Somatotypes: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph Body Type | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Somatotypes: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph Body Type

What are somatotypes?  In short, somatotypes represent three different body types known as ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph.  Dr. William Sheldon developed the original system on classifying these body types.  Put bluntly, an ectomorph is long and skinny, an endomorph is short and fat, and a mesomorph is v-shaped and muscular.  These are extremes and in reality most people are a combination.  Now, anyone can look in the mirror and try to assess where they fit in based on these three body types.  However, the bigger question is: can assessing your somatotype help you design a more appropriate diet and exercise routine?

Somatotyping

There’s no specific “somatotype test” but Dr. Sheldon did develop the somatotyping system that attempts to classify people by body type.  The key is to look and the mirror, assess the characteristics below, and grade yourself on a scale of 1-7 within each of the three body types.  In this manner, you come up with a three number score (endomorph, mesomorph, ectomorph).  A 7 is a perfect match, a 1 is a low match.  So a pure endomorph would be 711, a pure mesomorph 171, and a pure ectomorph 117.  Some people like to compare these scores to the perceived scores for professional athletes.  For example, a professional basketball player might be 147 indicating few characteristics of an endomorph, average characteristics of a mesomorph, and extreme characteristics of an ectomorph.

Here are the characteristics of the three somatotypes:

Ectomorph Body Type

  • Thin
  • Tall
  • Light build
  • Little muscle
  • Little fat
  • Narrow shoulders/chest/stomach/hips
  • Hard time gaining muscle

Endomorph Body Type

  • Pear shaped
  • Short arms/legs
  • Soft build
  • Under developed muscles
  • Excess fat
  • Wide shoulders/hips
  • Gain weight easily

Mesomorph Body Type

  • V-shaped
  • Muscular build
  • Little fat
  • Wide shoulders
  • Narrow hips
  • Easily gain muscle and lose fat

Diet and Exercise for Each Somatotype

As you can see from the above, mesomorphs have it easy.  They can generally get in top shape with little effort.  If you’re a pure mesomorph, a little weight training and a reasonable diet go a long way.  Ectomorphs and endomorphs have it a little harder.  Ectomorphs have a hard time adding muscle mass while endomorphs have a hard time reducing fat.

If you’re an ectomorph and want to gain muscle, then you might have to drop cardio from your program altogether.  Fat burning isn’t the problem so it should be all about resistance training and ensuring you take in enough calories to actually gain muscle.

If you’re an endomorph, you face a difficult challenge.  Fat is your enemy and you’ve probably had trouble losing it and keeping it off.  Tom Venuto of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle has written a very good article for endomorphs. Based on metabolic characteristics, endomorphs are generally more sensitive to carbs.  I’m not really sure I’d recommend a high carb diet for anyone, but endomorphs in particular may benefit from a diet lower in carbs.  Notice I said lower, not devoid of carbs.  In my opinion, there’s no reason to completely restrict or embrace any macronutrient.  As for exercise, an endomorph is going to have to put in the required time at the gym, including performing cardio to burn excess fat.  Unfortunately, there’s a very fine line and you’ll have to be relatively strict with yourself.

Know Thyself

Don’t let genetics or your body type get in the way of weight loss.  Sure, you may not be blessed with the attributes of a mesomorph, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight and get in phenomenal shape.  Who knows, you may actually be a mesomorph stuck in an endomorph’s body.  Conversely, even a mesomorph can put on fat if they eat Twinkies all day and forego exercising.  Bottom line, don’t stress too much about somatotypes.  Whether you have an ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph body type, if you dedicate yourself to a good diet and exercise routine, you can build the body you desire.

44 Responses to “Somatotypes: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph Body Type”

  • Nice post… I’ve never really looked into the different body types because I really agree with you, in the end no matter what body type you are you can get into great shape by just putting in the effort. Definitely cool to know though!

  • Nice post. It’s good to go back to the basics sometimes. I’m definitely a mesomorph and always have been. I’ve never really put a great emphasis on this when it comes to my workouts and diet, however. It definitely is good to know where you stand (or your starting point I guess), but it shouldn’t have an effect on your goals. Anything is possible:)

  • Sam:

    It’s funny but I was just thinking about these 3 body types a couple of days ago. I’m an ectomorph aka HARDGAINER. I have to agree that sometimes you just have to drop cardio altogether if your metabolism is on overdrive.

    Years ago I would run 3 miles 4 or 5 days a week and do weight training. For the life of me I could not put muscle. You could not even tell I was weight training and looked more like a marathon runner. NOT THE LOOK I WAS GOING FOR.

