Lifting For Your Body Type

Program Design, Cardio & Nutrition Tips

Seventy-five years ago, a psychologist named William Sheldon developed a visual method of categorizing the human physique based on fundamental elements called somatotypes. Even though much of his theories are subjective, we still use this “body type” categorization today.

Personally, I think it is interesting to read about but doesn’t necessarily 100% apply to making gains in the gym. I take it about as seriously as I do reading my horoscope. I LOVE reading my horoscope! It’s entertaining, partly true, but sometimes makes no sense at all. I try really hard to make it apply to me, but I know doesn’t define me or have the final say (thank goodness).

So let’s break it all down.

Lifting For Your Body Type - Ectomorph


You are skinny, tall, have narrow shoulders and hips and a fast metabolism. You’ve been trying to make gains in the gym but get very frustrated after quick results that seem to always turn into a plateau.

It’s not hard for you to master big, compound exercises such as the pull-up or weighted dips, because you don’t weigh a lot and it’s easy to carry and lift your bodyweight. After a few weeks of lifting and dialing in your nutrition, everyone notices your progress, because you lose fat easily making that lean muscle pop. But little do they know that you are frustrated inside, because you just can’t get those muscles to grow more!

Lifting For Your Body Type - Mesomorph


You are gifted and everyone attributes your incredible physique to “good genetics.” You love athletics, and it is fairly easy for you to pack on muscle and burn fat once you put your mind to it. If you’re not careful with your diet, though, you can pack on fat just as much as you can pack on muscle. Consistency in the gym and kitchen together is everything for you to maintain that impressive physique.

You love lifting and feel like a beast in the gym during a great workout, but when you really kill it in the gym working an individual muscle groups, you can get SO sore that it takes you 4-5 days sometimes to recover.

Initial gains come fast and easily, but once you’ve built a lot of muscle, you will most likely hang out there for a long, long time maintaining what you’ve built. It’s a plateau, but not a bad one, because you built a beautiful physique. You love the weights and want to know what you can do to keep making progress or else find happiness in the ongoing maintenance.

Lifting For Your Body Type - Endomorph


You have ALL the gains – muscle AND fat. You love the gym and love lifting, but always feel like you’re in your “bulking season.” Your biggest leap in the beginning of a program is the incredible strength gains you feel. What I love about this is that endomorphs seem to transform on the inside first, before they reach the outside transformation. I wish more women would get to experience this! Sometimes we get so caught up in the physical details and our appearance that we forget how important the inner transformation is to maintaining the outside physique. If we could only all experience the confidence that comes with feeling strong and beautiful on the inside, we wouldn’t care so much about what the outside looks like because we’re enjoying the inner strength so much!

Okay, so now that you’ve read your physique horoscope, below are some actual tips that can help you combat some of your “body type” issues.

Ectomorph Training Tips

• Your gym sessions need to be all about the intensity. Every workout, every set, every rep and how much intensity you put into all of those counts.

• Mixing up your sets & reps scheme is important for all body types, it’s easy to kick up the intensity when you focus on the lower to medium rep range (6-10 reps). This rep range works on muscular growth & strength.

• Take your time between sets. The faster you move through your workout, the more calories you will torch and you don’t need to be torching calories – your metabolism is already quick!

• Don’t forget to rest and recover. The work is done in the gym, but your muscles grow while at rest and during your recovery periods. So make sure you incorporate plenty of time for that.

• Don’t forget to include compound exercises such as conventional deadlifts (using a hex bar helps keep the weight in your heels for my tall gals!), pull-ups and presses. Compound exercises hit more than one muscle at a time and increase your chance of building as much muscle as possible.

• During reps, focus on the time the muscle being worked is under tension. Practice not locking out your knees and elbows during exercises like squats and shoulder press – you’ll keep those muscle under tension longer, increasing your chance of growing!

• Don’t do too much cardio. While it is important to make sure you are incorporating some cardiovascular exercise for your heart and lungs, you already have a fast metabolism and don’t have time to be doing several steady state cardio sessions each week. Lucky you.

Mesomorph Training Tips

• Variety and mixing it up will keep your body guessing and muscles working and growing. Don’t get stuck following the same set & rep scheme for months and months on end. Find a program like my Jessie’s Girls Muscle Building program at that will provide you with different phases that mix up exercises, sets and reps frequently.

• Since it is easy for you to burn fat and build muscle, it is more important than ever for you to switch up your reps ranges often to focus on strength (lower reps), size (moderate reps) and conditioning (high reps) so that you tap into all possible energy systems.

• Your cardio will fall somewhere in the middle. You need to do some to keep the fat off, but too much can burn muscle. Both HIIT and steady state cardio work great for you!

• The main point is to always mix it up.

Endomorph Training Tips

• Keep. On. Lifting. You will be doing plenty of volume so that you break down muscle and burn calories. Your workouts will be intense, you’ll move quickly between sets (shorter rest periods) and you need to be crawling out of the gym every session because you put in so much work.

• As always, all rep ranges (strength, growth and conditioning) are great for you but you’re body will respond wonderfully to growth reps (12-15 reps).

• Your rest periods can be moderate, make sure you’re recovering enough to not be completely fatigued going into your next set, but make sure you keep them just short enough to keep torching calories throughout the workout. Look at it like a built-in cardio session!

• Your power and strength make your recovery between workouts quick so you can hit the weight room multiple times each week.

• Many of my “endomorph body type” Jessie’s Girls seem to be terrified of carbs. You’ve been told for so long that you need to go carb-free in order to lose body fat…but what about gaining muscle? News flash: the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn and the faster your metabolism goes. So, with patience and trust, you WILL burn the fat AND gain muscle together. If it helps you, try to do your weight training later in the day or in the evening so that your pre and post workout carb-heavy meals are around your workout and you spend the majority of your active day with fewer carbs. This doesn’t mean no carbs or even low carbs during the day – it just means that you need to eat about 25% more carbs pre & post workout so your lighter carb meals will be your non-training meals.

• The best type of cardio for you will be HIIT with MAJOR intensity. That’s a perfect mix of heart rate training cardio while using a lot of muscle power.

If you look at the big picture for all “body types,” you’ll find that mixing it up in the gym benefits all physiques. There are a few tips above that can really work for specific bodies – but everyone benefits from lifting with intensity, fueling your body and mixing it up during your workouts.

Jessie Hilgenberg

Jessie is an IFBB Figure Pro, Team NLA for Her & Athlete, registered yoga instructor, health & fitness coach, bootcamp director and fitness model. Her goal is to inspire others and illustrate that a healthy lifestyle of training with intensity, staying consistent and eating clean can truly change your life!

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