Ever wondered how some people just naturally get more muscular with the same or less amount of training that you do or why it is that some people find it hard to put on muscle or find it too easy to gain fat?
Well one answer to that may be in the Somatotype theory. Devised in the 1940’s by American psychologist William Sheldon.
The basis to his theory was that our bodies fall into one of three categories. These are:
In his 1954 book, Atlas of Men, Sheldon categorised all possible body types according to a scale ranging from 1 to 7 for each of the three “somatotypes”, where the pure “Endomorph” is 7–1–1, the pure “Mesomorph” 1–7–1 and the pure “Ectomorph” scores 1–1–7. From type number, an individual’s mental characteristics could supposedly be predicted.
The diagram above shows the typical body proportions of the three types of body types. Let’s now look briefly at each of the three types:
An endomorph is typically described as having a “pear shaped” body. Fat distribution is generally around the lower part of the body such as hips and waist. They have a tenancy to gain weight easily, both muscle and fat. If an Endomorphy type trains regularly, they will see quicker gains than an ectomorph but condition is lost quite quickly when they stop training.
Endomorph’s are ideal for strength based sports such as power lifting because of their frame.
A Mesomorph is blessed with the ability to store less body fat than an endomorph but can gain muscle. They have well proportioned body type with broad shoulders, strong core, arms and legs and are well suited to all sports especially body building.
An Ectomorph is generally categorised as being tall and skinny with long limbs but very little muscle or fat. Ectomorphs find a hard time gaining both fat or muscle and are often labelled as “hard gainers” in the gym. A marathon runner would display a typical ectomorphic body type.
Your somatotype is supposedly determined by your genetic make up and unfortunately, it would seem as though it is something you’re stuck with however with the right understanding of your somatotype, you can adapt your training and your diet to suit your goals in accordance with your somatotype. For instance, If your goal was to gain lean muscle, then an ectomorph would do well to eat a diet high in healthy calorie dense foods and good quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats and perform less cardio training than an Endomorph who would do well to increase cardiovascular training and watch the calorie intake a little closer than an ectomorph.
The categorisation and measuring of one’s somatotype performed by a professional can leave thousands of permutations so one could have traits of any or all three somatotypes.
The somatotype debate
Because it is just a theory (one that started in the 1940’s), there is often debate in the fitness and bodybuilding circuit as to the validity of the science behind somatotypes. That being said, it is worth knowing and taking into consideration if you’re not achieving your fitness goals. As with most theories in fitness, what works for one person may not work for another so it’s a good idea to keep an open mind.