Match Your Workouts to Your Body Type

Everyone has a different natural build that responds to exercise and diet in different ways. Endomorphs, or people with a stockier build, often respond well to lifting while ectomorphs - or those with a leaner build - make great long-distance runners. Those with a naturally athletic build, or mesomorphs, are lucky enough to do basically whatever they want.

Acknowledging that your body may be predisposed to perform better at a particular task is important when establishing appropriate workout routines. These natural traits are by no means considered limitations, but bringing them into consideration will help you on your journey to better fitness.

Whether you’re male or female, training to suit your body type carries many benefits. When hitting the gym, your focus should be on planning for your fitness goals - not for the person training next to you. Granted, you will reap some benefits by copying others and encouraging yourself to work hard, but in order to really see results your workout should be catered to your personal needs.

So let’s look at the ideal workouts for different body types for both men and women.

For men

The three main body types for men are:

  • Ectomorph,
  • Endomorph, and
  • Mesomorph.

Let’s examine each of these body types in detail.


People with an ectomorph body type:

  • Eat just about anything but still find it hard to gain weight,
  • Have low body fat,
  • Have a small skeletal frame,
  • Have small joints and long limbs,
  • Have fast metabolism, and
  • Find it challenging to gain muscle.

Ectomorphs need to focus their efforts on heavy, compound-based workouts that don't’ necessarily focus on a primary target. To get great results, you need to really overload to stimulate muscle fibres and growth, which means you’ll need to take longer rest periods of up to 3 minutes. Aim for a 6-10 rep range when working out.

Exercises ideal for ectomorphs include:

  • Deadlifts,
  • Leg press.
  • Bent over rows,
  • Dips,
  • Bench press,
  • Shoulder press, and

These exercises should be balanced with a diet that includes plenty of carbohydrates, and high amounts of protein and healthy fats. If you find that you don’t have the energy to perform such heavy lifting, consider taking the supplement creatine.


People with an endomorph body type tend to:

  • Gain weight easily,
  • Have a typically soft body, with more bodyweight stored,
  • Have wider and bigger joints,
  • Have shorter limbs,
  • Have a slow metabolism, and
  • Find it hard to get weight off.

Endomorphs require higher levels of cardiovascular exercise teamed with full body, compound heavy, high frequency resistance training. Your best bet is to focus on the large muscle groups, e.g. back and legs, to stimulate muscle while burning calories. Aim for 15-20 reps with rest periods of around 45 seconds. Cardio should be performed on most days for at least 30 minutes.

If you’re looking to lose weight and tone, the good news is that workouts don’t have to be complicated. Try a variety of fast circuits that work every muscle in the body over a few weeks. An example of a week-long endomorph workout is:

Day 1: Chest/triceps

Day 2: Back/biceps

Day 3: Cardio

Day 4: Shoulders/calves/abs

Day 5: Quads/hams/glutes

Day 6: Cardio

Day 7: Rest

You’ll also need to be strict with your calorie intake, being sure to expend more calories than you consume.


People with a mesomorph body type usually:

  • Gain muscle and lose weight easily,
  • Have a naturally broad set,
  • Have wider joints,
  • Have a long, wide stomach, and
  • Are naturally strong.

Mesomorphs are suited to classic muscle building workouts and require just 1-2 cardio workouts a week. Aim to work two groups of muscles for each workout, and be creative - you want to switch the order of your exercises and the type of exercises whenever possible. You may even want to train with higher reps and lighter weights sometimes. Varied stimulation is the key here, and overtraining won’t get you anywhere.

Try to avoid training split mistakes such as:

  • Working the chest the day after triceps or vice versa,
  • Training the back the day after biceps, or
  • Training squats and deadlifts on back to back days.

Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps with a 60-90 second rest period.

Combine this routine with a diet high in protein, keeping meals small yet regular, and consume carbs both pre- and post-workout. Whey protein is recommended here to aid with recovery.

For women

The main body types for women are the same as men, but women tend to differ in shape more than men do. Determining the right workout as a woman takes more than just figuring out your body type, it also means working with your shape.

Let’s look through the most common shapes for women’s bodies:


Pear shaped women are:

  • Heavier on the bottom than the top,
  • Carry excess weight in their hips, thighs, and bottom,
  • Notice weight gain sticks to the bottom half first, and
  • Have a body similar to celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.

Pear shapes require lower-body-focused power moves, total body strength training, and endurance cardio. However you may also want to try to create a stronger, more defined upper body to balance out your shape. Aim to combine cardio and strength in the same circuit, which will help to burn calories and develop metabolically active lean muscle mass at the same time.


Apple shaped women are:

  • Rounder in the middle,
  • Have a thicker waist in comparison with hips and shoulders, and
  • Have a body similar to celebrities Drew Barrymore and Oprah Winfrey.

Apple shapes need a mix of fat-blasting cardio and waist-defining strength moves to deliver a blow to stubborn belly fat from both directions. The idea is to build strong abdominal muscles below the fat, while using cardio to remove the fat.


Girls with boyish body shapes:

  • Have a straight frame with few curves,
  • Have narrow hips,
  • Have a small bust, and
  • Have a body similar to celebrities Meg Ryan and Gwyneth Paltrow.

If you’re wanting to add curves and shape to your boyish frame, you’ll need to use a combination of cardio and muscle-building exercises. Many people with a boyish frame avoid calorie burning for fear of getting skinnier, but cardio will improve overall endurance, stamina, and health. Weight training will improve body composition and add definition to your shape.


Women with hourglass shaped bodies:

  • Are curvy on both the top and bottom,
  • Have a well-defined waistline,
  • Have a bust that matches their hips,
  • Have shapely legs, and
  • Have a body similar to celebrities Marilyn Monroe and Scarlett Johansson.

While the hourglass figure is probably the shape that causes the most envy amongst women, exercise is necessary in order to tighten everything up. Typical trouble zones are the thighs, upper arms, and belly pouch. Total body-sculpting and fat-burning cardio will help with this. Try to perform fast circuits with little or no rest in between.