When you look around you in the gym, you will see many different body types. Some are skinny, some are round, some are short, some are tall. So how do we classify these different body types?
People use many different terms in use to describe the human body – for example we often talk about people being either “apple” or “pear” shaped. This is rather vague, however, and a more scientific-sounding classification, often used in the health and fitness community, classifies people as one of three different “somatypes” – either an ectomorph, an endomorph, or a mesomorph. So what do these mean?
The theory of Somatypes was developed by a Dr. William H. Sheldon in the 1940s. He analyzed humans, and developed a system of which has three basic human body types: the endomorph, the mesomorph, and the ectomorph. Although the system is not strictly scientific in basis, is often accepted as being so. He described them as follows:
Endomorphs are big, solid individuals. They typically have higher levels of body fat, but are also more muscular. Endomorphs will find it easier than other to gain both fat and muscle.
In sports, you’ll find endomorphs in the front row of a rugby scrum, or playing as linemen in American Football. Although they aren’t necessarily overweight, endomorphs tend to be heavier and rounder. Other famous endomorphs include Oprah Winfrey and Marilyn Monroe.
Ectomorphs are the exact opposite of endomorphs – they are typically long and lean, carrying little body fat and little muscle. If you are an ectomorph you will typically find it hard to gain weight, whether from fat or from muscle. You’ll find ectomorphs walking the catwalk as fashion models, or dominating the rim as basketball players. They can also make excellent fast bowlers at cricket, with their height causing problems for opposing batsmen.
Anyone who struggles with their weight will love to hate these lean individuals, but male ectomorphs often dislike their muscle-free, narrow-chested frames, while ectomorph females often long for more womanly curves.
As you might expect, mesomorphs fall somewhere in the middle of the other two body types. Mesomorphs are athletic, solid and strong, but without excessive levels of body fat. As long as they eat sensibly and exercise, Mesomorphs are neither overweight nor underweight. They can thus both gain and lose weight without too much effort. Most athletes and sports people are mesomorphs.
What do these mean for you? While we each have the potential to make the most of ourselves physically, understanding your natural limitations will safe you a lot of grief. For example, endomorphs will get good results from strength training, gaining muscle quickly, but will always have to watch their diet to keep the fat off.
Ectomorphs, on the other hand, will never make it as bodybuilders, but their lean frames can be great for endurance sports, and they can be a little more relaxed about their diets. Finally, while the mesomorphs might seem to have got the luck of the draw genetically, they still can’t take it for granted, and will need to train hard and eat right to achieve their potential.