Body Types for Fat Loss & Muscle Gain: Mesomorph, Ectomorph, Endomorph

Body Types in Bodybuilding

Understanding your Body is the Key to Success

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Losing bodyfat and accumulating lean muscle tissue is all the rage today. Though most people certainly don't want to look like bodybuilders, what they do want is a lean, sculpted body. Bodybuilders have to be lean in order to taste the fruit of their labor as well, and must be up to date on how their body will respond each and every time they endeavor to diet and attempt to put on more muscle. The key factor in knowing how to get the results you want lies more in what you looked like prior to your exercise program than what you look like currently. Remembering this wilt set the stage for your personal instruction.

If you are among those who want to forget a painful childhood of "chubby" jokes, or the chiding you received about being a "bag of bones," perhaps it may be difficult to look back on your body type as a teen or toddler.

But if you really want to get to the heart of the matter, you will have to own up to what you were. This memory will determine whether you are an easy gainer/hard loser (gain muscle easily and lose fat slowly) or a hard gainer/easy loser (have trouble building and holding muscle and burn bodyfat easily). This determination is very important in discovering what works best for you in your weight-training, diet and cardiovascular programs. Without these important considerations you may falter in achieving your fitness or bodybuilding goals.

So let's take a quick look at the three different body types. I don't like to stick to these strictly because there are many types in between that don't hold fast to set rules of each type. But for the purpose of guiding you into a better understanding of what will work for you, general descriptions of body type will be helpful.

The mesomorphic structure is the ideal body type to have. It is characterized by a powerful muscular build and carries a minimum amount of bodyfat naturally. Mesomorphs are the type of folks who are wholly cut out for bodybuilding. Drugs or no drugs, their structure stands on its own merit. They gain and retain muscle very well, and have a better than avenge metabolism. Commonly found in mainstream athletics the world over, they usually succeed in all physical pursuits. In addition, a mesomorph can eat almost anything he chooses and still come up spades.

The ectomorph is the hard gainer of muscle and the easy loser of body fat. He is characterized by a bonier structure and shows a slight natural muscularity. This body type isn't a good bet for bodybuilding, although a certain number of the top men and women in bodybuilding today probably started their development as ectomorphs. During childhood others may have easily pushed them around. Or perhaps they were involved athletically for most of their childhood and built a good amount of muscle density within the little they grew up having. Ectomorphs need a good amount of carbohydrates to sustain muscle. Usually they do not have a carbohydrate sensitivity unless they create it themselves.

The endomorph is the person who has struggled with bodyweight for a lifetime. Characterized by a relative prominence of abdominal fat in men and hip and glute fat in women, these people are hardly at a loss when it comes to bodybuilding. In fact, aside from being perfect mesomorphs, these folks can often do much better in bodybuilding than scrawnier ectomorphs. The reason? When they put on muscle, they usually retain almost all of it... for years! The inherent problem with an endomorph is that he or she will have trouble taking off that last bit of body fat, though the task is not impossible. Endomorphs must stay away from insulin producing, high-glycemic foods to stay leaner. Endomorphs almost certainly have a sensitivity to carbohydrates - either born or created.

Whenever someone comes to me as a new client and tells me the sort of body he wants, I always take a look at his current form in order to relay a realistic opinion on what! think his chances are in becoming that body. Usually I don't have to ask many questions to determine general body type. However, I routinely do ask in case I have visually missed a piece of his history. I start by asking him to recount for me his body's status as a child, a teenager and the history of obesity in his family.

In looking back to examine what type your body has been over the course of your life, you must examine a few different periods of time. For men there are two very distinct times when fat cells can be accumulated - when you are between 4 and 7 years of age, and when you are in the throes of puberty. At these times the body is growing and changing, and a boy is capable of either benefiting or hindering his future tendency for a lean body. For women there are three times when fat cells can be accumulated during the period from age 4 to 7, at the inception of puberty and during pregnancy. This is not to say that you can't stretch the fat cells you already have, but your body is unlikely to get extremely fat without some help during the formative years in producing armies of adipose receptacles!

