Every guy has a different natural build that responds to exercise and diet in different ways. Stockier guys (endomorphs) are often better at lifting and skinny guys (ectomorphs) make the best long distance runners, then there are those athletic guys (mesomorphs) in the middle that seem to be able to do whatever they want. Most people fall somewhere in between two of these body types, but it’s still important to acknowledge what your body might be predisposed to do. Don’t think of these natural traits as limitations – if there’s a will, there’s a way – but, for example, if you’re a classic endomorph, you’re going to need to make a lot of changes if you really want to run a marathon.
Ectomorphs - Skinny
“The guy that inhales doughnuts and doesn’t gain an ounce.” Ectomorphs are your chronically skinny guys – they tend to have a slight frame and have very quick metabolism. In general, they have a tough time gaining any sort of mass, whether it’s muscle or fat.
“If you’re looking to gain mass and size, you don’t have to focus on cardiovascular work, typically,” says trainer Todd Durkin, founder of Fitness Quest 10 and author of The Impact! Body Plan. If packing on weight is a priority, make sure you’re focusing on increasing and improving your strength training while also keeping nutrition in mind. As an ectomorph, if you’re not conscious about what you’re putting in your body, you may gain little to no weight at all, regardless of whether it’s muscle or fat (and you want some of both).
Durkin notes that protein and nutrition are important for guys of every body type, but ectomorphs need to be getting quality nutrients and calories in “every three hours.” He also recommends working the legs more often during your workouts. “It’s kind of the most surefire way of optimizing strength, through your legs.” Hone in on the large muscle groups like the glutes and quads to help you go about gaining size.
Mesomorphs - Athletic
“The guy that gains muscle when he walks into the weight room.” Perfect mesomorphs are those guys who are naturally good at everything, without even putting in the practice. They have an athletic physique, a strong bone structure and have a better innate ability to pack on muscle very well, while also being able to gain more fat than ectomorphs and less than endomorphs.
“These guys don’t really have to accept anything – they’re genetically blessed,” Durkin says. As a trainer for several professional athletes, many of whom tend to be mesomorphs, Durkin says that a combination of strength training and high intensity interval training work best for mesomorphs who want to pack on muscle and improve cardiovascular endurance while burning fat. Durkin says that if there’s one thing a mesomorph needs to accept, it’s that they need to make sure they maintain that balance between strength and interval/cardio training. In his experience, many of them gravitate towards the strength training and end up gaining more fat than they would have hoped.
“They can get away with it for a while, but when [age] 40 hits, they can start putting on some extra weight because their metabolism isn’t as high as it was when they were 25,” he says.
Endomorphs - Heavy
“The guy that looks at a doughnut and gains weight.” Endomorphs are often short, stocky guys who gain muscle well but also pack on fat effortlessly. They’re strong but also tend to carry around a lot of excess weight.
Durkin points to good diet as the most important concern for endomorphs, followed closely by cardiovascular exercise. Of course, clean diet and running aren’t usually the easiest things for these guys to master, so it takes plenty of willpower. If you’re an endomorph, don’t abandon your lifting and strength training (we knew you wouldn’t anyway), just consider scaling back if you want to shed some fat. “A good, solid three days a week of strength training must be supplemented with at least three to four days of aerobic training as well.”
Nutrition is rough for endomorphs – unlike the other two body types, they often don’t get away with cheating on their diets, and their bodies readily pack on the pounds. To lose weight and get leaner, do the obvious thing like lower your daily caloric intake and avoid junk food and empty calories. According to Livestrong, lean meats (such as fish and poultry), complex carbohydrates and fiber (vegetables and other sources) are all highly recommended to help endomorphs cut down on their intake while getting plenty of good nutrients.