In 1940, William H. Sheldon, an American psychologist, developed a way to classify the human body into three broad categories, and published his findings in a book called The Varieties of Human Physique: An Introduction to Constitutional Psychology.
More than 70 years later, his findings are still helping fitness experts, nutritionists and physical trainers understand natural body types, and the diet and exercise plans that work best for an individual. Understanding body type is crucial for anyone looking to get the best results from a fitness plan, and getting the body shape they desire. We decided to quiz our experts Sumaya Dalmia, who runs Crème—Beauty & Body Works, a fitness studio, in Delhi; Mumbai-based Vishakha Shivdasani, a doctor who specializing in nutrition and also writes the Food Files column for Mint; and Bhuvaneshwari Shankar, chief dietitian, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, on which male body types are suited to be lean and others that beef up easily.
Body-conscious: There are at least three distinct male body types—from the lean ‘hard gainers’ and the naturally athletic to the plump and pear-shaped
In general, there are three basic types of male bodies: ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs. Most men are a combination of these body types. While experts agree that with the right diet and training you can achieve the body you want, it’s still better to work with your natural body shape.
To build muscle, you need to first consider what your natural body shape is. Don’t just take your weight into consideration. You also need to know your height to calculate how healthy (or unhealthy) you are. A body-mass index, or BMI, calculator (available easily on the Internet) is a worthy tool to begin with. A BMI between 19 and 25 falls in the healthy weight range for adults. But it isn’t the only indicator of healthy weight. For greater accuracy, you can look for a body composition analyser found in certain gyms and at the nutritionist’s. This machine will analyse the exact percentage of fat, water and muscle, etc., so you can come up with a realistic plan. These days, state-of-the-art health clubs ascertain the weight composition through what’s described as metabolic citation. This method is slightly tedious; it involves a long questionnaire that takes into account your blood group, lifestyle, genetics and other factors that are holistic in nature to find out exactly what you should be doing to reach your ideal body image.
A thumb rule, for all body types, and for those who are in training: Consume 1-1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Just to give an example, 100g of chicken breast will have 60g of protein, all of which will not be broken down. If you are training, then you must have more of grade 1 protein, which is lean meat, egg white, whey protein or soya.
Ectomorphs are lean and lanky, with small shoulders and a high metabolic rate, and may therefore find it hard to put on weight. Since such men are also naturally skinny, they are included in the slow developers category and are called the classic “hard gainers”. For a well-proportioned body, their workouts should be short and intense, concentrating on the larger muscle groups. Ectomorphs need a high-calorie diet, with a higher percentage of carbohydrates and some amount of protein. What usually works best is 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat.
Workout plan: Since ectomorphs have a high metabolic rate, they need a higher calorific intake as well (depending on an individual’s body weight and age). In workouts, follow a split format, addressing two body parts a day, focusing on big muscle groups such as the upper back muscles or thigh muscles. Do three exercises per body part, with 6-12 repetitions, three sets a week. Definitely look into supplements, also look at pre- and post-workout snacks. This is possibly the only body type that will also benefit from a late-night snack. Once they put on the bulk, they can easily cut it, which is why cardio must be only 15% of the entire exercise schedule.
Mesomorphs have a large bone structure, large muscles and a naturally athletic physique. They find it quite easy to gain and lose weight. They are naturally strong, which means they build muscle easily. The mesomorph body type responds the best to weight training. The gains are usually seen very quickly, especially for beginners. The downside is that they gain fat more easily than ectomorphs, so they must watch their calorie intake. Usually a combination of weight training and cardio works best. Mesomorphs must consume higher protein with healthy fats like flaxseed oil and olive oil, along with a lower quantity of healthy, slower-absorbing carbohydrates such as wholewheat, brown rice, yam and potatoes to keep insulin levels steady.
Workout plan: Mesomorphs can pick up a photo and say this is how I want to look. They should be careful about eating too much sugar and fat. Interval and/or circuit workouts that combine short intense bursts of workouts attacking more than one body part work well for mesomorphs. Look for compound movements in your workouts, like a push-up that works on the entire body rather than a bicep curl that works on just one part of the body. Anywhere between 12-18 repetitions is good and training must initially be more about cutting fat than gaining muscle. For parts that are a little underdeveloped, you may want to do a muscle-building cycle with the help of your trainer.
Endomorphs tend to be plump, pear-shaped, with wider hips than shoulders. This body type can gain weight easily. An endomorph should have less carbohydrates and more proteins, and should do both cardio and weight training. They should have no problem gaining muscle mass, provided they have enough protein in their diet. An endomorph needs to lose more fat while gaining muscle. He should do a bigger number of sets, both compound and isolation exercises (that concentrate on a single body part), with lots of repetitions that you can decide on with your trainer. They don’t need supplements if they get adequate protein in their food.
Workout plan: Endomorphs need to follow proper cycles for fat loss, muscle gain and cutting up (get muscle definition). Forty per cent of their training should be cardio-oriented. They need to watch their food, cut down on fat, and include low GI (glycaemic index) carbohydrates and adequate protein. A general rule for endomorphs would be two-three days of cardio a week, 40-60 minutes each time. This can be combined with three days of weight training to get a lean look. Twelve to 15 repetitions are recommended for each exercise, but they must trim out the fat before adding muscle. If an endomorph wants to be big and beefy, the cardio goes down and the focus must be on building one body part at a time, reducing repetitions to between six and 12 but with heavier weights.
Do keep in mind, however, that the values given are generic, just to get you started. Consult your nutritionist or fitness expert for the exercises and diet required for you to build your body type.
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