Physical Build

HEIGHT & WEIGHT

Some men get caught up in the “ideal” male body.  For many, that is being 6’0” or taller.  However, a study performed based on the United States Census found that only 1 in 5 men are 6 feet tall or taller.  In the US, the average height of an adult male is 5’9 ½” (176cm).  The “normal” height for adult men is between 5’4 ½” to 6’2” (164-188cm).  Basically what “normal” means is that 90% of men fall within this range.  So 5% of men are shorter than 5’4 ½” (164cm) and 5% are taller than 6’2” (188cm).  However, it is rare for men to be under 5’2” (157cm) or over 6’6” (198cm).

Weight is another consideration.  For many men, they are concerned with either being too heavy or not having enough muscle.  Ideally, men should have a waist that is 35 inches (89cm) or less for optimal health.  The average weight in the United States differs by age, but typically is around 175 pounds (79.5kg) for men in their 20s and 195 pounds (88.5kg) for men over age 30.[i]  However, since so many men are obese, “average” doesn’t always mean “healthy.” 

 

There are two measurements that can help men determine if they are over or under weight.  These include the BMI (Body Mass Index) and Percent Body Fat. 

BMI compares your weight to your height.  Unfortunately, someone who is physically fit and has a lot of muscle has an increase in weight that may not be fat, so a high BMI may not be a negative value in that individual. 

 

BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by your height.  Charts can be used; or to be more accurate, it can be mathematically calculated: 

  • Metric – weight (kg) divided by height in meters squared

    • Example - 80kg and 190 cm tall

      • 85/(1.8x1.8) = BMI 22

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  • Imperial – weight (pounds) x 703, divided by height in inches squared 

    • Example – 170 pounds and 5’10” (70 inches) tall

      • 70 x 703)/(70x70) = 24 

  • BMI ranges are below:

    • <18.5                     Underweight

    • 18.5-24.9              Normal weight

    • 25.0-29.9              Overweight

    • 30.0-34.9              Obese

    • >35                         Extremely Obese

However, some men who fall into the overweight BMI category aren’t really overweight.  They may have a large portion of that weight as lean muscle – this is healthy.  That’s where Percent Body Fat becomes important.  Percent Body Fat increases as men age, even if their waistline stays the same.  The following is a rough guide of  which body fat percentages are most healthy.  Being in the lean or ideal range is most optimal for health.  Men falling in the overweight category can often improve their health and wellness by improving their diet and exercise.

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MUSCULAR BUILD

 

One of the fundamental ideals that men have for themselves is the “perfect physique.”  You can ask any guy and he will say he wishes he could look like a Greek God.  Men can and will put down more muscle mass than your average woman; however, not all men have the same shape and bone structure.  Understanding your body type can help you gain a better appreciation for your physical “strengths” and “weaknesses” that can give you realistic expectations, or you’re specific ideal body.

 

There are three main types of body structures – ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs.  Ectomorphs tend to be thin, mesomorphs tend to be average, and endomorphs tend to be stocky.  Although there are three main body types, most men fall somewhere between two of them rather than being purely one or the other.  Knowing which body type you are, or what two body types your body falls between, can help you get the most out of your workouts by having appropriate expectations for weight loss and muscle gains.  Here are some illustrations:

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The table below outlines the main characteristics of each body type.  You may notice that you have characteristics that are somewhere between two of these.  

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Ectomorphs

Ectomorphs tend to have narrow shoulders and a smaller bone structure that  doesn’t support a lot of muscle mass.  Because of this, they are often lean and thin.  They have narrow shoulders and hips with long limbs and stringy bellies.  This gives them the appearance of being a rectangle (shoulders are about the same width as the hips).  They can lose weight by simply looking at a cardio machine and skipping a meal, but would have to eat at the all-you-can-eat buffet for a month to gain a pound (not quite, but sometimes ectomorphs may feel that way).  For these guys, getting bulked can be very difficult, but shredding down can be easier. 

 

Mesomorphs

The pure mesomorph is what most men aspire to.  They have broad shoulders and a narrow waist and naturally have that coveted inverted triangle look.  They can gain and lose weight with effort so it’s easier for them to bulk up on muscle and slim down on the fat.  Their slightly shorter bone structure allows growth in the muscles to show more easily (as the muscle grows, it doesn’t grow over such a long bone length so it “pops” out a little more).  The pecs tend to have more of a square shape and mesomorphs are more likely to have a muscular belly.  However, just because they can bulk and shred fairly easy, it also makes it easy for them to lose muscle mass and put on fat if they don’t work out, cut the cardio, or decrease the calories. 

