Somatotypes? Is That Like Wine Experts?

And now for some fitness fact fun.  In the world of strength training (particularly bodybuilding), people are sometimes grouped into 3 different body types, known as somatotypes.  The term comes from the work of mid-20th century American psychologist William Herbert Sheldon.  Although Sheldon originally coined the terms as part of theory called constitutional psychology (Sheldon felt each of these body types were predisposed to certain personality traits), somatotypes have survived in the strength training world as way of classifying trainees body types.  The three main somatotypes are:



  • Ectomorphic: characterized by long and thin muscles/limbs and low fat storage; receding chin, usually referred to as slim.
  • Mesomorphic: characterized by medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist; usually referred to as muscular.
  • Endomorphic: characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure, usually referred to as fat.

Although somatotypes remain slightly controversial since many people tend to have overlapping characteristics, there does seem to be some value in applying different training and nutrition strategies to the different body types.  For instance, ectomorphs training for strength and/or muscle tend to do better on lower volume and don’t seem to have the recovery abilities of the mesomorph (the classic hardgainer; the low to moderate volume approach has been espoused by experts including Jason Ferrugia and Brawn author Stuart McRobert).  Endomorphs tend to gain weight more easily and have to be a little more careful to keep their nutritional strategies spot on in order to attain and maintain leanness.  Mesomorphs are the assholes who tend to grow muscle and stay lean no matter how stupid their training and diet seems to be.

(Yes, I’m talking about you fist pump guy who comes in and does endless sets of curls while periodically pulling up your t-shirt to look at your rippd abz before walking around the gym shirtless while you wait for the tanning booth to open up and no I don’t hate you because I’m jealous of your physique although it is unfair that you look the way you do with your piss poor program and your “gee I want the discs in my lumbar spine to explode ASAP” technique my frustration with you is that you tell other people in the gym to train the way you do because you think you’re an expert because you subscribe to Muscle and Fitness even though you’ve achieved your physique success in spite of and not because of the way you train and the poor slobs who listen to you are going to spin their wheels for years before they get fed up with their lack of results and either finally find out what works or quit altogether.)

While it’s worth noting the somatotype classifications are not very scientific, they still make for a pretty common sense way of grouping different body types.  By knowing your body’s somatotype, you at least have a place to start when deciding which nutritional and training strategies will serve you best.  As always, everyone is unique, and you will only know if your body reflects somatotype conventional wisdom through trial and error.  The main thing is that now you can be a smarty pants while out at the club and dazzle the ladies with your knowledge of constitutional psychology.  Look at you. You have an excellent physique AND you’re smart.  I couldn’t be prouder. High five.


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