Read an Excerpt
Take a look at your ankles. Are they bony? Thick? Muscular? Now move up to your calves. Are they square? Round? Embarrassingly nonexistent?
What about your hips? Are they narrow or curvaceous? As you continue to move up your body, you’ll see and feel unique anatomical characteristics that specifically define you, including the shape of your waist and stomach, the breadth of your shoulders, the thickness of your chest, the length of your neck, the size of your wrists, and the roundness of your arms.
Based upon your personal genetics, your fitness, and your health history, your body is unique. Sure, you may have certain characteristics that you’ve probably noticed on other people too (like broad shoulders or skinny ankles), but life would be pretty boring if we were all identical carbon copies of one another.
And that’s not all. Not only is your current body unique, but your ideal body is also unique. To understand what I mean, let’s try this exercise: Close your eyes and imagine the perfect you. What does that perfect you—your dream body—actually look like? Are your dream body’s shoulders broader than your current shoulders? Are your dream body’s waist and calves thinner than your current versions? Do your dream body’s buttocks fit better into your favorite pair of pants?
Personally, I would prefer less annoyingly bony shoulders, a thicker and more muscular waist, and a more developed backside that might fill out my favorite jeans.
But that’s just me.
So whose ideal body is perfect—yours or mine? The answer is neither. Based on the biological individuality of human beings, each of us will have a different shape for our perfect body. Those of us who get fit or lose weight won’t finish with identical bodies, and the same is true for those who lose fitness or gain weight.
As a matter of fact, in traditional medical and exercise body typing, also called somatotyping, people are never just skinny or fat. Instead, each of us is placed into one of eight basic body types: female ectomorph, mesomorph, meso-endomorph, and endomorph; and male endomorph, ecto-mesomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.
Each of these body types has a different basic shape and a different possible ideal body. That’s why the perfect shape for one body type simply may not be aesthetically pleasing (or possible) for another body type.
So where did these oddly named categories come from? We’ll have to rewind a few years to go back to the first instance of body typing. Back in the fifth century BC, the philosopher Hippocrates proposed two basic body types, and the Latin phrases he used to describe them can be translated as a long thin body or a short thick body.
More than a thousand years later, in the early 1800s, French physicians began to refer to three different body types: digestif, musculaire, and cerebral. But body types weren’t quantified or described more fully until 1919, when an Italian anthropometrist named Viola took ten measurements of the bodies of a large group of people, compared the individuals to a group average, and came up with three different and difficult-to-pronounce body types, which he quantified and described as:
Microsplanchnic small trunk and long limbs, 24 percent of the population
Macrosplanchnic large body and short limbs, 28 percent of the population
Normosplanchnic an intermediate group 48 percent of the population
A few years later, Ernst Kretschmer, a German psychiatrist, described three body types (and interestingly linked each one to psychiatric problems, which I will conveniently not address in this book). His types were:
Pyknic broad, round, and sturdy
Leptosome long and thin, a linear body
Athletic large and muscular thorax and shoulders
Later, in the 1940s, American psychologist William Sheldon outlined his take on the three basic physiques, using language with which you may be slightly more familiar:
Endomorphic spherical body, weak arms, fatty arms and thighs
Mesomorphic broad shoulders and chest, muscled arms and legs
Ectomorphic linear, spindly limbs, narrow chest and abdomen, little muscle and little fat
Sheldon took his definitions one step further and devised a method of body typing called somatotyping, which was eventually turned into a mathematical model in the late 1960s. In this model, bone length, height-to-weight ratios, fat percentage, photographic analysis, and other measurements were used to develop what is called the Heath-Carter anthropometric somatotype. This model, although very complicated and a real head scratcher if you don’t have a math degree, still serves as the basis for scientifically identifying body types.
Of course, most people don’t have access to the many tools of measurement and mathematical prowess required for the Heath-Carter anthropometric somatotype method, so you’re going to find a far more simple body-typing method within the next few pages of this book.
