Body Types Explained
Forty years into the twentieth century, doctor William Herbert Sheldon published his work on a body-type taxonomy method, known today as somatotypes.
Following the somatotype concept, every person carries a dominant set of attributes consistent with one of the three body type categories as follows:
From the advent of the body type categories to the present, exercise physiologists, nutritionists, and doctors have used Dr. Sheldon's research to create effective fitness plans to help people identify their body's natural tendencies regarding body composition and shape.
Unfortunately, body types' taxonomy made up only ancillary factions of Dr. Sheldon's primary research around a system called "constitutional psychology."
Dr. Sheldon relied on his body type categories to describe people's physical appearance to predict their success in life by hypothesizing intelligence, personality traits, and morality based on the body type premise.
You don't have to be a history buff to make the connection between Dr. Sheldon's work around Constitutional Psychology, the time period, and the school of thought in regards to eugenics. According to Sheldon's work, he believed their existed a strong relationship between criminality and a mesomorphic body type.
However, today, psychologists unanimously reject "constitutional psychology" while still relying on Dr. Sheldon's work on the three predominant body types.
In this article we discuss the various body types with the intent solely to describe the body and it's tendencies without any relationship what so ever to behaviors.
Is Body Type a Myth?
No, body type is not a myth. Everyone has a genetic make-up that follows somatotype taxonomy. The critical takeaway is that regardless of your body type, you can gain muscle, grow a butt, lose weight, and change your body composition. The key is understanding your body's natural tendencies and using this data to your advantage.
How Important is My Somatotype?
Somatotype, which means body type, falls under the category of phenotype. It is the observation of the physical characteristics of an individual. In general, somatotype assignment is a visual observation and does not take into account genetic makeup.
What is Phenotype?
Phenotype is much broader than somatotype and pertains to physical attributes and developmental process, biochemical properties, and behaviors.
What is Somatotype?
Somatotype represents a single component of the phenotype. It's a reasonably objective term and characterizes the physical traits the body possesses irrespective of the environment. It's the "nature" piece of the old "nature" vs. "nurture" debate from the perspective of physical traits.
Your physique could change through aging, becoming ill, losing weight, gaining weight, and becoming more muscular. As the current state of your shape and body composition trend away from your genetic potential, the more likely you are to receive an erroneous somatotype assignment.
The famous nature verse nurture debate is the best metaphor to describe what a person's body composition and shape can become. If you have a goal to look a specific way that falls outside your genetic reach, it's not impossible; the nurture part of your equation needs to dominate harder.
In the sport of bodybuilding, your environment can get you to the main show, and without a doubt. However, on that final stage, the nuance differences become increasingly narrow when it comes to each athlete's behaviors and discipline: the kicker, genetics. This genetic notion isn't endemic to just the sport of bodybuilding but rather every uber-competitive sport; athletes tend to look the same at the top.
Another example of this involves today's focus on building a booty, peach, or butt. You may be born with no advantages in terms of junk in the trunk; however, after a few months of booty classes, lunges, a heavy hip thrust, or two, you'll be amazed at what can be. Instagram is chock-full with booty-building success stories.
Note: It's important not to interpret this concept of "genetics matter" in a discouraging way. The truth is, if you are a person who has put in the work to compete at a show at any level of the bodybuilding sport, you are among the coveted .0000001% of body composition!
What is a Mesomorph?
Mesomorphs have a strong, stable, and athletic build . Secondary traits of mesomorphs include:
- Having high levels of pound-for-pound power
- Ability to wielded body-weight loads for reps
- Square shaped head and muscular upper body
- Evenly distributed weight resembling a rectangle that is naturally wider on top (v-shaped)
The body under this category can go either way based on the environment; The ability to gain muscle mass or lose it exists and depends on various factors all within the individual's control. With the right combination of diet, sleep, and training, genetics is not a negative factor.
Myth - A person with a mesomorphic frame can eat anything without worrying about weight gain. The reality is that the single most impacting factor to body composition is our diets and where the phrase "you are what you eat" originates.
Mesomorph Diet Plan
Since mesomorphs have a v-shaped, lean, and muscular body, they have an advantage when it comes to a choice in diets and staying fit. That does not mean they can eat whatever they want. Mesomorphs must still adhere to a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain and take full advantage of their physical appearance.
