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Determine Your Body Type

These three factors influence bo

These three factors influence body shape:

  • Excess body fat, that is, the result of energy intake exceeding energy output.

  • Poor muscle tone and/or development. This can be the result of physical activity or genetic factors, or a combination of both.

  • Genetic factors can account for the different muscle development of two individuals in response to the same activity programme.

Genetically determined body characteristics. The term Endomorph, Mesomorph and Ectomorph were used by J H Sheldon, a British geriatrician, to describe three genetic body types. (Somatotypes)


Endomorphy is characterised by a roundness and softness of the body. In lay terms, Endomorphy is the "fatness" component of the body. This type shows a predominance of abdomen size over thorax size, high square shoulders, and a short neck. There is a general smoothness of body contour, with little or no muscle relief.


Mesomorphy is characterised by a square body with hard, rugged, prominent musculature. Legs, trunks and arms are usually massive in bone and heavily muscled throughout, while forearms are thick, and wrists, hands and fingers heavy. The thorax is large and the waist relatively slender. Shoulders are broad, the trunk usually upright, and the trapezius and deltoid muscles large. The abdominal muscles are prominent and thick. These characteristics are predominate in many athletes.


Ectomorphy has as predominant characteristics linearity, fragility and delicacy of body. This is the "leanness" component. Bones are small and the muscles thin, not bulging. Limbs are relatively long and the trunk short; this does not necessarily mean, however, that the individual is tall. The abdomen and the lumbar curve are flat, while the thoracic curve is relatively sharp and elevated. Shoulders are usually narrow, drooping and lacking muscle relief. The shoulder girdle lacks muscular support and padding, and the scapulas' tend to "wing out" behind the body.


Sheldon named these three body types because they exhibit the characteristics of the extreme variants found in the population. Four thousand males were photographed and classified in accordance with the characteristics of the three body types. On the basis of this analysis it was determined that the pure type does not exist, but that each person exhibits all three components in varying proportions. The potential for a person to change body shape is limited by inherited characteristics to some extent. Inside these limits, however, there is usually room for significant improvement. The diet and exercise requirements are readily accessible, but many people need behaviour modification as well. The approach to changing body shape might therefore be threefold, requiring:

  • Control of diet.

  • Adjust of physical activity.

  • Behaviour modification.

The warm-up: The purpose of the warm-up is to increase body temperature and circulation, which facilitates metabolic processes (improves energy production and waste removal) and enhances tissue elasticity, thereby reducing the possibility of injury, as well as preparing you psychologically for the training routine. One or more of these activities can be used for a general warm-up:

  • Stationary cycling for 5-15 minutes at low intensity.

  • Using a stair stepping device for 5-15 minutes at low intensity.

  • Jogging 1-5 kilometers

  • Any other aerobic activity performed for 5-15 minutes where the intensity can be easily controlled.

Stretching: Flexibility exercises should not be performed before the warm-up. The best time to do them is right after the warm-up or after the workout, or any combination of the two. The muscle and connective tissues are not ready for vigorous activity until the muscle temperature and blood circulation are increased. (Almost all advanced bodybuilders do a general warm-up before performing flexibility exercises.)

For more information and detailed stretches, see the next page - Stretching.

Your regimen of flexibility exercises should include every joint in the body. Resist the temptation to rush through them - approach them with a relaxed attitude.

Remember: Perform a general warm-up, then perform flexibility exercises. Moreover, specific flexibility programs are best performed at the very end of the training session.

The Workout: Know what you want to do before you walk into a gym. That way, you're much more likely to stay on course. Some socialising and banter isn't a bad thing, but don't get lost in the chatter.

When you have a blueprint to tell you what to do, you don't have to spend your mental energy planning as you go. Instead, you can abandon yourself to the essence of training: become an animal. Feel those muscles work, the pounding of your heart, the exhilaration of being a physical being.

And while you're being an animal, remember the other animals. Even if they're not as big as you, they're still human. So be a courteous animal.

The Cool Down: The cool-down will assist in the recovery from a hard workout by bringing the body back to the resting state in a gradual manner. The cool down is the last physical activity of the workout. The intensity of the workout will dictate the form and extent of the cool down.

This is the most beneficial time to execute specific flexibility training because the muscles are warm, circulation is strong and the inherent muscle and tendon tension is reduced because the muscle spindles and the Golgi tendon organs are desensitised.

The cool down should last 5 - 15 minutes and can include flexibility work, easy jogging, stationary cycling or stair stepping.

Recovery: Application of cold and heat are very useful methods to improve circulation, which facilitates tissue repair and heals micro-traumas that occur from training. Cold and heat invigorate and restore energy levels. Heat (in whirlpools, sports creams, hot packs, steam rooms and saunas) is a common aid in the recovery process.

While most people recognise the value of heat in recuperation, many don't realise the great value of cold applications. Cold plunges have been used with great success by Olympic and professional athletes to improve the recovery process. Many cutting edge health clubs offer cold plunges.

