For those who care about such things, body shapes are categorized into one of three types–ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph. These are arbitrary abstractions and you may not fit squarely into one of these boxes, but they indicate points along a spectrum that can be useful identifiers. The ectomorph is the classic “hard gainer” or beanpole, a long, lean bodytype that has a hard time gaining weight or building muscle. The mesomorph is of medium build who tends to build and show muscle relatively easily. The endomorph is the bear, the “thick sister,” or the husky fella who’s “big boned.”
The Commercial Fitness Complex caters itself very well to the first two body types, but seriously under serves the third. Cardio based exercise systems, and most of the default systems we turn to when we think exercise, are relatively easier for lighter body types. Since their bodies are better suited for these activities they excel at them. It should be no surprise then when the endomorph gets fed up with training that is not only hard but isn’t achieving her goals. The result is an entire segment of the population living lives that fall short of their true potential.
It’s clear that a greyhound and a St. Bernard have two very different bodies and two very different strength sets. We rightly expect the greyhound to run circles around the St. Bernard and the Bernard to be much stronger than the hound. The idea of St. Bernard races, while funny, are ludicrous because it’s clear that speed is not the Bernard’s strength.
So, why, in fitness, do we immediately send the big guys to do more cardio? The idea that their size is solely the result of excess calories that need to be burned off may not be entirely accurate.
The one place the big boy does flourish is the powerlifting gym where size can work to his advantage. Often ecto and mesomorphic trainers who work with an overweight endomorph are amazed at her strength. All too often, though, it’s dismissed, “Well she has to be strong to carry all of that bulk.” They miss that strength is a primary attribute of the endomorph and through strength training and proper diet counselling real gains, both in strength and body shape, can be made.
As an endomorph myself, I struggled for years trying to make myself fit into a smaller man’s fitness. I’d find myself wishing I was 5’8″ and 165 lbs. How sad is that? God gifted me with unique strengths and I wanted to trade them because of fashion?
Only when I began to embrace my gifts did they flourish and I found myself approaching the life, and look, I’d been chasing all along.
Here’s a lesson we can all learn, regardless of bodytype. It’s foolish to try to fit yourself into someone else’s mould. Take some time, get to know yourself and understand what you were “built for.” Don’t fight your inner nature, embrace it and thrive.