There are 3 generalized body types (somatotypes) you may have heard of.
The idea of having a specific body type was documented by William Herbert Sheldon, a psychologist in the 1940’s. Although his psychological theories were highly criticized, many fitness and nutrition professionals have adopted the somatotype theory in their practice (1). Although many of us are a combination of these body types, you may find yourself leaning towards one of the three.
Ectomorph - Thin and lengthy build. Has difficulty putting on muscle and fat. Small joints. Has difficulty gaining weight. Narrow hips and shoulders. Maintains weight easily
Mesomorph – Muscular build. Gains and loses weight easily. Narrow waist and wider shoulders. Builds muscle easily.
Endomorph – Round build. Has difficulty losing excess fat. Wide hips/waist. Thicker joints. Gains weight easily.
There is no question that people respond to certain training stimulus differently, but is there a reason you should switch up your routine?
Most adults SHOULD be training with a well balanced healthy approach that includes these goals:
Live loner, help fight disease, increase bone strength, increase muscle mass, burn subcutaneous fat and reduce injury as you age.
The reality is many people just want to “look” better.
Ectomorph: Lifting weights is going to be crucial for this body type as you age because of your long thin bone structure. We want to strengthen both muscle and bone to increase durability as time goes on. This is not a free pass on cardio. Hit the hamster wheel and include high intensity circuit training, but make sure your calorie intake increases with training.
Mesomorph: This person responds very well to weightlifting and interval training. However, because you may see great gains when hitting the weights, don’t let your overall fitness suffer from not being well-rounded. Med ball training and plyometrics are crucial for keeping bulky muscles pliable and durable. Cardio training will help keep unwanted subcutaneous fat off the body as you age. For the women in this category who may not want to look muscular, switch the heavier weights to lighter ones and perform 20 or more reps for resistance training exercises. Long duration cardio will also help thin out muscles.
Endomorph: High intensity interval training and long duration cardio are your bread and butter. Weightlifting is also great for this body type but needs to be paired with a strict diet or can lead to weight gain. If there is an excess calorie intake, weightlifting will increase muscle mass but may not prevent your body from adding unwanted subcutaneous fat. Lastly, these people may need to switch their routines up the most of the three groups to avoid plateauing.
(1) Margaret Alic (6 April 2001), "Sheldon, William Herbert (1898-1977)", Encyclopedia of Phycology
(2) Baechle, Thomas R.,Earle, Roger W.. (Eds.) (2008) Essentials of strength training and conditioning /Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics,