Sunday, November 8, 2009


In the mid 1900’s, Dr. William Sheldon identified three fundamental elements – the somatotypes. He named his somatotypes after the three germ layers of embryonic development: the endoderm, that develops into the digestive tract, the mesoderm, that is to become muscle, heart and blood vessels, and the ectoderm that is to form the nervous system.

The three basic body types:

Endomorphic body type is characterized by an increased amount of fat storage, due to having a larger number of fat cells than the average person, as well as higher proportion of digestive tissue. They have a wide waist and a large bone structure.. Endomorphs often have great difficulty losing body fat.

Mesomorphic body type is characterized by a high rate of muscle growth and a higher proportion of muscular tissue. They have large bones, solid torso combined with low fat levels. It is also noted that they have wide shoulders with a narrow waist. Mesomorphs are the genetically gifted and are usually lean, muscular and naturally athletic. Mesomorphs lose fat and gain muscle with ease.

Ectomorphic body type is characterized by long arms and legs and a short upper body and narrow shoulders, and supposedly have a higher proportion of nervous tissue. They also have long and thin muscles. Ectomorphs usually have a very low fat storage; therefore they are usually referred to as slim and have a fast metabolism.

In his book, Atlas of Men, Sheldon categorized all possible body types according to a scale ranging from 1 to 7.

The pure Endomorph is 7–1–1,
The pure Mesomorph 1–7–1 and
The pure Ectomorph scores 1–1–7.

Although there are three basic body types, most people are a combination of two or more. For example, most football linesmen are endo-mesomorphs. There could be high levels of muscle, often covered with a layer of fat. Their body score may be 5-6-1.

To understand your body make up, it is best to analyze the characteristics that seem to suit you and plan around it.

The Endomorph

Most people fall into this category. An endomorph can store fat easily and regularly struggles with controlling body fat. Endomorphs have a difficult time losing fat by dieting alone. They usually have carbohydrate sensitivity and insulin resistance.
To have a healthy lifestyle, Endomorph’s must rely on exercise and nutritional discipline. Processed and refined foods must be eliminated. They need to boost their metabolism by adding resistance training. Cardio/Aerobic exercise is necessary to stay lean. Avoid over-sleeping .

The Mesomorph

Mesomorphs are considered the genetically gifted individuals who are the typical natural-born athletes. Most are lean and muscular who can lose fat and gain muscle without much effort.

Many mesomorphs never see their full potential as they tend to rely on their genetics through life. The lack of discipline will eventually catch up. The best thing for a mesomorph is to train hard to reach their potential. Watching what your nutritional intake but allowing for the occasional “cheat” meal is all that is needed.

The Ectomorph

Ectomorphs are usually tall and slim with a high metabolism. They are the usual long distance / endurance athletes who have a hard time gaining weight.

Ectomorphs must workout regularly in order to maintain muscle. Because of their high metabolism, ectomorphs must eat 5 or 6 daily meals of high calorie dense foods. Ectomorphs should get plenty of sleep and limit their cardio to shorter high intensity workouts (bodyweight & plyometrics). Exercise should focus on resistance training to build muscle – basic movements while lifting heavy.

To determine your body type

As mentioned before, it is hard to find a somatotype that is one pure type. You must understand your body. What were you like growing up? Were you a late bloomer? How quickly do you respond to training? To you gain weight quickly? Are you in the same shape as you were 10 years ago? 5 years ago? 20 years ago?

Although you can change your body composition, some aspects of a Somatotype cannot be changed. Bone structure helps to determine your actual body type more so than muscle and adipose mass changes. Many people complain of being “big-boned” citing this as a reason they are overweight. Surprisingly most people are small or medium boned and that joint size has nothing to do with the ability to lose body fat!

Remember the rating:
A pure endomorph is 7–1–1,
A pure mesomorph 1–7–1 and
A pure ectomorph scores 1–1–7.

I would consider myself a 1-4-6. I’ve always been slim with a fast metabolism and have to work hard for all the gains. Fortunately this has resulted in a disciplined approach to reaching my potential as a Fitness Leader. My weaknesses has become my strength – how many people do you know that can leg press over 700 lbs?


Just remember, these are generalizations.  Most of us have characteristics of two or even all three somatotypes. And although somatotypes have been long used as ways to define body types, there is much more to one’s genetic make-up. In Reality, only 5 to 10% of your body pertains to Genetics.  Programming – such as Diet, Lifestyle and one’s Physical Activity have a much more dramatic  effect on body type definition.

So, Heredity does influence your body type. However, no matter what body type you are it is YOU and you alone that creates the end result. If you are fat and overweight, or skinny and weak, it is your own doing. Take responsibility to change – to improve yourself. Make a lifelong commitment to a fit lifestyle. There is no reason that you cannot maintain the physical attributes 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

For many, age is just a number. If you want mental clarity, feel positive and live life to the fullest it’s never too late to start. Don’t let life pass you by and miss out on the joy of being fit and healthy. Get off the couch, take a walk through the park, go for a swim or start an exercise program. You CAN change!

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