Applying both hot and cold applications (whirlpools and cold plunges, for instance) has been shown to be productive in the recovery process. Moreover, you can alternate hot showers with cold showers to produce a substantial recuperation effect if whirlpools and cold plunges are not available. This hot/cold combination increases circulation and strongly stimulates the hormonal and nervous system, which helps expedite recuperation.

A good general guide-line is 3-5 minutes in the hot environment, followed by 1-2 minutes in the cold environment. You should follow this procedure for two or three series, finishing off with 3-5 minutes in the hot environment.

Use these methods of recuperation and you will be amazed at your new energy and enthusiasm for your training program.

Remember: Work, rest and nutrition combine to produce maximum results of bodybuilding and sports training programs.

Training The Right Way: There is more to weight training than simply finding a barbell and "pumping iron". This chapter outlines some do's and don'ts that will let you get the most of the time and effort you devote to training and do it safely.

Performing Exercises Correctly: The techniques of lifting involve focusing on four things: having a good grip; having a stable position from which to lift; keeping the object being lifted close to your body; and learning to use your legs, not your back to lift.

Gripping The Bar: There are two factors to consider when establishing a grip:

  • The type of grip that should be used

  • How far apart the hands should grip the bar.

The Types of Grips that may be used to lift a bar off the floor are pronated or overhand grip; the supinated or underhand grip; and the mixed or alternate grip. In the overhand grip the knuckles face up and the thumbs are toward each other. In the underhand grip, the palms face up and the thumbs face away from each other. In the alternate grip, one hand is in the underhand grip, and the other in the overhand grip; the thumbs point in the same direction. All of these grips are termed closed grips, meaning that the fingers and thumbs are wrapped (closed) around the bar. In an open grip, sometimes referred to as a false grip, the thumbs do not wrap around the bar. The open grip can be very dangerous, because the bar may roll off the palms of the hand and onto the face or foot, causing severe injury. Always use the closed grip!

The Width of Grip and there are several grip widths used in weight training. In some exercises the hands are placed at about shoulder width, at an equal distance from the weight plates. This is referred to as the common grip. Some exercises require a narrower grip than this, others wider. Be sure you note the type of grip and the proper width for each exercise as well as how to establish a balanced grip on the bar. Become familiar with the smooth and knurled areas of the bar and place your hands appropriately. Incorrectly placed hands can create an imbalanced grip and result in serious injury.

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Training Paraphernalia


Bodybuilding programs can be enhanced by a variety of training equipment: support belts, knee and elbow wraps, wrist straps, gloves and special lifting shoes. Sensibly used, these "tools of the trade" can facilitate training, making it more enjoyable and more successful.


Support Belts - These are used primarily to reduce the stress on the low back and for extra support. They can be made of leather, various fibres or a combination of leather and an air bladder. Each is effective. Belts allow the user to increase the internal abdominal pressure and the pressure in the chest, which decompresses the spine and provides support. The mechanical support of these devices is secondary to the primary purpose of increasing abdominal and chest pressure to provide internal support for the lower back area.

These devices can support and protect the back in exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell rows, standing curls or French presses and front and lateral raises.


Knee & Elbow Wraps - Knee and elbow wraps are made of elastic material that provides very good external support to muscles and joints. These wraps are used to provide warmth and external support to the joint and help protect it from injury. Our recommendations:

  • You should use good quality wraps that have maintained their elasticity.

  • The wraps should be applied with reasonable tension.

  • The wraps should be removed immediately after each set of an exercise where they are used.

  • Wrist, elbow and knee joints can be effectively wrapped in exercise. Muscles of the arms and legs can also be effectively wrapped when needed.

  • Wrapping should not replace competent orthopaedic evaluation and treatment for injuries.

  • Learn and practice proper exercise technique.

Wrist Straps - For heavy lifting and special exercises, wrist straps provide good grip support. Improved gripping will allow for more effective overloading of the muscle group being trained.


Gloves - Protection of the hands in a bodybuilding program minimises the development of calluses and provides a good degree of comfort. Effective bodybuilding programs require the lifting of high volumes of weight, and hand protection and comfort is important. Your gloves should be washed frequently for sanitary reasons.


Lifting Shoes - Always wear shoes that support the foot and ankle when bodybuilding. Most athletic shoes are really not effective in providing good foot and ankle support in weight lifting activities. Weight lifting shoes are preferred, but another shoe is acceptable if it provides full foot support, accommodates fast moving balance shifts and allows rising on toes and body movement with minimal sole and shoe deformation. Select shoes that support foot, arch and ankle.


Training Precautions Using Free Weights


The following precautions will make training safer and more effective by helping you avoid potentially dangerous situations.


Lock Barbells & Dumbbells - Lifting with unlocked barbells and dumbbells is dangerous. Weight plates that are not secured with locks can easily slide off the bar and land on your feet or other body parts. Before each set of exercises, locks should be checked for tightness. Do not assume that the last person using the barbell or dumbbell tightened the locks.


