You’re pear-shaped like your mom. You have the same beer belly as your dad. Big bones run in the family. Are you doomed to live with the body you have?
Some local trainers say that knowing your body type can help you set realistic goals. Others warn that categorizing yourself can be used as an excuse and keep you from seeing results.
Trainers often categorize body types as ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph, says personal trainer Becky Olson, who is also the group fitness supervisor for the Ogden Athletic Club in South Ogden.
“An ectomorph is someone who is longer, leaner and tends to be skinnier and have a harder time putting on weight,” she explains. “A mesomorph is athletic and muscular and is usually very narrow-hipped and broader-shouldered. The endomorph is usually a little fuller-hipped or softer in the middle and has a hard time getting lean.”
Personal trainer Heather Gilbertson, who works at Stroops fitness center in Clearfield, said you should know and train for your body type.
Mesomorphs, she says, will probably have the easiest time achieving their goals because they quickly gain muscle and lose weight. Ectomorphs should eat more calories and be cautious of how much cardio they do if they want to build muscle. Endomorphs should watch their calorie intake and do more cardio to lose weight.
“For example, if I were training a client who had an ectomorph, naturally lean body type, I would most likely have them eating more fats and carbohydrates with less cardio, versus a high-in-fat endomorph body type, where I would be more cautious about how much this person eats because they naturally store more fat. This person would also need to be doing more cardio,” she said.
David Edgell, a personal trainer who owns The Shop in Ogden, said knowing your body type can help you know where to focus.
“If you have broad hips and narrow shoulders, you can build your shoulders. You don’t have to be a pear. If you have belly fat, you can sculpt so you’re not an apple,” he said.
For the most part, Olson said, women can expect to lose weight and gain muscle more slowly than men.
“One thing I’ve noticed through all of my training is that although these body types apply to both women and men, women in general have a harder time gaining muscle and getting leaner,” she said. “A female mesomorph will respond more quickly to weightlifting and plyometric training than the other two types. I’ve found by doing my boot camp classes and personal training that a true endomorph will really struggle with changing their bodies quickly.
“Women are genetically built to make babies, so we tend to hold more body fat in our hips, butt and stomachs. We also do not produce enough testosterone to build muscle very easily or quickly, so overall it takes us much more work and longer workouts to achieve a more muscular build.”
Train hard regardless
Elizabeth Nuttall, a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in Bountiful, believes training programs should be based on a person’s goals, not body type.
“When creating training programs for clients, I focus more on their individual goals than their body type category. Those descriptions are rarely used in fitness anymore,” she said. “The biggest misconception I run into is spot reducing. Women approach me all of the time wanting to know how to get rid of their saddle bags, back fat or inner tube. They want specific exercises to target those areas.
“Yes, you can work the muscles in those areas, but fat comes off all over the body, not in one specific spot. The best way to get rid of fat is a well-balanced program with cardio training, resistance training and, most importantly, proper nutrition with a calorie deficit in the diet.”
Edgell thinks genetics may play a role in the way you look and perform, but doesn’t think it should define the way you work out.
“We type people so we can get our heads around explaining healthy fitness. It’s like a chicken and egg thing. Did the sprinter get that body from sprinting or did they have the right type of body for sprinting? When training, I think the best approach is ‘What do I have fun with?’
“You may have the genetics for marathoning, but if you hate running, you won’t make any changes. We all can eat healthier and train harder. We categorize to understand, but it’s a half truth. It does us a disservice and sets us up for failure — or to use an excuse like ‘I’m doomed to be skinny’ or an endomorph who’s an apple shape may think, ‘I’ll never look like a real woman.’ They think they can’t do it because they were categorized,” he said.
And though Gilbertson may tailor training programs for different body types, she said all of the types benefit from weight-training programs — and that the principles of fitness are the same, no matter your body type.
“There is no way around it, hard work and dedication is what makes you see results,” she said. “We all need to maintain a healthy lifestyle which we achieve through making good eating choices and maintaining an active lifestyle.”
Can you change?
Gilbertson said anyone can change the way the look, but endomorphs will have the hardest time.
“I personally believe, if you truly make up your mind and are willing to put the hard work and dedication it takes, you can become anything that you want,” she said. “However, if your body type tends to stay higher in body fat, it will be much harder for you to lean out, which means you will most likely have to always be watching what you eat and not miss days in the gym — but being healthy and fit is a lifestyle, so in reality we all shouldn’t be missing the gym and should all be watching what we eat.”
Ryion Butcher, personal trainer and owner of Biofit Bootcamp in Clearfield, believes there may be a limit to how much you can change your body. A woman with a muscular build, for example, may never be super thin.
“A lot of people’s genetics make them muscular. They look at weights and muscles pop out,” he said.
Olson agrees that not everyone can look like a model:
“I always hear ladies say, ‘Oooh, I want to look like her,’ and generally they are referring to a very strong, lean mesomorph. If they are an endomorph, I have to be honest and say, ‘Well, you will look like a much smaller version of yourself.’ If you are thicker in the middle and have very lean, tiny legs, you will never gain a lot of size in your legs and lose that rounder shape in the torso. You will get to be a smaller version of that, but you will always be built that way.
“If you tend to carry a lot of weight in the hips and thighs, but have a smaller midsection, you will probably have an easier time getting a very lean, hard stomach, but the legs will continue to be a little larger and have more fat if that is where you carry it. It is very hard to change the shape of your body. If you are a true endomorph, you will probably always be a little softer and less muscular than others, no matter how hard or long you workout. Blame your parents.”
Just as you shouldn’t use your body type as an excuse to stop progressing, Edgell says, you shouldn’t set yourself up for frustration with unrealistic expectations.
“No one is a super skinny model. That’s not healthy,” he said. “Most ideals for looks are artificial and give us unrealistic expectations ... It’s the Barbie doll syndrome. No one can look like Barbie because she would have unrealistic measurements as a real woman. The ideal look is unattainable. People spend a lot of money looking for that look.
“The dirty secret of fitness magazines is that the models use performance-enhancing drugs. It’s all fake and contrived to sell sports supplements.”
Olson, too, encourages women to be realistic.
“Women tend to get very frustrated with their body images and I always try in my diet classes to stress that every single one of us is built differently and that the best we can hope for is to be the fittest and best version of ourselves,” she said. “We all have our little problems areas that are the hardest for us to fix, whether it be hips, glutes, stomach or even that nice fat on the back of our arms. We just have to keep working hard and continue to push the heavier weights.”
Edgell said realistic goals include getting lean, building muscles and increasing endurance and flexibility.
Gilbertson promotes fitness over being skinny.
“I think that in society today we stress that, to look good, we have to be a size zero when in reality that’s usually not healthy — and honestly, does that really even look good? I always stress to my clients to set a goal of what is healthy for your body, what will make you feel and look the best. Being thin is much easier for some than others, but it is possible,” she said. “I personally don’t care about being thin. I want to be fit.
“Strong is the new sexy. So stop being worried about the scale and the size of jeans you wear. Be more concerned about the body fat you are carrying and focus on making a goal. For example, say: I want to run a 5K with my girlfriend this summer, I want to enter a softball league, I want to enter a fitness competition or I want to perform this many pushups or situps instead of: I have to lose this much weight or wear this size of dress.
“You’ll be very surprised how much easier it is to stay focused in the gym and watch what you eat.”