Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph. Slim, curvy, average. These are labels that we’ve all heard, and perhaps have used, to describe a person’s body type, or somatotype. But, what do they mean? And, do they have an effect on how we should train? The first somatotypes were developed by Dr. W.H. Sheldon back in the 1940s. Dr. Sheldon theorized that a person’s body type could be used to determine her or his personality (this is no longer suggested). He established three somatotypes – Ectomorph, Endomorph and Mesomorph — based on his study participants’ height and weight data and their accompanying front, side and back photos. Today, somatotypes are used mostly determine how one should train, as opposed to how they should behave.
Below are the traits and training suggestions for the three well-known body types. Keep in mind, most people are a blend of two body types, one being more dominant than the other, and don’t fit neatly into one particular category. Take professional athletes for example, with many differing body types, the way athletes train leads to body compositions that are very similar. eg. swimmers have broad shoulders, long distance runners have thin legs.
Ectomorph Body Type
Traits: Ectomorphs have a small frame and bone structure with narrow shoulders and a flat chest. They are naturally lean and find it difficult to gain weight due to their fast metabolisms. Ectomorphs often state that they have a hard time building muscle, as well.
Training suggestions: As those with an ectomorphic body type find it harder to gain muscle or body weight, a focused, consistent and dedicated full-body strength and resistance training program would assist this type in achieving a toned and sculpted physique. Although Ectomorphs are genetically predisposed to endurance training (think marathon runner), in order to stimulate muscle growth, strength training should be the focus and cardio geared more toward improving general health.
Endomorph Body Type
Traits: Endomorphs have rounder, softer bodies with less natural muscle definition. They are more prone to gaining fat and usually have larger bone structures and slower metabolisms. Endomorphs find it more difficult to lose fat, however, they can build muscle rather easily.
Training suggestions: As those with an endomorphic body type find it harder to lose fat, but can gain muscle very easily, a combination of cardiovascular exercise, where cardio is emphasized, meshed with full-body strength training would provide this body type the fat-burning, metabolism-boosting benefits of both worlds.
Mesomorph Body Type
Traits: Mesomorphs are the middle-of-the-road body types. They are characterized as such due to their moderate frames and medium-sized bone structures. Of the three somatotypes, Mesomorphs appear most proportionate, as they have wide shoulders, narrow waists and usually present lower body-fat percentages. Mesomorphs also have the capacity to gain and lose both body weight and muscle fairly easily.
Training suggestions: Since it’s natural for Mesomorphs to gain and lose body fat and muscle rather effortlessly, a well-balanced training program is essential. In order to see the strength gains of an Endomorph while staying lean like an Ectomorph, the Mesomorph must consistently incorporate both cardiovascular and toning workouts into their fitness routine.
Improving Body Composition
You may find that your own body doesn’t exactly match the characteristics of one particular somatotype, which is perfectly normal and definitely okay. The important thing to remember is that a proper combination of fitness and nutrition can help you reach your personal fitness goals. If you discover that you’re having a hard time gaining body weight and building muscle, you may need to pull back on the cardio and focus more on strength and resistance training. Or, if you feel that your clothes are fitting a little tighter, you may need to increase the cardio while still keeping up with your toning routine. And, just because your body does fit into one of these categories doesn’t mean that you’re destined to look a particular way. If you have a physique goal in mind, you can work to achieve what you believe to be your own perfect form and fall anywhere you wish on the somatotype spectrum. Overall consistency in exercise is MORE important and will provide MORE benefits to your health.