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Body Type: The Right Fitness for Your Body Shape

by Gina Allchin and Liz Neporent

It's irrefutable: Your body's blueprint is pretty much determined on the day you are born. Although you can change your body composition (the amount of fat versus the amount of muscle you hold on your body) with exercise and diet, your basic structure will always remain the same.

At first, this may seem like bad news. However, it should be a welcome relief from the pressure of endlessly trying to achieve a body for which you are not designed. There are three basic body types: the ectomorph, the endomorph and the mesomorph. Whatever your type, follow a workout that's designed to make the most of it.

* Ectomorphs are long, wiry and narrow. They generally have delicate bone structures and shoulders and hips that are approximately the same width. Accomplished long-distance runners, ballerinas and basketball players are often ectomorphs. (Michelle Pfeiffer, Whitney Houston and Heather Locklear are examples of in-shape ectomorphs.)

Weight training strategy: Build up muscle with 2 to 4 sets of weight training exercises per body part. Use a moderate-to-heavy weight that you can lift with good form for 6 to 10 repetitions. Consider doing a split routine where you work some parts of the body one day and then others the next.

Cardio training strategy: Your goal is to up your stamina and whip your heart and lungs into shape, so include cardio exercise 3 to 5 times a week. Aim for 20 to 40 minutes per session at a moderate-to-intense workout level.

* Endomorphs are soft, curvy and often "pear-shaped" -- that is, their hips are often wider than their shoulders. Although this body type holds onto fat a little more tenaciously than the other body types, many famous actresses and singers are wonderful examples of how sexy and curvaceous endos can be. (Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey and Cindy Crawford are examples of in-shape endomorphs.)

Weight training strategy: Emphasize those glorious curves by adding muscle tone. Perform a total-body weight training routine three times a week that consists of two sets of weight training exercises per body part. Do 10-15 repetitions per set using a moderate to light weight. To improve body symmetry, you may want to double up on upper-body exercises.

Cardio training strategy: Do 30-60 minutes of cardio work 3 to 6 times a week for maximum fat and calorie burn. Your cardio workouts should generally be done at a moderately intense level.

* Mesomorphs have big bones and tend to muscle up easily. Their shoulders are often wider than their hips, and they are often described as having "medium" builds. Think sprinters, soccer players and tennis players. (Madonna, Gloria Estefan and Tina Turner are examples of in-shape mesomorphs.)

Weight training strategy: Light-to-moderate weight training done 2 to 3 times a week will help enhance tone, not size. Complete a basic strength workout 2 times a week, performing 2 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions using light to moderate weights for each major muscle group. You may want to try circuit training (moving quickly from one exercise to the next without a break) because it promotes strength and stamina without building bulk.

Cardio training strategy: Three to five cardio workouts a week done at a moderate to fast pace should help keep you looking lean and trim. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes per session.

The biggest thing to keep in mind as you evaluate your body type and proceed with your workouts: Do not compare yourself with anyone else or to earlier versions of your old self. You're striving to be the best you can be right now. And you're pretty terrific.

Weight & Body
Body Type: The Right Fitness for Your Body Shape
Body Mass Index (BMI)
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