How Your Body Type Impacts How You Train for Military Service

A Marine participates in a weightlifting competition at the Daniels Family Fitness Center aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia.
A Marine participates in a weightlifting competition at the Daniels Family Fitness Center aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia, July 18, 2018. (Re-Essa Buckels/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In the 1940s, Dr. William Sheldon organized human body types into endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs. The three groups differentiate bone structure, muscle and body fat and how each type carries its weight. Here is a question from a mesomorph who is curious about different styles of tactical training preparation for the different body types to prepare for military service:

Do you think body types impact how you should train for military service? I'm a mesomorph type. Thanks, Curtis

Curtis, great question. I think that athletic history is a more important factor in determining how you should train than your body type. For instance, if you are an endurance athlete, you can likely run or swim all day. Still, you may have weaknesses in upper-body strength and leg durability and have difficulty doing load-bearing exercises (rucking, log PT, equipment carries).

On the other hand, if you were a strength athlete (powerlifting, football, etc.), you may have plenty of strength and overall durability. Still, your endurance, muscle stamina and work capacity may need to improve. These typically drive how to train for improved performance on military fitness tests and following military training, such as boot camp, basic training or special selection programs.

When considering joining the military or any tactical profession, you must excel in a few fitness elements to succeed. To be prepared and better capable of doing your job, getting good at everything is the goal of the tactical fitness programming you need. These elements include the following: strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility, mobility and grip.

Together, these build overall durability and work capacity, leading to optimal performance in the tactical professions and longevity. All of this can be done without regard to your body type, as you tend to focus on a primary and secondary goal in all training cycles. These training goals are to improve your weaknesses and maintain your strengths.

Do You Know Your Body Type?


Endomorphs possess a stockier frame and a higher tendency to store body fat, ideal for strong muscular strength. Your tactical fitness goals should focus primarily on muscle stamina and endurance and increasing flexibility and mobility. Engage in cardio and calisthenics training, emphasizing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to work energy systems that may be weak -- depending on your athletic history.

Nutritionally, you may tend to eat big and lift big, making gaining weight easier, so you may struggle to lose weight without better portion control and burning more calories with extended workouts. Think of your body as a powerful engine that requires the right fuel mix to run optimally and stay lean.


Mesomorphs are often envied for their genetic gift of an athletic, muscular build, making either strength or endurance an easy process to improve. For the mesomorph, athletic history will drive how you should train to become a tactical athlete. Mesomorphs have broader shoulders and chests than their waistlines.

The nutritional focus should support a high-caloric burn with a balanced protein, fat and carbs ratio that provides energy to train and recover. You may have issues with weight gain and be in the "hard gainer" category when young. Foods rich in protein and moderate in healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will fuel your workouts and recovery phases, ensuring that your body can keep up with the volume of calisthenics, cardio and weight training as needed.


Ectomorphs are distinguished by their thin frames, rapid metabolisms and a natural inclination toward endurance over mass. While building muscle might seem impossible for a true "hard gainer," it is entirely achievable. Get in the weight room to build a better foundation of strength and durability. Focus on compound movements in strength training, emphasizing moderate weights and repetitions to stimulate muscle growth. Depending on your athletic history, cardio should be limited to acing fitness tests (shorter, faster runs). Your nutritional goal is to build and maintain muscle and select a diet high in calories from all three macronutrients -- protein, carbs, and fat. Remember: To be big, you must eat and lift big.

Understanding your body type and addressing your athletic history is a logical step in tailoring your fitness and nutrition regimen for optimal results. How to train is rooted in these two factors. However, persistence and consistency are your best forces on this journey, regardless of your body type and athletic history.

As with becoming a tactical athlete, each body type and athletic history have advantages and challenges. By aligning your training and nutrition with your genetic and historic strengths and weaknesses, you are setting yourself up for sustainable success in meeting and surpassing the physical standards of your future profession.

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