We all know the basics. Getting fit and staying fit start with eating right and exercising. To this end, we work at our goals by carefully watching what we eat and working out exactly as we are supposed to. But this often comes up short. The reason we may not be reaching our goals may be due to our body types.
The idea of body types may be new to some people. The theory behind body types is that our natural tendencies may have more to do with the way our bodies are naturally composed than with lifestyle alone.
Body types come in three basic categories: Ectomorph, Mesomorph & Endomorph. We will explain this thoroughly below but knowing your body type will go a long way toward maximizing your workouts.
Getting an understanding of body types helps you better formulate the kinds of nutrition and exercise demands you need to reach your fitness goals. Each of the body types demands different kinds of attention. If you are an ectomorph, you will need to pay attention to different things than other body types.
Understanding and learning to work with your body type are what this article is all about. We will explain the body types, what they mean, and give you the information you need to reach all your health and fitness goals.
What are body types?
Body types are also called somatotypes. Body types are simply categories of shape, stature, and muscle mass that comprise three principal forms of the human body. The background for body types dates by thousands of years to ancient Greece and Hippocrates. The concept was first developed scientifically in the 1940s by a physician named William H. Sheldon.
Dr. Sheldon was both a physician and a psychologist and his early work on body types posted the idea that each type carried a certain psychological disposition. These ideas have been debunked, but the physiological facts of the body types remain grounded in science. Nutritionists, for example, now rely on body types to formulate the best course of nutrition for individuals whose needs are not uniform and depend at least in part on their specific body type.
The basic idea is that the human body is not a singular form. Each of us falls into a category of body types that is distinctly different than the others. These are generalizations, and there are exceptions like almost everything else. But there are three basic body types.
Since we are not uniform in our body types, we are also not uniform in our nutritional and exercise needs. We already know that some of us must work much harder than others to not become overweight. And we all know people who seem to be able to eat anything they want and never gain weight. It may not be fair, but body types are a physiological fact. Knowing and understanding your body type will help you work with this information rather than fight things that are beyond you.
Types of bodies
There are three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Each has specific characteristics and each has specific physiological needs. You will likely recognize these types and find yourself in one of them.
The ectomorph tends to be long-limbed. They are not visibly muscular. Some ectomorphs can be skinny but not necessarily have a lot of lean muscle mass.
Ectomorphs tend to have the most difficulty in gaining weight. Even ectomorphs who do carry excess weight will likely appear skinny when in fact they simply lack lean muscle mass. However, many ectomorphs do have extensive lean muscle mass, but it is distributed in ways that are not defined like bodybuilders, for example. Long-distance runners tend to be ectomorphs. The highly developed long muscle mass is amenable to this kind of exertion, and ectomorphs do not carry any excess weight that can reduce performance in these types of athletics.
Mesomorphs find it relatively easy to build muscle mass. They are medium boned and are evenly built. Mesomorphs can generally lose and gain weight normally. They can build muscle quickly. In stature, mesomorphs tend to have longer torsos and shorter limbs. The mesomorph body type is naturally built for sports that require explosions of energy and speed. The types of muscle characteristics of mesomorphs contain a high percentage of fast-twitch fibers that can release energy quickly and powerfully. Triathletes are often mesomorphs. The challenge for mesomorphs is to balance building lean muscle against their tendency to easily gain weight.
Endomorphs have a larger bone structure. They tend to be built stocky and have curvier bodies. Endomorphs tend to store fat and have a harder time losing weight.
Endomorphs are stocky and have full, curvy figures. The endomorph types have a difficult time keeping body fat off and they gain weight easily. This is not to suggest that all endomorphs are obese. This is far from the case. Many runners are endomorphs, and many more are active athletes. However, because the endomorphs tend to gain weight and hold onto weight, they will necessarily need to pay more attention to diet and exercise than the other body types.
Identifying body types
Learning to identify your body type is fairly easy. You need to take an honest assessment of your physiological appearance and you should be able to identify your body type from a few physical descriptions. Like anything else, there are exceptions to these things. The types are categories, and some of us will fit a certain category while tending toward another. But getting a general idea will help you identify your major body type and learn to work with this type for your health and fitness.
