I’m sure a lot of my readers are familiar with somatotypes. Occasionally you see them referenced in bodybuilding articles with reccomendations for the different types, or references to building a more mesomorphic physique. There are even types or ‘elements’ in traditional chinese medicine, which Charles Poliquin has written about regarding training prescriptions.
Regardless of how you feel about somatotypes or TCM, there are archetypes and they do make a difference in training prescriptions. Now, I’m not sure they’re an intrinsic untrainable quality, or that they fit into three molds or five. I just know we can use the archetype as a useful tool if we both take it with a grain of salt and use broad brushstrokes. Here are the two types I see the most and that seem to have the most importance in training:
The Couch Potato
This type is someone who doesn’t have any work capacity. Their body has simply not been trained to do anything strenuous. Grade school was not a lot of fun for this person, as they probably didn’t play a sport and sucked at PE. Without training, this person was probably fat, or skinny-fat ie small but soft, without any discernible muscle tone. I was one of these kids, so I feel like I can tell it like it is without hatin’.
There’s probably a confluence of genetic and environmental factors at play here, but the latter is the malleable and thus important one. I’m not saying genetics is equitable and that we’re all equally gifted because it’s not true. I am saying that we can make an immense change in our bodies by what we do with it.
Signs you may be this type:
- You are fat or were fat before you started training. Your natural level of body condition is on par with this guy:
- When you were school aged you didn’t play any sports on school or competitive teams.
- When you had to do the President’s Physical Fitness test, you couldn’t run a mile without stopping
- You’re male and can’t do a pullup
- You’re male and can’t squat your bodyweight
- You’re male and can’t do 20 good pushups
I’m light on indicators for the ladies, since I have a lot less experience with watching you train and the women I’ve trained have kind of been studs.
What you need to do:
You need to move, a lot. Since you’re either genetically predisposed or have been potentiated by your early life to be sedentary and soft, you need a ton of physical activity to get your metabolism humming and your work capacity up to par so you can do actual meaningful training.Remember, it’s not all bad, you’ve got some advantages. For one, gaining weight isn’t a big deal to you and since you’re probably not very neurologically efficient, you’ve got a great tolerance for volume.
- Do whole body workouts, at least until you get your body up to some kind of fitness baseline. For males, I’d say a 315-225-405 total on the three powerlifts (squat – bench – deadlift, respectively) is a good start. Until then, you’re work capacity is to shitty to piddle around with bodypart splits.
- Train 3-4 days per week.
- Take rest periods no more than three minutes, because you are too out of shape to rest. Get a watch or look at the clock, don’t guess and don’t chitchat.
- Do some kind of physical activity every day. On your off days do some gentle cardio, like a half hour on a stationery bike while you read a book. You don’t need to get all winded and out of breath, just do it. Going for a walk would be good to. Do it every off day.
- On one of your training days, do some kind of conditioning work, preferably early in the morning, at least six hours before you train if you train at night. You could do some sprints on the stationery bike or rowing machine or do some bodyweight circuits. Try pushups, squats and 8-count bodybuilders.
Part II I’ll go over another archetype that I’m currently dealing with.