Caloric Intake Formula
For a starting point, to calculate average calorie consumption per day, a popular method is as follows:
Average daily calorie intake = Body Weight (lbs.) multiplied by a factor in the range of 10 to 12 depending upon your exercise regime and lifestyle.
A 180-pound person would multiply their weight by ten and would get 1,800 calories for the day. If this was a training day, multiply 180 by 12, and you will get the average calories of 2,160.
Note: There is no magic formula that outputs a perfect answer, but several available methods can provide a great starting point online. Relying on your body's feedback is the key; making small adjustments to determine what that sweet spot looks like and then consistently operating in that zone is the most effective formula.
How Mesomorphs Gain Weight?
If your mission is to gain weight and at a healthy rate, steadily increase your calorie intake week to week until the scale tells you to settle in.
Mesomorphs, who have fast metabolisms, may not be as concerned
about consuming extra calories compared to an endomorph.
There are only three body type groupings, therefore not a lot of resolution that takes into account which side of the spectrum you sit. On an individual basis, what works for others of the same somatotype may or may not work for you.
It's important to consider that your somatotype classification on paper depends on what is visually dominant, a single data point. The flaws in this rigid taxonomy include:
- Somatotype selection only allows for a single body-type choice.
- After your assignment, the information available is somatotype-specific and therefore doesn't account for how much your genetic makeup aligns with the other somatotypes.
- Everyone is different and shares different attributes from each somatotype.
Muscle mass burns calories and also requires calories for upkeep. What seems to take a long time to build can easily be wiped out if you are a mesomorphic athlete struggling to keep mass while playing in an endomorphic sport.
In general, athletes prone to losing muscle vitality genetically or through the natural aging process need to work hard, eat a lot, and sleep.
Meal Planning for Mesomorphs
As stated above, mesomorphs can move the needle however they want. If the focus is to maintain body composition, mesomorphs are likely to perform best with a higher protein diet with less focus on sugars and carbohydrates.
A good rule of thumb, to again, land on that starting point is to divide your plate into thirds and split the macros evenly for each meal of the day.
- 1/3 Protein
- 1/3 Vegetables & Fruits
- 1/3 Fats & Whole Grains
Learn More Here: Individualized Protein Calculator
What is an Ectomorph
Ectomorphs are people who have long, lean limbs that are symmetrical to their bone structure . These long, slender bodies unless developed via hard work have little muscle, pointy elbows, and very little body fat.
The Ectomorph body type represents the most frustrating body type for high school aged males trying to put on some size as they are in a race to fill out their clothes and make the football team.
The most prevalent people who fit this description as adults are your tall basketball players, like Kevin Durant, and elite and slender fashion supermodels, for example, Twiggy and Naomi Campbell in their prime.
The other side to being an ectomorph is the constant struggle to put on muscle mass for young adults and college-aged men. Of the three body types, the Ectomorph has the most challenging obstacles to overcome, their metabolism.
Having this type of body does not preclude the possibility of having a butt or putting on weight; it just means that to do so requires a more disciplines-approach and substantial effort.
Why do Ectomorphs Struggle to Gain Weight?
If the end goal is body composition development, as an ectomorph, focusing on the things you can control today are also the same things that will have the most impact.
The main pitfall for ectomorphs is giving up too early. There is a tendency as a hard-gaining ectomorph to get discouraged as the results of gaining lean mass do not correlate linearly over time. Although It takes a lot of time grinding towards your goal for recognized visible results, the moment you notice growth, it'll only get better after that. The most challenging weight to gain is those first few pounds.
Some of these genetic factors that can hinder sustaining the anabolic environment necessary to convert diet into mass include -
- Dominant Sympathetic Nervous System
- Naturally Lower Testosterone Levels
- Digestive System Issues and or Inefficiencies
The most significant road blocks that will keep any ectomorph from achieving the his/her desired growth include -
- Diet & Drinking - diet is 90% of the struggle, error on the side of more!
- Sleep - without good sleep you can not grow
- Lack of Commitment - immediate positive reward doesn't exist
How to Build a Butt for Ectomorphs?
