What they are and how to find find out My Body Type

What they are and how to find find out My Body Type

Do you know the different body types? Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. We explain the characteristics of each and how to measure the skin folds.

It’s inevitable that we end up observing trends when we walk down the street when it comes to body composition: wider, or longer, people who seem athletic.

Kinanthropometry is the science that studies body proportions, their composition, and their associations with other components of life.

In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about body types!

How many body types are there?

There are countless bodies, as many as you can imagine, as the specific configuration of anthropometric measurements presents infinite combinations.

When we speak of “body types” we’re refer to the anthropometric tendency, known as “somatotypes”.

Again, we’ll find different classifications depending on the author or school of reference. In most cases, 2 to 4 body types are distinguished.

What are they?

The prevailing school today is the American school, which is established as the reference for internationally recognised bodies that certify specialists in kinanthropometry, such as ISAK.

ISAK

Figure I. ISAK logo, reference entity in the training in kinanthropometry.

The American school uses the Sheldon classification, which categorises 3 groups of bodies:

  • Endomorph: People with a tendency to gain weight, greater development in the transverse rather than longitudinal axis, and a tendency to obesity. Flaccid and with rounded shapes.
  • Mesomorph: People with a tendency to gain muscle mass and grow easily. Balanced, toned and with good muscle development.
  • Ectomorph: People with a tendency to lose weight, greater development in the longitudinal rather than transverse axis. Lean, tall and with an above average development of limbs compared to the core.

Examples of footballers' body types

Figure II. Example of 3 distinctly different body types in high performance football (ectomorphic-mesomorphic-endomorphic).

An assessment of somatotypes can be used to guide the most promising sporting future of an adolescent or to pursue suitability for the high performance standard of a particular sporting discipline.

Somatochart

Figure III. Position in the average somatochart of high performance canoeists from different countries in South and Central America. All are positioned in a tendency of mesomorphic predominance.

What is the endomorphic body?

The endomorphic body is one that is characterised by a large amount of mass, usually both fat and lean.

It’s a somatotype associated with the “round” body shape, positioning the centre of mass in the lower core.

Example of an endomorph wrestler

Figure IV. Wrestler.

These are physiques traditionally associated with wrestlers and team athletes in heavy positions (basketball pivot, handball pivot, rugby hooker, and the like).

  • These subjects need to maintain stricter dietary control in order not to gain weight quickly.
  • Sport helps them maintain a healthy and athletic body composition, as their main difficulty is losing fat.

Example of an endomorph rugby player

Figure V. Rugby Hooker.

Ectomorph

The ectomorphic body is characterised by a small amount of mass, usually both fat and lean, although they stand out for being especially lacking in the latter.

It’s a somatotype associated with the “elongated” body shape, with long and poorly developed limbs transversely.

Ectomorph athlete

Figure VI. High–jumper.

These physiques are traditionally associated with endurance athletes and disciplines that require great agility.

  • These subjects usually require some attention to dietary control to avoid excessive loss of mass, the result of carelessness.
  • Their main difficulty is gaining muscle mass.

Calisthenic Ectomorph

Figure VII. Practising calisthenics as a sports discipline.

Mesomorph

The mesomorphic body is characterised by a balanced amount of muscle mass/fat mass. Considerable amounts of muscle and reduced fat.

It’s a somatotype associated with the “triangular” body shape, with a developed muscle composition, a rocky body, “ripped”, and sporty-looking.

Mesomorph Halterophile

Figure VIII. Weightlifter.

These are physiques traditionally associated with weight lifters, sprinters, and power athletes.

  • They’re subjects who can maintain good body composition without great dietary control.
  • With precise control of diet and training, they can progress quickly and develop their physical abilities with ease.

Mesomorph Crossfiter

Figure IX. CrossFit® practitioner.

What kind of body do I have?

I would like to stress, first of all, that the somatotypes understood as just explained are a highly imprecise reductionism.

The distribution of the somatotype is triaxial, that is, there is a specific position of ectomorphism, mesomorphism, and endomorphism that determines the trend of the somatotype.

Even so, the somatotype doesn’t seem to respond to a biological cause, although it’s true that genetics underlie the phenotype, the main contributors are environmental: behaviour, and socio-economic status, mostly.

The type of body you have can be determined “by eye” inaccurately, or with specific measurement tools to more precisely establish the point of the 3 somatotypes you’re in.

How do I know my body type?

You can find out at home, although you’ll need:

  • Plicometer.
  • Tape measure.
  • Tallimeter.
  • Body scale.

And someone familiar with measuring skin folds.

An assessment of body type is carried out differently for each variable to be determined:

  • Endomorph: Skin folds.
  • Mesomorph: Circumferences, Folds and Size.
  • Ectomorph: Size/Weight.

We’ll start with the endomorph measurements. We need to measure:

  • Tricipital fold.
  • Subscapular fold.
  • Suprailiac fold.

Skin fold measurements

Figure X. Taking a subscapular fold.

Secondly, we will determine the contribution of mesomorphism. We need to measure:

  • Diameter of the humerus at the height of the epicondyle.
  • Diameter of the femur at the height of the condyle.
  • Arm circumference contracted.
  • Perimeter of the leg.
  • Height.
  • Tricep fold.
  • Leg fold.
All in centimetres, including skin folds, unlike endomorphism where they’re measured in mm.

