Are you overwhelmed by the number of different training programs, bodybuilding supplements, nutrition plans and additional advice that is out there?
Have you tried and failed to gain any muscle whatsoever after trying these plans? Do you feel that some of the advice is actually ‘dead rubber’ and a waste of time? Well, you are not alone on these training/nutrition issues but don’t throw the towel in, as we may have the missing links for you.
The missing key piece of the jigsaw to you gaining some serious muscle is that you are training, eating and supplementing for the wrong body type. Yes, that is right – knowing your body type is absolutely vital for you to have any success in the gym.
Now let’s explain how your body type plays a vital role in the process of packing on some serious muscle mass.
What Are The 3 Main Body Types?
The three main basic body types or somatotypes were introduced by William Sheldon in the 1940s. These are as follows:
Not every human being fits exactly into one of these categories and they will have some characteristics of each of the body shapes. However, there will be a category that everybody has predominately more characteristics related to them than the others.
So you do want to know what the three body shapes really are and which one applies to you? The next step is to explain in detail each somatotype along with its own strengths and weaknesses.
It is then up to you to use this ‘pocket coach style’ information and apply it to your training regime.
The Ectomorph Body Type
The ectomorph is typically the skinny guy (often called hard gainer) who is able to eat a ton of junk food without gaining any fat.
They usually have low body fat and find it incredibly difficult to gain muscle.
They have the following characteristics:
- Narrow shoulders and hips with thin arms and legs
- A high forehead with a receding chin
- A flat chest
- A low % body fat along with a low lean muscle mass
- They find it difficult to put on bodyweight and muscle
- They have a very fast metabolism
Training advice for ectomorphs
- Use a split training model and target 1-2 body parts each session
- Train each body part once per week
- Use heavy compound movements such as deadlifts, presses and squats etc.
- Work at an intensity of around 85% 1RM
- Avoid isolated exercise such as curls, flies and extensions etc.
- Use a rep range of 6-8 and focus on 6-8 sets per muscle group
- Have at least 3 minutes rest after each set
- Ensure that you have at 2 proper rest days per week
- Keep cardio to a minimum and use brisk walking intensity for a maximum of 20 minutes-twice a week
Nutritional advice for ectomorphs
- Eat 6-8 small meals per day and eat every 2 hours if possible
- Boost your protein intake to 1.2-1.5g per pound of bodyweight
- In terms of the macros ratios consumed 30% should be from protein, 20% from healthy fats and 30% from carbs
- In terms of proteins eat foods such as lean grass-fed beef and oily fish.
- Have a casein protein shake 45 minutes before you go to bed and whey protein 45 minutes before you wake up- as this will stop your muscles from cannibalizing itself
- Increase the amount of slower burning carbs such as brown rice, rolled oats and whole grain foods
- Don’t fill your stomach with low dense calorie foods as a salad but concentrate on eating higher calorie foods that you won’t feel full on when training
The mesomorph is the naturally athletic guy we all hated in school. He was brilliant at all the sports and had a six pack at 16.
When you look at most fitness models they are mesomorphs and they are lucky enough to be able to gain muscle and lose body fat seemingly at will.
Basically, these are the lucky guys, so if you are one of them I am jealous.
Mesomorphs share the following characteristics:
- Triangular shaped torso with wide shoulders and narrow hips
- Mesomorphs have a high lean body mass with a low % fat mass
- They are muscular with a square jawline
- Mesomorphs have well-defined muscles
- They are strong and gain muscle a lot quicker than ectomorphs
- They gain fat quicker than ectomorphs
Training advice for mesomorphs
- Use a combination of heavy compound exercises and isolated exercises
- Use the heavyweight compound movements before the isolated movements in your regime
- A large variety of training models should be used e.g. split training, pyramid training etc. to stimulate muscle growth
- Vary the training intensities of the exercise, sets, rep tempos, weights used and rest intervals
- Mix up your light, moderate and heavy training days
- Ensure that you have adequate rest days and if you feel that the muscle group trained is not fully recovered then don’t train it. This strategy can help to prevent overtraining
- Mix in 2-3 cardio HIIT sessions per week as this will keep you lean and shredded
Nutritional advice for mesomorphs
- Keep your protein intake to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight
- Eat protein in the form of lean red and white meats along with oily fish
- 15% of your macros should be derived from healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil
- 60% of your macros should come from carbs such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole grains
- Supplement with both whey and casein proteins to aid muscle growth and recovery
The endomorph is the opposite of the ectomorph and is typically the shorter and more stocky looking guy, although not always as an endomorph can also be tall and stocky too.
Those classed as an endomorph will find gaining muscle easy but are also prone to gaining fat too.
Many have tried diets and training plans with limited success.
