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The 3 Body Types: Somatotype Theory 101

What is Somatotype Theory?

To really answer the question "What are the different body types?", we first have to talk a little bit about what somatotype theory is and where the different categories that we have today came from.

Somatotype theory was originally developed by psychologist William Herbert Sheldon in an attempt to categorize the different human physiques.  Back in the 1940s, Sheldon came up with the basic theory that everyone’s body composition could be placed into one of three basic categories, which he called endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

Over the years, scientists have identified a number of different physical characteristics that make each category unique.  More recently, researchers have also demonstrated that different somatotypes may have different nutritional requirements and may also be more or less suited for certain sports.  

With that being said, the current consensus is that while there are some exceptions, most people do not fit neatly into just one category.  Instead, you can think of somatotypes as existing on a spectrum, with most people falling somewhere in between two categories.       

What Are the 3 Body Types?


1. The Endomorph Body Type

The endomorph is identified by a relatively large midsection with wider shoulders and hips as well as shorter limbs.  His/her body can generally be described as pear-shaped.  

The endomorph also carries around more body mass than the other body types.  While they may have a considerable amount of lean muscle mass, they also have more body fat.  Endomorphs also have a slower metabolism, which can often make losing fat more difficult.       


2. The Mesomorph Body Type

Mesomorphs are primarily defined by a muscular and lean physique -- think NFL running back or female UFC fighter.  They have a v-shaped torso with broad shoulders that taper down to a slim waist.

Like the endomorph, they carry around a significant amount of muscle mass but mesomorphs are naturally lean, with low body fat percentages and well-defined muscles.  They have little trouble either losing or gaining weight when required.    


3. The Ectomorph Body Type

The ectomorph is the last of the three somatotypes.  Men and women with this body type appear slight with less overall body mass and little indication of well-defined muscle.  While the ectomorph can be lean, they may also appear skinny fat.

Ectomorphs are commonly described as “hard gainers”; they have fast metabolisms and may find packing on additional mass more difficult than the other body types. 

Most People Don't Fit Neatly Into one Body Type

If the characteristics of a mesomorph don’t exactly describe your own body, there’s no need to worry.  The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people don’t fit all that neatly into one category.  While you may come closer to one than the other, chances are your body type is likely a combination of two somatotypes.

Although some people may find it more difficult to gain or lose weight depending on their body type, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.  Developing a sound understanding of where you sit on the somatotype spectrum can help you formulate a clear strategy for achieving your goals, no matter whether you’re trying to build muscle, lose fat, or simply maintain a healthy weight.        

Why Is Knowing the 3 Body Types Useful?

A. Nutritional Needs Can Differ By Body Type

Knowing which somatotype your body most closely aligns with can have several advantages.  First, different body types have different nutritional requirements and may be more or less responsive to different macronutrients.  Therefore, knowing where you fall on the spectrum can help you identify the types of foods that get along best with your body type.     

⫸What Kind of Diet is Best for the Endomorph Body Type?

Endomorphs typically require diets that are higher in protein and fat but lower in carbohydrates.  Those who fall closest to the endomorphic body type are particularly vulnerable to gaining body fat when they take in too many carbs.    

A good place to start with your macronutrient ratio if you’re an endomorph might be somewhere around 25% of your calories coming from carbs, 35% from protein, and 40% from fat.  Everyone’s body is a little different, so you may need to experiment a little until you find the split that works best for you.  

⫸What Kind of Diet is Best for the Mesomorph Body Type?

Mesomorphs often do better with a slightly more balanced macro split.  Unlike endomorphs, those with a mesomorphic body type aren’t as vulnerable to gaining fat from eating too many carbs.  A good starting point for those who fall closest to this category might be somewhere around 40% of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% fat.    

⫸What Kind of Diet is Best for the Ectomorph Body Type

Ectomorphs generally need more carbs and less fat in their diets compared to the other body types.  However, an adequate protein intake is still required, especially when it comes to building muscle.  A suitable macro split for ectomorphs might be somewhere in the vicinity of 55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat.  

Again, no matter what body type you most closely align with, you may have to experiment with your diet and macro split until you find what works best for you.  

B. Your Body Type Can Also Affect How You Respond to Training

Knowing where your body type falls on the spectrum can also come in handy in the weight room.  Different body types tend to respond to weight training in different ways; what works for an ectomorph, for example, may not be all that effective for an endomorph when it comes to making gains in the gym.  

⫸How Should Endomorphs Train?

Endomorphs tend to respond better to heavier weights and lower reps in the weight room.  Because they already have a significant amount of muscle mass, building muscle may not necessarily be the goal.  Instead, those who fall closest to the endomorphic body type may see the most benefits from a strength-training program.   

⫸How Should Ectomorphs Train?

Ectomorphs, on the other hand, may find more success in the weight room by focusing on lighter weights and more reps.  The goal for those who fall into this category is packing on some additional muscle mass. Ectomorphs are likely to see the best results through a bodybuilding-style training program.  

⫸How Should Mesomorphs Train?

Mesomorphs can be pretty responsive to either style of training and those who fall closest to this category may benefit most from a weight lifting approach that combines elements of both strength training and bodybuilding.   

C. Different Body Types are Suited For Different Sports

Different body types may also be more or less inclined to excel at certain sports.  While many may associate athletes solely with the mesomorphic body type, there are plenty of sports in which ectomorphs and endomorphs can be successful. 

⫸Best Sports For the Mesomorph Body Type

Mesomorphs are generally pretty versatile and can excel in a number of different sports.  Because they possess a combination of strength, endurance, and quickness, they are well suited in most sports that involve such characteristics.  Mesomorphs are well-represented in most major sports, from football and soccer to hockey and baseball.  

⫸Best Sports For the Endomorph Body Type

Because they carry around more mass, endomorphs may have more difficulty in sports that emphasize speed and agility.  However, endomorphs tend to excel in sports that require a combination of size and strength.  Certain positions in football, as well as sports like shotput, powerlifting, and strongman, tend to be dominated by endomorphs.  

⫸Best Sports For the Ectomorph Body Type

Ectomorphs are most likely to excel in sports that require a smaller body surface and less body mass.  While their lack of size may limit them in some sports, ectomorphs typically dominate sports like long-distance running, cycling, and rock climbing, where a larger body mass is typically not desirable.  

Wrap Up

While most people don’t neatly fit into one somatotype, understanding where you fall on the spectrum can be beneficial in several ways.  

No matter whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight, knowing your body type can help you fine-tune your diet.  On top of that, it can also help you to identify a training program that will best help you to achieve your goals.     

When it comes to athletics, there are sports that favor each somatotype.  Choosing a sport that closely aligns with your characteristics and attributes is the best way to find success.  

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