Which body type benefits most from a push up? And which one benefits the least?

Each of the three ‘pure’ body types has differing movement capacities and limitations. Your body type will influence your abilities with different Pilates exercises and may contribute to how much you love or hate an exercise.

Last week I introduced three different body types and explained a bit about each. Today, we’ll explore the movement capabilities and limitations of all three body types.


Movement Capacities:

  • Excellent mobility and flexibility due to their loose, elastic connective tissue
  • Quick reaction time
  • Speed for short duration
  • Quick bursts of energy

Movement Limitations:

  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Cardiovascular endurance

Comfort Zone Activities:

Sports or activities requiring quick, sudden movements. For example, you will see lots of ectomorphs in dance and basketball.

Willowy, flexible ectomorphs love exercises that feel “stretchy” and probably enjoy dance-like movements. Their least favourite exercises in the Pilates studio will be those that require power and endurance.

So how does this apply to push ups? Ectomorphs need push ups to build strength, but they may need to do a modified version so they don’t hurt themselves. They may also need to warm up before jumping in.


Movement Capacities:

  • Excellent muscular strength
  • Lots of muscular power
  • Lots of muscular endurance
  • Strong cardiovascular endurance

Movement Limitations:

  • It is difficult for mesomorphs to retain flexibility due to their strong muscles and tight connective tissue.
  • Extremes of slow or fast movements are often difficult for mesomorphs to execute.

Comfort Zone Activities:

Medium-paced endurance activities suit mesomorphs best. Mesomorphs usually like large body movements at a medium-fast pace. These folks excel at sports involving strength and endurance.

Mesomorphs’ Pilates preferences are just the opposite of ectomorphs’. They will most likely dislike exercises that require flexibility. On the other hand, they generally feel very comfortable with exercises requiring leg and upper body strength.

So how does this apply to push ups? Mesomorphs find push ups easy and enjoyable. They should focus on using their whole body and really trying to elongate into the position.


Movement Capacities:

  • Good flexibility
  • Good muscular strength and endurance
  • Good cardiovascular endurance

Movement Limitations:

  • Fast movements and weight control present the biggest challenges for endomorphs. This is an interesting combination because the demands of many cardiovascular programs for weight control push endomorphs out of their comfort zone too quickly. The movements can often be too quick and lack rhythm. The result is that ectomorphs often develop low motivation to continue and poor adherence. This is no surprise; such a program is inherently better suited for the other two body types.
  • An endomorph carrying extra weight around the middle may feel that it gets in the way of their movement.

Comfort Zone:

Endomorphs excel at slow rhythmical activities. Cycling and swimming often hold lots of appeal.

Endomorphs fall somewhere between the extremes of ectomorphs and mesomorphs in terms of their movement abilities and challenges. They are strong, but not as strong as mesomorphs. They are flexible, but not capable of the range of motion of an ectomorph.

So how does this apply to push ups? Because they carry extra body weight, people assume Endomorphs won’t be able to do push ups well. However, because they have a good balance between strength and flexibility, they actually do them well with precision.

What does this mean for practicing Pilates?

When it comes to exercise in the Pilates studio, a paradox exists. Most of us prefer to do exercises that we are good at, rather than realizing that some exercises we are less comfortable with may, in fact, be the very ones we need to focus on. Mesomorphs need to constantly work at their flexibility to avoid becoming muscle-bound. Ectomorphs need to increase their strength and endurance especially to provide support around their loosely-connected joints. With weight management as a major focus, endomorphs will benefit from virtually any Pilates exercise because all burn calories and tone muscles.

So what’s the point of all this? We all compare ourselves to others and measure our abilities in terms of that comparison. This can be self-defeating in any context but, in a Pilates class, a mesomorph trying to move like an ectomorph will not be a happy camper and vice versa. Realize that different body types have different limitations but they also have unique strengths. Appraise yourself realistically and work to maintain your strengths and reduce your weaknesses.

How to get the most out of Pilates for your unique body type

  • Start with a class that you feel matches your capabilities. You will probably find you gravitate to certain teachers. In many cases, we end up liking teachers who share many of our own body type characteristics.
  • Stick with the class you like, but periodically venture into a different class where the teacher’s body type is different than yours.
  • When you feel ready to break out of your comfort zone and reach a new level of mastery, commit to a class where the teacher is of a different body type than you. Expect a level of frustration to accompany such a change. Sometimes you may even feel like you aren’t getting what you need out the class. Remind yourself that it is probably just what you need and stick with it for at least a few months.
  • Take one or two private sessions to really carry Pilates into your daily routine. Learn to maximize your capabilities and reach past your limitations. The impact on other activities you do can be dramatic.

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