Long and lean, short and squat, hourglass, pear-shaped, zaftig, Rubenesque… Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and as a personal trainer in Malibu for over 20 years, I have probably seen most (if not all) up close.
Most people come to me because – for one reason or another -- they aren’t satisfied with their body. They either want to lose weight or add muscle. I can help in both cases, but no amount of exercise or diet will change a person’s build, which is determined by genetics.
So, are we all stuck with our bodies whether we like them or not?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, because your body type (or build) is a product of DNA, and you can’t mess with that (not yet, anyway)… And no, because if you want to gain muscle or lose flab, recognizing and understanding your body type can help you to more easily achieve your goals. Basically, it all comes down to your somatype.
Okay, what’s a somatype?
In the 1940’s psychologist Dr. William Sheldon developed a body type classification system called somatyping to help with his evaluations of patients. He grouped individuals into three basic body types and attempted to correlate their psychological traits to their physical profiles. It was a compelling hypothesis, but since most of us are blends of two or more somatypes, no real credence was given to his theory within the academic community.
In the diet and fitness world, however, nutritionists and trainers have learned the importance of identifying and understanding an individual’s somatype, because different body types require different training methods and diet plans to show results. So, what somatype are you?
Just look in the mirror.
Ectomorph: Ectos are generally tall and thin with long, lean muscle, a delicate bone structure and narrow shoulders. Ectos have a high metabolisms and burn calories quickly, so it’s very hard for them to gain weight. They are often referred to as ‘hard gainers’.
General Prescription: Increase weight training and calorie consumption.
Endomorph: Endos tend to be short and stocky with large muscles, especially the thighs. They have soft, rounder bodies and gain weight easily -- both muscle and fat. Since their metabolism is slow, losing excess fat can be a real struggle.
General Prescription: cross-training or multi-planar activities, such as boot camps and circuit training. Calories should be spread throughout the day, 5-7 meals of 200-250 calories.
Mesomorph: Meso’s have it pretty good. They are the perfect in-betweens with large bone structure and a generally athletic physique. They develop muscle easily, and their metabolism enables them to lose and gain weight efficiently.
General Prescription: You’ve been blessed, so don’t blow it by being a lazy slug. Follow a well-balanced nutritional and exercise approach.
It is important to remember that since everyone’s body is a combination of somatypes, there are no hard and fast rules. However, by recognizing and understanding the body you were born with, there are some specific diet and exercise strategies that will help you optimize your regimen and give you the results you’re after.
Greg Sachs has been a professional fitness trainer and coach in Malibu, California, for over 20 years, and his clients see results. His new book The Caveman Training Principles For Ultimate Health And Fitness will be available soon.