They have the following characteristics:
- Pear-shaped with wide hips and shoulders combined with a round face
- A higher % body fat combined with a lower lean body mass
- Poor muscle definition due to high levels of adipose tissue
- Often fatigue easily
- They have an insatiable appetite and tend to overeat
- They find it difficult to lose body weight
Training advice for endomorphs
- Perform a higher frequency of workouts per week along with some aerobic conditioning
- Try to use whole body workouts to recruit more muscle fibres and this strategy will boost your metabolism
- In terms of resistance training using a higher range of between 10-15, with a moderate weight and minimal rest in between sets
- Try to use 8 sets per body part and try to leave 48 hours between training each body part
- Use low impact equipment such as the stair climber or exercise bike at a high intensity at least 3 times per week
Nutritional advice for endomorphs
- Keep fat intake low
- Reduce the total number of calories to around 1600 per day
- Increase your protein intake to around 30% and eat foods such as lean white meats and fish
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals as this stop the dips in your blood sugars
- Don’t eat late at night
- Eliminate processed and sugary junks
- Add some colour to your plate and include salads and green vegetables
- Cut out the soft fizzy drinks and alcohol
Calories In Versus Calories Out
Whilst Ectomorphs will probably be looking to gain weight, and Mesomorphs can pick and choose either depending on their goals, a Mesomorph will have two goals; build muscle, and lose fat.
Endomorphs will not need to spend their time Bulking or Cutting, they have already bulked, so can lose fat whilst increasing muscle along the way.
The first step you need to take when looking to build muscle or burn fat is to establish what your current daily calories are.
To do this you will need to work out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), this can be done using a formula known as the Mifflin M.D. St Jeor formula  which you can see here:
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) +5 = Resting Energy Expenditure (REE)
Using this will work out what your energy expenditure would be whilst lying down and not doing anything.
To work out what your calories would be after a normal day we will have to establish how active you are.
Now Endomorphs tend to have a low metabolism, due to having low NEAT levels. NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and it essentially means all of the calories burned performing movements that are not exercise related. For example, walking, running for a bus, washing the dishes, even fidgeting.
An Endomorph will typically have a lower NEAT than an Ectomorph or Mesomorph which means that they burn fewer calories during the day, which means that they gain weight. And the more weight you gain the lower your NEAT levels go.
So whilst Ectomorphs would have an active lifestyle, and Mesomorphs would have similar. Endomorphs would have a sedentary activity level, so this means that we take our REE and multiply it by 1.2 (which is sedentary) to get our TDEE.
Once we have our TDEE we will know how many calories our Endomorph is burning throughout the day, for instance, 2,500.
Now as we are looking to create a calorie deficit we will need to consume less than 2,500 calories to do this.
So we take the 2,500 calories and divide it by 10-20% (we'll say 10% for this example) which gives us 250 calories. We minus that from 2,500 to give us a calorie target of 2,250. This is the new target for our Endomorph to follow.
Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates
The macronutrient requirements for natural bodybuilding were looked into by Helms, Aragon & Fitschen (2013) . They found that the following ratios were optimal:
- Protein = 2.3-3.1g per kg of lean body mass
- Fat = 15-30% of total calories
- Carbohydrates = remaining calories
Endomorphs tend to struggle with carbohydrates more than Ectomorphs and Mesomorphs so we are going to go for upper protein and fat targets, and then use the rest for carbohydrates.
So we will consume 3.1 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass (body weight minus total body fat). Then we will consume 30% of our calories from fat, leaving the rest for carbohydrates.
Measure your progress, and if you aren't succeeding then lower your calories slightly, do this by lowering your carb intake slightly. If you are losing 0.5kg per week then you are on target.
Endomorphs would look to keep the carbohydrate levels rather lower than the others, and Ectomorphs would conversely look to keep them higher. Mesomorphs are strictly in the middle so could afford to play around with these ratios a little more.
They could probably keep protein to 2.5 grams per kg of lean body mass (weight minus body fat), dietary fat could afford to be higher, up to 30% of the diet. Whilst carbohydrate would make up the rest of the calories.
Supplements To Pick
Whey protein is an obvious choice, as it is high in protein and easy to consume. Creatine would be an excellent choice as well. Caffeine for pre-workout and omega-3s and multivitamins would also be beneficial.
There are products out there that promote themselves as mass gainers, but so long as your diet is in check these products are unnecessary.
Mass Gainers are mostly whey protein mixed with a simple carbohydrate such as maltodextrin. If you are really struggling to hit your calories then this might be an idea, but otherwise healthy food choices will always trump mass gaining powders for nutrition.
Whatever body type you are there are some things we all must do. Train hard and get adequate nutrition and rest and you will soon start seeing the rewards.