Your body type is determined by your genes, but current studies show that you can still modify the expression of your genes with environmental and lifestyle changes. You cannot change your body frame or structure right now, but you can still reshape your body through exercise so you can lose your overall body fat and build muscles on your desired body parts. What workouts are effective for your body type- long duration cardio, sprints, heavyweight training, high-repetition strength workouts using light weights, Pilates, or yoga?
The type of muscle fibers that predominates your body can determine the most effective type of exercises that you can do right now
Seven years ago, I became one of the researchers for a weight management program study for a pharmaceutical company. We used a genetic test kit for the subjects to identify the best exercise and nutrition plan based on their genetic makeup. I was tested as well and I found out that my body responds well to vigorous-intensity exercises and I have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which means that my body is more efficient in doing long duration cardio workouts – this explained why I performed well in doing long-distance running like marathons in the past. Though I’ve been focusing more on light to moderate resistance training since the start of the pandemic, my body still looks for run training, so I make it a point to do a 50 to 70-minute run at least once a week because it makes me feel good, knowing that my body is still efficient in doing moderate to fast sustained cardio workouts.
When it comes to resistance training, my genetic profile indicates that my body will benefit more from doing high repetitions (12 to 20 repetitions) of lighter loads of resistance, focusing more on muscular endurance with shorter rest periods in between sets and this has been my main type of workout since the start of the pandemic. My body responds well to endurance-based resistance training when it comes to improving functional strength, toning, and body reshaping.
My personal experience shows that our strengths and weaknesses in a particular fitness activity or sports are based on the muscle fibers that predominate the body – fats of slow-twitch). Even without the genetic test, you can try to recall your exercise history and consider your current level of performance when it comes to cardio and strength. Do you excel more in doing long sustained cardio workouts or sprints (fast-twitch muscle fibers)? Is your body more responsive to low repetitions of heavier weights or doing high repetitions of light to moderate weights?
Aside from your unique genetic profile, phenotype (your observable characteristics determined by your genetic makeup and environment) can give you a clue and awareness of how much effort you need to exert to achieve your body and health goals
Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph, or a combination of two body types?
Endomorph– People with this body type tend to have a large frame and have more body fat around the body. They can build muscles easily and are capable of lifting heavier weights. Endomorphs should do cardio workouts (mostly sustained cardio workouts like brisk walking and one to two days of high-intensity interval training) on most days of the week to achieve a higher calorie burn and lose body fat effectively. Light to moderate weight training should always be incorporated into the weekly program of an endomorph who is just starting to lose weight. Intensity can be increased as the weight loss and strength improve over time.
Mesomorph– People with this body type tend to have medium frame and are usually muscular. They find it easier to build muscles and the body prefers more weigh training than cardio. But the exercise program (cardio and exercise) for mesomorphs should still be balanced to effectively lose body fat because they have the tendency to gain weight easily especially if they are living a sedentary lifestyle.
Ectomorph– People with this body type tend to have a small frame. Ectomorphs usually find it hard to build muscles, but they can lose weight easily. Mild to moderate cardio and more moderate to heavy weight training routine should be incorporated in the weekly program to effectively build muscles.
Balancing your muscles and reshaping your body
Regardless of your body type, you can still reshape your body by controlling your food intake and by doing the most appropriate workout that can match your current goals, fitness level, health condition, age and lifestyle
Through the years, I’ve seen different body types and shapes of clients. I’ve witnessed how someone can improve his/her body shape with consistent exercise and a controlled way of eating. These are some things you should consider and exercise strategies you should do to achieve your body goals.
Heavyweight training for improved overall strength and muscle building
You can still achieve a muscular physique, regardless of your body type. Mesomorphs and endomorphs can build muscles easily. Ectomorphs need to exert extra effort and time for weight training, nutrition and recovery to be muscles effectively. Studies show engaging in a resistance training program that uses heavier weights with multiple sets and less repetitions is effective in building mass. The selection of strength exercises should match one’s body shape and goals.
Hourglass (curvy figure with a smaller waist) – Apply a well-balanced weight training program targeting all the major muscles in the body.
Apple shape (top-heavy) – Do more cardio exercises to lessen the belly fat and lift heavier weights for the lower body, and lighter weights for the upper body and core.
Pear shape (bottom-heavy) – Focus on lifting heavier weights for the upper body and torso and do high repetitions of bodyweight exercises for the lower body such as lunges and squats to avoid the muscle bulk.
Ruler shape (rectangle shape) – Build more muscles in your upper and lower body while engaging in various cardio and strength workouts that can effectively burn the overall body while stimulating the core for a more defined abs and waist.
High reps and light weights for improved muscular endurance, fat loss, and full-body sculpting
Cardio workouts using compound movements like squats and shoulder presses with light weights or high reps (12 or more reps) and multiple sets of bodyweight exercises like lunges alternating with push-ups can help burn more calories since your heart rate is up the whole time. High repetitions of various exercise move even with light to moderate weights can sculpt the body without the bulk, especially when combined with cardio exercises. This exercise type is good for people who want to see more muscle definition. Ectomorphs and Ecto-mesomorphs should work harder by lifting moderate to heavier weights more frequently to achieve more muscle tone while doing this type of exercise. Endomorphs and pure mesomorphs can see faster results even with light weights with this type of training when combined with cardio workouts.
Pilates for a better posture and stronger core
Pilates uses slow and controlled moves with fewer repetitions to focus on improving one’s posture. It is designed to strengthen the core while also strengthening the major muscles of the body. It is important to consider improving your posture to be more efficient in executing your regular exercise and avoid injuries. You cannot change the structure of your spine, but you can strengthen the weaker muscles around your torso like the lower back, waist, and abdominals. If you have a lordotic or arched back, focus more on strengthening your abdominals, obliques, buttocks, and hamstrings to avoid lower back pain. If you have a kyphotic (round or hunch back) posture, you need to strengthen your back shoulders, and upper back.
The workout can also lengthen and tone your body, especially when combined with full-body strength training and cardio. You can work your entire core during the whole session of Pilates, but there’s no such thing as spot reduction. A smaller waist and flatter tummy can only be achieved by burning more fat around the body by doing cardio exercises, a more intense strength training routine, and practicing a consistently healthy diet.
Yoga for improved flexibility, balance, and total body strength
Yoga poses are designed to improve one’s flexibility, balance, and overall strength. You can build muscles by doing and holding the yoga poses such as chaturanga for the upper body and warrior poses for the lower body. I took the Ashtanga yoga course before the pandemic and I really noticed how my upper body and core improved in terms of tone and strength after numerous practice sessions. Holding each of the yoga poses can improve one’s flexibility while stimulating a lot of muscle fibers. Isometric contraction is engaging your muscles without movements such as holding a plank position for a few seconds, which can strengthen your upper body and core strength. As you continue with the practice, you will be trying more challenging poses, which can lead to building more strength and improving your muscle tone.