In addition to this search for truth, you must naturally take a look at what your parents provided in the way of a gene pool. Does obesity thrive in your family? Are your parents proportionate in height-to-weight ratio? By the way, this isn't a time to start throwing poison arrows at your parents if you were dealt a genetic hand that wasn't a "mesomorphic flush." The entire reason for examining your genetic background is to learn the individual needs of your own body type and structure, and have the ammunition to achieve them.

Now that you know the three main body types, I will confuse you some more. The majority of people are a combination of these types. This certainly makes deciphering what will work much more difficult; however, it usually augurs well. Needless to say, almost no one is a combination of an ectomorph and an endomorph because this would be a contradiction in terms. Usually those who are athletic, or aspire to be, are either an endo/meso or ecto/meso combination. This is what we will concern ourselves with for the time being.

Since I have already indicated that mesomorphs are God's gift to the world of sports, I won't focus too much on them. Almost any training program would work for these people, but concentrating on them wouldn't benefit the masses. If you are one, you won't have to do too much of a search into your body's past history to know it.

Different body types will follow a completely different set of rules and require a separate set of instructions for diet, training and cardio exercise. To find a prescription for your particular body type, I use both logic and experience in setting the parameters for success. An endomorph or an endo/meso won't respond very well to a diet of high carbohydrates as an ectomorph would. These people will surely continue to hold bodyfat more than ever before. An ectomorph doesn't respond as well to a lot of high-rep training as an endomorph does. Either slight or radical changes must be made to promote improvement. So here are the prescriptions that I allot to the different body types.

The Endomorph / Mesomorph

This is a person who obviously carries characteristics of both endomorph and mesomorph. Such a person is perfect for bodybuilding because he or she probably possesses the structure and carriage of the mesomorph and the tendency to retain muscle like the endomorph. Building and retaining muscle is not the problem. But because they are part mesomorph, they need to follow a program that will constantly hone a harder and leaner physique. Endo/mesos are big-time water-holders - particularly if they lean toward the side of the endomorph.

(As a side note, the endo/meso type usually sees great results from a drug cycle that is taken in very small amounts.., the less the better, if you are so inclined, but you are the perfect candidate for training naturally. Try it out)


Their training should consist of a lot of fairly heavy high-rep work. They need to do plenty of detail and finishing exercise while they are concentrating on the basics - for example, concluding a leg workout with lunges or cable extensions, or doing a great many heavy sets in order to actually somewhat overtrain. I can't say that overtraining is not possible for this type because it is. But overtraining won't occur nearly as soon as it does for an ectomorph, who needs to watch that at all times. The key to this kind of training is variety. Change exercises, use lots of supersets and giant sets, or vary the number of sets.


Diet is probably the most important consideration for a combination endomorph and mesomorph. Endomorphs in general - whether combo or straight endo - almost always have a tendency to be carbohydrate sensitive and must monitor their intake at all times. Because you are a water-holder, you hold onto your glycogen stores for dear life, so a "cycle diet" is the best kind. One day may be low in carbohydrates (naturally diuretic) and higher in protein, and the next day may be moderate in carbs and moderate in protein. This type usually responds well to fats in the diet to replace carbs used as energy, and on two days of zero carbs with a higher fat diet can get to their glycogen stores much more quickly. The point is that the endo/meso doesn't burn glycogen out of the muscle for a very longtime, and it would take anywhere from three to six days to deplete it all depending upon bodyweight. They can fill up in a day two. Remember, when glycogen is burned too "efficiently" (doesn't burn fast), it is hard to get the fat- loss process going. By "cycling" the diet, you can control fat-burning and muscle loss much more easily. Don't be afraid - if you are this type - to get your carbs down low. You have plenty of them stored away. Remember, you are a water-holder, and carbs can carry three times their weight in water. You'd be a good candidate for a desert island with no food for five days whereas an ectomorph would probably curl up and die!