But first let’s delve into a better description of what each body type actually is, since all these “morphisms” can seem confusing. Although I’ll give you more detail later on, the lists below briefly illustrate each of the body types for both women and men.
Female Body TypesEctomorph
Female ectomorphs are waifish and slim, with thin necks, shoulders, hips, wrists, calves, and ankles—shaped like a ruler. Ectomorphs usually put on weight in their stomach and upper hips, while maintaining slender arms and legs. Taller female ectomorphs tend to be slightly more muscular and are often skilled at endurance sports, but lack the ability to develop curves without the proper exercise program. Gwyneth Paltrow, Thandie Newton, and Kylie Minogue are examples of ectomorphs. Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl are taller ectomorphs.
Female mesomorphs tend to have a classic hourglass shape, with wide shoulders and hips and a distinctively narrow waist. They tend to gain weight and lose weight proportionally in the hips and buttocks, upper back and chest, and have curvy bodies that balance out a bikini top and bottom. A slight weight gain can appear sizable because the mesomorph’s body fat easily hides muscle. This type tends to be very athletic and good at a variety of sports and activities. Jessica Simpson, Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, Britney Spears, and Jessica Biel are examples of mesomorphs.
Because of the biological tendency for females to carry more fat than males, female meso-endomorphs are far more common than the male equivalent cross of an ectomorph and mesomorph. They tend to have mid-thickness waists and ankles, small to medium-size shoulders and chests, and wider hips—shaped like a pear. Although out-of-shape meso-endomorphs appear to have a frail upper body with a disproportionately large lower body, they can easily create balance with a proper exercise program. Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Hurley, Kim Kardashian, and Minnie Driver are examples of in-shape meso-endomorphs.
Female endomorphs are generally bigger on the top half of their bodies than on the bottom. They commonly have narrow hips and a large chest and stomach, with a curvaceous apple shape. Endomorphs tend to gain weight above the waist or along the buttocks. They are typically good at cardiovascular endurance, but can easily put on weight without a customized exercise and nutrition program. Queen Latifah, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Coolidge, and Alex Borstein are examples of endomorphs.
Male Body Types
Male ectomorphs have skinny arms and legs; thin waists, wrists, and ankles; and low muscle mass—shaped like a twig. When they do gain weight due to lack of fitness, they put the weight on their stomach and waist. Ectomorphs are often described in the fitness industry as hard-gainers, because they have a tough time building and maintaining muscle mass. However, they usually have a great deal of physical endurance. Clint Eastwood, Ethan Hawke, Billy Bob Thornton, and Chris Rock are examples of ectomorphs.
Male ecto-mesomorphs can easily fluctuate between being incredibly lean or very muscular. They tend to have broad shoulders; narrow waists, ankles, and wrists; and a V-shaped torso. Like ectomorphs, when they do gain weight, the fat tends to be on the stomach, but can also be on the buttocks. Ecto-mesomorphs can quickly build muscle and tend to be fairly athletic, but not as powerful or explosive as mesomorphs (think of a swimmer versus a linebacker). Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Dwayne Wade are examples of ecto-mesomorphs.
Male mesomorphs are naturally muscular and have a thick, athletic build. They tend to have round, jutting chests, rectangular waists, large arms, thick thighs and calves, and a square shape. Male mesomorphs tend to gain weight easily, especially in the hips, buttocks, upper back, and stomach. Because of their athleticism, mesomorphs respond well to fitness routines and perform well at most physical activities, but must constantly stay active to maintain a fit physique. Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, and LL Cool J are examples of mesomorphs.
Male endomorphs are round and typically short (although tall examples, such as Alec Baldwin, do occur). They tend to be curvaceous males with short necks, small shoulders, and thick waists, calves, and ankles—shaped like an apple. Although they tend to have good cardiovascular endurance, endomorphs also have the most difficulty losing weight, and require frequent variations in volume and intensity to maintain fat loss. Seth Rogan, Danny DeVito, Jonah Hill, and Jon Favreau are examples of endomorphs.
