When it comes to sport and exercise, knowing your body type is very important. But we're not talking about whether you're fat or skinny, tall or short. These are merely descriptions of how you look and are not genetic body types. In fact, there are three body type categories that you can fall into: mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. They are determined by your DNA so you cannot change your body type, however you can train in a way that complements your body type.
Which Body Type Am I?
Let’s take a look at the three different body types individually. As you learn more about what they are and how they might affect your training, you should notice traits in yourself that help you identify which body type category you fall into. It's important to note that you can be a combination of more than one, or be mostly one and a little of another.
Typically, an ectomorph will have a small build and a linear physique which can be described as resembling a rectangle. Their frame is ‘delicate’ and they have little fat or muscle.
Key features of an ectomorph:
- Small chest
- Long limbs
- Narrow hips
- Finds it difficult to gain fat and muscle
- Low body fat
Ectomorphs are often referred to as your ‘hard gainers’, this group of people struggle to gain muscle and have a fast metabolism, meaning they are less likely to gain fat as well. These are the people who seem to eat and eat and never gain any weight. Ectomorphs' fast metabolism also requires a higher carbohydrate intake than other body types, as they burn energy quickly.
Endurance sports and events are where the ectomorph will dominate as this body type is better at thermoregulation.Typically, their body type means they make the perfect runner: light and agile. If you are an ectomorph but running isn’t for you, the ectomorph's light frame is also well suited to other aerobic activities such as gymnastics due to their lower body weight.
In order to support this lighter frame, ectomorphs will require hypertrophy (muscle building) training. Lifting weights will help to increase their bone density and enhance the strength of their naturally weaker build, which is more susceptible to injury. Female ectomorphs may use hypertrophy training to build curves on their naturally slight frame whilst male ectomorphs will require hypertrophy training if they want to gain size.
Mesomorphs are thought to have the body most aspire for. They typically have a medium-sized frame and boast a high percentage of natural lean muscle. Male mesomorphs are often described as having a ‘V’ shape; broad shoulders which taper into a small, lean waist.
Key features of a mesomorph:
- Naturally muscular
- Medium/low body fat, evenly stored throughout the body
- Females: defined hourglass figure
- Males: large shoulders and a small waistline
Mesomorphs are generally regarded as your ‘athletic’ body type. These people find it easy to gain muscle and burn fat. Mesomorphs can afford a moderate level of carbohydrates to fuel their training and should keep their protein intake high to maintain lean muscle mass.
Their proportionate and muscular physique enables them to gain strength easily and makes them perfect athletes for sports which require strength and power such as weightlifting, bodybuilding, or triathlon.
The best type of training for the mesomorph is interval training as it stimulates the body and keeps you on your toes. Short, sharp bursts of high-intensity activity will work best to keep the mesomorph's lean physique looking good.
Endomorphs have the greatest tendency towards ‘roundness’. These are the people often described as ‘big boned’. The ‘easy gainers’, mesomorphs gain and hold weight easily.
Key features of an endomorph:
- Larger, round body shape
- Shorter arms and legs
- Higher body fat percentage
- Wide hips and wide shoulders
- Puts on fat and muscle easily but struggles to lose weight
Endomorphs have the hardest job when it comes to maintaining low body fat and good fitness. Their slower metabolism means they gain fat easily but find it hard to shift. Endomorphs need to watch their carbohydrate intake and ensure they expend the calories they eat.
Endomorphs are best suited for strength and power sports such as powerlifting, strongman, and sumo wrestling. Their large size, short limbs, and easy ability to pack on muscle will give them an advantage in these types of activities. They will struggle with endurance sports like running due to their heavier weight and denser bones.
It's important for endomorphs to maintain cardio training to keep a lower level of body fat. Endomorphs who are happy to pack on size will enjoy lifting heavy weights with a low rep range, 4-6. They will enjoy typical powerlifting and strongman moves such as deadlifts, squats, and farmer's walks. If you think you are an endomorph but want to slim down, you will see the best results by doing high intensity interval training and eating a low carb, high fat diet.
I seem to be a little bit of all of them?
Most people will be a combination of two body types. You might be 80% ectomorph but 20% mesomorph or some other combination of the three. It's still important to eat and train for your body type rather than trying to work against it. However, if you are an endomorph but you love running, there is nothing wrong with that! It just explains why ectomorphs who seem to train less and may have less experience than you will be able to pick it up faster and excel quicker.