You’ve taken every body type quiz under the sun and tried every body type calculator out there. You’ve asked your friends and maybe the poor postman: “What’s my body type?” in an effort to find the right training regimen to help you achieve your goals. Maybe you’ve been eating healthy and working out fairly regularly with no fat loss or muscle gain in sight. Or maybe you want to gain weight but find it difficult no matter how much pizza or beer you consume. Well, your body shape problem may have something to do with your male body type and whether you are an endomorph, mesomorph or ectomorph. And knowing your body type can be the golden key to unlocking your body shape and training goals.
In this Body Type article:
What Body Type?
When you think of body type, you probably think thin, medium, large, etc… Your somatotype is a concept developed by the American psychologist Dr. William Herbert Sheldon in the early 1940s and refers to the idea that there are three general body compositions that have defined by people: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. (1)
At first it was believed that a person’s somatotype could not be changed, and some physiological (and also psychological) characteristics came down to the person’s somatotype. The name was chosen because Dr. Sheldon considered the main traits of each somatotype to be derived from the preferential development before birth of the endodermal, mesodermal, or ectodermal embryonic layers and therefore cannot be changed.
However, the current understanding of body type is somewhat reversed from Sheldon’s original idea; it is our physiological characteristics (how we see at a given moment) that determine the current somatotype, not the somatotype that determines collective human physiology.
Today, it is believed that we are not only in one somatotype, but in constant fluctuation of three. This does not mean that the concept of somatotype is meaningless. In fact, knowing your current body type can help you determine the right exercise and diet routine to help you achieve your body goals.
Mostly Men’s Sex
According to Dr. Sheldon, these are the three main male body types/compositions:
- Endomorph: Round and soft body; gain fat fast and lose it slowly. Characterized by a slow metabolism, this body can hold a lot of muscle and has the ability to gain weight easily. Phil Catudal and Stacey Colino noted in their 2019 book Just Your Type: The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Exercising Right for Your Body Type, because Endomorphs have a medium-to-large bone structure and more body fat than other types, endomorph women are often described as curvaceous or full-figured, while endomorphic men can be considered stout, doughy, or round. “People with this body type usually have narrow shoulders and wider hips, and carry excess weight in the lower abdomen, hips, and thighs. It is often a challenge to lose weight but with the right diet and exercise approach, it can be done. (3)
- Mesomorph: A square and muscular body. Metabolism is efficient and mass gain and loss happen relatively easily.
- Ectomorph: A lean, well-boned body with a naturally fast metabolism that makes it difficult to gain mass. According to the University of Houston, this body type is generally long and lean, with little body fat, and little muscle. As a result of their genetic makeup, Ectomorphs often struggle to gain weight and remain lean and slim in nature, even into old age. You will usually see this body type in fashion models and basketball players, characterized by a slim frame and long appendages. (2)
How To Train For Your Body Type
Once you have a handle on your specific body type and metabolic state, you are better prepared to begin an effective exercise program. The ability to incorporate or expand your level of progress based on whether you are an Endomorph, Mesomorph or Ectomorph is important to ensure that you are not wasting time in the gym. According to Andrew Payne of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the relationship between body type and overall composition is multifaceted.
As an endomorph, training should focus more on fat loss techniques until you reach an ideal body composition and a good level of cardiovascular health. Basically, you want to maximize your calorie burn in each training session and increase your metabolic efficiency with high-intensity exercise. Strength training can then be used to strengthen muscles and stabilize joints. A high protein diet with balanced carbohydrates and fats (while eating in a low calorie deficit) will help you achieve your body shape goals. (4)
- Pay attention to him: Fat loss techniques, metabolic conditions
- rest: Limit rest periods to short periods
- Style: Apply a lot of plyometrics
- Cardio: Add steady-state cardio
Good news if you’re a mesomorph – you have it easier than other male body types. You have an efficient enough metabolism and a good amount of muscle mass to achieve whatever fitness goals you have with some basic work. You want to eat for a specific fitness goal, increase or decrease calories to control your body composition. Increase protein if you want to gain muscle, or decrease protein if you are happy with your current muscle mass. Keep a balance of carbohydrates and fats.