    I dropped cardio for a while and I made progress. Over the years I have gone back and done interval training 2 times a week as needed. Sometimes I drop cardio altogether for a while. Depends on how my body is looking. It is a matter of making tweaks in my workout.

    Also, I’m glad you mentioned reducing carbs but not getting rid of carbs altogether. I have heard of some diets that have you get rid of carbs altogether, or stop eating carbs after 12 p.m. or 6 p.m. or some given time. This sort of stuff makes me cringe and is something I deem as necessary.

    Enjoyed this article very much.

    -Sam

  • Michael:

    This may sound like a stupid question but , can you be an ectomorph and not be tall? Also is your somatotype influenced by your parents built at all?

  • Kevin,
    You’re not missing too much by not knowing about body types but it can inform you a little.

    Srdjan,
    You’re one of the lucky ones I guess. Mesomorph’s have it easy! I’m probably some combination of ectomorph and mesomorph but do exhibit some endomorph characteristics as well.

    Sam,
    The rules can change slightly for each body type as you found out. Sounds like you’ve made some good adjustments to help you build your ideal body.

    Michael,
    You can be an ectomorph and be short. The characteristics above are broad generalizations. Most of us are an average of all three body types. Your body type can certainly be influenced by parents since you share the same genetics. However, it really varies. For example, I’m a Boston College fan. One of our former star defensive lineman, BJ Raji (plays for the Packers) and is about 6’2″ 330lbs (combo of endormorph and mesomorph). His brother is a basketball player at 6’6″ 220lbs (combo of ectomorph and mesomorph) and supposedly they have a younger brother who’s a lot smaller. Just remember, body type isn’t set in stone…you can build a great body no matter what your natural build may seem like.

    Dave

  • Dave,

    Nice summary of the 3 somatotypes. I think I’m definitely a combination because I have characteristics of all three types, but probably more so an endomorph than the other two. This is why I’m slightly biased and usually place an emphasis on fat loss over everything else.

    Alykhan

  • Endomorph checking in. I just need to lose the excess fat and I’ll be all right with being pear shaped. Why do mesomorphs have all the luck? It’s a bit selfish to keep all the best traits to themselves. I’d love the gain muscle and lose fat trait! Who wouldn’t?

  • Alykhan,
    I think most people looking to lose weight are stuck in that endomorph category. Fat loss should be a goal for everyone though; endomorphs just have more of it to lose.

    Zahra,
    You’re right about those darn mesomorphs. Life would be so much easier if we were all genetically predisposed to losing fat and gaining muscle. Unfortunately, nobody ever said life was easy, right?

    Dave

  • Hello Dave, very nice site you’ve got here and plenty of good advice.

    One problem with mainstream nutrition in my opinion is that they recommend pretty much the same diet for everyone, which is ridiculous when you factor in body type.

    Ectomorphs can get by eating pretty much anything they want but endomorphs put a lot of the carbs they eat straight into their fat stores. Still mainstream nutrition recommends a high-carb diet for endomorphs as well.

    Endomorphs eating a high-carb diet like authorities recommend are setting themselves up for health problems beyond obesity later down the road.

    - Kris

  • I have looked like I’ve been all three of these in my time! Its all about the process of learning how to eat in line with the body type you want to be and not being trapped by definitions based on who you are today.

    Michael

  • Kris,
    I agree. I think at the end of the day calories are important but some people respond better to carbs than others. I’d simplify it overall: thin people (ectomorphs) can afford to eat more carbs (maybe because they’re more active or have naturally faster metabolisms); larger people (endomorphs) should reduce dependency on carbs (maybe because they’re less active, have naturally lower metabolisms, or eating carbs leads to eating more cravings).

    Michael,
    That’s a good statement. You can’t really get away with eating 5,000 calories per day if you want to lose weight.

    Dave

  • Dave

    Cool info here. I really love geeking out on stuff like this. I think the main point everyone should know is that everyone will look different when they are in peak physical condition, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others too much. I think this is more of a problem for women, who think that they need to look like stick figures these days, when lots of us guys are looking for curves.

  • It’s gratifying to read an article about somatotype that gives it fair treatment. There is a lot of criticism of somatotype. Mostly, this is because people don’t have a clear understanding of the wide range of variability. You hear of the three basic dimensions, but there are close to 1,800 combinations. Knowing one’s exact somatotype is useful in understanding oneself and their potential.

    Michael:

    You asked if an ectomorph can be short. Yes the following heights are for males that are extreme ectomorphs.

    1,1,7 = 69.6 inches
    1,1,6.5 = 67.2 inches
    1,1,6 = 64.8 inches
    1,1,5.5 = 61.8 inches
    1,1,5 = 58.8 inches

    If you google somatotype and famous people you will find a chart where I have been able to assess some famous people based on public domain photos.

