Ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph? Doesn’t matter if you know how to train for your body type, outsmarting the genetics!
Each body is unique, but there are somebody composition trends that allow scientists to introduce the body type classification. The general idea is far from new: Plato mentions it in The Republic, which was written around 380 BC, and Friedrich Nietzsche referred to the idea in the 19th century in some of his most famous works. However, it all really kicked off in the 1940’s, when William H. Sheldon, PhD, MD, developed the concept of somatotypes, which is still used by nutritionists, exercise physiologists and doctors alike.
The body type classification is as follows:
- Ectomorph: Lean and long, struggles to put muscles on
- Endomorph: Big, round, tend to have higher body fat percentage, often pear-shaped
- Mesomorph: The “in-between”, muscular, proportionally fit, with highly responsive muscle cells and rapid metabolism.
Even though this approach involves a large degree of generalisation, and most individuals combine characteristics of at least two somatotypes, the concept is still very helpful to formulate personalised health and fitness recommendations, including the best training plans for one’s body type!
The latter is exactly what this article is about. Keep reading to discover the best exercises for your body type to defy genetics and build the most proportional, functional body possible!
Gaining muscle mass is especially difficult for people with this body type – however, the good news is that ectomorphs naturally have low body fat percentage and appear lean and even muscular effortlessly.
In saying that, many ectomorphs wish to “bulk up” as opposed to maintaining the lean physique, and this is easier said than done. The best approach here is to focus on basic exercises that deliver the most workload in the least amount of time, allowing to target multiple large muscle groups simultaneously.
Here are the five best exercises to achieve this…
Barbell bench press
This one has been “the king of upper body exercises” for good 70 years due to so many valid reasons! Barbell bench press targets all pushing muscles of the upper body – namely, pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps – in a single movement. The barbell is a superior choice compared to dumbbells or machines, as it’s much more stable and allows you to correctly approach heavier weights with a lower risk of getting injured. In addition, machines require no core activation – and barbells definitely deliver in this department as well. Total win!
Squats are a great way to engage all major muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, quads, hams, and the calves. And don’t opt for machine leg presses instead, as those are significantly easier to perform compared to normal squats! In addition, just like with many other machines, core stabilization is not required, meaning you’re getting less of a workout. Instead, get yourself a nice heavy barbell (only as heavy as you can actually handle, of course!) and break some serious sweat by doing a few rounds of squats.
These incorporate nearly all major muscles in the entire body – full body workout, anyone? The first half of the movement is almost like a squat, and coming back up makes your upper body work hard. Deadlifts are also great as you can add more weight to them compared to many other exercises, making them perfect for serious muscle gains.
Pull-ups are easily one of the hardest imaginable exercises (and if you’ve mastered one type, there are always endless variations to pick from), but they are also one of the best exercises for ectomorphs. First of all, they force you to work on grip strength, which tends to be relatively poor in people of this somatotype. Secondly, they target all upper body muscles and force you to engage the rest of the body to maintain proper form as well!
A complete opposite to an ectomorph, an endomorph has no troubles gaining mass whatsoever – but it also potentially means putting on too much fat. There’s also a structural difficulty in building a balanced physique, as endomorphs are often pear-shaped, with narrow shoulders and wide hips and waists. The focus of training here is to build a wider upper body whilst also keeping body fat percentage under control.
Here are some of the best exercises to achieve that…
Lateral raises help really work on those medial deltoids, which contribute to the “broad shoulders” look. It’s advisable to mix things up and add a couple of variations of lateral raises to each workout, e.g. with dumbbells, machines or ropes. It’s also not a bad idea to finish all weekly complimentary sets with laterals to make sure the shoulder muscles are primed for a heavy workload and are ready for serious lateral work.
Even though the focus is on upper body for endomorphs, lower body still needs to be trained – otherwise it’s easy to achieve unbalanced, awkward physique. But how to engage leg muscles without causing too much hypertrophy? Leg extensions is your answer!
Dumbbell Bench Press
Compared to traditional bench presses, dumbbell bench press allows for a much deeper stretch at the bottom, which promotes enhanced activation of fibres at the outer edges of the fan-shaped muscles. In addition, this bench press variation does not allow a stronger side-pec to dominate over other muscles, meaning more even development of chest and shoulder muscles overall. After all, building a broad, strong frame is all we need here!
As mentioned above, training on machines requires less effort compared to most free weight exercises, which is exactly what endomorphs need when it comes to lower body training. We can’t stress enough that being relatively bottom-heavy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise lower body at all – it just means opting for lighter exercises.
Since endomorphs must keep body fat percentage at bay, cardio is absolutely essential! It’s a good idea to train with a mixture of steady state cardio and high-intensity intervals. While the former helps increase total intra-workout calorie burn, high-intensity intervals boost post-workout metabolism, which is a great fat burning combination!
If you’re a mesomorph, you’re right on top of the genetic goodness mountain – congratulations! In general, any type of hard training will lead you to amazing results. We do have a few suggestions though, as even the best genetics won’t shine bright enough if training programs are not taken seriously.
Below are some examples of great exercises for mesomorphs.
If you want to stay lean whilst significantly improving your functional fitness, HIIT is the right guy for you. As we’ve mentioned above, the best thing about high-intensity intervals is that such workouts boost your metabolism, with benefits lasting hours past the training session. That’s some serious fat burn right there – as well as a great full body workout.
If you want to achieve optimal mass and beautiful leg development, consider adding leg presses to your exercise routine. Even if you’re already doing squats regularly (well done for not skipping the leg day), the emphasis of each exercise type is slightly different, meaning they target different muscles and compliment each other rather well. As a mesomorph, you can definitely afford to do both!
Rear Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Even if you have amazing front delts, it’s not uncommon for the side deltoids to get less attention. Rear dumbbell lateral raises work wonders for giving your rear delts that much needed workout. And don’t leave those till the very end of the workout – do them first while your shoulders are not completely fatigued!
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
If you want to really stand out from the crowd and build an insanely amazing physique, focusing on training your hamstrings is a must. And fortunately, there is a well-tested way of achieving that – just incorporate some barbell RDLs, done with a slight bend of the knee, into your exercise routine. Those are suitable for full leg days, as well as if you’re doing some hardcore devoted hamstring work.
There you have it – best exercises for each body type! Determine your body type and follow the tips above, and your gym goals will soon be smashed.