I remember when I started going to a gym back in 1990 (yup, I´m THAT old) that I had no idea what I was doing, at all. Like most beginners, I worked out without any clue as to why I was doing certain exercises. I was 17 & I liked the idea of lifting weights but all those machines were intimidating. My solution? I would randomly pick out a workout from a magazine or would do countless hours of high impact aerobicss. While I was in great cardiovascular shape, my body just didn’t seem to become the shape I so dreamt of having.
And that´s when I learned about body types and body shapes.
There´s a difference, you ask? Yup. Your body type is related to metabolism, and it influences how your body responds to diet and training. Body shape is the result; it is how you are proportioned (top/bottom heavy, hourglass, etc).
There are 3 basic body types and there are (arguably) 5 body shapes. The sooner you learn your body type, the sooner you will be able to put together a workout that makes the most of your body shape.
Phew, that was a mouthful.
That being said, go look at yourself in the mirror. Go ahead, I´ll wait. Look at your bone structure: are you frail and thin, thick and stocky, or maybe you have that athletic body so many seek. Identify your type and be honest, because it is this honesty that will allow you to create your best body.
Let´s look at the three basic body types and their characteristics, and put some training plans that will bring you positive results.
The ectomorph female is usually thin and frail. She has a tough time putting on weight, has low body fat and typically a fast metabolism. Think linear or ruler body shape, narrow shoulders, waist and hips. Celebrity ectomorphs? I’d go with Kate Moss or Cameron Diaz.
As an ectomorph you probably have a hard time putting on weight and building muscle, but with the right approach it can be done. Your workouts should be short, with heavier weights and less repetitions. Focus on working the big muscle groups: your quadriceps, your back, your chest. 2 exercises per muscle group, 3 sets, 6-8 reps per set with 60 second breaks between sets for recovery. Keep cardio to a minimum and keep it within 50-65% MHR (maximum heart rate) to improve overall health and help recovery.
Building muscle will require time, but as with anything, stay the course and you will see the results.
Ahhh the Mesomorph, the athlete. Strong structure, your hips and shoulders are usually the same width which makes you very symmetrical, like an X. Usually you can be hourglass, pear or apple shaped. You can gain fat more easily than the ectomorph, but with the right cardio balance, you can maintain a lean muscle body. Think Gabrielle Reese and Jennifer Garner.
Before putting together your training plan take into consideration your shape to focus on the right muscle groups. You can achieve plenty with 3-4 days in the gym combining weights and cardio. For your weights work through 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps with 45 second breaks between sets. You want to keep your cardio workouts within the 65-75% MHR which is the fat burning and endurance zone; with 30 minutes of cardio you and a sensible diet, you should be able to grow muscle and maintain a lean body.
If you´re an endomorph you already know you have a hard time losing body fat and you gain weight easily. You are usually curvy, have a softer and rounder body and have a slow metabolism. While it takes some work to show the sexiness of your curves it is achievable and worth every effort. Jennifer Hudson, Oprah or Marilyn Monroe are three celebrity examples.
Endomorphs have have a lot of strength and excel in explosive sports. However, your training needs to go against what nature intended for you if your objective is to lean down. You need to focus on endurance type of cardiovascular workouts – long runs, cycling or swimming, maintaining 65-75% MHR. Your weight training sessions should be focused on toning exercises, moving quickly between sets. Think 3-5 sets, 15-20 reps, with short breaks in between.
So there you have it, the three basic body types and their characteristics. Before you get started make sure you look at yourself and determine your body type, work through your strengths and weaknesses to achieve some amazing results. Once I learned I was a pear shaped mesomorph I was able to combine weights and cardio to bring out the symmetry in my physique. I focused on developing the muscles in my upper body and toned my lower body. The changes didn’t happen overnight, they took time, but they were well worth it!
Be patient, trust the process and enjoy the transformation!