Third, and lastly, we’ll measure ectomorphism, for which we require:

  • Size (height) in centimetres.
  • Weight in kilograms.

With all the available data, let’s do the calculations:

For the assessment of endomorphs: 0.7182 + 0.1451 x – 0.00068 x^2 + 0.0000014 x^3
  • “x” refers to the sum of the three folds made, in millimetres.

A height-corrected calculation of X, which is the most common practice, can be carried out in a simple way:

X Corrected = X * 170.18 / Height (cm)

We should get a number between 1 and 14. If we do, we’re on the right track.

For the assessment of mesomorphs: 0.858 U + 0.601 F + 0.188 B + 0.161 P – 0.131 H + 4.5
  • “U” refers to the biepicondile diameter of the humerus, in centimetres.
  • “F” refers to the bicondile diameter of the femur, in centimetres.
  • “B” refers to the corrected arm circumference, in centimetres. Which is corrected like this:

Arm Perimeter (cm) – Tricep Fold (cm)

  • “P” refers to the corrected leg circumference, in centimetres.

Leg Perimeter (cm) – Leg Fold (cm)

  • “H” refers to the height, in centimetres.

A value between 1 and 14 should be obtained, if so, we’re doing well.

Now let’s do the last assessment: Ectomorphism, by calculating the weight index (WI): WI = Height (cm) /Weight (kg)

A value will be obtained that will determine the most appropriate formula to use:

  1. If IP > 40.75 -> (IP * 0.732) – 28.58.
  2. If IP <40.75 and >38.28 -> (IP * 0.463) – 17.63
  3. If IP ≤ 38.38 -> 0.1

With these values, we can work on the positioning of the body composition on a somatochart, which is a Granz Reuleaux triangle scaled and vectored to a point equidistant from its perimeter:

Scaled and vectorised somatochart

Figure XI. Scaled and vectorised somatochart.

The 3 values must be positioned on two axes (X and Y), as the graphical representation is two-dimensional.
  • For the X score: Ectomorph – Endomorph
  • For the Y score: 2* Mesomorph – (Ectomorph + Endomorph)

Imagine, therefore, that we’re a basketball player who, after carrying out anthropometric measurements and calculations in ecto-/meso-/endo-morphic, obtains:

  • Endomorph: 2.4
  • Mesomorph: 5
  • Ectomorph: 3

Perform the calculation:

  • X-axis: 3 – 2.4 = 0.6
  • Y-axis: 2 * 5 (3 + 2.4) = 4.6

Their position on the somatochart would be:

Somatochart case study

Figure XII. Representation on a somatochart of the practical case of a basketball point guard with the characteristics described above.

Which makes the athlete a meso-ectomorph. How do we know that?

Following the indications in the following table:

  • A. Balanced Mesomorph
  • B. Balanced Endomorph
  • C. Balanced Ectomorph
  • D. Meso-Endomorphic
  • E. Meso-Ectomorph
  • F. Endo-Ectomorph
  • G. Endo-Mesomorph
  • H. Ecto-Mesomorph
  • I. Meso-Ectomorph
  • J. Endo-Ectomorph
  • K. Ecto-Endomorph

The positioning of the body type on the somatochart would correspond to the following distribution:

Distribution of body types on the somatochart

Figure XIII. Distribution of body types on the somatochart.

What exercises should you do according to your body type?

The principles underlying training progress are identical regardless of the subject’s body type.

Physiology and organ biology do not differ between somatotypes, so the muscle tissue of an ectomorph, an endomorph and a mesomorph respond in the same way to the same type of stimulus (regardless of factors that may condition a greater or lesser tolerance to the training load, for example).

There are studies that show a tendency for your body type to condition to some extent the speed or magnitude with which certain adaptations to training occur (Marta et al., 2013; Van Etten et al., 1994).

And they’re the ones that we all think:

  • Endomorphs gain more muscle mass and faster.
  • Ectomorphs develop more cardiorespiratory capacity and faster.
  • Mesomorphs develop their holistic athletic ability faster and faster.

Even so, this may be due to confounding factors influencing results, as all body types improve on the “target” variables they train for, and it is possible that how hard you work, how “good you are at something”, determines your success in the process:

  • Hence, a mesomorph that is naturally stronger, increases their muscle mass more when training with more intense loads.
  • And an ectomorph that is lighter develops their endurance more than an endomorph by accumulating more kilometres per unit of time.

May knowledge guide you!

Bibliographic References

  1. Aladro Gonzalvo, A. R., Machado Díaz, M., & Bueno Fernández, E. (2007). Somatotipo de piragüistas élite de Cuba. MHSalud: Revista En Ciencias Del Movimiento Humano y Salud, 4(2).
  2. Marta, C. C., Marinho, D. A., Barbosa, T. M., Carneiro, A. L., Izquierdo, M., & Marques, M. C. (2013). Effects of body fat and dominant somatotype on explosive strength and aerobic capacity trainability in prepubescent children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(12), 3233–3244.
  3. Quintana, M. S. (2005). Teoría de kinantropometría (Curso 2004-2005 ed.).
  4. Van Etten, L. M. L. A., & Verstappen, F. T. J. (1994). Effect of body build on weight-training-induced adaptations in body composition and muscular strength. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(4), 515–521.

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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
He is a specialist in metabolic physiopathology training and in the biomolecular effects of food and physical exercise.
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