- Your shoulders are narrower than your hips
- Fitted jeans generally feel loose around your butt
- Your forearms are on the smallish side
- Your body tends to stay skinny by default
- Your body looks long and narrow
- If you grip your wrist between your thumb and middle finger, the 2 fingers overlap
- You have trouble gaining weight – both in terms of muscle and fat
- The circumference of your chest is 37 inches or less
- Your shoulders are roughly the same width as your hips
- Fitted jeans generally feel snug, but not too tight, around your butt
- Your forearms are moderately thick
- Your body tends to stay lean, yet somewhat muscular, by default
- Your body looks rugged and squarish in shape
- If you grip your wrist between your thumb and middle finger, the 2 fingers just barely touch
- You can gain or lose weight without too many issues
- The circumference of your chest is between 37-44 inches
- Your shoulders are wider than your hips
- Fitted jeans generally feel tight around your butt
- Your forearms are on the thicker side
- Your body tends to carry extra fat by default
- Your body looks round and soft
- If you grip your wrist between your thumb and middle finger, the 2 fingers don’t touch
- You can gain weight fairly easily, but find it quite difficult to lose
- The circumference of your chest is over 44 inches
Training each body type
Exercise, fitness, and training will change for each body type. How to train for your body type will involve taking into consideration the way you gain and lose weight, your specific type of muscles, and your stamina based on your type.
Training is a combination of diet and exercise. The general guidelines that follow consider both. It is easy to focus on exercise but diet is about half the battle when it comes to training for your body type.
Diet: Ectomorphs can often afford to not worry much about diet. Ectomorphs have the luxury of being able to eat whatever they want without seeing any adverse effects of their diet. However, since ectomorphs do have difficulty gaining weight they need to make sure they pay attention to their protein intake and ensure that they are eating enough healthy fats. The tendency to be thin can work against ectomorphs when it comes to building muscle and maintaining energy levels.
Exercise: The slight build associated with ectomorphs can make them susceptible to injuries. With less muscle mass, they also lack the innate power for things like intense weight training. Ectomorphs should pay attention to building strength through resistance exercise to build muscle and enhance protective tissue.
Diet: This body type can easily maintain their health and fitness by balancing their macronutrients. Mesomorphs should make sure they balance everything like fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates since too much of any one thing can easily tip them toward too little or too much. For those who train for endurance sports, carbs are the most important thing to maintain.
Exercise: Mesomorphs should focus on moderate to intense training schedules. Mesomorphs are particularly well-suited for things like High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in which short bursts of intense exercise are balanced with restful exertions. Pilates is another form of training that is suited for mesomorphs.
Diet: Endomorphs can resist their natural tendency to gain weight by maintaining a strict balance of macronutrients. Fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates need to be taken in moderation and strict ratios. Adjust the intake of anyone macronutrient according to your training schedule. For example, you can take in more carbs on days that you do things like running or cycling. Bulk up on proteins for weight training.
Exercise: Endomorphs are another body type that will do great with things like High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Because HIIT combines intense bursts to burn calories with intervals of sustained moderate exercise, endomorphs will benefit from burning calories while they build muscle mass. Bodyweight training is another exercise program well-suited for endomorphs. If you are an endomorph who wants to train for a marathon, bodyweight training will be ideal.
Body Types FAQs
What are body types?
The background for body types dates by thousands of years to ancient Greece and Hippocrates. The concept was first developed scientifically in the 1940s by a physician named William H. Sheldon.
What are the different kinds of body types?
The three body types are called ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. They are as follows:
- The ectomorph tends to be long-limbed. They are not visibly muscular. Some ectomorphs can be skinny but not necessarily have a lot of lean muscle mass.
- Mesomorphs find it relatively easy to build muscle mass. They are medium boned and are evenly built. Mesomorphs can generally lose and gain weight normally.
- Endomorphs have a larger bone structure. They tend to be built stocky and have curvier bodies. Endomorphs tend to store fat and have a harder time losing weight.
How do I train for my body type?
Training for body types simply comes down to adjusting your diet and exercise routine to the facts of your type. Ectomorphs have difficulty gaining weight and they tend to have less lean muscle. For these reasons, ectomorphs need to increase proteins in their diet and work on strength training. At the other end of the spectrum, endomorphs need to pay close attention to things like carbs and fats, and they need to increase things like endurance training.
It seems like most of the information on diet and fitness comes in one uniform set of guidelines. It is easy to believe that if we all stick to the same set of guidelines, we will all have the same results. But the fact is, we are all different, and our differences turn out to fall into some clear categories.
Body types can account for many of the differences so many of us confront our exercise and training goals. The body types, ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph, all reveal three distinct types of training and dieting needs.
Each body type needs to pay attention to things that are specific to their body type. What is right for an ectomorph is certainly not going to be right for an endomorph. Each of us needs to adjust our caloric intake and physical activity according to our body types.
The good news is that by paying attention to our body type, we can learn to overcome the challenges specific to each one. By learning to adjust your training to the needs of your body type you can learn to reach your fitness goals more easily by working with your body instead of against your body.