  • John,
    Thanks for the very helpful information. Your website looks like a valuable resource for information on somatotypes.
    Dave

  • This is fascinating! Could you post images of the different body types for women? Surely there must be some differences between men and women of the same body type? Thank you – Tammara Acerra

  • Tammara,
    Here’s a link to a site that shows the body types for women and men:

    http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/200/biotheor.html
    (about halfway down the page)

    Hope that helps!
    Dave

  • Found it. It’s great that you really do listen to your readers :).

  • Tammara,
    Just trying to pass along things that took me way too many years to learn. No reason we can’t all share knowledge and help each other.
    Dave

  • Tammara,

    Here are some comparisons of measurements of males and female somatotypes. This is based on W.H. Sheldon’s method NOT Heath-Carter. The Heath-Carter method (most popular method) pretty much ignores male female differences by throwing them altogether.

    Remember these are only the measurements of the three extremes and the balanced types. I have charts for 1800 combinations.
    The Trunk Index is significant with Sheldon’s method. It remains constant throughout adult life. It is obtained by measuring the area (from a standard somatotype photograph) of the Thoracic Trunk (Upper torso) divided by the area of the abdominal trunk (lower torso) The Trunk Index for each somatotype is the same in men and women for a particular somatotype.

    Extreme Endomorph 7,1,1 Trunk Index = .85
    Male: Height- 62.4 inches Female: Height- 57.8 inches
    Male Weight/age 160lb/20 198lb/30 291lb/40 219/50
    Female Weight/age 127lb/20 158lb/30 174lb/40 174lb/50

    Extreme Mesomorph 1,7,1 Trunk Index = 2.05
    Male: Height- 62.4 inches Female: Height- 57.8 inches
    Male Weight/age 120lb/20 131lb/30 137lb/40 141/50
    Female Weight/age 95lb/20 104lb/30 109lb/40 112lb/50

    Extreme Ectomorph 1,1,7 Trunk Index = 1.45
    Male: Height- 69.6 inches Female: Height- 62.2 inches
    Male Weight/age 105lb/20 106lb/30 106lb/40 106/50
    Female Weight/age 127lb/20 77lb/30 78lb/40 78lb/50

    Balanced Somatoype 4,4,4 Trunk Index = 1.45
    Male: Height- 70.8 inches Female: Height- 65.6 inches
    Male Weight/age 156lb/20 169lb/30 180lb/40 186/50
    Female Weight/age 124lb/20 135lb/30 143lb/40 148lb/50

  • @ John, I haven’t been back to the site for a while, so I just saw your post today. WOW! Thank you for taking the time to give all this information. Now I have the information I need to figure out my female type. It is very interesting that women were not taken into account! I see you have a site about this – I’ll stop by.

  • Very interesting! I knew that there were different body types, but didn’t know the different names of them. Thank you so much for sharing and teaching me something new.

  • Meredith,
    Glad you enjoyed.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    I’m an ectomorph or ruler-shaped (think Gwyneth Paltrow) and hated it all my life until recently. I’m still an ectomorph just in way better shape now. But I would like to clarify something – just because you’re naturally thin doesn’t mean you can’t have little pockets of fat here and there. My stomach was previously covered with a soft layer of belly fat which melted off me the minute I started a running program along with eating cleanly. Even though I was always thin, I never saw ab definition, now I actually have ‘girl abs’ because the fat is gone from my belly. I do cardio for my heart health too. My real challenge as you stated in the article is building muscle. I’m lean and toned but my biceps are pretty small and my quads could use some work. But there’s always room for improvement.

  • Toni,
    Excellent points about body types. Everyone potentially carries some extra fat and there is almost always room for improvement. It sounds like you’ve taken some good steps to improve both your appearance and overall health.
    Dave

  • I don’t seem to match any of those types. I’m petite, would that be a body type?

  • Penny,
    Petite is an appearance but somatotypes specifically combine the 3 body types listed above in combination with one another. So if you’re short and petite you might be a combination of an ectomorph and endomorph. If you are muscular and petite, you could be part mesomorph as well. You can check out John Danzer’s mysomatotype.com site to see where some famous people would fit. That might be a good place to start in assessing yourself.
    Dave

  • This is an excellent way to categorize everything. I don’t use these 3 body terms often, but it does help to conceptualize and recognize my own body type when I fall in and out of good physical shape. By using a system such as this, it makes me more aware and cognoscente of my own body.
    I’m sure this will lead to good health.