Endomorphs

Endomorphs are the polar opposite of ectomorphs.  These guys have short, thick bones and typically have a broader waist than their shoulders.  This gives them a pear-shaped body that often looks on the heavy side, even if they are in fairly good shape.  Losing weight can be a tough gig for these men, but putting on weight and muscle can be fairly easy.  Because they typically carry a little extra fat, these guys can have huge muscles and be extremely strong, even if they don’t look shredded (those muscles are sometimes hiding below a layer of fat). 

 

WORKING OUT FOR YOUR BODY TYPE[ii]

Ectomorphs

 

Ectomorphs have a hard time putting on muscle.  First, their bone structure is such that any muscle gains are hard to see.  Long limbs can stretch the “muscle growth” over a longer area, making it less likely to “pop out.”  Second, their longer limbs change the angles at which they press against weights.  For instance, the chest/pec muscles are often smaller because of the smaller weight they are able to put up.  They can rarely bump their chest on the bench press because doing so would put their elbows so far behind their body they would have to utilize non-chest muscles (like the shoulders) to get the weight up.  Since shoulders don’t lift as much as the chest, they don’t put up as much weight and; therefore, don’t see as many muscle gains.  For this reason, ectomorphs often get more chest growth and definition when they lift with dumbbells rather than bar weights.   In doing this they can stop when their elbows are at 90 degrees, then press the weights up and towards the center to get that “pinch” mesomorphs and endomorphs feel when using a bar.  Ectomorphs usually have to lift heavier weights during shorter workouts to prevent too much calorie loss.  They also need longer rests between sets (a minute or more).  Long workouts are counterproductive for these guys.  Oftentimes, working out one or two body areas at a time is more effective, making sure to give plenty of rest days before repeating a muscle group to let them recuperate.  Workouts also need to be changed up every month or so for ectomorphs to continue to see gains.  Cardio usually needs to be limited to less than 20 minutes a day or no more than three days a week.  In addition, they often have to significantly increase protein (1-1.5g per pound per day) in order to put on muscle weight.

Mesomorphs

 

Most exercise books and workouts are designed with mesomorphs in mind.  In fact, some mesomorphs wonder why everyone at the gym isn’t seeing results like they are.  Mesomorphs typically require heavier sets and a varied workout.  They often respond to doing compound movements, then fine-tuning with muscle specific workouts.  Variety is the key for these guys; making sure that the number of reps and sets, as well as types of movements, stay varied.  Cardio workouts are usually limited to 20-30 minutes three times a week.  From a protein standpoint, these men typically need the standard 1g per pound per day.  Many mesomorphs actually lean either slightly towards ectomorph or endomorph rather than sitting right in the center.  So if you find you’re almost halfway between mesomorph and ectomorph, making a hybrid plan that sits somewhere between these two workouts is probably more ideal for you.  Asking a professional trainer is also helpful as they can provide a detailed plan for you and your body type.

 

Endomorphs

 

Endomorphs, again, are the opposite of ectomorphs.  These guys require more frequent and more aerobic type workouts.  They often only need to lift medium weights and should limit how much they lift to prevent over-bulking.  However, they require less recovery time than other body types so rests between sets can be shorter – oftentimes less than a minute.  Cardio becomes increasingly important with these guys, who sometimes need to do cardio five times per week to keep the weight off.  These men also benefit from lower calorie diets and often don’t require as much protein in their diets as mesomorphs and ectomorphs.  Just like ectomorphs lose weight just by looking at the cardio machine, endomorphs can gain weight by simply watching a candy bar commercial (okay, not quite).   But the main focus for these guys is to reduce fat because the muscle will be under there to shine through.  The battle isn’t about muscle growth, it’s about fat minimization.

 

CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion, the best body you can get doesn’t have to be a Greek God.  If you’re not a perfect mesomorph by body build, don’t kill yourself trying to get there.  If you’re an ectomorph, there are things you can do to increase muscle size.   Shredding down can be easier and perhaps having a lean, defined look is more reasonable for you.  For the endomorphs; muscle size is not a problem, so cutting fat as much as possible can give you a more bulked look that’s more reasonable for your body type.  If you sit somewhere between mesomorph and one of the other types, know your strengths and play to them (either lean towards being more ripped/lean or more bulked/yoked).  Healthy and realistic expectations can result in achieving reasonable goals.    

 

[i] Stateofobesity.org (5/10/18)

[i] https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/what-body-type-are-you.html

Images on this page from top to bottom include:

  1. Zerbor/Shutterstock.com

  2. Zerbor/Shutterstock.com

  3. Original Table

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  5. TreesTons/Shutterstock.com

  6. Original Table