This is another important area to focus your efforts of change on. An endo/meso can look very soft and not appear lean when too many sessions of cardio are done too often and for too long. You are best with the hard ride that lasts maybe 25 to 30 minutes, or two shorter sessions daily if you are running low on time. You are really better off dieting harder and doing less aerobics in order to get lean. Call me crazy, but it's true. And you thought that you were a two-long-sessions-per-day person! Also, you are much better suited to doing your resistance training in an aerobic manner. Don't worry - you won't lose muscle by doing this. An ectomorph would lose two to three pounds a day, but you won't. If you can work toward this goal, you can greatly cut down on those hour sessions on the bike that you have been doing. If that has been your practice, you must already know that at times you look as if you haven't ever ridden a bike in your life!

The Ectomorph / Mesomorph

This person typically carries the traits of an ectomorph and a mesomorph. He may have the structure of a mesomorph with a natural slope to the delt and sweep to the quad, but lack any meat to fill it all out. He often looks like a ripped skeleton with great potential. He can neither train nor eat like the majority of people because if he did, he would lose weight and overtrain himself into poor health and appearance. (Ectomorphs will often be found abusing steroids to retain muscular size. There are better ways to do that. This type must be careful with everything.)


Training for the ectomorph! mesomorph must be done with heavier weights and a minimal number of sets and reps. Intensity within each set is important, as is longer rest between sets to allow for recovery. Stick to the basics as much as possible and avoid continuous high-rep training. Because you stay lean year round, you must be careful to avoid injury. Joints usually like fat beside them while they are endeavoring to do heavy work. You need to take plenty of rest between workouts. Try the one-bodypart-a-day/five-days-per-week program to see how it works for you. With a week of recovery for each bodypart, you will surely not risk overtraining. That is important for you. Concentrate on form and locating a good mind/muscle connection. I find that this approach works for hard gainers. You must also get plenty of sleep to recover properly so that the tearing down you do during exercise will result in lean- tissue gains as opposed to lean-tissue loss.


Again, the ecto/meso body type is night to the endomorph's day. You need plenty of carbs in your diet to load up on glycogen. (Glycogen will take you through those heavy workouts.) These can be starchy curbs like rice and potatoes and should also include a lot of lean' greens. Because you metabolize food so quickly, you need to maximize the effect of the food that goes in. It doesn't tend to stay for a long time to transport nutrients. Because this type isn't a natural water-holder, you should save the low-carb diet for maybe a one-day depletion phase the last week before a contest. Any more than that, and you might come in far too stringy for any judge's taste. You should keep your fats low, however, unlike the endo/ meso who can sacrifice curb calories for fat that doubles as replacement energy. Protein can be moderate to high for you. What's important is curbs. If you do have the rare ecto carb sensitivity, that can be combated through upping your protein and making different choices in carbs. Select foods that are low in glycemic index. Keep your calories high and rely upon aerobics to bring the weight down. Unlike the endomorph structure, yours is geared to staying harder naturally. Your tissues don't particularly hold water unless you have a sensitivity to carbs or a particular food, so you can eat your calories and bum them through exercise.


This is the key to your subcutaneous fat loss. Unlike the endo/meso body type who has to diet harder and do less aerobics, you must attempt to get lean through cardio work rather than sacrificing calories. You will probably always maintain a lean, hard profile, so doing aerobics to cut bodyfat is a much better choice for your type. Try not to incorporate cardio into your training, however, as you need all the focus in the world on building muscle. Think of yourself as a purist. Training is for gaining muscle. Cardio is for fat loss. Diet is for building and losing. Your type does not require any creativity or fancy footwork. Just stick to the basics. When doing cardio sessions, go for longer stretches at a slower- burning pace. The frenetic "Toto rides to Oz" aren't for your body type. Slow and steady is the prescription. That isn't to say that one or two days per week you can't do a hard ride, but as a whole your aerobic sessions should be slow, longer in duration, and steady in pace.

I hope that these explanations have shed some light on why you aren't losing fat or why your body is not packing on lean tissue. Try not to pay attention to what 10 different people tell you. They are always bound to express what worked well for them, but it is crucial that you do what your body type requires. If you've read up to this point, you've obviously tried it your way and have run into snags. Now try the methods and prescriptions set forth here, based on body type and structure.

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