Knowing Your Body Type
March 19, 2018
Tags: , Assessment, Body Type, Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph
Ever hear what sounded like really good training advice, only to find it ineffective when you put it to use? Success is fun, but failure is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the same advice method worked for others.
Listening to a world class bodybuilder recently, he described his secret to success in that he “trained five hours a day, every day, and never skipped a day.” When I was in my teen years, such advice would have sent me headlong into a workout frenzy for days on end, only to be disappointed when injury, illness, or burn out would put an end to my string of five hour workouts.
Body Type Matters
At the point of failing in application of ‘expert’ training principles, I came to realize a very important point. Elite athletes have elite genetics and elite body types. It is ludicrous to think that their training should apply to my life, my situation, my genetics, my body type.
Our training failures have more to do with applying methods not built for us than for lack of effort or desire.
Regardless of my age, current sport, or fitness goal, the most important element of self awareness in training has always been body type. When I got it right, my training would fit my genetic code and my results would soar. When I got it wrong, it was like trying to put a round training peg into a square genetic hole, frustration and failure followed.
Classifying Body Types
Any effort to identify distinct body types faces certain challenge. Every person has a unique genetic composition, with physical implications. The study of somatotyping , with its origins in 1960’s pyschological research of William H. Sheldon, classified body types into three groups along a spectrum; ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph.
The first fruits of these classifications were related to cultural stereotypes. One study found that endomorphs are likely to be perceived as slow, sloppy, and lazy. Mesomorphs, in contrast, are typically stereotyped as popular and hardworking, whereas ectomorphs are often viewed as intelligent but fearful.
While each of the three groups of body is determined by calculations, it is possible to understand these classes largely by the characteristics of each. Ben Creicos has compiled nine questions to calculate estimated body type. A few important criteria from Creicos’ analysis are summarized in the following table:
Long and narrow
Square and rugged
Round and soft
Body tends to
Lean and muscular
Carry extra fat
More narrow than hips
Same width as hips
Wider than hips
Gaining muscle mass and strength
Balancing growth with definition
Reducing body fat
The result of Creicos’ calculation offers the individual insight to which body types are prevalent in their genetic structure. In my case, for example, my dominant score was endomorph (63%) with a lesser influence of mesomorph (38%).
Equipped with knowledge of body type, the individual can use a wealth of research for selecting the right nutrition and exercise strategy. The following summarizes key findings related to training and nutrition variations depending on body type.
Longer rest between sets
Low Reps (6 to 8)
Low Sets (14-16 per workout)
Recuperate between workouts
Cardio to healthy minimum
Engine is “high revving”
Target a daily caloric surplus
Tolerate carbs well
Emphasis on quality
Shape and separation focus
Variation of Reps (6 to12)
Variation of weight
Standard Sets (16-20)
Cardio for wellness
Body a powerful machine
Target calories based on cycle
Tolerate carbs and protein well
Short rest between sets
Higher Reps (10 to 12)
Higher Sets (20-25)
Extra sets as possible
Extra cardio for fat burning
Large bone structure
Higher body mass and fat
Do not tolerate carbs well
Avoid One Size Fits All Solutions
Over my lifetime I cannot count the number of one-size fits all solutions that have come and gone. There is no one diet for everyone, and there certainly is no one strength and endurance training program for everyone. Who you are matters, and you need a diet and exercise program that is designed for you, your body, your genetic code, your present physical condition. When you see a one-size fits all solution, be skeptical and embrace only those things which are compatible with your body type.
Things Can Change
Various factors, including age, can affect your body type. A diligent approach to training requires us all to be monitoring the scale, the mirror, and our dimensions. This has been true in my own experience. When I was 15 years old I had a growth spurt, shooting up from 5’10” to 6’5″ in less than nine months. I went from a full-body 14 year old to a string bean at 6’5″, my weight staying near 165 pounds at both heights. I went from mesomorph to ectomorph in a year. As we age and our lifestyles gravitate toward sedentary behavior, our bodies tend toward the endomorph. A lifetime of training calls for a lifetime of awareness and diligence as our bodies go through hormonal changes with age.
Get Some Help
Determining where you stand on the spectrum from ectomorph to endomorph requires a bit more than looking at a few pictures, descriptions, or questions on a short survey. It also involves how your body reacts to different forms of nutrition and training. In order to reach your highest potential, reach out to a qualified personal trainer today.
Books in Print
Schwarzenegger, Arnold with Dobbins, Bill. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Simon and Schuster, New York. 1998: 164-170.
Hatfield, Frederick. Fitness: The Complete Guide, International Sports Science Association, Carpinteria, 2016: 609-610.
Arsenault, Kyle. “The Best Exercise and Eating Advice for Your Body Type”, LIVESTRONG.COM, Accessed March 18, 2018.
Creicos, Ben. “What is Your Body Type? Take our Test!”, BODYBUILDING.com, Accessed March 18, 2018.
Sims, Stacy T. “The 3 Body Types Explained”, RODALE Wellness, Accessed March 18, 2018.
Wherrell, Jen. “Body Types and Weight Loss”, My House Fitness, Accessed March 18, 2018.