For ectomorphs, the secret to putting weight on isn't solely a function of calorie and protein intake like other body types.
The secret is to train a specific way that solicits the body to respond with muscle growth. From thigh gaps to thick-thighs that support the shelf where your glutes used to be, is possible if you focus your lifts to include these three Tips:
- Utilize free weights for all major muscles
- Focus on explosive lower body & core movements (squats, deadlifts, lunges)
- Lift at a slow & controlled speed for both the contacting and eccentric portions of the movement
As an Ectomorph, Do I Need to Lift Heavy?
Let's not confuse building mass with gaining strength. Although the positive relationship between size and strength is ubiquitous, there is nothing more common than the small veiny guy at the gym who over-trains and lifts a ton of weights while getting slimmer at the same time.
Volume and mass are not the same things. Dense, heavy muscle is fantastic if you are competing to be the smallest while the heaviest. Finding the perfect regiment to build big bulbous-round muscle is another game entirely.
There is a good reason why bodybuilders are not powerlifters. Both sports are brutal on the body and mind. However, within the fitness-show community, bodybuilding is considered more of a finesse art-form than a one-size-fits-all discipline.
Each bodybuilder has their formula for diet, rep-scheme, sleep schedule, all tailored to optimize their body potential. It is prevalent for bodybuilders to represent a massively wide variance in lifting strengths within the same weight class.
All this means you will have to undergo trial and error if you are an ectomorph on a mission to grow. Lifting, eating, and sleeping are the only constants.
Without changing too many factors at a single time when things aren't going your way is the key to landing on that magical growth recipe. Getting comfortable with being insanely uncomfortable is what it takes to change your body.
Being "uncomfortable" is not to say, we recommend lifting weights out of your capability, but rather to say, you may find curling 50lbs will grow your arms faster than curing 80lb, can your ego take that though?
What is the Eccentric Portion of a Lift?
This is a fancy way of saying the last half of the lift when you are typically lowering the weights. Your muscles are still under tension, however instead of contracting them, you are actually working to lengthen them.
Focusing on power and explosive lower body movements at moderate to heavy weight is the key for hard-gainers. The macro intake and plenty of sleep are an absolute given if your goal is to break through the ectomorphic metabolism barrier.
Ectomorph Diet Plan
You may visit the gym and see the tall skinny guy in the corner,
desperately trying to put on weight. Genetics have a lot to play in the
ectomorph body type.
They have faster metabolisms; therefore, it may be challenging to gain muscle mass and weight. You may want to challenge yourself with the following questions before settling on factors out of your control like genetics -
- Are you consuming a surplus of calories?
- Are you consuming a surplus of protein?
- Are you on a Paleo, Keto, or another Low-Calorie-High-Fat (LCHF) diet?
- Are you training correctly (Compound Lifts for Explosiveness & Power)?
- Are you sabotaging yourself with too much cardio?
With this body type, you may be able to eat whatever you want and stay stick thin; however, if you are trying to put on mass or build a booty the days of blindly eating are over.
Can Ectomorphs Get Fat?
Yes, although Ectomorphs have a natural resilience to weight gain, every body type is capable of an uncharacteristic body composition. There are three key areas that will shift even the hardest gainers body to a Jell-O mold. These areas are
- Activity Level
The result of a sustained sedentary life-style is one the can easily cause fat stores to build. If you are afraid of becoming gooey like a marshmallow all you have to do is move.
We have all heard the term "skinny-fat," and without sufficient stimulus to solicit muscle repair (tightening) our body compositions will turn soft; unfortunately ectomorphs are more susceptible. As an ectomorph, body composition is much more likely to shift than grow; this can occur when muscle is lost at the same rate fat is gained.
The net weight change may be zero, all your clothes may still fit, and due to the lack of external visual cues paired with the shift happening slowly, by the time it's figured out, the damage is done.
Age is also an upward battle when it comes to our bodies breaking the mold of whatever body type we identify with. Traditional low-fat diets work great for ectomorphs trying to maintain body composition.
An ectomorph can sustain a lean and firm body easily by doing so brisk cardio three to five times per week with the low-side of this range for maintenance and the high-side for weight loss.
How to not be "skinny fat?"
