Identifying your somatotype, while bearing in mind nobody will neatly fit into one category, can help you tune in to how to work with your body to get the best results.
Ectomorphs (Long and Lean)
Your classic ectomorph is a natural long-distance runner. They easily convert carbs into fuel, have speedy metabolisms and, as a result, struggle to bulk up.
“Their biggest challenge is gaining size, but on the flip side they will find it easier to stay lean,” says Dan Roberts, founder and head coach at danrobertsgroup.com. “Put it this way: Peter Crouch will never be a bodybuilder.”
So if you want to be less, well, Crouch, what can you do?
“There is no escaping the fact that you have to lift pretty heavy things on a regular basis,” says Roberts. “Do less cardio, but make it quality cardio, and get used to both eating and lifting a lot.
“Ectomorphs will always like endurance activities more than power work, so you have to decide if you want to work within your natural body shape to get really great at a particular sport or discipline, or work on your weaknesses to be a more well-rounded athlete.”
Andy Pilides, director of More Than Muscle, agrees that getting fuelling and volume right is key: “Ectomorphs often train with too much volume and eat nowhere near enough, which stunts their muscle growth. Building up intensity and volume of food in correlation can help them improve their weight and muscle goals.”
He recommends keeping cardio and weight training low in volume and high in intensity, while building up calorie intake to build tissue and weight.
Mind this common mistake, too: “Training with more volume is often confused as ‘more is better’,” says Pilides, “but ultimately more volume means a greater calorie deficit. Be mindful of output vs input.”
- Focus on big, compound movements like barbell squats, deadlifts, chin-ups and bench presses that involve multiple muscles and the main muscle groups.
- In terms of reps and sets, periodically transition your reps into higher sets. For example, during weeks one to three, do 3 sets of 8-10. Weeks four to six, do 4 sets of 6-8. Weeks nine to 12, do 5 sets of 4-6.
- Pick loads that make the last 2 reps of your rep bracket difficult.
Endormorphs (Stocky and Strong-Framed)
“Think Chris Pratt,” says Roberts. “Endomorphs find it harder to get lean, because their bodies hold on to fat and muscle more naturally.”
They tend to have a wide waist and a large bone structure, they’re typically shorter, have strong upper legs and gain muscle easily – although their muscles tend to be less defined.
“The biggest challenge,” says Pilides, “is being prone to putting fat on and constantly having to be aware of the variables associated with managing it.
Endomorphs need a healthy mix. Resistance training helps them build strength, grow tissue and burn calories, while cardio is important for all-round health and fitness, coupled with more calorie expenditure.
“Endomorphs will generally find power and strength easier, so they’re well suited to rugby, wrestling and powerlifting, but also doing what you’re ‘bad’ at will give you a more versatile and ‘athletic’ body.”
- Focus on full-body workouts to help keep the weight off and develop your muscular physique.
- Progressively increasing your weight training can help, and try pairing lower-body exercises with upper-body exercises in circuits back and forth: 1a. Back Squat, 1b. Single-Arm Row (3 or 4 sets with 6-10 reps). Have a programme in this format with around 6 to 8 exercises in 3 to 4 pairings. This helps stimulate muscle tissue and keep your heart rate up to increase that calorie burn during your workout, as well as after.
- In terms of cardio, look to burn around 400-500 calories per workout.
Mesomorphs (Natural Athletes)
These guys find it easy to add new muscle and don’t tend to store much body fat. They’re naturally athletic with well-defined muscles. They tend to be rectangular shaped and an average height with a normal metabolism.
“If you have ever heard the words ‘genetically gifted’, they are probably a mesomorph,” says Roberts. “They have many good athletic options, so the only challenge is the risk of overtraining.
“Mesomorphs are naturally drawn to being active, but when you love moving and exercising, you need to make sure there is variety in your intensity and muscles being used, regardless of how specific your goal is.”
Pilides adds that as well as being active and sporty, because they put on muscle easily mesomorphs can gravitate towards weight training, but balance is key.
“It’s common to undervalue cardio as it’s not needed for physique purposes,” says Pilides. “Mesomorphs respond really well to weight training, but having a healthy mix of cardio in is essential for heart health, and often that’s overlooked.”
- Train like an athlete, with a mix of cardio, strength and conditioning.
- Sprints, prowler pushes/pulls, plyometrics, kettlebell workouts and power moves like cleans and snatches can up your strength and fitness levels as well as burn fat.
- When it comes to cardio, set targets, do tempo efforts and aim to set personal bests.
- When doing strength and conditioning work, add conditioning cardiovascular work at the end, so for example intervals on the watt bike or rower. Look at ways to grow sets and reps (like ectomorphs) but utilising a mixture of higher and lower reps, and choose loads that are challenging over the last 2 reps.
Words: Laura Potter