Customize your workouts and make insane gains
The Declaration of Independence may have stated that all men are created equal, but that’s simply not true. Physically, human beings are extremely genetically diverse. Look at height. In Indonesia, the average male is just over 5 feet tall, whereas the average height in The Netherlands is 6-1! We all have different types and colors of hair and eyes, and for those of us who seek to mold our bodies through weight training, nutrition, and supplementation, a wide range of factors come into play such as bone thickness and structure, muscle belly lengths and attachments, and metabolic rates. To simplify the staggering array of genetically predetermined qualities, it’s makes sense to divide men and women into 3 general physiological categories:
There is a widespread misconception that ectomorphs are ‘tall and skinny.’ Though a great deal of taller men are ectomorphs, the somatype has nothing to do with height. Rather, it’s about skeletal proportions, bone density, and metabolism. Ecto’s tend to have narrow shoulders and hips, light bones in general, and fast metabolisms. These are the people who gorge themselves but still have a hell of a time gaining any weight. They are often naturally lean, but adding muscle mass is a massive struggle. Joints like the wrists, knees, and ankles are typically smaller than average.
Because an ectomorph does have a higher metabolic rate and his body is basically a calorie-burning furnace, overtraining is always a very real danger. The ectomorph must be far more conscious of rest and recovery, so training for two hours, six days a week would be suicide for gains. More rest days need to be incorporated. I would even go so far as to say that an ectomorph should not weight train more than two days in a row. Many find that something like Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday is ideal. Workouts should be shorter and to the point rather than marathon sessions. Put a time limit of one-hour maximum on any given session. Focus on basic, compound movements and straight sets in the 8-10 rep range. Forget about higher reps, drop sets, and supersets, and other intensity techniques that dig deeper inroads into your ability to recover before your next workout. Limit any extracurricular physical activity, and get as much rest as possible. Finally, as for cardio – don’t do any! Cardio is not the ectomorph’s friend. If you do any, it should just be a few minutes to warm up on leg day. You must focus on conserving energy needed to grow.
Endomorphs have heavier bone structures and are usually square in the torso, with wide waists and large hips. Their joints are often thicker, and their metabolisms are slower. They can eat the same amount of food as a mesomorph, but a larger percentage of it will be converted to bodyfat. Gaining weight is a breeze, but again, much of it will be in the form of fat. Getting lean requires far more diligence to diet and cardio for the endomorph.
Due to having a slower metabolism, the endomorph will benefit from greater overall training volume and frequency, as well as substantially more cardio than the other two somatypes. We have all seen what happens when an endo simply focuses on lifting heavy. They become big, but let’s be honest – fat men. If you are okay with that, then by all means train more like a powerlifter, with lower reps and plenty of rest between sets. But if you would rather carry less bodyfat, keep your rest periods shorter and move quickly from exercise to exercise and set to set. This faster pace will burn more calories, as will judicious use of supersets, drop sets, and so on. There is no need to go crazy with higher reps, but try to work in the 10-12 range for upper body, and do 12-20 reps for lower body movements. As with the mesomorph, an even mix of compound and isolation movements can and should be performed. That being said, compound movements like squats and deadlifts will do far more to stimulate the metabolism and burn calories than things like leg extensions or cable crossovers. With that in mind, many endomorphs find they achieve the best results in terms of body composition if they take no total rest days. On days that you don’t weight train, get to the gym or outside and work hard on your cardio.
Many of the greatest bodybuilders in history, such as Sergio Oliva, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman have been about as close to a pure mesomorph as a human being can get. Their bone structures are identified by natural V-tapers, i.e. wide clavicles and narrow hips. Their joints aren’t too big or too small, but just the right diameter to both support large amounts of muscle mass yet still allow the muscles to flow off the joints. For instance, huge quads will look much more impressive on a man with smaller hips and knees than another man with bigger, clunky joints. A meso’s metabolism is also ideal. His body is genetically predisposed to gain muscle but not bodyfat.
If you hit the genetic lottery and are anything close to a pure mesomorph, any type of hard and consistent training will usually yield spectacular results. You can train longer and hit muscle groups more frequently, and still make gains. In fact, you would probably be missing out if you didn’t. Workouts can be a bit longer, in the 60-90-minute range. Exercises can be a mix of compound and isolation movements, and reps can be as low as the 4-6 range at times, and as high as 15-20 at others. In other words, you can pretty much emulate the routines of pro bodybuilders and make very nice progress on them, because you are essentially similar in most ways. It should be noted that if you are drug-free, it’s smart to train with a bit less volume and frequency than a chemically enhanced athlete, who has enhanced recovery ability due to the drugs. Moderate amounts of cardio can and should be done.
Most people don’t completely fit into one category, but instead fall into a spectrum. For instance, you might lean more toward being an ectomorph, yet add muscle mass a bit more easily – making you an ecto with some mesomorph qualities. Or, you could be someone who gains size and strength effortlessly relative to others, but you also gain fat if you’re not careful. That puts you closer to the mesomorph side, but still partially leaning toward being an endomorph. Regardless, all of us are closer to one of these three basic somatypes than the others. Once you have determined which category you fall into, it’s time to get on the appropriate training program for your body type.
We are not all exactly the same, and we should not train exactly the same either. By identifying which of the three general somatypes we are closest to being and then adjusting our training program accordingly, we can all be far more efficient and productive in our workouts. In the end, the bottom line is always finding out what works best for you. These guidelines should help you do just that.