- Pay attention to him: Metabolic conditioning, Fitness goals
- rest: Depends on the goal
- Style: Depends on the goal
- Cardio: Complement lifting with functional cardio
Ectomorphs have a very active metabolism and can be called lanky with a thin bone structure. It can be difficult for ectomorphs to gain weight and keep it off. Training as an ectomorph should focus on hypertrophy (increase in muscle size achieved through training), so maximal strength training is key. Cardio should be minimized in an effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. High protein with balanced carbohydrates and fats with a focus on neutral calorie consumption is key.
- Pay attention to him: Hypertrophy, strength training
- rest: Long rest periods
- Style: Weight lifting, Bodybuilding plyometrics
- Cardio: Limit cardio
Changing Your Body Composition
Importantly, genetics play an important role in the structure of the body, so you should take stock from a medical perspective. In an interview with NBC News, Harvard medical professor C. Ronald Kahn, MD said that determining the influence you receive from your gene pool is a difficult code to crack.
“You inherit half your genes from your mother and half from your father, so you are mixed. You can be unlucky and get the worst possible combination from both parents, or be lucky and get the best,” said Professor Kahn, MD.
If you want to change your body shape and body type, the good news is that physical exercise has a powerful effect on improving your body composition. For endomorphs, you want to focus on high calorie burning exercises like interval training circuits. For mesomorphs, you’ll want to focus on a combination of strength training and cardio depending on your body shape goals. For ectomorphs, strength training is important to help you grow muscle, while any high-energy training should be reduced. (4)
We all know calories in versus calories out affects body composition, and the same is true of all body types. For endomorphs, you want to focus on eating in a calorie deficit while focusing on plenty of protein. Mesomorphs have the luxury of eating but want based on body goals, so if you want to bulk up, eat more protein. If you want to lose weight, adjust your diet to eat in a calorie deficit. Ectomorphs want to focus on eating in excess calories to ensure you do not lose weight or muscle mass, focusing on high-protein foods and a good balance of carbohydrates and fats.
While your metabolic rate is heavily influenced by genetics, you can regulate your metabolism through exercise and diet. Your metabolism will adjust to your energy intake and physical activity. If you are mainly an ectomorph or an endomorph, with the right diet and metabolic training you will start to show mesomorphic traits sooner.
The line below
The bottom line is that your body type is not set in stone. Your overall somatotype is a reflection of your currency training, diet and lifestyle choices combined with uncontrollable factors like genetics and the surrounding environment. The human body is very adaptable and constantly seeks homeostasis (i.e. balance) in its environment. With proper exercise and diet, you can change your somatotype, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. A PT or certified nutrition coach will be your best friend and can help you achieve your body shape goals.
Exercise for Your Body Type FAQs
What are the three main body types?
The three main body types as theorized by Dr. William Herbert Sheldon in the 1940s are endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph.
What is genetic body shape?
Many studies suggest that while genetics can determine a good weight and body shape (up to 80 percent), personal choices and the environment still play an important role. TLDR: you can change your body shape with the right diet, exercise and determination!
What are the different female body types?
Female body types are similar to male body types with endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph being the dominant body types.
- Bernard, TJ. (2003). Biography of William Sheldon, American psychologist. Encyclopedia Britannica. Available online at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Sheldon
- University of Houston (2020) The Three Somatypes. Available online at https://www.uh.edu/fitness/comm_educators/3_somatotypesNEW.htm
- Catudal, P. Colino, S. (2019) Just Your Type: The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Exercising Right for Your Body Type. Da Capo Lifelong Books. ISBN-10 07382854
- Payne, A. (2022) Body Types: Mesomorphs, Ectomorphs and Endomorphs Explained. Accessed at https://blog.nasm.org/fitness/body-types-how-to-train-diet-for-your-body-type
- Carter, JEL (2002). Heath-Carter Anthropometric Somatotype, Instruction Manual. Department of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University. Available online at: https://www.somatotype.org/Heath-CarterManual.pdf
- Clark, MA, Luckett, SC, McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, 6th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 978-1-284-16008-6
- Toth, T., Michalikova, M., Bednarcikova, L., Zivacak, J., & Kneppo, P. (2014). Somatotype in Sports. Acta Mechanica et Automatica, 8(1). DOI 10.2478/ama-2014-0005