What's My Body Type? (Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph)
Genetics plays a strong role in the way that we look and the way that our body processes the food we eat.
If you have a difficult time losing weight or building muscle, it could be that your genetics are stacked against you.
It all starts with the body type you were born with. Your body type will determine how easy or how difficult it will be to change your body composition.
So, the inevitable question is: What's my body type?
Welcome to the second installment of the WCT Muscle Building Series where we help you learn simple, high-yield strategies that’ll help you add some muscle to your frame.
In Part 1, How to Build Muscle Naturally Using Scientifically Proven Methods, we discuss the basic concepts of exercise physiology that you must understand in order to build muscle. We highly recommend that you read that post first.
Today we will talk about the reality of muscle growth- what to expect, and how your genetics will influence how you look.
It has only taken me 10 years to figure all of this stuff out. Now you get it in 5 minutes or less.
This post is going to cover
- What Body Type Are You? Ectomorphs, Endomorphs, and Mesomorphs
- How Genetics and Body Type Influence Your Muscle Building Potential
- How Fast Can You Expect to Build Muscle Naturally
- Workout Strategies for the Different Body Types
What Body Type Am I?
There are three different body types: The Ectomorph, The Mesomorph, and The Endomorph.
It is highly likely that you will automatically know which one you are once you read the descriptions. It is also possible that you are a hybrid, meaning that you have a slight combination of two body-types, which we will describe shortly.
Let's begin with the ectomorph.
Ectomorphs are the people who have always been skinny their whole lives. They tend to have small joints (skinny wrists, ankles, waist etc) and have a difficult time gaining weight.
If you have ever considered yourself to be scrawny, thin or lanky, then you are an ectomorph.
These are the people who generally can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain weight.
Ectomorphs will probably never ever be obese.
Here are a few examples of ectomorphs.
- Brad Pitt in Fight Club
- Tobey Maguire in Spiderman
- Almost All Victoria Secret Models
Ectomorphs who are into exercise and fitness are always lean with less than 10% body fat. These are the people you see on the cover of fitness magazines. Their muscles aren’t bulky; they are small, well developed and well defined.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of an Ectomorph?
- Small Joints
- Narrow Waist
- Minimal Muscle
- Difficulty Gaining Weight
If you are an ectomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a fitness model.
An endomorph is the opposite of an ectomorph. These are the people who have always been a little heavier than their classmates. They have never been skinny and can add bodyweight very, very easily.
These are the individuals who struggle the most to lose weight. One bad meal could mean starting over from scratch.
Endomorphs have larger frames with bigger joints.
They will probably never get as skinny as a Victoria Secret runway model unless they completely starve themselves to death.
Here are a few examples of endomorphs.
- Brock Lesnar from Wrestling
- Brian Shaw from World's Strongest Man
- Kim & Khloe Kardashian
Endomorphs who are into exercise and fitness generally favor power sports that require size and strength.
Endomorphs are very strong. People who compete in Sumo Wrestling, or in World's Strongest Man tend to be endomorphs.
They carry a higher body fat percentage, and will probably never be under 15% body fat.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of an Endomorph?
- Big Joints
- Wide Waist
- High body fat
- Difficulty losing weight
If you are an endomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a World's Strongest Man.
Mesomorphs are in between the previous two. They are generally considered to have the 'athletic' body type. These individuals can go either way. They are not scrawny, nor are they very heavy.
If you do not fall into either of the above categories, then you are likely a mesomorph.
With that said, mesomorphs can be hybrids. You can be a Mesomorph with ectomorphic tendencies, or have endomorphic tendencies.
If you are a meso/ectomorph, you can put on muscle easily, but lose it quickly if you don't eat enough calories. Conversely, a meso/endomorph can put on muscle easily, but also put on the pounds if they eat a little too much.
Here are a few examples of some mesomorphs:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Sylvester Stallone
- Aly Raisman of Team USA Gymnastics
Mesomorphs can have the best of both worlds. They can get quite muscular and be very lean at the same time. People who excel in bodybuilding or other physique type sports tend to be mesomorphs.
Some people would say that mesomorphs have it the easiest in terms of building muscle. They won the genetic lottery when it comes to exercise and fitness.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of a Mesomorph?
- Well Rounded
- Average Sized Joints
- Narrow Waist
- Noticeable muscle
- Responds well to exercise
If you are a mesomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a competitive bodybuilder or professional athlete.
How Fast Can You Expect To Build Muscle Depending On Your Body Type
If you are looking to put on a noticeable amount of muscle mass, you have to focus on the big picture.
Muscles synthesis is a slow process that requires multiple cycles of Stimulus-Recovery-Adaption described in Part 1
Under optimal conditions, a realistic rate of muscle growth is about 1-2 lbs of muscle per month.
That is only 12-24 lbs of muscle per year. Keep in mind, that this is also for an inexperienced lifter. The longer you have been lifting, the slower this process will be.
