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Choosing the right workout program

This is an excerpt from Men's Body Sculpting - 2nd Edition by Nicholas Evans.

Identifying Your Body Type

We have different body types, just as we have different personalities. Your body is as individual as your fingerprints. The way you look is determined much more by your genes—the information contained in your body's cells—than by the jeans you're wearing. The key to creating your own workout program lies in understanding body types and building a regimen that accommodates your unique form rather than trying to change it. If you customize exercise and diet to your own specific body type, you'll achieve a more effective transformation.

The three basic body types are ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. An ectomorph is lean with a thin, delicate build and might have trouble gaining weight. A mesomorph is muscular with a hard, rectangular build and gains or loses weight easily. An endomorph is plump with a soft, round build and might have trouble losing weight. Most people do not fit perfectly into any one category. Although one type usually predominates, most of us are a combination of body types. Because everyone's body is unique, body typing and workout design are not exact sciences. However, knowing your predominant body type helps in developing an ideal exercise and diet plan to meet your goals. Each body type requires a different bodybuilding prescription. The regimen for an ectomorph differs from that for an endomorph because they are at opposite ends of the body type spectrum.

The ectomorph body type tends to have a fast metabolism and has a tough time gaining muscle mass. The prime goal of an ectomorph is weight gain, so his bodybuilding program must be prescribed with this in mind. Exercise should focus on mass-building workouts, using heavier weights and fewer repetitions. Calorie-burning cardio should be kept to a bare minimum. An ectomorph's diet should contain a surplus of calories from complex carbohydrate foods to encourage anabolic weight gain.

The endomorph is the exact opposite. This body type tends to have a slow metabolism that stores unwanted extra calories. The endomorph easily gains weight but struggles to lose body fat. The main goal for an endomorph is burning off excess body fat. For his purposes, exercise should include several cardio sessions per week. Weight training should be performed at a fast pace with a higher range of reps. Diet is critical for the endomorph. To promote fat loss, daily calorie intake must be less than the daily calorie expenditure. The diet should be high in protein and moderate in fat, with a moderate amount of complex carbohydrate foods. Snacking and empty calories should be avoided.

The mesomorph body type is genetically advantaged when it comes to building lean muscle mass. Often, the mesomorph looks like an athlete even without training. This body type can benefit from almost any training protocol. However, to realize maximum potential, the mesomorph must build on his genetically gifted foundation. The mesomorph thrives on challenge and variation. This body type responds well to an alternating exercise program, switching between a bulking-up phase to pack on mass and a cutting-up phase to define the added muscle.

If you need help in deciding your body type, you may utilize measurements such as body mass index, percent body fat, and resting metabolic rate.

Body mass index (BMI) is an indicator of total body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women (see table 4.1). In simple terms, your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters squared). The BMI does have limitations, however, because it overestimates fat content in athletes and muscular persons.

Table 4.1

A muscular person may have a BMI above 25 and would be categorized as being overweight according to table 4.1. Therefore, percent body fat (%BF) is a better indicator of fat content for bodybuilders. For example, a lean and muscular man standing 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) and weighing 200 pounds (91 kg) with 10 percent body fat has a BMI of 28 (i.e., overweight). He may be above average weight for his height, but with a body fat of 10 percent he is clearly not fat.

The simplest method of measuring body fat percentage is using a skinfold caliper. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, and record the skin thickness at three sites on your body (typically the upper arm, waist, and thigh). Calculate the average reading by adding all three measurements and then dividing by 3. The average body fat percentage for males is 15 percent, but a sleek six-pack of abs will show only if your body fat is below 10 percent. The skinfold caliper will give a rough estimate of your body fat, but this method lacks accuracy, and your calculation may be off by a few percentage points—not good if you're monitoring small changes.

Your local gym or doctor's office may offer more accurate assessments of BMI, percent body fat, and metabolic rate. Commonplace nowadays are airtight chambers that calculate body composition by measuring the volume of air a person's body displaces while inside the chamber. Other devices such as handheld calorimeters offer quick and accurate measurements of your resting metabolic rate. All you need to do is breathe into this device for several minutes while at rest, and, by measuring oxygen consumption, the device is able to calculate your metabolic rate. Measurements such as BMI, percent body fat, and metabolic rate are useful for determining your body type before starting your program as well as for monitoring the progress you make at regular intervals.

So, let's briefly discuss three body-sculpting programs. If you're looking to pack on pounds of muscle fast, the mass generator program is the plan for you. I have selected 14 of the best mass-building exercises and combined them into a three-day split-workout routine that hits the muscles hard while providing ample time for recovery and growth. To optimize muscle hypertrophy, you'll perform between 6 and 10 repetitions, using 70 to 80 percent of your one-rep maximum (1RM) weight on each exercise. The mass-generating diet will deliver a surplus of calories to give your muscles the fuel they need to grow.

If you're looking to lose unwanted body fat quickly, the body fat blitz program is the plan for you. I have combined a selection of resistance and aerobic exercises into a four-day workout routine that increases your metabolic rate and melts away your fat stores. To maximize calorie use, you'll perform between 10 and 15 repetitions of each weight-training exercise, keeping the rest interval between sets under 60 seconds. The fat-loss diet aims to create a daily calorie deficit so that the negative caloric balance forces your body to burn fat stores to provide energy.

If you're looking to forge the ultimate physique, the hybrid hard body program is the plan for you. This workout combines 30 of the most effective muscle-shaping exercises into a four-day split-training routine. I have included a couple of cardio sessions in the weekly schedule to tease off that fat layer and showcase your hard-earned muscle. The hard body diet provides enough nutrients to fuel muscle growth, while careful calorie control starves your fat stores. The hybrid system is a blend of techniques and a combination of bodybuilding styles that simultaneously stimulates muscle growth and promotes fat loss. In effect, with the hybrid system you get the best elements of the mass generator program and the body fat blitz program, and then some.

Selecting Your Program

When you begin a workout program, the first step is to choose a goal. Decide what you really want to change. If your main objective is to add some size to your guns or expand your chest measurement, then you should style your routine toward building mass. On the other hand, if your wish is to lose the spare tire around your waist and get a six-pack, then you should focus on burning calories. Can't decide? Come on, be honest with yourself! Jump on the scale, take a look in the mirror, and get out the tape measure. If you are overweight and your waist is bigger than your chest, I reckon you should be focusing on losing some lard rather than bulking up.

Several key objectives will guide you in selecting your personalized program. Also see table 4.2 for an algorithm for selecting which program is right for you.

Table 4.2

Objective 1: Focus on your primary goal. Your brain works best when it focuses on a single task. By choosing a specific target, you'll be slick and quick in cutting straight to the chase. To fine-tune your physique, identify exactly what your needs are. Do you want to gain muscle, torch body fat, or achieve both?

Objective 2: Coordinate exercise and diet. Whether your quest is more muscle or less flab, you have two weapons at your disposal: exercise and diet. Exercise and diet are a tag team. They can function alone but work much better together. A low-calorie diet designed to shed body fat does not complement a mass-building exercise regimen. For best results, combine exercise and diet in the most effective way.

Objective 3: Tailor your exercise technique. The exercise protocol for maximizing muscle growth is different from the protocol for slicing off body fat. By manipulating the ground rules and tweaking your technique, you can create a program that does exactly what you want it to do.

More Excerpts From Men's Body Sculpting 2nd Edition