Intro to Body Types:
Each human being is largely different from the next. That is what makes us unique as well as fearfully and wonderfully made. Some people have taller and more slender frames, while others are more compact and short. There is no perfect body type. There are body types that are drawn towards certain activities (for instance taller people tend to play basketball), but none the less there are people who do not fit the traditional body type of an activity and can still be successful. Fortunately, exercise is beneficial to ALL body types and there are different ways to eat and train depending on your body type. A simple way to categorize different body types is to look at the fundamental different physical shapes. This is called somatotyping. There are three different somatotypes: ectomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.
This is the category that many basketball players, track athletes and swimmers are found in. An ectomorph is described in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding as such, “Characterized by a short upper body, long arms and legs, long and narrow feet and hands, and very little fat storage; narrowness of the chest and shoulders, with generally long, thin muscles.” (pg. 162) You’ll find many ectomorphs in sports like basketball, cross country, and swimming. Ectomorphs tend to have a harder time putting on quality muscle mass than losing fat. This can be a great attribute depending on the sport you are in. I am an ecto-mesomorph (we will get into cross overs later) and was not largely muscular when I wrestled, but I almost never had problem with weight cutting for wrestling due to the weight class I was in, and I did not have excess stores of fat to lose to stay in that weight class.
Anderson “The Spider” Silva is a great example of an ectomorph. He has a short midsection and incredibly long arms and legs which definitely aide him in his advanced striking abilities. From a bodybuilding perspective, Frank Zane is one who has many of the traditional ectomorph tropes. He had a slender frame and long limbs, smaller joints and had a harder time with putting on muscle mass as opposed to other bodybuilders of that era.
Mesomorphs have a more traditional “athletic build”. They have thicker and denser muscle structure than an ectomorph, and tend to store less fat than the last category, an endomorph. In Arnold’s Encyclopedia, his description of a mesomorph is, “Large chest, long torso, solid muscle structure and great strength.” (pg. 162) You can find mesomorphs in a wide variety of disciplines, as they can at times be more adaptable to whatever sport they are participating in.
Former UFC welterweight champion of the world, Georges St. Pierre embodies a traditional mesomorph. He has a great amount of muscle development as well as a low percentage of body fat. He is only 5’10” and fights at 170 which is allows him to be one of the strongest welterweights in the world, and is regarded as the best athlete in the UFC.
Another classic mesomorph type is Lu Xiaojun. Lu is one of the best weightlifters in the world boasting a world record snatch at 177kg (390lbs) and competes at the same weight as GSP, 170lbs. His long torso and short limbs creates a perfect template for a weightlifter. His torso length helps support the tremendous amount of weight he is lifting in a nearly vertical position that is perfect for his short and powerful legs to drive up out of the whole.
Mesomorphs can more easily be identified by the sports they are not in. Such as basketball. Traditionally you won’t find many mesomorphs in basketball because they simply are not tall enough to successfully handle the ball amongst so many tall ectomorphs. Same logic applies with strongman. A mesomorph can definitely compete in strongman, but at the highest level and on the biggest stage such as the Arnold Classic and The World’s Strongest Man competitions the field is dominated by endomorphs.
An endomorph is a body type that many couple with the word “stocky”. This is not to be taken as a negative connotation with overweight. You can find endomorphs in the upper weight classes of combat sports, weightlifting, and powerlifting. Again referring to the definition in Arnold’s Encyclopedia, endomorphs have, “… soft musculature, round face, short neck, wide hips, and heavy fat storage.” (pg. 162)
Brock Lesnar is a perfect example of an endomorph. He has an incredible amount of muscle, although it is not as hard or dense as someone like Lu Xiaojun or GSP’s. He has a short and sturdy neck, in addition to large hips. His large hips generate an insane amount of power that helped him double leg all the competition in the NCAA wrestling tournament, WWE, and UFC. He embodies what would be a “stocky” guy. As mentioned earlier, this is not a bad thing. His size and weight is used to his advantage.
Former Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler, is another classic endomorph. He used his larger joint structure and thicker frame to his advantage in creating a physique that displayed sheer mass and size. His endomorphic characteristics dwarfed some of the other ectomorph and even mesomorphic opponents. Body type isn’t the only part that counts in bodybuilding, but knowing your body type and how to train properly based on that body type can go a long way.
Like I mentioned earlier, people come in all shapes and sizes. More likely than not, people are a mix of two categories. They can have very endomorphic characteristics and serious diet and exercise, can look mesomorphic. I am an ecto-mesomorph which means I have good muscle structure and low body fat. It is really hard for me to gain weight because of these characteristics. In part two we will discuss how these different need different diets training programs depending on the goal of the individuals. Knowing you’re body type is important to ensuring you have a program that compliments your body type and your goals well.
Stay tuned for Part Two next week.