Opinion: Endomorphs - the workout you hate might also hate you

woman angry on treadmill
Just because Google says you should be doing HIIT, doesn't mean it's correct, writes Nats Levi. Photo credit: Getty.

In this series, health and wellness coach Nats Levi explains why your training might not be best for your somatotype, or body type. In this edition, she's looking at the 'endomorph'.

OPINION: Let me guess.

You love to sleep in, stay up late naturally and can think of nothing worse than getting up before the rooster crows to do an intense workout. Am I right?

Yet everything Google tells you what do with your fitness indicates you should be up at some prehistoric hour, in a big, noisy gym and doing some sort of Tabata/ HIIT/ Intensity plus workout.

You try. You may still be trying. But you are getting nowhere.

Then you ask...'So, if working out hard and all the HIIT/ CrossFit/ Intensity plus exercise is not for me than what should I be doing?'

Well, turn that question to yourself. What does your body feel like doing?

Do you barf at the thought of getting up super early, like pre-rooster call time, and doing a workout full of noise and jumps and runs?

Well, then, don't.

I have said it before, and I will preach it again.

We are not all supposed to be doing the same cookie-cutter workouts and training identically as everybody else all the time.

There are reasons bigger than feelings as to why some people thrive in intense workouts and other people... meh.

If your body isn't responding to intense workouts, maybe they're not right for you.
If your body isn't responding to intense workouts, maybe they're not right for you. Photo credit: Getty.

Welcome to the world of tailoring a workout or training schedule based on your somatotype. Somato-what?

Somatotype: Not new information but maybe a little forgotten. This is the idea that people are born with an inherited body type based on skeletal frame and body composition. This can be due to genetics, culture and the incubation stage while you were a zygote/embryo status. That is just a cool way to say baby, in the womb.

It is the idea that your body decides what will work best for you, as an individual, in terms of movement and nourishment.


Well, rather than embark on a scientific study - which most of you have already fallen asleep at the thought of - let us work through examples of how each somatotype (endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph) is suggested to train. The old "what's in it for me?" hook.


Today we will deal with the endomorph. So, if you are larger (taller and wider bones) in skeletal structure, thicker joints, have generally more tissue (muscle and fat) than your other human counterparts and present stronger legs, this is all about you. You probably read the opening to this piece and thought "OMG- that is me!"

The endomorph body type.
The endomorph body type. Photo credit: Getty.

Yip, you are not alone in all those thoughts or feelings and you are not lazy!

Bottom line.

The best training for you is STRENGTH. You love to feel weighted in the world. Your body would respond really well to some solid strength programming using all primal movement patterns (squat, lunge, push, pull, press, twist and bend).

A great strength program for you might see you lifting heavy things (heavy for where you are in your fitness journey right now) for anywhere form 1-12 reps over multiple sets. It could be that hardcore gardening/ landscaping you do shifting, lifting and using all that equipment in your yard- see how strength can be something that is done outside of the gym space?

You might really enjoy weightlifting and want to explore powerlifting/ Olympic lifting, a solid gym-based strength program or something you can commit to at home. Send me a message- I have great trainers I know all over the country who can help you out.

But, I hear you say, "Nats, I love CrossFit/ HIIT training?"

That is cool, in most of the CrossFit workout boxes I have visited there is always some fantastic strength work which really suits the endomorph stature. The HIIT will feel hard but it is doable for you. Flip your thinking around it. Go at your pace, take the time you need for your beautiful, larger skeleton to complete a great movement in the time you need to. Doing 6-10 complex movements in 10 seconds is challenging for a smaller stature let alone the endomorph.

woman working out in a gym
Go at your own pace when lifting. Photo credit: Getty.

Let that love of community and the support network drive you. A perfect HIIT feeling workout for the endomorph is something that switches from a lower body exercise to an upper body exercise in a circuit series (from one move to another) e.g. A squat pattern (like sitting and standing from a chair) to a push pattern (like a push up). It switches the blood flow from muscle group to muscle group across the body and has a huge benefit to the fitness of an endomorph. That is quite a distance of travel for the blood flow, right?

OK, so if that is strength, what about the right cardio?

Gait (the eighth wonderful primal movement pattern) would serve you well. Gait can also mean walking. Outside walking, heck even jogging if you feel like it, in nature for a solid 30- 45 minutes is perfect for you. You are enduring and resilient statures.

woman walking in the park
Get out and get walking. Photo credit: Getty.

'Walking' can take variations, you might prefer the support of water and go to the local for some aqua jogging (swimming), you might like to play social sport and do some of that "gait" with the motivation of your team on the courts/ field. Whatever it is, the key thing is to enjoy it, it is STEADY STATE (note: not intense, although you may feel pockets of intensity). Steady state is a cool way of saying your heart rate is up there, but you are not dying. You are more in a state of oxygen debt, or breathless conversation, also, known as aerobic activity.

For you endomorphs, the support of a team or walking with loved ones will suit you, as it is not about you, it is about things you are doing for your best health.  You are getting healthier and fitter but there is also an element of protecting/ nurturing others.

Generally, the other statures such as the mesomorph are all about the win. Competitive much? But, don't be fooled, you can still bop the little folk and take the trophy, it is just about the right motivation.

Oh yeah, and what about the sleep in and hate of early morning training? Yip, own that. Your body is telling you something.

Ideally, strength training and moving for the endomorph will be later in the day once your body has had time to enter the day at a pace that you want to go at. This is not always easy to accommodate in today's work life. If you can, structure your strength training or stronger workouts later in the day (2-3 x week). Give yourself enough time/ days between these workouts to allow the body to recover as your tendons, ligaments and joints will need it. You can do your cardio (3-4 x week is perfect) and less physically taxing workouts on your body earlier in your daily rhythm. Does that mean at the crack of dawn for you? It might not. Ask if it is necessary for you in your health life right now and if you want to make a change- do it, or don't in this case, get up for a 5am walk/ workout that is.

Well my endomorphs, I hope this has given you something to think about and some ideas about how you might want to mix up your movement to do things that best suit you as an individual.

As always, if you need help or have questions, message me on nats@natslevi.com. I can point you in the right direction or towards the right person.

The next #NLC challenge starts on March 11th so hit up natslevi.com to register or find out more.

Next time.... the ectomorph.

Nats Levi is an Auckland- based health and wellness coach. She runs a 4 week health challenge, #NLC, aimed at finding your best health and a sustainable lifestyle for you using the pillars of movement, nourishment and restoration. To get in touch with Nats, contact her here.