M&F W5D2: Going Against Type

Are you going against type when it comes to your physique goals?

We all have certain physical traits determined by genetics–our coloring, frame, height, the length of our limbs, how excess fat is distributed over our bodies, and how easy it is to build muscle or fill up fat cells are all influenced by the genes we received from our parents.

This is not saying that you are stuck with the body that you got from Mom and Dad or that you can’t improve it and make it the very best version it can be, but the fact remains that some things will be a lot easier to change or improve than others, and a few cannot be changed at all without surgery.

If you are 5’2″, for instance, it is highly unlikely that you will ever make it as a runway fashion model no matter how thin or pretty you are. And if you are 6’7″ with a large frame, I doubt that the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team will be knocking on your door anytime soon. Some lucky duckies like Michael Phelps can reportedly eat over 10,000 calories a day and still maintain six pack abs. Other, less active men just look at a doughnut, and it will go right to their waistline.

Them’s the breaks, as Wolverine would say.

I’m of medium height at 5’6″ (this is relatively tall for an Asian female), but I have a somewhat non-standard mesomorph-endomorph body type and medium frame that only about 1/4 of my family members possess. The rest are small-framed with ectomorphic tendencies, meaning that they can stay slim without lifting a finger for most of their lives. I, on the other hand, need to bust my butt consistently at the gym and eat at least 80% clean for the rest of my life unless I want to turn into a squishy dumpling.

I know. It’s not fair! 😉

I also got stuck with the long torso and short, muscular legs of my mother’s family, which is great in terms of health benefits (I don’t put on dangerous abdominal fat very easily) and never being too many weeks away from visible abs no matter how much I’ve slacked off, but not so great for long-distance running, deadlifting, and fitting into American-style jeans which tend to have huge waists and super skinny legs to fit the more common apple or stick body types here in the United States. The muscles in my upper body don’t respond as quickly to training as my legs do, which makes it tough for me to achieve a balanced look. It has literally taken me years to get my back, arms, and shoulders to grow just a tiny bit, and I’m still not sure how much of it is actual lean mass and how much is subcutaneous padding from too many cheat meals this past year!

It has truly been an ongoing project to selectively build up my upper body while keeping leg muscles and body fat in check, but the other options are unacceptable to me:

  1. Stop seeking to be the best that I can be and just deal with having a scrawny upper body and Quadzilla legs (totally anathema to my artistic sense of symmetry)
  2. Attempt to achieve the typical waifish China doll look (nearly impossible based on my frame, love of food, and natural musculature)
  3. Give up entirely and become a Typical American (overweight, sluggish, inactive….)

As you might have guessed, Option 3 is the most unacceptable, which is why I keep chugging along with this exercise and healthy eating stuff even though I will probably never have amazing biceps or lovely capped shoulders thanks to the genetic quirk that has imbued me with very decent strength levels…for very minimal upper body bulk.

What is your goal physique? Are your genetics close to it at all, and do you feel that you have a realistic shot at achieving and maintaining it one day based on your frame? What has been your experience working against your natural type?

1. Fiber One bar; 3 egg whites
2. 1/2 scoop soy protein powder, 1/4 c. light soy milk, 1/4 banana, 1/2 bag Mix & Nuts unsalted trail mix
3. 4 oz. sesame-crusted salmon filet, 1 c. garlic sauteed broccoli, 1/2 baked apple
4. 32g walnuts, raisins, and cranberries
5. TBD (Possible cheat meal at Outback Steakhouse)
6. 2 slices honey roasted turkey breast, 2 egg whites, 4 c. mixed spinach and lettuce salad, 1/2 sliced apple, 2 T. Light Asian sesame ginger dressing, 1/2 bag Mix & Nuts unsalted trail mix

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D, 6 fish oil capsules

* HIIT Run (20 min)
* 1-mile walk (17 min)
* Recumbent Bike (30 min)

3 thoughts on “M&F W5D2: Going Against Type

  1. It has taken me a million years to accept the fact that no training/diet regime in the world will make me look like an ectomorph with muscles.
    That’s not what magically happens when you are really, really good and do all your body chores.
    Also, I’ve come to realize that as a mesomorph, I really don’t need to do quite as much of the ‘bodybuilding’ that i thought was mandatory-no-matter-what-this-is-how-everybody-gets-pretty-period. I can sit on a couch for two years and remain Quadzilla.
    I’m still trying to figure out what I want to exercise for, what my expectations are, and how I need to or want to modify my fitness approach based on realisitic (rather than prescriptive) thinking.
    It was more comforting to believe ‘3 days lifting/3 days HIIT’ will make me my most perfect-est, but alas, I’m not every Body. Each Body For it’s own Life, I guess…

    PS. It’s funny to hear somebody bemoan long-waistedness. My short-waistedness annoys me endlessly. No six packs or teeny waspyness for me!

  2. Hey Maggie!
    I am a textbook ectomorph through and through!. It amazes me how I can EAT and EAT and not gain weight! (Don’t throw things at me just yet!:) I also can NOT eat and NOT eat and NOT eat and Not lose weight either. My body likes to stay the same. Also I gain fat in ONE area (it feels like it anyway.) My stomach! I am SO apple shape and I hate it! I would love to have a “long torso” like you also. It’s kind of funny at the gym. I focus mostly on HEAVY weight lifting just so I can eek out a tiny muscle. I must look funny to the guys. Me, face scrunched up and red, busting out a rep as hard as I can, and I’m like little, tiny tini. I know it gives the guys a chuckle. THat’s Ok though cause Ha it makes me laugh. But I do it beacuse it is fun!!!

    Anyway, to answer your question, the only way I have been able to make a dent in reducing my budda belly is eating clean. But I fall back to bad habits and it comes right back! Ugh. I DO believe that not one exercise prescription fits all!

  3. Well, my goals may be unrealistic, but it’s hard to tell. Don’t we all think we’re endomorphs? I want to be more mesomorphic.

    I’m 5’1″ and apple-shaped and have hypothyroidism, which still means that I have a ridiculously low bmr. I know the height is fixed and the hips aren’t going to get bigger any time soon. I know my bodyfat will always go first to my thighs and belly. But I hope that reducing that bodyfat will produce some abs, or at least a flat stomach.

    And, yeah for quadzilla though I also got decent biceps and shoulders pretty quickly into working on them.

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