Strength training should include a consistent routine with moderate weight performed at a faster pace, and can include supersets (performing one exercise immediately after another with little to no rest), circuit training, and higher rep ranges (12-20 reps).

Mesomorphs: Although the mesomorph naturally has an athletic body, improvements to this physique can be made through a strength training regimen consisting of longer workouts. A combination of strength and conditioning exercises is optimal. The mesomorph shouldn’t be afraid to push the weight to a challenging level, but should aim to keep rest breaks short and intensity high.

Barbell Squat

This is a crucial exercise for all body types, as it involves multiple joints and muscle groups. Squatting, among other exercises, has been shown to increase natural testosterone, which creates an environment within the body for optimal muscle building. Proper form is crucial in order to avoid injury.

With both arms at each side of the bar, lift the bar off the rack by pushing with your legs. Step away from the rack and take a medium, shoulder-width stance with toes slightly pointed out. Slowly lower the bar by pushing hips back first, then bending the knees. Make sure to distribute the weight toward your heels. Continue down until the angle between the thighs and calves becomes less than 90-degrees. Keep the weight shifted toward the heels, make sure knees are stable, and then exhale as you drive through the heels back to starting position.

Ectomorphs: 4-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.

Endomorphs: 3-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions with moderate weight, adding the exercise into a circuit and leaving minimal rest between exercises.

Mesomorphs: 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions with moderate weight. For optimal mesomorph results, add a conditioning exercise (such as the broad jump) immediately after, then rest 30-45 seconds.

Broad Jumps (mesomorph exercise)

This is a specific conditioning exercise for mesomorphs, as conditioning exercises mixed with strength exercises will produce optimal results. The broad jump also develops explosive power.

Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart, and then drop into a deep squat and swing arms back. Weight should be shifted to the heels. Next, swing the arms through, drive through the heels, and extend the knees and hips to jump forward. Land softly with both feet back into a squat. This is one rep.

Mesomorphs should perform 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions immediately after performing a barbell squat for muscular development and conditioning. Rest 30-45 seconds between each squat/broad jump superset.


Another excellent exercise for all body types, the pull-up develops upper body and core strength, and is a key muscle building exercise.

Grasp a bar or rings with a firm overhand grip and your hands roughly equal to shoulder width. With your arms straightened, allow your body to hang from the bar. Next, pull yourself upward to the final position where your chest nearly touches the bar and your chin is over the bar. Aim to keep your body straight without swinging. Once your chin is over the bar, lower yourself to the initial position. If you can’t do a pull-up yet, start with a medium to heavy resistance band and loop it around the bar.

Step into the opposite loop with one foot or knee. This should give you enough assistance to perform the pull-up.

Ectomorphs: 4-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.

Endomorphs: 3-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions with the banded assistance, if possible. Adding this exercise into a circuit with minimal rest will be beneficial for the endomorph.

Burpee/Pull-up (mesomorph pull-up variation)

This exercise is exemplary for the mesomorph as it increases both strength and conditioning. Start out standing beneath a pull-up bar with your legs shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and drop your hands to the ground. Kick your feet out behind you, landing in a push-up position. Perform a standard push-up. At the end of the push-up motion, jump your feet forward toward your hands into a squat position. Use your hips and quads to jump up to the pull-up bar (or rings). Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and then pull your chin above the bar. As you lower yourself, let go of the bar, land on your feet, and go right into the next rep.

Shoulder Press and Pivot

This exercise builds the shoulders and also involves a functional aspect as it engages the core and hips. Stand with your feet at shoulder width, holding dumbbells at chin level. Twist to your left and press the right-hand dumbbell forward and overhead. Reverse the motion and repeat the press with your left arm to the right side. This is one rep.

Ectomorphs: perform 4 sets of 8-12 reps with 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.

Endomorphs: perform 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions, including this exercise in a larger circuit for optimal results.

Mesomorphs: 3-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions, followed by a conditioning exercise such as the battle rope.

Battle Ropes

This is a full-body conditioning exercise involving the core, hips, legs, and shoulders. Ectomorphs should only do this exercise at the end of a workout for cardio conditioning. 4-8 rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest will do. Endomorphs should include this exercise in a circuit for 30-45 seconds, or can incorporate it as a part of their high-intensity cardio conditioning. Mesomorphs can use this exercise immediately following a shoulder building exercise, such as the shoulder press and pivot, for an effective conditioning superset.

Rope Slams: Stand with feet shoulder width and in a slight squatting position. Hold both ends of the rope, one in each hand. While holding both ends, simultaneously push your hips forward and raise your arms above eye level. When your arms reach above eye level, slam them downward, pushing your hips back into a squatting position. This is one rep.

Sarah Venturini

Sarah Venturini

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