The terms endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph are often used to categorize body types. Endomorphs are shorter and broader at the hips; ectomorphs are long and lean, and mesomorphs land somewhere in between, with broad shoulders and tapered waists. Body types are largely genetically predetermined. Exercises that cater to your genetics will help you maximize your athletic potential within your body type. Trying to defy your genetics means choosing exercises that might not come naturally to you. But, making this choice may be a more effective strategy for modifying your body composition, if that is your goal.
The SAID Principle
The movie "When Harry Met Sally" contains the iconic line: "I'll have what she's having," spoken by a restaurant patron in response to a memorable display of satisfaction on the part of the character played by Meg Ryan. In exercise physiology, scientists and coaches recognize that bodies undergo specific adaptation to imposed demands. This phenomenon, known as the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) principle, should guide your decision making when selecting exercises for your body type. Look to athletes with the abilities or body types that you desire, and proceed with the mentality, "I'll have what he's having."
Exercising for Power
Having a broad, stable pelvis, a low center of gravity and shorter limbs is advantageous for athletes competing in explosive sports. That's why endomorphs excel in powerlifting and shot putting. Think NFL linemen. These athletes focus their training on power development by lifting heavy weights and engaging in short, intense muscular efforts. In their text "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning," authors Thomas Baechle and Roger Earle recommend performing just a few sets of each exercise with heavy weights that you can lift no more than six times per set. Focus on the hips, chest and back with squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Even ectomorphs will find that these types of exercises will help with power development.
Exercising for Endurance
If your goal is to improve your aerobic health, train like an endurance athlete. Elite marathon runners are prototypical ectomorphs. These athletes spend the bulk of their training time exercising at moderate intensity for sustained periods. Mesomorphs or endomorphs who want to maintain high fitness levels without adding too much muscular bulk should also choose aerobic modes of exercise. Whether you prefer swimming, jogging, cycling or some other aerobic activity, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. That's five sessions per week of at least 30 minutes for adult men.
Exercising for Muscle Development
Mesomorphs have the greatest natural potential for success in bodybuilding. But men of all body types are capable of developing increased muscle size and strength. The key to the success of bodybuilding programs is high training volume. That means lifting lots of weights lots of times. In a review article published in "The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," Brad Schoenfeld recommends performing multiple sets of six to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Rest periods between sets should be between 60 to 90 seconds. At least some of the sets in each exercise session should be performed to the point of muscular failure.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle
- American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise Guidelines
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training; Brad J. Schoenfeld
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