There are three main body types in exercise science: ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs. Every person falls into one of these three categories. Some are more extreme examples than others, but each person is only one of them.
Ectomorphs tend to be long and lanky, particularly in the arms and legs. Any fat they have tends to be in the belly area. They have a tough time building muscle and are relatively weaker and slower. However, they tend to excel at endurance-based sports. Ectomorphs are commonly referred to as “hard gainers,” referring to their difficulty building muscle. Ectomorphs have their own strengths and weaknesses, like it or not. Many want to be track, baseball, and football stars, but they’re built for cross country and swimming. You know who you are.
Next, some people build muscle very quickly. Every sports team has that guy or girl who never works out but is the most jacked person. These people can stare at a weight room and build muscle. It isn’t fair, but these people are genetically gifted and are medically termed “mesomorphs.” They tend to be the jocks that excel at sports like football, basketball, track and field sports, and baseball or softball.
Lastly are the endomorphs. There’s no easy way to say this, but these people tend to hold onto body fat more, especially in the limbs. These people are a bit of a hybrid in terms of athleticism. They pack on muscle relatively easily but can undoubtedly excel at sports that require some endurance, like soccer or swimming.
Regardless of your body type, you can excel at any sport with hard work and intelligent practice. Nevertheless, it’s no secret that certain body types are better equipped for specific sports. However, regardless of the sport, a healthy approach to athletic development requires an offseason. This is when an athlete needs to rest and abstain from the same repetitive motions of their sport and give the body a greater variety of movements to develop muscle and preserve joint health. This is the best way to develop an athlete to improve performance for the next season.
Offseason for Mesomorphs
So, are you a mesomorph, endomorph, or ectomorph? As previously stated, the offseason is when an athlete needs to develop muscle, strength, and skill development. The big question is, of course: when? How much? And what should I do? While I can’t answer all of those, each athlete has individual needs. For those who build muscle easily (mesomorphs), you probably need to start training earlier than you think.
A 2021 study of Finland examined a group of young men and took them through a strength training program. They measured various muscle sizes and strength in specific exercises before and after a 10-week workout regimen. After the ten weeks, they instructed the subjects to live their everyday lives but not to work out the following six weeks. After those six weeks, the same measurements were retaken. They found that those who built muscle quickly developed the greatest muscle and strength. However, they also lost the most muscle and strength during the detraining period. In other words, mesomorphs tend to lose muscle mass very quickly. It is wise for mesomorphs to start off-season training earlier than the other body types, who don’t lose muscle easily.
A rule of thumb is that people lose muscle quicker than it takes to build it. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever been in a cast or leg brace for an extended period. No matter your body type or genetics, building muscle and strength takes a significantly longer time than it takes to lose it. That, along with the results of this study, should help athletes strategize their offseason routines.
It takes longer to build muscle than to lose it. Athletes that build muscle easily should begin their training programs sooner than those who have a hard time building muscle. Those that have a hard time building muscle are shown to be better able to retain their muscle and therefore don’t need as much time to prepare for a season. Recommended time off altogether varies greatly, but general recommendations tend to be around 2-4 weeks. Based on the research, those with higher amounts of muscle should probably be closer to the two-week mark to start lifting again after the season, if any time off at all.
Each athlete is an individual with individual needs.
Not everyone is a hardcore “mesomorph” or “ectomorph.” There are a lot of gray areas, and every athlete responds to different stimuli in different ways. The sport you play, age, gender, nutrition and hormonal statuses, other sports you play, and a host of other factors should all influence how you train and how you approach an offseason. Training hard and intelligent is what matters most. However, if you are looking for a slight edge, starting your offseason lifting earlier may benefit your upcoming season, especially if you are a mesomorph. You all can afford to spend a little more time resting for the endo and ectomorphs.