Train Right For Your Body Type

by Fitness Editor Paula Jager, CSCS Owner of Crossfit Jaguar April 15, 2013

female-body-types2Make no bones about it–to be your healthiest, fittest and looking and feeling your best you need to exercise–in some form or fashion.

What you are training for will to a large degree determine your exercise program.  Every program no matter the goal or sport must have an element of strength training and metabolic conditioning. We throw into the equation flexibility and mobility work to maintain joint health, range of motion and stress reduction.  These basic components present will make any person/athlete better prepared for their activities of daily living or sport.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Yes, until we throw individual genetics into the mix; we come in many shapes and sizes and a one size fits all exercise program doesn’t work.  Sport specificity aside with the goal of most people being general physical preparedness (fitness), genetics will favor heavily in the mix.

Just like with nutritional protocols, different people require varying amounts of calories and macronutrients and certain body types respond better to varying volumes and intensities of exercise.

3 basic body types:  Ectomorph, Endomorph and Mesomorph.

The ECTOMORPH–The Cardio Queen

We all know someone like them; they can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain a pound. Typically tall, thin and longer limbed ectos are often referred to as ‘hardgainers’.  They struggle to put weight on and have an even harder time putting on and maintaining muscle mass.  They’re not genetically predisposed to it.  In order to overcome nature, they must load up–at the gym and at in the kitchen.

The Plan

  • Go heavy with the weights using low reps.  Use free weights resting 2-5 min between sets and allow 48 hours between workouts for recovery.
  • Limit conditioning.  Ectos have high metabolisms so they need to limit cardio to infrequent, shorter duration sessions.
  • Diet:  Eat–a LOT and often.  If they don’t they will not gain muscle.  Quality foods with adequate protein making sure to add in enough of both the right types of carbohydrates and healthy fats to raise calorie consumption

The ENDOMORPH–The Hearty Girl

endomorphSturdy heavy-set types that have soft, stocky bodies and sluggish metabolisms; they may feel like they got the short straw. Gaining weight is not a problem but losing fat is challenging.  Endos must make a conscious, concerted effort to do the things their bodies should be doing for them.  They need to go hard, fast and often in the gym paying strict attention to nutrition.

The Plan

  • Rev up the engine.  Their slow metabolism needs a major boost.  For the weights lift in the 10-12 range with moderate weight and little rest between sets.  Throw in short, hard bursts of cardio to crank it into gear.
  • Superset.  That means exercises done back to back or circuit fashion with a reduced recovery time.  CrossFit is excellent for this.
  • Diet:  you need more healthy fats than any other body type and very LITTLE carbohydrates.  The higher fat will help to push out the unwanted body fat and the reduced carbohydrates will help you effectively go from a sugar burner to a fat burner.  Portions matter.

The MESOPORH–The  Natural Athlete

Mesos are lucky, they hit the genetic lotto. They add muscle with relative ease and gain or lose weight without much effort.  Typically they have longer torsos, shorter limbs and tend to be strong athletic types.  They are bursting with energy and tend to do well in explosive sports that require power and speed

The Plan

  • For the weights mesos should stick with compound movements that work multiple muscle groups such as deadlifts, chins, presses and squats.  These moves exploit their natural strength.
  • Crank it up.  They can also handle a higher volume of both weight and conditioning sessions.  They can hit the gym with 4 weight training sessions and about 3 met cons each week for max results.
  • Diet:  mesos should eat reasonable portions of protein, adequate healthy fat and carbs aren’t really an issue.  But stick to the right ones for health reasons.

While some people will find they are a ‘classic’ type many people are a combo of either ecto/meso or meso/endo.  We won’t find any ecto/endos.  While we can’t change the basic body type we were born with by implementing these training/nutrition tips you can optimize your body type and ultimately reach your fitness goals.

About the Author

Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.

Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results


Picture Credit


Comments (39)

  1. I have found that I am a mesomorph and can gain muscle pretty easily lifting heavy weights. I am in the process of losing the winter weight, which is going really slow. I eat plenty of protein and fats, but I seem to be having issues with my carb intake. I get fatigue really easily on a low carb diet. Though in the last few days I’ve cut almost all fruit, because before I was overindulging in fruit when fatigued and I think it made it worse and causing spikes.

    • Sarah,

      I am a mesomorph with my “winter coat” on too! I’m happy and healthy but plan to drop around 5-7 lb for the summer. Try adding in some “safe starches” like Julie suggested provided you are lifting heavy regularly and getting in some type of sprinting. My personal favorites are potatoes (sweet & white), plantains, yucca and almost any root or tuber. I like mine post wod and with dinner.

      Some people do well with some fruit and others need to cut back more. Just play with it and see how you feel. To lose the “winter weight” I find I need to cut back on my overall intake. In the winter I tend to eat quite a bit more because it’s cold and my clothes cover more.

