We are all born with a body type, some naturally physically stronger than others. However, with the right exercise and nutrition, we can become stronger and fitter, change our type and fine-tune our strengths for specific sports and physical activities.
Your body type will have a direct influence on your sporting performance. For example, if you are a gymnast or Tour de France cyclist, being lightweight is a priority. However, if you take part in contact sports or weightlifting, you need to be heavy enough to hold your ground in the scrum or have the muscle power and strength to lift weights.
American psychologist W.H Sheldon developed a system in the 1940s that recognized three body types: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. Most people share many, but not all, of the features of one of these body types.
People with this body shape carry the most body mass of all three types. They are pear-shaped and often overweight. Endomorphs are likely to have most sedentary lifestyles of all of the body types. They are not good at endurance activities, but if they have strong enough muscles, they can lift weights and use their own weight to provide power. Consequently, disciplines such as javelin and hammer throwing naturally suit them. People of this body type have a high Body Mass Index (BMI) and are at a greater risk of poor health than any other body type.
The most athletic and muscular-looking of the three body types, mesomorphs find it easy to compete in most sports and are able to build lean muscle, lose and gain weight fast, and maintain low body fat. They are stronger and fitter than other body types and will be good at adapting their body to cardiovascular and strength-training exercise. Mesomorphs area at less risk of health problems than any other body type. Mesomorphs can train harder than any other body type but need to watch their diet to make sure they are getting the correct fuel for their activity; they can get away with eating unhealthy food much of the time, but it wont provide them with the fuel for activity or aid their recovery exercise.
These are the most fragile of the body types. They are thin in appearance and struggle to gain weight. Their low level of body fat makes them more susceptible to health problems. However, they are the best body type for endurance activities such as running marathons or cycling long distances. With the correct training, ectomorphs can have very high power-to-weight ratios, making them fast over long distances and good at climbing hills, for example.
Tips: Some people are more flexible than others, but this degree of flexibility requires more than just genetics.
Tips: Try a regime to change your body shape and, as a result, you will be happier with the way you look.
Making the changes
You may be an endomorph now but this doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. The right exercise and food will change your body shape and decrease the risk of health problems. If you want to have a more athletic figure, you will need to follow a plan that involves burning as many calories as possible, while eating healthily, using the glycaemic index as a guideline in order to balance your blood sugar levels and prevent you from depositing fat. You will need to exercise three to four times a week, incorporating: cardiovascular training to burn calories and build a better and more efficient aerobic system (which in turn will allow you to burn yet more calories); and resistance training to build muscle and increase your metabolism.
Note: Ectomorphs are naturally thin and have a low level of body fat. They often find it hard to gain weight.
Endomorph to Mesomorph
If you are an endomorph, the chances are that you constantly struggle to motivate yourself to eat healthily and exercise. To make the necessary changes, you will need to alter your habits. Focus on reducing your calorie intake and increasing cardiovascular fitness and resistance training to increase your metabolism and lose weight. As you feel the benefits and increase your energy levels, you should see results more quickly, which will in turn, reinforce your motivation.
Ectomorph to Mesomorph
You will need to consume more calories to feed your muscles and help them grow. At the same time you need to reduce your cardiovascular training time and focus more on resistance training, which will help you to build muscle.
Mesomorph to Endomorph
This is the easiest transformation and one that, unfortunately, usually happens quite by accident. People who were athletic in their youth but have less time for exercise as they grow older, and perhaps have a sedentary job, are likely to change body type in this way. The bottom line is that if you consume more calories than you expend, then an endomorph you will become.
Mesomorph to Ectomorph
If you have bulky muscles, you may want to change shape, but this is hard to do. It requires you to lose muscle, not just fat. You can try to lose muscle by reducing your calorie intake so that you have to burn up muscle and use it as an energy source. Add long-distance endurance running or cycling, but avoid resistance training, as this will build muscle.
Tips: Expect changes to your body shape to take time. Don’t be discouraged by this. Keep the end goal in sight and stay motivated. If your body type changes too quickly, you will not be able to sustain the transformation.