Know Your Body Type (Somatotype) and How To Train for Your Body
If you’re on a fitness journey, it’s absolutely essential to consistently eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. But did you know that it’s also helpful to know your body type (somatotype)? This is because knowing your body type can help you customise your nutrition and exercise to fit your specific needs.
So, what is a body type? A body type, or somatotype, refers to the idea that there are three body compositions that people are genetically predetermined to have. The concept, which was formed way back in the early 1940s, named the three somatotypes – ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph.
The original concept of somatotypes was centred around a belief that your body type was unchangeable, and that your body type determined your physical characteristics. However, modern interpretations of somatotypes are different. Now, it’s known that your body type can change, and it’s actually your physical characteristics that determine your body type.
On top of this, no one has just one body type. Everyone has a mix of all three, but generally will have more characteristics from one or two body types.
The reason that knowing your body type can help you along your fitness journey is that it gives you a better understanding of your body composition, which can help you tailor your diet and exercise regime to work WITH your body rather than AGAINST it.
The three body types (somatotypes)
Body types don’t just tell you about your physique and body composition, but they also tell you a lot about your metabolism. Regardless of your body type, you’re capable of losing and gaining weight, but the rate at which you do so may vary depending on your body type.
Knowing your body type can help you understand your struggles, know your strengths, and learn what goals are healthy and realistic for you.
Let’s explore the characteristics of the three body types – ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs.
Ectomorphs are usually thin and lean, with small waists, narrow hips and shoulders, small joints and long legs and arms. They generally don’t have much body fat or noticeable muscle mass. Ectomorphs usually have a fast metabolism which makes it difficult for them to gain any weight, regardless of how much, or how often, they eat.
Most often, ectomorphs excel at endurance sports like long-distance running and triathlons. Because ectomorphs tend to have little muscle mass, they usually aren’t as strong as mesomorphs or endomorphs, but this doesn’t mean they should avoid strength training. In fact, if you’re an ectomorph, you should focus on strength training to increase strength, muscle tone, shape and posture.
Mesomorphs are naturally muscular, with wider shoulders, a narrow waist, strong arms and legs, and low to moderate amounts of body fat. They usually gain muscle quickly, and require a slighly higher caloric intake to maintain their muscle mass. They have efficient metabolisms and can both gain and lose weight quite easily.
Mesomorphs tend to have more type 2 muscle fibres and therefore excel at strength and power sports such as sprinting, HIIT and strength training. If you’re a mesomorph, you should focus on a mix of strength training to maintain muscle mass and cardio to maintain a healthy weight.
Endomorphs generally have a medium-to-large bone structure and more body fat than other types. Endomorphs usually have narrow shoulders and wider hips, and carry most of their excess weight in the lower abdomen, hips, and thighs. They tend to have slower metabolisms than other body types, which can make it difficult for them to lose weight, but it is still possible through a consistent focus on exercise and nutrition. Endomorphs also usually gain weight easily.
Endomorphs are naturally strong and tend to excel in sports requiring power and force. If you’re an endomorph, you should focus on high intensity exercise and strength training. The key for your fitness success is consistency. So choose exercises that you love and stick to them.
On top of this, you should avoid setting goals just based on weight. BMI and weight don’t distinguish between bone, muscle, and body fat. People with a larger frame will weigh more than those with a smaller frame, even if they have the same body fat percentage. Instead, measure and track your body fat percentage with the mPort app.
Combination body types
As previously mentioned, no one has just one body type. Everyone has a mix of all three, but generally will have more characteristics from one or two body types. Those people who lean equally towards two different body types will have a hybrid body type. There are different combinations of all three, but the most common combinations are – ecto-mesomorphs, meso-endomorphs, and ecto-endomorphs.
How do you find out your somatotype?
There are a number of free online quizzes that will give you an estimate of your somatotype. However, these are based on your subjective view of yourself and may not give you an accurate result.
To get a precise assessment of whether you’re an ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph, or a combination type, you could go to a specialist clinic and have your body fat, bone, and muscle mass measured. Or, you can get an accurate assessment of your body composition and type without even leaving the house, by doing a free 3D body scan with the Bodymapp app. The app gives you an in-depth health report that includes your body type (somatotype) and customised nutrition and training advice.