How to Train for Your Body Shape

Genetics play a huge part in how the body responds to exercise.

The average gym contains people of all shapes and sizes, and even those deemed 'very fit' will have varying body shapes and response patterns to exercise in the way they develop muscle, burn fat and improve their cardio respiratory fitness.

However, simply doing the same training as someone whose body you admire and want for yourself may not work, as attaining your goal often requires you to train specifically for your body type.

Body shapes typically fall into one of three categories ...

  • Mesomorph
  • Ectomorph
  • Endomorph

... although, in reality, most people will share characteristics from all three categories, it's likely you'll identify with one category more than another. Each category has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of health and fitness, but your understanding of these is the key to your success.

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The athletic physique for a mesomorph includes broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips, good muscular definition, low body fat, and a reasonably fast metabolism. Mesomorph body types respond well to most types of training, especially resistance and body shaping exercises, and sustain low levels of body fat. The disadvantages for mesomorphs are they can often become overtrained, so they should be mindful of incorporating rest days and lighter training sessions into a training program. In addition, stagnation can easily occur if they're not challenged with varying exercise routines, and they can put on weight quickly when training stops.

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The athletic physique for an ectomorph includes narrow shoulders and hips, long and lean legs and arms, small bone structure and very little body fat. Ectomorph body types find it easy to lose weight and keep it off. They respond well to cardio respiratory training, ideally suited to this type of training because of their light frames and low body weight. However, ectomorphs find it difficult to put on muscle and create shapely physiques, are prone to injury because of fragile frames, and risk unhealthily low body fat levels.

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The athletic physique for an endomorph includes wide hips and narrow shoulders that create a pear shape. They have less muscle definition, uneven fat distribution (mostly accumulating in upper arms, buttocks and thighs), wide bone structure and a slower metabolism than the other body types. Weight gain is easy and fat loss difficult if you are in this category, and muscle definition tends to be hidden by fat.

Endomorph body types respond well to power and strength training due to natural strength. If muscle is trained and developed, metabolic rate and fat burning can increase effectively. The disadvantages for endomorphs are that they can look bulky with too much weight training and can suffer joint problems if carrying too much body weight. They also can find it more difficult to burn fat.

Having now decided with which type you most closely align, the question is how should you approach exercise? In capitalising on strengths and attempting to tackle potential weaknesses, an ideal weekly training plan for each category should look like this:


  • 45mins cardio workout (jog, cycle, cross-trainer) at a continuous pace, effort level around 6-7 out of 10
  • Circuit training class
  • Yoga class
  • Total body weight training session, 1-2 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each exercise, moderate weight


  • Weight training, chest shoulders and triceps, 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each exercise, heavy weight
  • Weight training, back and biceps, 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each exercise, heavy weight
  • Weight training, legs and abdominals, 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each exercise, heavy weight
  • High intensity interval training, either a Tabata session or Les Mills Grit class


  • 30-45mins cycling, effort level 7-8 out of 10
  • 30-45mins power-walking, effort level 7-8 out of 10
  • 30-45mins swimming, effort level 7-8 out of 10
  • Total body weight training session, 2-3 sets of 20-25 repetitions on each exercise, light weight

Of course, genetics determine that some people are naturally leaner and more responsive to exercise than others. With this in mind, you need to be realistic with your goal of ideal body and training targets. However, the good news is that with the correct training for your body type, you can really push the boundaries of your genetic predisposition and be the best you can be.

Better Body Workouts for Women specifically addresses exercising for your body type, together with providing a training system tailored to the unique needs and goals of women. The book offers routines that can be performed both at home and in the gym and is packed with full-colour photographs of workouts for fat loss, strength, endurance, agility and power.

Readers will also be able to assess their fitness levels and develop personalised routines that accommodate pregnancy, menstruation and osteoporosis. Users will be able to track their progress with a training log and learn how to balance workouts with a nutrition programme that explains how to eat well, set goals and overcome barriers.

Written by award-winning international fitness presenter Dean Hodgkin and former GB athlete, now TV presenter, Caroline Pearce, this is serious advice for women who are serious about wanting to shape up. Available now at Amazon.

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