Somatotypes describe how we have a genetic physical predisposition to certain body shapes, fat to muscle ratio and stature. As a result, we require different training and nutritional demands. The three different body types are ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.
But what exactly do these terms mean? And how does it affect athletic performance and training goals?
Ectomorph body shapes
Those with an ectomorph body type are of slight build and possess fast metabolisms. Ectomorphs have a low body fat and a smaller build. They genetically find it harder than the other body types to gain bodyweight or build muscle mass. An athletic archetype of an ectomorph is the marathon runner.
Ectomorph body shape traits
Ectomorphs have the following characteristics:
- Slight frame and bone structure
- Narrow shoulders
- Naturally lean
- Flat chest
- Fast metabolism
- Finds it difficult to gain weight
- Finds building additional muscle mass challenging
Famous ectomorph athletes
- Usain Bolt
- Michael Phelps
- Rafael Nadal
- Bruce Lee
Ectomorphs have the optimum physique for sports suchg as long-distance running, high jump and hurdles. The ectomorph body type is perfect for any sport requiring speed. However, the benefit from extra strength training for competitive contact sports. They often find it harder to build muscle mass through weight training than mesomorphs for example.
Ectomorphs have a fast metabolism and naturally slight build. As a result, they must ensure sufficient carolie intake to fuel workouts and recover. With a high carbohydrate tolerance, ensuring a high calorific intake is key to an ectomorph’s optimum athletic performance.
Ectomorphs seeking to increase muscle mass or ‘bulk up’ benefit best from protein shakes before and after training. Add nuts (peanut butter, almonds) to bolster protein shakes.
Mesomorph body shapes
A mesomorph body type is those who have a medium frame and bone structure. Mesomorphs have naturally athletic body types with lean, muscular body mass. Generally, mesomorphs are growth hormone dominant. This makes them physically inclined to easy muscle gain and naturally maintaining lower body fat.
Mesomorph body types traits
- Medium frame
- Athletic and toned body
- Muscle definition
- Generally rectangular-shaped body
- Gains muscle easily
Famous mesomorph athletes
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Anna Kournikova
- Andre Agassi
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Venus Williams
The mesomorph predisposition to building muscle means that they respond quickly to training, with physical results appearing relatively quickly. Because of this predisposition, mesomorphs have the best natural body type for bodybuilding and strength-based sports.
However, mesomorphs also gain fat with muscle, as a result diet and cardio training is important to avoid fat gain.
Typically, a mesomorph diet consists of complex carbohydrates (40%), protein (30%) and fat (30%). However nutrition best suited the goals and performance requirements of the individual is important.
In general, mesomorphs have moderate carbohydrate tolerance. This means they must be careful not to overeat carbs to avoid gaining fat weight.
For example, bodybuilders choose a much smaller ratio of carbohydrate to protein and fat. Whereas mesomorph athletes in competitive sports would possibly need a higher carbohydrate ratio to fuel their cardio.
Endomorph body shapes
Endomorph body shapes have naturally ‘softer’ body mass and a higher body fat ratio. With a slower metabolism than the other body types, endomorphs are insulin dominant. This means their body more readily stores energy as body fat.
However, endomorphs also gain muscle with relative ease. With the correct training and nutrition, endomorphs can optimise their performance, effectively harnessing their natural strength.
Endomorph body shape traits
- Soft body with minimal natural muscle definition
- Tends towards a round body shape
- Prone to gaining fat
- Usually, have a larger bone structure
- Slower metabolism
- Finds it more difficult than the other body types to lose fat
Famous Endomorph Athletes
- Jay Cutler
- Wayne Rooney
- Markus Ruhl
Due to their propensity towards a higher body fat ratio, endomorphs wishing to avoid fat gain emphasise cardio training. Weight training is also important in order to build muscle mass, and therefore boost the metabolic rate.
Bodybuilders seeking to build muscle, supplement their training with some cardio. Cardio is good for health and reducing fat. This aids muscle visibility. Often though they opt for non weight bearing cardio to avoid muscle loss.
Football lineman and professional bodybuilders are often classified as endomorphs. Many endomorphs have naturually stronger leg strength. This is an advantage in many sports, especially weight lifting and throwing events.
Endomorphs are insulin dominant. As a result, they have lower carbohydrate tolerance compared with other body shapes. This means they store excess energy more easily as fat.
With this in mind, endomorphs seeking to enhance their physique and athletic performance benefit from a smaller proportional intake of carbohydrate and a higher intake of protein and fat.
Ideally, endomoorphs avoid refined carbohydrates (e.g cookies, candy, non-wholegrain bread). Complex carbohydrates (such as oatmeal, bananas and sweet potato) are better as training fuel.
An endomorph body shape needs to control calorific intake more so than the other body types, in order to yield effective fat loss results or to avoid fat gain.
Somatotypes in sport
Few people if any are exactly a particular somatotype or body shape. Therefore we score people out of 7 depending on like a particularly body shape someone is. Then we plot it on a triangular chart.
For example, a particular Hammer thrower is predominantly endomorph dominant. However, they may also have mesomorph traits.
Most people are somewhere in between these three extremes. The best way to see this is by using a chart like the one above. We use three numbers, one for each body typ. A score of 1 means you are unlike the particular body shape with 7 being exactly like that shape.
The numbers are always in the same order, with endomorph being first, mesomorph second and ectomorph third.