    Justin
    CEO Online Games
    Fitness Coach

  • Justin,
    I agree…you don’t have to necessarily bucket yourself into 1 body type but it helps to recognize where you fall.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    As a pretty extreme ectomorph with a family history of heart disease, I’d be afraid to drop cardio from my routine. I’ll admit if I gave up cardio altogether, I would probably develop a more muscular physique (to a certain extent) but I would be setting the stage for possible cardiac problems down the road. I’ve seen what my father’s gone through and I don’t want that to be me. I’ll run 4 miles 3X week until I’m 80 if that’s what it takes to avoid heart disease. Just a thought.

  • Toni,
    Very good point about genetics influencing how you exercise in addition to body type. I’ve always said that having a healthy body is more important than having a “perfect” body as defined by appearance.
    Dave

  • @Darrin
    “I think the main point everyone should know is that everyone will look different when they are in peak physical condition, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others too much.”

    I totally agree that you should not compare yourself to others because each of us has unique body shape and it depends on us on how we handle ourselves.

  • Neneta,
    Agreed. Everyone has a unique body and it’s very hard to manipulate certain aspects.
    Dave

  • Wow! I didn’t know that we have different body types until I read your post. I guess genetics is the main factor for us to have different body types. But I’m sure that consistent exercise routine can make a difference and we can soon achieve our desired body…

  • Allan,
    Genetics is really only a starting point. Just because you’re predisposed to one body type doesn’t mean you can’t transform yourself. Your somatotype can change as you get in better change.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    This post definitely makes me wonder if being an ecto was one of the primary reasons I had so much trouble gaining weight when I was pregnant. My doctor kept lecturing me to eat even though I know I was eating *at least* the recommended extra daily 300 calories. Some weeks I didn’t gain anything. I felt so bad about it like I was failing somehow but I’m convinced that being a ‘hardgainer’ was a strike against me when it came to gaining the appropriate amount of pregnancy weight.

    To create a visual – I gained only 22 lbs. with my first pregnancy and a mere 18 lbs. with my second. I hardly looked pregnant until late into my seventh month too (both times). I barely had any weight to lose when leaving the hospital but unfortunately despite being an ecto, my tummy still looked like a deflated balloon…the joys of motherhood.

    I don’t know why this never occurred to me before. Oh well.

  • Toni,
    As you can tell, each somatotype has advantages and disadvantages. As an ectomorph, weight gain can definitely be a challenge. It sounds like your children have turned out just fine despite you not gaining much weight so there’s nothing to feel bad about.
    Dave

  • The one problem I have with somatotypes is that people use them as an excuse for not being able to lose weight. They assume that because they are overweight, they must be an endomorph, when in reality they just have a bad lifestyle

  • Coach,
    Everyone’s always looking for good excuses…unfortunately somatotypes are just another one for people to throw around along with genetics. Obviously these things can make weight loss more challenging, but everyone has the ability to succeed if they put in the required time and effort.
    Dave

  • Coach:

    Somatotype is just information. Information is not the problem. Some misuse somatotype information. Actually, the problem is that people don’t really know their somatotype. There are close to 1800 possibilites. The terms Endo, Meso, Ecto are dimensions and each can be different. In Sheldon’s scheme the scale is from 1-7. So just saying you are an endomorph doesn’t say much. It’s painting with a broad brush. If you don’t know your exact somatotype and the weight curve that goes with it you are better off just sticking to the basics of weight loss – exercise to build muscle and increase endurance, complex carbs, lots of high quality protein and fruits and vegetables.

    Somatotype can be useful to recover one’s sense of their body. After a lot of yo-yo dieting a person may become disoriented about what their target weight should be. Sometimes a person will set extreme goals that may be reachable but not sustainable. This can lead to health problems or they may just give up trying.

  • John,
    All very good points.
    Thanks,
    Dave

  • Toni:

    I still have a hard time believing that you should “cater” your workout routine to your body type. I’ve had people tell me that I should be doing a split routine as opposed to total body (which I’m currently doing) and to take two days rest as opposed to just 24 hours (which I’m doing too) because I’m an ectomorph. I’m not saying you should be blind to your general body type and its limitations but to let it dictate the type of program that you feel comfortable doing is taking it a bit too far, that’s all.

  • Toni,
    There’s only so far you can take these things. However, it’s good for an endomorph to realize that if they skip workouts or eat certain types of food, they’ll have trouble losing weight where as an ectomorph could do those types of things with no adverse results.
    Dave

  • Toni: Are you certain you are an ectomorph? And what kind of an ectomorph? Skin & Bones? Maybe you are an ectomorphic mesomorph. I would suspect that you are probably quite meso combined with ecto. Meso’s don’t like the idea of any limitation even if its their own body. Pay close attention to any abnormal pain associated with exercise. Your body may be talking to you even if you don’t want to listen.

  • Precious:

    Thnks 4 all dis, now i understand wat somatotype means

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