- Weight training
- Resistance Training
- Body weight sports like climbing
- All of the above will make you skinny firm
Is the Keto Diet Good for Ectomorphs?
Many nutrition specialist do not recommend the popular ketogenic diet for ectomorphs. Although Keto may be suitable for losing belly fat, a high-fat and low carbohydrate ketogenic diet may push this body-type to store excess fat deposits.
What should Ectomorphs Eat to Maintain?
Aim to eat:
- Carbohydrates: 45%
- Protein: 35%
- Fats: 20%
Below are a few great choices if you're an ectomorph -
- Sunflower Seeds
Fruits & Vegetables
- Green beans
Grains & Complex Carbs
- Sweet Potato
- Brown Rice
- Whole-wheat bread
What is an Endomorph?
Endomorphs are characterized by carrying higher body fat percentages than the other body types. In sports where gaining weight at a young age can punch your ticket, Endomorphs are sitting pretty.
These individuals can gain weight very quickly  and have little issues filling out there clothes. When you think of such individuals, consider the NCAA Division 1 offensive lineman. These young men as young as 19 years of age can be well over 300 lbs.
Endomorphs are generally rounder in nature with lower centers of gravity than the mesomorphs and ectomorph body-types.
Are Endomorphs Big Boned?
A few classic examples of endomorphs are Marilyn Monroe, Oprah Winfrey, Babe Ruth, Jerome Bettis. When endomorphs embrace their natural ability to put on weight like baseball or football, their bone mass is typically ready to carry more weight. In general, larger people will also have larger bones. However, in terms of weight, bones make up a tiny fraction of any person's body weight. Bones tend to be light, where everything else is mostly weighty water (flesh).
Endomorph Diet Plan
Individuals who have endomorph body types tend to have slower metabolisms which results in a stockier more solidly built look. With a somatotype drawn to converting excess calories into mass very efficiently, this body type is susceptible to speedy weight gain.
Forgiveness for bad eating habits is not a characteristic germane to the typical endomorphic body type, but there are plenty of positives if willing to work. One of the most significant advantages is within power sports like weight lifting or strong man. At the competitive levels, there are only endomorphs left standing.
Also, If you are a fashionable woman, there will be little to no issues that involve not having the developed features to fill out any given item of clothing. This particular problem can be devastating to young mesomorphs and ectomorphs alike. Growing a butt from scratch as an ectomorph will always be much more challenging than toning a butt down as an endomorph.
The hard truth is that discipline matters most with the endomorphic body type; a single cheat day can walk back a week's worth of work.
Best Endomorph Diet?
A popular solution that allows full control over the typical endomorphic body is the trending paleo diet. The premise of this recognition stems from the benefits of weight-control focused dieting. It's hard to go wrong with adopting a low carb, high fat & protein diet if the goal is to maintain or shed excess pounds.
It is important to make the distinction between a low carbohydrate diet and keto. As carbohydrates are reduced on the paleo diet, ketosis is a possibility along with all the side effects.
Healthy fats and proteins sources include:
- Olive Oil
When choosing carbohydrates, stick with sources that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and tubers.
Are Simple Carbs Bad for Endomorphs?
No, simple carbohydrates are not bad for any body type when consumed in moderation. If an endomorph's goal is to lose weight, simple carbohydrates may not be the best choice. For endomorphs, simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, cakes & cookies are best if limited to minimal quantities.
Now, let's assume you are a 10th grade high-school aspiring NCAA Division 1 football offensive lineman. Now, you literally won't be able to feed yourself enough simple carbohydrates for the weight a college recruiter would love to see you obtain (>275 lbs.)
As part of your diet:
- Carbohydrates should be 30% of your diet
- Protein should be 35% of your diet
- Oils and Fats should be 35%
If your schedule allows and you are determined to lose weight, a great strategy is to slowly cut calories, starting at 200 per day for week-long intervals, and note how you feel and how your body is reacting.
Endomorphs have larger frames and may have a more challenging time losing weight; however, if the motivation is there, you will find that sweet spot and get where you are heading safely.
Does Somatotype Matter?
Yes, it defines a starting condition. How you chose to run the race and what race you enter will determine if you journey is an uphill one or a slow joyous cruise.
Good luck with the race!