Avoid Backing into Others - Take care to avoid backing into others, because an untimely bump may cause a barbell or dumbbell to fall on the head (from a standing press) or face (as in dumbbell flye exercise) of someone training nearby.


Beware of Extended Bars - Extended bars are those that overhang or extend outwards from the machine, from barbell supported on racks (e.g., on the squat rack), from uprights (as for the bench press), or from bars held in the hands. Pay special attention to bars that are positioned at or above shoulder height; serious facial injuries can result from walking into bars, so be careful! The lat pulldown bar and the barbells held at or above shoulder height are likely sources of facial injuries to those who are not alert, so be especially cautious with these bars around people who are performing overhead exercises.


Store Equipment Properly - Each piece of equipment in the weight training area should be stored in a special location. People can trip or slip on those barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates left unattended or those not placed in their proper location. Make sure you place your equipment in the appropriate locations; this applies to your equipment at home as well as to that in a weight training facility. At home there may be an added danger if children are able to climb on equipment or to try to lift plates and bars that are too heavy for them. Secure weight training equipment so that children do not have access to it without your supervision.


Load Bars Properly - Take great care to load bars evenly and with the proper amount of load. If the ends of a suspended bar (on the flat or incline bench and on the squat rack supports) are not loaded evenly, the bar may tip, possibly resulting in injury. Learning to recognise the weight of different bars and of weight plates will help you in loading the bar evenly and in placing the proper amount of load on the bar.


Lifting the Bar - Lifting the bar correctly is important to your safety. Improper lifting places substantial stress on the lower back and can result in serious back injuries. Always observe these keys to proper lifting:


  • Position your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart with toes pointing slightly outward. (Establishing a stable base of support is especially important for overhead exercises with dumbbells or barbells).

  • Position your shoulders over the bar, keeping your head up and your eyes looking straight ahead.

  • Establish the "flat back" position, which makes your legs, instead of your back, move the load.

  • As you lift, think "Keep the bar close, the hips low, and the back flat".


The preparatory lifting position places the body in a stable position, one in which the legs -not the back- do the lifting. Getting into the proper position is not as easy as you might think. As you squat down, one or both heels will tend to lift up, causing you to step forward to catch your balance. Remember; keep your heels on the floor! If a mirror is available, watch yourself as you squat down into the low preparatory position. Does your back stay in a flat position, and do your heels stay in contact with the floor? They should. The most important point to remember when you lift a barbell, dumbbell, weight plate, or any object off the floor is to use your leg muscles, not your back muscles.


If you need to pull the barbell to your shoulders, continue pulling it past your thighs, do not allow the bar to rest on your thighs. As you straighten your legs, your hips should move forward quickly, followed by a rapid shoulder shrug. In order to effectively and safely pull the bar from the thighs to the shoulders, visualise yourself jumping with the barbell while keeping your elbows straight, and at the very peak of the jump, see yourself shrugging you shoulders and flexing your elbows to catch the bar on the shoulders. Time the catch of the bar onto your shoulders so that the knees and hips are flexed as the bar makes shoulder contact.


Returning the Bar to the Floor - When lowering the bar or any heavy object to the floor, remember to keep the bar or weight close to you and keep the back flat, relying on your legs to move the bar in a slow, controlled manner to the floor. If the bar is at shoulder height, allow the bar's weight to slowly pull your arms to a straightened position, which should place the bar in a resting position (briefly) on your thighs. Hold the bar briefly at mid thigh before lowering it to the floor. Remember to keep your head up and your back flat throughout the bar's return to the floor.


Using a Weight Belt - Should you use a weight belt? The answer depends on which exercise you are performing and the amount of weight you are using. You do not need a belt for exercises that do not stress the back (e.g., biceps curl, lat pull-down) or for those exercises that do stress the back but involve the use of light loads (e.g., squats, overhead press). You should definitely wear a belt when performing exercises that stress the back and involve the use of maximum or near-maximum loads. When using a belt, pull it snugly around you. And remember, the use of a weight belt in and of itself will not protect you from back injuries - good technique will!


Breathing - Correct breathing involves breathing out during working or sticking phase of exercise and inhaling during the relaxation phase. When lifting a bar (or other object), exhale as you pass through the most difficult part. For example, if you are lifting a bar only to thigh level, the "sticking point" would be located just above your knees. If you are pulling the bar to your shoulders, the sticking point occurs at the peak of your shoulder shrug. Remember to inhale as you lower the bar back to the floor. You will have a tendency to hold your breath throughout the entire exertion phase - avoid this, because it is dangerous! If you don't exhale, you reduce the return of blood to your heart and brain. And if your brain is deprived of oxygen-rich blood, you can become dizzy, and you may faint. Holding your breath is inappropriate and is especially dangerous when performing overhead exercises. Furthermore, it is even more dangerous if you have high blood pressure. Put simply, proper breathing is imperative during the execution of each exercise.

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