  2. What are “3 met cons each week for max results” in the Mesomorph section? Is this interval training?

    Thank you so much for such an informative article!

  3. Thank you Paula & Sarah; this is helpful!
    Funny thing, when I was young I was an “ecto” type. But now in middle age, inspirte of my tall frame and long limbs, I find myself in the “endo” category. Still basically the same structurally, but metabolically and body composition now, definitely more endo! I guess bearing children, and the mom-at-home/home schooling lifestyle have done that to me ;-{ in spite of seasonal gardening and barn chores!

  4. This is super helpful. I found out I am a mesomorph and I am flattered by what you said about “hitting the genetic lotto”. I have always wanted to be leggier–but it ain’t gonna happen! However it is great to know I gain muscle easily and how to take care of the body I have been given. Thank you.
    Oh, by the way Sarah who commented above– you sound like you need to add some safe starches into your diet. (Those being sweet potato, white potato and white rice among others).

  5. kathy joy eggers April 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I have just started reading your blog. I do know lots about getting healthy. Ive come away from Croinic Fatique Immune Difficency and Fibromialga, do to improper life choice getting me unhealthy. Being sick and tired after all is just being unhealthy weather its genetic or self imposed.

    The issue now is getting my body volume down. Since haveing knee replacement (@ 59 I ‘ve been more mobile. Growing up walking was my exercize. Knee caps would slide out of place and cause me to fall in other activities. So no sports other than softball till a ge 35. So now going on 66 with streaching and walking indoors and housework my exerzice.

    I have that over weight endomorph. I want to go back to that in shape endomorph I was utill I hit forty! It wouldseem natural to go back to what did when young to stay in shape. But not that simple since the world has changed so much. ——
    I grew up poor, so not alot of money, once a month there was a treat. A package of cookies, 1/2 gal of ice cream or soda to share 6 ways. Mom was single with 5 childrenad. All 5 healthy and lean growing up.
    Played out doors no vidio games and tv usually sat morning cartoon. Mom had no car, we walked most places. Our big vacation was a day trip to the Como zoo. Mom us 5 and 3 of my cousins. Walking about 5 miles all in a row, what a sight and memory of good times !

    HELP!!! ? At my age soon to be 66, limited exercize options , move, eat natural and organics foods, good fats , specifide nutrition from medical testing, only whole grains and wheatberries, no chemicale additives in food no procesed food ,plenty of protien rest and water detox tea , great helpmate, beleif in God and casting cares upon him.Why cant,t I shed those pounds ?????? I just went through 3 weeks of paying close attention to losing and gained 2 more lbs. Now@ 66 have 66 lb to lose to get to 166! a healthy weight for me. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Kathy,

      Try Callanetics, it pulls your body in fast. They have a new dvd out, called The Evolution. Don’t get the cardio. Also goggle South African Callnetics. Can download on computer for little money. This is a very soothing, elegant kind of movement, but highly effective in getting rid of inches.

  6. What are “chins and presses”? Could you please expand on what these exercises are for the meso group?


    • A chin up is basically a “pull up” with an underhand grip. “Presses” refer to overhead pressing movements i.e. shoulder press (vertical) and bench presses (horizontal)

  7. Is Endomorphic the only body type that can be out of shape? It would seem that there are out of shape people in all three body types, your article might be more helpful if you had pics and descriptions of those people as well.

    • Any body type can be out of shape. I didn’t design the pictures but thought the same thing. Ectos usually will have that skinny fat appearance and mesos will look similar to an out of shape endo only less rounded and usually more muscular.

      • This makes total sense now, looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions I thought I was an Ecto but I am definitely overweight so thought I couldn’t be an ecto. But I have the skinny fat appearance. I hate buying clothes because I no longer fit in the regualr sizes but the large sizes fit all wrong, my arms are too thin and either the bottom of the shirt fits nicely but the top part is too big or the top is just right and the bottom is way too tight. With pants I’m all legs and they are too thin. The pants fit around my belly but are so baggy in the legs or they fit my legs and I can’t button them up.

        Also I am ALWAYS hungry and can eat meat like nobody else. But my downfall and why I’m sure I gain and keep weight is the large amount of sweets I eat. We plan to do GAPS which I was hoping would help with weightloss but now I also now how to exercise for my type since I’ve always done it wrong with heavy cardio.

  8. I eat a diet high in greens, berries, milk kefir, & drink a lot of lemon water (along with coconut oil, almonds, & other healthy fats) & I was wondering, do you mean very little of ALL carbs or just bad carbs for the endomorph?

    • I wouldn’t recommend “bad” carbs for any body type. The endo usually does best with a lower amount of “ALL” carbs or mainly those from non starchy vegetables and some fruit (berries are an excellent choice).

