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The Ectomorph, Mesomorph & Endomorph

Obviously not all body types are the same. Some people are tall, skinny and lanky, others are short and stocky. The concept of body types, also known as somatotypes, was first discussed and developed by Dr. William H. Sheldon, an American psychologist, in the 1940’s. Dr. Sheldon’s theory described three basic body types: the Ectomorph, the Mesomorph and the Endomorph.  Dr. Sheldon described each of these somatotypes, or body types, as having their own unique characteristics and traits. Not only did he describe the theoretical, physical traits of each of these somatotypes, but also traits associated with personality and temperament. The personality traits of each body type will not be discussed in this article however. It is important to note that these three body types, discussed further below, are the extremes in terms of body types. Most individuals, if not all, will have traits from a combination of two or even all three of the theoretical body types described. Dr. Sheldon recognised this and was a strong believer that most individuals were indeed a mixture of all three types. Furthermore, the fact that you are a certain body type does not mean you can’t change the way you look to a certain degree. It may just be a bit easier or harder depending on your body type and you may need to adjust your training accordingly to maximise your results.

Body Types & Bodybuilding

You may be reading this and asking yourself “So what? Why does it matter what body type I have?” Well as a matter of fact it matters a lot. Knowledge of your body type determines your workout routine to a large extent and should also indicate to you which muscles you should focus on building. More importantly however, your body type to a large degree determines your daily calorie intake, your basal metabolic rate and your overall diet, which is one of the most important, if not the single most important, factor in seeing results. Below is a description of each of the three body types with the most common features of each type outlined:

Ectomorphs

Ectomorphs are on one end of the scale. These individuals are generally thin and skinny and find it very difficult to add weight to their frame, whether it be fat or muscle weight. They are the textbook hard-gainer. Some distinguishing features of ectomorphs include: lean, thin, narrow shoulders, delicate / fragile, small joints, small muscles, fast metabolism, longer limbs (which exaggerates smaller muscle mass), difficulty building muscle and/or adding fat. Some famous individuals with this type of body type include Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds (two good examples of skinny ectomorphs that managed to put on muscle).

Mesomorphs

Mesomorphs are the lucky ones. They are those naturally gifted genetic gods amongst men. They have an athletic build and find it easy to add muscle mass to their frames whilst at the same time keeping body fat levels low. Distinguishing features of mesomorphs include: athletic, lean, v-taper (i.e. small waist with broad shoulders), decent muscle mass, gain muscle easily, moderate metabolism, can add fat to their frame (easier than ectomorphs can but not as easy as endomorphs). Some famous individuals with this type of body type include Sylvester Stallone and everyone’s favourite and famous bodybuilder Arnie.

Endomorphs

Endomorphs are on the other end of the scale in comparison to ectomorphs. Endomorphs have some fat on their frame, but at the same time have some muscle. They find it easier to put on muscle but unfortunately at the same time put on fat just as easy. Endomorphs are usually the ‘skinny-fat’ guys you see in the gym. Some features of endomorphs include: little muscle mass, some fat, slow metabolism, may have “pear shaped” physique, wide hips and shoulders, find losing weight difficult, strong lower body/hips, may be stocky/solid, can put on muscle fairly easily, can put on fat just as easy. Some famous individuals with this type of body type include Russell Crowe and Jack Black.

Which Body Type Are You?

The above information should be enough for you to be able to determine what kind of body type you are: ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph. Now that you are equipped with this knowledge, you should find it easier to tweak your diet and workout to optimise your gains and reach your goal faster. As mentioned earlier, it does not matter what body type you have. It is still possible reach your goal. Whether this is reaching ‘monster’ status with a lot of muscle mass or conversely if you want to lose body fat and become shredded. Your body type should not limit or define your goals. You may just need to work harder to achieve your goals than someone else with a different body type. Don’t let your body type hold you back, work hard and use the knowledge to better your training and nutrition in order to achieve your goals faster and smarter.

Exercise Prescription (ExRx.net) 2010, <http://www.exrx.net/FatLoss/Somotype.html>.
KHEPHER 2009, <http://www.kheper.net/topics/typology/somatotypes.html>.
Journal of Sport Science, October 2005, vol. 23, no. 10, pp. 1057-1063.
Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, June 2006, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 271-280.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, November 2006, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 740-744.
Peak Performance, http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/body-type-training-are-we-slaves-to-our-body-type-genes-39798.
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