Over the last decade, Crossfit has burst into global popularity taking a hybrid approach between Olympic weightlifting, cardiovascular conditioning, and general/functional strength training. Tight-knit communities formed as Crossfit strikes a good balance between individual competition and a collective team effort with athletes pushing each other on despite the competitive element.
While it’s a hugely popular training method, that’s not to say that Crossfit comes without some controversy. Reported injuries are incredibly high due to the style of training and intensity involved and while the results from Crossfit are impressive, it’s true that not everyone is well suited to this style of training.
So, if you’re interested in getting involved you might be wondering what is the best body type for Crossfit?
The best body type for Crossfit is a mesomorph. Mesomorphs have a high proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers which are well suited to the explosive Olympic-style lifts commonly used for Crossfit. Mesomorphs also have a natural advantage when it comes to athletics and therefore excel in this sport.
If you don’t fall under the Mesomorphs body type then don’t worry, in this article, I’ll not only cover which body types are best for Crossfit but also ways in which you can still benefit from Crossfit, regardless of your body type.
Is Crossfit Good For Ectomorphs
Of all three body types, ectomorphs are easily the ones with characteristics least suited to Crossfit.
Crossfit is not a good workout for endomorphs due to the explosive lifting and high-impact exercises. Ectomorphs do not have a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers needed for explosive Olympic-style weightlifting and their small joints and bone structure is also poorly suited to heavy weightlifting.
I’ll try not to mention this too frequently in the article but whether or not you believe in body type classifications, ectomorphs have certain characteristics that are just not well suited to Crossfit. Crossfit as a sport (not a form of exercise) already comes with a bad reputation for having a high rate of injury when it comes to athletes.
When this is the case for those that are blessed genetically in terms of muscle mass, bone structure/density, and recovery capabilities it doesn’t transfer well to the body type that is not blessed in any of these categories. Don’t get me wrong, ectomorphs can build plenty of muscle mass, take steps to recover optimally, and even improve bone density but when it comes to weightlifting they are very much in the “at-risk” category!
You also need to factor in the goal for most ectomorphs which, in my opinion, is usually always to build more muscle mass. When you see an experienced Crossfitter, they are usually JACKED! The immediate thought for an ectomorph would be straightforward, if the Crossfitter can pack on muscle doing Crossfit, surely it would work for me too?
Well, not quite. An ectomorph will usually have a fast metabolism and bone structure that does not lend well to holding a significant amount of muscle mass. Therefore, in order to build size, you need to stay within a calorie surplus and stimulate the muscles through weight training.
Crossfit ticks off the weight training section quite well, usually incorporating full-body explosive movements (which are usually the most bang for your buck exercises alongside deadlifts) but Crossfit is also intense when it comes to cardio.
The METCONS and constant rounds for time are not only energy-sapping but it’s also conditioning work that comes at a cost. If the focus for an ectomorph is on muscle growth, cardiovascular health is important but Crossfit takes the intensity too far.
Ectomorphs will often struggle to build muscle when doing Crossfit style training and if an ectomorph was to choose a style of training, powerlifting, strongman, or bodybuilding would all be much better suited to reaching their goals.
Is Crossfit Good For Hardgainers
Some consider a hardgainer and ectomorph to be the same thing but when it comes to body type and training, they are very much separate. Anyone can be a hardgainer regardless of body type (though ectomorphs are usually considered to be a hardgainer and vice versa) and the general struggle for a hardgainer is an inability to add muscle mass or size.
The calorie surplus needs to be higher than average and focus really needs to be placed on a hypertrophy style of training. This means rep ranges of 8-12, with some exercises reserved for fewer reps to lift more weight (squat, deadlift, presses) and some exercises reserved for higher reps to fatigue the slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Crossfit does not place a focus on hypertrophy. The rep range is often too high to fatigue the fast-twitch muscle fibers which are those that are most responsive to muscle growth and size and you also don’t get enough rest between sets to lift in a muscle growing weight range (60%-80% of your 1RM).
There is also no periodization when it comes to Crossfit and with the routines changing so frequently (almost every workout), it certainly keeps your body guessing which is often stated as being a contributor to muscle growth. The issue however is that it’s difficult to track progress and progressively overload the muscle each week, month, and year which is the real driver for muscle growth.
Following on from the point earlier about energy expenditure, the last thing a hardgainer wants is to waste energy that can go towards building muscle, both in the gym and out of the gym.
^^ These are not just my opinion either, as a general rule for building muscle it’s well accepted that most of your time should be spent on compound movements, focused on progressive overload, and staying in a calorie surplus (so managing energy expenditure). When it comes to a hardgainer, these points should be what 90% of your focus should be on.
