Do You Know Your Body Type? The 3 Body Types Explained

Also called somatotypes, the three body types that have been classified are endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

In this article, we will discuss the 3 body types, the characteristics of each body type, and how your body type influences your ideal diet and exercise program.

We will cover: 

  • What Are Body Types?
  • What Is an Endomorph?
  • What Is a Mesomorph?
  • What Is an Ectomorph?
  • Does Your Body Type Matter?

Let’s get started!

Three silhouettes of the different body types.

What Are Body Types?

Body types, or somatotypes, are descriptions that form a framework of the general common physical builds and metabolic tendencies of humans. The three body types that have been classified are endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

The concept of somatotyping arose in the 1940s, and was developed by researcher and psychologist William Sheldon.

Sheldon’s initial framework of the different body types not only described the physical attributes of each somatotype but also personality traits that were characteristics of each grouping.

Discussions of the influence of your body type on your optimal fitness and diet plans usually only focus on the physical characteristics of a somatic type rather than any potential personality tendencies.

Let’s break down these three body types:

Three endomorph women in workout clothes.

What Is an Endomorph?

The endomorph body type is described as someone who tends to be shorter, stockier, somewhat round, and “soft.”

Endomorphs tend to have a high BMI (body mass index) and may struggle to lose weight. This is largely due to the fact that the metabolic rate tends to be fairly low, putting endomorphs at risk for conditions such as obesity, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

What Is a Mesomorph?

The mesomorph physique is sort of the middle of the road between the shorter, stockier endomorph and the taller, lankier ectomorph. 

The mesomorph body type is muscular and tends to have a higher percentage of muscle mass than body fat. The skeletal frame is described as being rectangular, with a square head, broad but muscular shoulders, and muscular arms and legs.

Mesomorphs have a typical “athletic“ physique, with a relatively easy ability to gain muscle and lose fat. The metabolism tends to be fairly efficient, though mesomorphs who are prone to overeating may still find that they bulk up and gain weight easily.

A mesomorph’s BMI usually falls within the “normal“ range, though their body composition tends to swing favorably into a higher lean body mass compared to body fat relative to an endomorph with the same BMI.

A thing person measuring their waist with a measuring tape.

What Is an Ectomorph?

The ectomorph body type is said to be tall, thin-boned, and have narrow shoulders and hips relative to total body height. Additionally, ectomorphs tend to have relatively smaller muscles compared to the length of their long bones.

Ectomorphs have a naturally fast metabolism, which can make it difficult to build muscle mass or bulk up. The body mass index, BMI, of ectomorphs is usually quite low, even in the absence of an eating disorder.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), it is also possible to have characteristics of both ends of the spectrum in that you might be an ecto-endomorph or endo-ectomorph.

Does Your Body Type Matter?

It’s important to remember that somatotyping is not an exact science, and there are critiques in the health and nutrition industry about placing too much emphasis on the importance of your body type in determining your ideal diet and exercise plan.

A person with strong back muscles in a tank top.

Proponents of somatotyping typically say that you can’t “out diet“ or “out train“ your body type altogether, such that an endomorph can’t diet down and work out enough to become an ectomorph. Your bone structure and skeletal frame are unchangeable no matter what you eat or what type of exercise you do.

It also isn’t really possible to change your natural propensity to gain weight, gain or lose muscle, or gain or lose fat.

However, with the right diet and the right type and amount of exercise, you can alter your physique to optimize your body composition no matter what body type you are. 

If you are an endomorph who really wants to lean out and succeed in a sport that normally naturally selects thin and lean individuals, you can certainly follow an exercise regimen and diet plan for endomorphs that will help you lose weight and be as lean and svelte as possible.

Similarly, if you are an ectomorph who wants to become a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you will be fighting somewhat of an uphill battle, certainly relative to mesomorphs.

However, you can certainly build muscle and train in a way that supports muscle building and will ultimately help you attain more of a muscular frame in line with the classic mesomorph physique.

A person doing bicep curls at the gym.

The best exercise and diet plans for your body type will still ultimately be determined by your primary body composition and training goals.

For example, most health and fitness experts who devised the “best diet for ectomorphs“ or “best workouts for ectomorphs“ do so under the assumption that the ectomorph automatically wants to fill out and build more muscle. 

However, plenty of ectomorphs appreciate their natural build and want to augment their “ectomorph characteristics“ through their exercise and diet plans.

As an example, an ectomorph who wants to be a successful marathon runner may want to train and eat more like what is recommended for exercise and diets for endomorphs in order to retain their lean and slender build as much as possible.

As long as the ectomorph is not struggling with an eating disorder and is consuming enough calories to support his or her metabolism and physical activity, there is nothing to say that you necessarily have to follow a “bulking“ diet or exercise plan for ectomorphs if you do not want to put on muscle.

Two people doing battle ropes at the gym.

All of this is to say that although there are recommendations for the best fitness plans and diets for different body types, your own personal preferences of physique and training goals may be quite different from your somatotype diet and workout suggestions. 

Additionally, just because you appear to be an endomorph, in theory, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will automatically achieve the best body composition for your body type by following the “best diet” for endomorphs.

Moreover, just because you might have a natural tendency to fall within one of the three primary body types doesn’t necessarily mean that your natural body type will dictate your physique’s fate for life.

Although you will not be able to change your bone structure through what you eat, with how much exercise you do and what type of exercise you do, you can find a healthy body composition and maintain a new physical appearance obtained through your diet and workout habits.

You just might have to work harder and stay consistent with your diet and workout routine in order to maintain your new physique compared to someone who has that physique naturally.

Three sets of legs.

Consider the case of an ectomorph who really wants to build muscle and bulk up.

If he or she works really hard in the gym and strength trains 4 to 6 days per week lifting heavy weights and follows a high protein diet that facilitates muscle building through a modest caloric surplus and high protein intake, the natural ectomorph should be able to put on muscle and begin to resemble more of a mesomorph physique.

However, to retain the new changes and muscle growth obtained through high intensity, consistent strength training, and a diet designed for hypertrophy, the muscular ectomorph will have to maintain the diet and workout plan more so than a natural mesomorph who could stop exercising as rigorously without losing a significant amount of muscle mass.

In other words, you can certainly “fight“ your natural somatotype to change your body composition, either building or muscle or losing fat and leaning out if you are an endomorph, but you will probably have to work harder to get there and maintain your body composition changes than someone with that natural-borne physique.

Four women of different body types posing together.

There is plenty of individual variability in our biochemistry and metabolism, and with an overall lack of scientific evidence substantiating hard and fast rules for the best workouts and diets for different body types, experimenting with different diets and workout programs is often not only a valid approach to your health and fitness but the most effective one.

Remember, no matter what your natural body type or physique tends to be, it is possible to improve your body composition with a healthy diet and disciplined exercise routine.

Don’t place too much emotional stock in your body type; you can be healthy and happy no matter how you are “built.”

To look into each of the three body types in more detail, check out our guide on each:

The Endomorph Body Type: How To Train + Eat Right For Endomorphs

The Mesomorph Body Type: How To Train + Eat Right For Mesomorphs

The Ectomorph Body Type: How To Train + Eat Right For Ectomorphs

Five women with different body types posing together.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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