You’ve probably noticed that there are two different combo body types: the female meso-endomorph and male ecto-mesomorph. The reason that the combos for each sex are different is actually quite simple: females are naturally built to carry more fat on their bodies. Don’t feel bad, ladies—fat gives you curves, hormones, and perhaps most important, the ability to propagate the human race!
As you can probably imagine, because the body types in the tables above are unique, no single fitness program, workout, exercise machine, number of sets, or cardio class will work ideally for every body type.
For example, a male mesomorph would find himself pretty dissatisfied with his fat-loss progress if he engages in a heavy weight-lifting routine. On the other hand, that very same routine would bestow a toned and curvaceous body upon a female ectomorph. Meanwhile, a female endomorph married to a male endomorph will notice that the long, slow cardio sessions that allow her husband to rapidly shed weight are instead leaving her body frustratingly tired and swollen, and certainly no lighter.
Each body type responds differently to certain workouts and foods and that’s where this book comes in.
I’m a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Aside from a brief stint in knee and hip surgical sales, basically all I’ve done for the past decade is help people get better bodies. I have a folder on my computer of every individual I have personally helped achieve the body of his or her dreams, and that folder contains several thousand individual names. So I’ve not only seen these eight basic body types over and over again, I’ve also designed successful individual exercise and meal plans that cater to developing the dream body for each type.
The male endomorph who’s been banging his head against the wall trying to shed fat for the past decade? Check.
The female ectomorph who desperately wants some curves so she can fill out her swimsuit? Check.
The former athletes who just can’t seem to unlock the secret to getting back the bodies they had in college? Check.
But I didn’t simply want to rely on my own experience for writing this book. So for the past two years, I’ve been running an online survey on my Web site www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. The survey goes into great detail about the characteristics of body shapes, personalities associated with each body shape, meal plans that help each shape achieve the greatest success, and the body parts each shape wants to change the most. The thousands of individual responses and comments on that survey helped tremendously to shape this book—pun intended.
Initially, I didn’t set out to write an entire book on this subject. Instead I simply wanted to write an article for my Get-Fit Guy page on the Quick and Dirty Tips network about getting fit for your body type. But having exhaustively studied the types of exercise routines that result in the perfect shape for each type and the specific nutritional regimens that should accompany those routines, I’ve come to realize that it would take an entire book to contain the knowledge necessary to figure out your body type and achieve your ideal body using a customized workout.
So the bottom line is that this book that you’re holding in your hands or looking at on your e-book reader or perhaps even scrolling through on your smartphone comes from over a decade of experience in body identification and transformation and from the responses of thousands of people just like you. The underlying principle of this book is that by identifying your unique body type and performing a fitness routine specifically designed for that shape, you can achieve your ideal physical appearance—your ideal body.
That’s right, this book is going to find your ideal body and give it to you!
Here’s how it works:
First, you’ll easily identify your body type using a step-by-step self-typing system, which is what you’ll find in the first part of this book. If you’d prefer a digital version, you can access these same questionnaires at GetFitGuy.com where I’ve also included a host of convenient resources to accompany this book. And that’s great news—because it means that identifying your body type will not require expensive laboratory visits, needles, muscle biopsies, bloodletting, or complicated math (although you will need to measure a few body parts, sorry!).
Next, once you have identified your body type, you’ll learn the specific anatomical changes in your ankles, calves, hips, thighs, butt, waist, chest, shoulders, arms, wrists, and neck that will allow you to achieve your dream body. You’ll also be given a fitness system and workout routine to make those changes. And even though this isn’t a diet book per se, you’ll also receive body shape–specific nutrition advice to help you with meal planning and dietary changes to transform your current shape into your ideal body.
After that, you just sit back and wait.
Then you’ll head to the gym armed with your easy-to-understand workout plan, to the grocery store to fill your kitchen with the foods you’ll need to change your diet, and to the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page1 to ask me any questions you have along the road toward your dream body.
Sounds like a plan? Fantastic.
Let’s get started with your body-type questionnaire.
Copyright © 2012 by Ben Greenfield. Photo copyright © 2012 by Ben Greenfield