While Crossfit has elements of using compound movements and you’ll naturally get stronger over time, the programming just doesn’t support the goal for a hardgainer, which is usually maximal muscle growth.
Is Crossfit Good For Endomorphs
At the other end of the training spectrum, Crossfit is certainly a viable routine for endomorphs and most endomorphs will do good on this program. Typical endomorph characteristics include:
- Gain body fat easily and find it difficult to lose
- Higher body fat percentage
- Insulin resistance
- Large frame (bone structure)
- A high proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers.
From a purely competitive and athletic standpoint, endomorphs are not best suited to Crossfit due to their larger frame and difficulty when it comes the cardiovascular and bodyweight sections of Crossfit (you don’t see many big guys knocking out a circuit of burpees, slam ball, and kipping pull ups for time!).
From a body composition and general exercise viewpoint though, Crossfit is incredibly well tailored to endomorphs. For all the reasons that ectomorphs do not do well on Crossfit, endomorphs tend to strive. One of the key reasons for this is the energy and metabolic demand placed on the body during Crossfit.
High reps, short rest periods, a good level of intensity (most Crossfit workouts can easily be classified as HIIT) and for these very reasons, endomorphs can see excellent progress during Crossfit training plans. Endomorphs are best suited to exercise programs that involve tapping into energy stores (particularly from fat storage) and few programs do that better than Crossfit.
What Is the Best Body Type for Crossfit
The answer to this is two-part. Mesomorphs are the best body type for Crossfit as they have all the genetic characteristics that allow them to excel at this sport. In terms of benefit though, it can be argued that Crossfit is best for endomorphs due to the beneficial impact it has on body composition.
I’ll cover the best body type for Crossfit first…
A mesomorph is the best body type for Crossfit and most athletes that take part in the Crossfit games can be noted as having a mesomorph body type. Mesomorphs have an even weight distribution, more muscle mass, and a higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers allowing them to excel at Crossfit.
Crossfit as a sport tends to favor mesomorphs because of the similarities between weightlifting.
Pound for pound, the best weightlifters on the planet tend to be mesomorphs (not to be confused with strongman/powerlifting where more body mass means you can lift more weight). The reason being that they have a more favorable bone structure alongside naturally high levels of muscle mass and a preferential muscle fiber distribution.
As a large percentage of Crossfit involves Olympic weightlifting movements like the clean & jerk, snatch, or clean & press, those with a mesomorphic body type are naturally already well suited to these movements so tend to excel. They also have a favorable muscle fiber distribution meaning they can generate power on heavy weightlifting movements but also have above-average levels of muscle endurance for METCONS.
When combining these characteristics, you only need to look at a Crossfit games lineup (video below) to see that ALL of the athletes look very similar in terms of muscle mass and bone structure. You’ll also notice that they all fall very firmly under the mesomorph body type.
From a body composition viewpoint, mesomorphs will again excel and see excellent changes to their physique as they can build mass while maintaining low body fat levels. Ectomorphs are not suited to Crossfit in terms of competition or body composition.
If looking for a body type that benefits the most, you could argue that it is an endomorph (despite mesomorphs excelling with ease). An endomorph might not necessarily be competitive but the high demand placed on their energy levels means they can improve conditioning (while doing well during the weightlifting aspects) and will drop body fat despite not being best suited to the bodyweight or cardiovascular side of Crossfit.
When considering the best body type for Crossfit, you really need to look at it in two parts:
- What body type is best for Crossfit
- What body type benefits the most from Crossfit
For the first point the answer is almost undoubtedly that mesomorphs are the best body type for Crossfit. Their bone structure (long torso, short femur) allows them to excel at weightlifting whilst also being equally adept at bodyweight-based exercises.
Ectomorphs tend to do well with bodyweight exercises but struggle at weightlifting while endomorphs do well with weightlifting but struggle with bodyweight exercises.
In terms of who benefits the most from Crossfit though, it’s close between a meso and endo. Mesomorphs excel at the sport but endomorphs can see excellent improvements in both muscle gain and fat loss. For the purpose of being clear though – Mesomorphs are the best body types for Crossfit.
If you are looking to make changes to your physique by either losing body fat, building muscle or looking to maintain a lean physique then sign up to my weekly newsletter below. Each week I send out actionable tips to help you lose that extra 1lb of fat or build that extra 0.5lb of muscle mass on a weekly basis.
If you sign up now you’ll also receive my 28 day body recomp program completely Free. This ebook will be sent straight to your inbox and will provide an intense 28 day program aimed at helping you lose up to 8lbs of body fat whilst also building 2lb-4lb of lean muscle mass in just 4 weeks.
Don’t worry if you’re not ready for an intense program just yet, my weekly newsletter will give smaller tips that when implemented daily, will stack up over time and see you transform your body with seemingly minimal effort!