What body type are you? What exercises suit you best?
The human body is the most amazing yet complex machine ever created.
But unlike a car or any other machine, the more you use it, the better it gets! The philosophy is simple: “Use it or lose it”.
Exercise is one of the ingredients you use to maintain your health, body and mind in a good shape. Exercise has many, physiologically speaking, benefits, such as fat loss, increase of energy, toning, improving strength and stamina, reduction of elevated blood pressure, lowering high cholesterol levels, just to mention a few. Exercise is also, without a doubt, your best bet to heighten your mood, reduce anxiety, and keep you focused and self-confident…
In fact, exercise is the tonic in the fountain of youth!
Can you change your shape with exercise? Can you lose fat from certain areas with specific exercise?
Irrespective of our lifestyles and exercise efforts, genetics does have an influence in our body shape. As genetics dictates, some women tend to store more fat on their bottoms and thighs, hence the pear shape; while others may have thinner legs but a paunch, so called apple shaped body.
What we know for certain is that the fat burns last from where it was stored first. The good news is that any physical effort will force your body to take fat from the place that you have it in excess, i.e. pear shaped body burns the fat from the legs by exercising rather than dieting alone. Unfortunately, the bad news is that you cannot do anything about your bone structure, such as wide hipbones, in which case exercise has no effect.
To complicate things a little, you should not only workout according to your body shape but most importantly according your muscle fiber type. As it happens, your muscles are built of two different kinds of cells – red and white muscle fibers. The percentage of each varies from person to person and, from one muscle to another.
The red fibers are responsible for light endurance training as they are highly resistant to fatigue. And, the red fibers do not increase in size with training. Looking at a marathon runner, you notice that his muscles are not big but small and highly resistant to fatigue. So, if you are better in long distance events like running long distances or training in gym using light weights with more repetitions, you most probably have more of the red fibers.
On the other hand, the white fibers are larger in size, much stronger than the red fibers and will increase in size with training. They have the capacity to produce high force but only last for a short period of time. If your muscle contain mostly white fibers you will be better at short events like sprinting or using heavier weight with fewer repetitions.
Most people are somewhere in the middle; so if your ratio of red to white fibers is 1:1 you are in the midst of being a marathon runner and/or a sprinter. Your genes decide whether you have the potential of a marathon runner or a sprinter!
Can you change your muscle fibers from red to white or vise versa?
Scientifically – no you can’t. What you can change is only the characteristics of the fibers, meaning that, if you have white fibers and practice long distances, your body will adapt to that type of training during the training period, but never reach the potential of someone who has mainly red fibers.
Likewise, if you are mainly red fibers, your body can adapt to short distance events only up to a certain extent – just don’t expect to get as strong or as fast as someone who has more white fibers. In conclusion, the marathon runner will never become a good sprinter and vice versa.
Now you might assume that, if you are a white fiber type you should be training with heavy weights and doing short event sports and, if you are a red fiber type, you should use light weight and concentrate on endurance training. But, although it is true that your body will respond best to the training that fits your body type, the training might not correspond to your goals; i.e. if you are in the white fiber group type and your goal is to slim down and look thinner, heavy training will not give you the results you want. The same with the red fiber group type, if you want to increase your size, you will not reach your goal by light training.
Once you have an idea of which fiber group you belong to, you will be able to set a long term goal, broken down in short term achievements.
Are there specific exercises you can do to reduce fat from certain areas?
The truth be told – you can spend the rest of your life doing leg exercises (for the outer and the inner thigh) without seeing any significant results or do 1000 sit ups every day without making your six packs visible. Spot reduction doesn’t exist; you cannot burn the fat from one area by the concentration of exercises for that particular area. The only way for you to feel your legs shaping up and your stomach getting flatter, is to combine the strength exercises with some cardio workout, together with healthy regime. It is the combination that works – not isolated efforts.
The cardio workout helps you to burn fat on top of speeding your metabolic rate; while the strength exercises will help firm your body and increase your muscle mass. As muscles are metabolically active, by increasing your muscle mass, you also speed up your metabolic rate.
Exercises for pear shaped
Beginners should start with exercising 3 times a week. If you have been exercising for more than 2-3 months, you can exercise 4-6 times a week.
Try to make a plan where you include weightlifting 3 times a week and cardio training 3-6 times a week, where, you can, either, combine the cardio and weight training or do them separately.
The cardio workout:
Do aerobic training like jogging, walking, biking for 20- 40 minutes, 3-6 times a week. After you pass the beginners’ level, you can include anaerobic training into your routine.
The strength training:
Considering there is not much one can do about bone structure, you can building up your shoulders and your upper body to give the illusion of a smaller hip.
Train your upper body with heavier weights (train medium-heavy) and your lower body with lighter weights (train light). Doing more is not always better, so, if you only want to shape your legs without increasing the muscle mass, don’t train them too much too often. Over-training your legs will not reduce the fat from them. Remember – you need to prepare your body and build up foundation for at least 1-2 months before starting serious training.
Exercises for apple shape
The same goes for those who have an apple shaped body. As a beginner you should start slowly and then increase both, the frequency and the intensity of the training.
The cardio workout:
Same as for the pear shaped.
The strength training:
You can give the illusion of a smaller upper body by training your legs heavier (train medium-heavy) and your upper body lighter(train light). Remember – doing stomach crunches day in and day out will not give you the flat stomach. By doing the training properly, it is enough to train the stomach 3-4 times a week.
How heavy is heavy? How light is light?
Heavy is considered to be the weight that you can handle for 6-9 repetitions only. Moderate between 10-15 repetitions and light between 15-20 repetitions.
If you use the above guidelines, you should be able to have complete control over how developed your muscles become; toned and slender or bodybuilder-chiseled. It is all in your hand now!
Helga and Ahmed