For women, this rate is a lot lower. (Another reason why women are a lot less likely to ever get bulky.)
Muscle growth also comes in spurts, with plateaus, peaks, and troughs.
Your rate of muscle growth will also be influenced by your body type. Ectomorphs will struggle to achieve this rate of muscle synthesis, while mesomorphs will get it easily. Endomorphs will also build muscle fairly easily however it may be hidden under high body fat percentages.
What Do I Need To Do If I Am An Ectomorph?
If you are perfectly happy with the way that you look, then you don't need to do anything. Some people like being thin and see it as a blessing. Some endomorphs wish they were ectomorphs.
But if you are thin, and you would like to build muscle, then you must pay attention to your diet. You can spend countless hours training and not gain any significant size or strength.
In order or prevent this from happening, you must eat more calories than you are already consuming to add muscle to your frame.
Without sufficient calories, your body will never be able to synthesize muscle and repair itself at the necessary rate.
In addition to exercising in a way that is ideal for ectomorphs (which we discuss below), you must focus on consuming more protein, more carbohydrates, and more fat. Just make sure that they are of high quality like we discuss in A Simple Clean Eating Meal Plan For Busy Professionals.
How Should I Train If I Am An Ectomorph?
Ectomorphs have the most difficult time building muscle. The good news is, you can still add an appreciable amount of muscle to your frame is you train correctly.
So what is the ideal way that an ectomorph should train?
Ectomorphs need to keep cardio to an absolute minimum and they need to perform compound exercises almost exclusively.
However, keep in mind that ectomorphs have thin joints, and thus are more likely to get musculoskeletal injuries from excessive exercise. The most common of which include shoulder injuries, elbow injuries, knee injuries and low back injuries.
As a result, ectomorphs should not train heavy multiple times per week. It is in your best interest to perform the major compound exercises for a heavy session just once per week.
If you are training the major muscle groups twice per week (which is the ideal frequency like we discussed in The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals) then the second session should either be
A) Much lighter in terms of weight
B) Include an easier, less intense variation
The key point is that you should always listen to your body, and do not be afraid to cut back on some exercises and or volume if you start to feel a lot of wear and tear in your joints.
What Do I Need To Do If I Am An Endomorph?
Endomorphs have the opposite problem. They have a difficult time losing weight, but an easier time gaining muscle than Ectomorphs.
This is why endomorphs need to focus on decreasing their body fat percentage in order to appreciate any muscle gain.
Endomorphs also have a small margin for error when it comes to diet. Consuming too many calories could result in more fat storage rather than muscle gain. Endomorphs must really focus on the quality of food that they are consuming to gain lean muscle mass. Check out All Diet Plans To Lose Weight Must Follow This 1 Rule to learn more about improving your food quality in an effort to lose body fat.
How Should I Train If I Am An Endomorph?
Endomorphs are powerhouses when it comes to training. While ectomorphs have to be careful of excessive wear and tear, endomorphs are built to handle a lot more training Volume.
The endomorph has big, strong joints that can tolerate heavy and more frequent bouts of exercise. If your training doesn’t seem to be challenging enough, it might be necessary to bump up the weight!
Train all 6 major compound exercises up to two times per week. Isolation exercises have very little benefit for the endomorph as these exercises will do very little to improve your fitness, and won’t result in muscular definition.
In addition, endurance and aerobic activities will be your weak point. This is why it'll be beneficial to include cardio exercise in the form of High-Intensity Interval Training.
Lastly, do not underestimate the power of walking. Walking is the best form of exercise that can keep your metabolism high and serve as another way to include low-intensity cardio into your regimen.
What Do I Need To Do If I Am An Mesomorph?
Congratulations, you will have an easy time building muscle and improving your fitness. It is still important to eat clean, however, as no one is immune to gaining unnecessary fat.
How Should I Train If I Am A Mesomorph?
Because mesomorphs have a naturally athletic build, they tend to not exercise as much as they can.
Mesomorphs just need to focus on consistency. If you show up to the gym 3-4 times per week and focus on high-quality nutrition, you will build natural muscle easily.
To develop your best possible physique, check out Part 3 of this series where we go over the optimal training volume for strength and muscle growth.
The Bottom Line On Your Body Type and Muscle Building Potential
Whatever body type you possess, own it. Do not use it as an excuse to not exercise or to not lead a healthier lifestyle. Your genetics only determines the hand you are dealt, it’s your choice on how you will play.
Also, keep in mind that your body type is only one piece of the puzzle.
There are several other factors that you can directly modify to make up for your genetics. This includes how you choose to exercise, which foods you choose to eat, and how you perceive yourself.
Now we turn it over you
Have you ever heard of these three body types before?
Which body type are you?
Can you gain weight easily? Can you lose weight easily?
Comment below and tell us if you have had any issues with muscle gain in the past.
In Part 3, How To Make An Exercise Program For Muscle Growth we discuss the optimal volume you need to do to maximize your muscle building potential.
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