July 29

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Male Body Types and Body Shapes | Men and Body Image


So you want to look the best you can? Men's bodies come in all shapes and sizes. To really hone in and maximise your results, it's useful to know which male body type category you fall into. Firstly, you need to be realistic and account for your underlying body type and your current body shape. If you do this you'll be able you to select the most appropriate training options and goals. As a result, we can create the best possible conditions for getting results.

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In this post I'll show guys how to take a realistic look at their bodies. Crucially, you'll be able to make the right training choices that will maximise training returns. Heed my advice and you will look and feel great.

What do we mean by body type?

Let's begin with body type. This is your genetically determined 'body'. That is to say, before its changed by fitness training or weight gain, for example.

Think back to your adolescence and how you looked.

If you were tall, well-muscled, lean with a narrow waist then chances are you're what's known as a mesomorph.

If you were rounder, heavier but well-muscled with a large frame then you're an endomorph.

Leaner, less muscled, lighter and wiry, then you're an ectomorph.

It's true that most men will be amalgamations of these three body types. For example, you may be an 'ecto-mesomorph', possessing dominant ectomorphy, but with mesomorphic traits.

Body type analysis provides a highly valuable starting point for identifying the best, results producing training for you. More about body analysis later too.

Your body type will influence how you shape up

Basically, mesomorphs and endomorphs respond well to weight training programmes designed to build muscle.

Ectomorphs will have more difficulty achieving the same goal. They have naturally fast metabolisms and less initial muscle mass. However, they'll probably have great CV potential, particularly for running.

Endomorphs and mesomorphs are also likely to have slower metabolisms and may gain weight more easily, in and much more likely out of training.

Understanding your body type will facilitate and inform your training. It will enable you to discover the best workouts for you.

Note: it is possible to train 'against' your body type. For example, a male with an ectomorphic body type can indeed build muscle. However, much more effort will be required to do so, compared to an endomorph. The gains made may also be  lost more rapidly if a relevant workout programme is not maintained.

Male body type versus body shape

Body shape is not the same as body type.

Your body shape is determined by the training you do (or don't do). Similarly, what and how much you eat as well as your general lifestyle play important roles.

You can change your body shape through diet and workouts but your underlying body type remains the same.

Men and body image

A UK survey* revealed that 50 per cent of British men (that's around 10 million) describe themselves as 'fat' and want to shed a few pounds. To this should be added the fact that 1 in 6 UK guys are obese.

Like women, men can be embarrassed to show their bodies to their wives, girlfriends or partners; 25% of the guys in the survey felt self-conscious naked in front of their partner.

Furthermore, 1 in 4 admitted that they were uncomfortable undressing in gym changing rooms because they believed they didn't shape up. And alarmingly one in 10 also said they would consider having cosmetic surgery to get rid of their 'love-handles'.

The emphasis on the 'athletic/action hero physique' in the media has unsurprisingly had a huge effect on men. Many simply don't feel good enough.

In fact the survey found that a staggering 72 per cent believed that ads and magazine covers featuring chiseled guys made them feel insecure about their bodies.

*Survey commissioned by body composition equipment manufacturers Tanita

What do you need to do if you want to change the way you look?

Set realistic goals

If you've not trained for 10 years and are overweight then shaping up in two months is unreasonable.

Here's what you need to do to make your workouts as effective as possible:

Analyse your body type (see table below)

  • Make your training goals reflective of your body type (and current shape) and crucially, SMART. Read more about setting SMART goals here
  • Get yourself a personal trainer who understands your needs and who can devise a specific training (and nutrition) programme for your body type. Find one that has a similar body to yours - they should know how to train appropriately
  • Persevere - your training adaptation will not come overnight. The journey will be more long haul that short hop. That being said, reaching the destination will make it well worth it

Male body types and their advantages and disadvantages for sport and fitness

Mesomorphs
Body Characteristics
  • Usually tall with broad shoulders, long limbs and narrow-waists
  • 'V' shaped torso
  • Upright posture
  • Well muscled with good definition.
  • Look 'fit and athletic'
  • Have fairly fast metabolism
  • Advantages for sports & fitness
  • Mesomorphs respond well to CV and resistance training, due to their adaptable and responsive physiology
  • They can sustain low body fat levels
  • Both isolation (single muscle) and compound (multiple muscle group) weights exercises can be used to achieve positive training adaptation
  • Dependent on fitness/sports needs can find it relatively easy to gain or lose weight
  • Can be freer with their food choices — but this does not equate to unhealthy eating
  • Potential Disadvantages
  • Mesomorphic males can become over-trained as their body type is quite robust when it comes to working out. This means they can withstand heavy training loads. Their training needs to a balanced and allow for easy, medium and heavy workout periods
  • They can put weight on quickly when they stop training
  • Their workouts need to be progressive and constantly changing to prevent stagnation. This results from their ability to respond more quickly than the other two body types to training
  • Ectomorphs
    Body Characteristics
  • Small muscles, low body fat and wiry, appearance
  • Medium to tall height
  • Advantages for sports & fitness
  • Fast metabolism — hence it is crucial to consume more healthy calories than those that are expended, if attempting to increase muscle mass and maintain training readiness
  • Light frame makes them suited to aerobic activity, particularly running.
  • Their smaller body surface also helps them avoid overheating, keeping them cool and therefore expending less energy
  • Potential Disadvantages
  • Ectomorphs can achieve very low body fat levels, which can be detrimental to health (below 6%)
  • Ectomorphs can find it difficult to build muscle - if participating in a sport that requires this or for aesthetic reasons (but it can be achieved, with hard work)
  • Being more prone to injury (due to their less robust physique), ectomorphs need to follow a rigorous training programme that strengthens potential 'weak' areas, for example, their knees and ankles, if they run. Suitable exercises would include, leg extensions and calf raises
  • Endomorphs

    Body Characteristics
  • Have large frames, with a 'strong' appearance
  • Their 'size' can come with a high body fat percentage — most of it concentrated around the stomach giving them that 'apple' shape
  • Medium to tall
  • Fairly slow metabolism
  • Advantages for sports & fitness
  • Size benefits sports such as rugby and shot putting, where 'bulk' is useful as long as it can be moved dynamically
  • Often have large lung capacities making then suited to, for example, indoor and outdoor rowing
  • Male endomorphic body types can increase muscle mass much more easily than ectomorphs
  • Potential Disadvantages
  • Their weight can make it difficult for them to perform sustained aerobic activity, such as running, due to the impact forces involved and the stress this can place on their joints
  • Can gain weight easily and lose condition quickly if training is ceased and calorie control not followed
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    Paul Stokes

    About the author

    Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs. He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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