  9. Paula,
    Love your guest posts, especially this one. My question: though I’ve always been somewhat long and lean (even if not lean enough for me) I am having trouble at 50, after 4 kids, peri-menopausal, etc. etc. losing the last 10 or so pounds I really want to ditch. i am definitely not the stout curvy type, and I am not a natural athlete for sure. Does this make me still an ectomorph even though I can easily gain if not careful? In other words, I fit most of the ectomorph description, but not all, but don’t see a combo that works. is it more important to consider body shape or how you gain/lose weight? (sorry if this sounds jumbled…see the aforementioned 50, 4kids, perimenopausal comment!)

  10. Thank you. Many people are a combo of 2 body types; these are just generalizations for the somatotypes.

    As time marches on relentlessly and life happens our bodies change. We only have control of certain things; like making sure you are exercising regularly and appropriately for your body type, getting the right types and amounts of food and plenty of rest. No one knows your body better than yourself so you definitely need to experiment and pay attention to what works for you.
    Paula\’s last post: April 13, 2013

  11. I think I’m meso/endo now, although in my youth I was physically more meso (although I was never very sporty!!) I didn’t have a hard time gaining muscle and I didn’t really have a hard time losing weight! Unfortunately, I struggle more with the weight now I’m older and have three kids.

  12. I loved your article but am still trying to figure out where I fit in. I’m not tall and skinny, but I’m not overly predisposed to being heavy either. And I’m not muscular. I’m just–average and a combo of all of them. I loved this article though and passed it along to friends who do fit in your three categories. Thanks for the great advice and help!
    Traci\’s last post: Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Dressing

  13. Hi Paula

    This is a great article. I am an ectomorph, very tall and thin though skinny-fat for many years due to poor diet (ovo-lacto vegetarian with a sweet tooth to boot!). I am now approaching 50, have cleaned up my diet a lot and doing a mix of yoga and strength-training with the odd cardio. As my metabolism is definitely slowing with age, I’m thinking I should do more intermittent fasting, and try to limit myself to two high-quality meals a day most days. Will that work against gaining muscle?

  14. I am 56 (soon to be 57) and I have been doing weights at home 8, 10, 12 pound weights and have not lost any weight. I am a endomorph and I have gained weight all over. I do not go to a gym and I need help on what exercises to do and are there any DVDs that will do the trick for me to get the weight off.

  15. Hello Paula,

    At your convenience, are you able to provide an example of an interval workout? Would an example be: 30 minutes of treadmill sprints: 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds fast walk for 30 minutes?

    Thank you so much!

  16. Hi Paula,

    I am an ectomorph. What are the right types of carbohydrates to add into my diet so I can continue gaining weight?

  17. Ebony, my personal favorites are potatoes (sweet & white), plantains, yucca and almost any root or tuber. I do not like or do well with grains but if you tolerate white rice you could try adding that in also.

  18. I have a question about my body type. It seems to me to be a very bizarre type. I am mostly ecto except in my hip, thigh, and butt area. I seem to store nearly all of my fat there, which isn’t unusual for women, but what is unusual is that when I lose weight and try to get rid of this excess fat in these areas, I become EXTREMELY underweight looking in my upper body. As, in my thighs will still have enough fat that they rub together, but you can clearly see every bone in my ribs, across my chest, down my back. I’m not at all exaggerating; my friends used to call me “stegosaurus” because of the bones sticking out down my back. My limbs are very long and slender (except for the tops of my legs), and that just adds to the underweight appearance I get when trying to lose my thigh fat.

    I suppose I also have some meso to my build because I don’t really bulk up with muscle when weighlifting, but I do get very “cut up”. I easily get six-pack abs and very impressively defined lats. Even so, I will have nothing but bone and muscle outlines in my upper body, but jiggly, dimply, unflattering fat at the tops of my legs, thighs, butt. It’s as if I’m a Frankenstein project.

    Any advice on what to do about my frustratingly strange body composition?

  19. This is an excellent post. When you say endomorphs need low carb, how much are we talking? I’m eating a paleo type diet with dairy. I can see my overdoing it with fruit and root veges. Do you have a general range? Thanks so much.

  20. Hi Paula,

    This article has really sparked my interest in learning more about my body type. Can you please expand a bit on specific exercises for the ectomorph group? For the others you listed examples i.e. Crossfit (endomorph) and deadlifts, chins, presses (mesomorph). I’m a little clueless on ectomorph. Thanks!

  21. Pingback: Which body type are you? | CrossFit Magnitude

  22. I am an ectomorph and I cannot even imagine myself being endo or mesomorph. I can eat everything I want without getting fat. Abs also look great without dieting.

  23. Pingback: Pre and Post Workout Nutrition for Your Body Type » Nourishing News

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