HERE ARE THE SOMATOTYPES
Somatotypes are simply body structures. American psychologist William Sheldon classified the human body into these three categories:
- Ectomorph – long, thin muscles and bones. Low body fat percentage. Generally seen as tall and thin.
- Mesomorph – medium bone size, not much fat. Able to gain muscle easily.
- Endomorph – wide waist, shorter. Puts on fat easily. Seen as chubby or fat.
The three somatotypes are shown below, with representations of males and females:
- 1 shows ectomorphs
- 2 shows mesomorphs
- 3 shows endomorphs
Dr. Sheldon tried to correlate behaviors to body types. He also suggested that the three basic types could not be changed, which is highly controversial. For these reasons, some of his findings have been discredited.
The three physique types are still recognized and studied. But we can certainly change our body structures and there are many examples of ectomorph / mesomorph or mesomorph / endomorph physical types.
It is even rare to find someone who exactly represents one type or another. Also, male and female somatotypes differ in these ways:
- Men are generally taller, more muscular and leaner
- Men usually store fat around the middle, belly fat. Women are more likely to store fat around their hips and legs.
- Men are apples, women are pears. Again, these are general tendencies, with many exceptions.
Women are often “typed”, relative to other women, in a different way. See below:
Here is a simple wrist test to determine your genetic body type, a rough test at best, but interesting:
- Grab your opposite wrist with your thumb and middle finger.
- (If you are right-handed, grab your left wrist)
- If the thumb and middle finger easily overlap your wrist, you are an ectomorph
- If the thumb and middle finger touch each other, you are a mesomorph
- If the thumb and middle finger do not contact each other, you are an endomorph
HOW DO BODY TYPES RELATE TO TRAINING?
In researching this topic, I found much of it to be controversial. Training methods for the somatotypes are not exceptions. But I have personally experienced body changing. I was born a mesomorph. Then, during my 50s and 60s, I became a mesomorph with endomorph leanings. I am now mostly a mesomorph, without the endomorph leanings. I have never been an ectomorph.
My wrist test (see above) shows that I am clearly a mesomorph now.
Some of my sources highly recommend specific training per body type. Others suggest that our body types have no connection to how we should work out. As of now, I am going to proceed with what I know from personal experience, which is aligned more directly with training specific to body types.
Myfitnessroad.com tells me the following:
- “We are born with a predetermined genetic makeup which dictates our body shape and physiological tendencies”.
- “In addition, our chosen lifestyle, or more specifically what and how we eat, as well as the extent and type of physical activities we engage in, all have influence on our natural inclinations and ultimate appearance”.
Training goals are of utmost importance. Not every ectomorph wants to gain weight to look like a more athletic mesomorph, nor do all endomorphs want to lose weight. (Think of sumo wrestlers). But most ectomorphs want to bulk up and most endomorphs want to burn calories, which assumes that either type is training at all. Mesomorphs may want some combination of the two.
Ectomorphs have active metabolisms and lanky bone structure. To put on muscle, they should emphasize strength training with longer rest periods. They need lots of protein, spaced out every 3 hours, with a protein shake at night. Someone eating 2300 calories per day (for example) should include 20% of those calories as protein, which would be 115 protein grams per day.
Heavy resistance exercises – bench presses, barbell curls, squats and dead lifts are ideal. Heavy weights and low reps!
Mesomorphs are considered the lucky ones. Actually, if they look lean and fit, it is usually only because of consistent effort. Their diets should be tailored to any specific goals that they may have, as should their workout routines. Mesomorphs are able to gain or lose weight more easily than the other two types.
In most cases, no dramatic dietary plans or workout routines are necessary for mesomorphs.
Endomorphs may benefit from any type of training, but interval workouts are the best. This is when you train vigorously for a short period of time, then rest, then repeat. Endomorphs need a combination of resistance training and cardio. Bodyweight exercise is good – lunges, burpees, push-ups.
Endomorphs – and both ectomorphs and mesomorphs – need to understand that we cannot successfully target specific body parts for reduction. We lose fat throughout our entire bodies if we lose at all. If we lose belly fat, we also lose everywhere else. I can personally attest to this!
Amazon has a neat device to measure our body fat. (As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn from qualifying purchases). The skinfold caliper is shown below. Learn more here.
FitTrack offers the Dara Scale, which gives us a readout of the following as we simply step on the scale
- Fat mass
- Muscle mass
- Bone mass
- Hydration levels
- Visceral fat
- Protein percentage
- Body age
- Weight control
- Standard weight
- Body fat
- Weight without fat
- Muscle weight
- Protein amount
- Obesity degree
Learn more here and see the Dara Scale below:
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After having played sports and worked out for most of my life, I know that physiques can be changed – and dramatically so. Therefore, I can reject any inference that our genetic predispositions and/or somatotypes are able to lock us into one body shape for life.
Actually, that is almost laughable, yet there are some who cling to that. Perhaps due to lack of commitment?
It seems to me to be a matter of priorities. I have neighbors that spend hours washing and waxing their automobiles. Their hard work shows in their gleaming cars or trucks. That is their priority and not a bad one at all.
Some don’t seem to care about their physical shape. Others do. One neighbor is 85 years old and she walks briskly around our neighborhood every day, weather permitting. She has more energy than I have and it shows in her shape.
My advice to those new to workouts is to get started with a doctor’s visit and then try simple walks and bodyweight resistance exercise. It need not be complicated. The only workout that is ineffective is the one that isn’t done!
Please leave me any questions or comments in the “Comments” section below. Or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.