Or rather – what’s your somatotype? You’ve probably heard this term before, but what does it mean for you in terms of training?
Somatotypes are descriptions of different physique types. They basically describe your genetic predispositions to have a certain body type.
While it can sound like one of those ‘What kind of bread are you?’ quizzes, knowing your somatotype can actually be useful in optimising your training.
The terms ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph describe the three main body types. Bear in mind that hardly anybody will perfectly fit into these categories. We all possess a mix of these features and regardless of your somatotype you can be fit and healthy. The difference is in how you get there.
The three somatotypes
Endomorph, a human physical type (somatotype) tending toward roundness, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. The extreme endomorph has a body as nearly globular as humanly possible; he has a round head, a large, round abdomen, large internal organs relative to his size, rather short arms and legs with fat upper arms and thighs, but slender wrists and ankles. Under normal conditions the endormorphic individual has a great deal of body fat, but he is not simply a fat person; if starved, he remains an endomorph, only thinner.
EctomorphEctomorph, a human physical type (somatotype) tending toward linearity, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by the American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although classification by the Sheldon system is not absolute, a person is classed as an ectomorph if ectomorphy predominates over endomorphy and mesomorphy in his body build. The extreme ectomorph has a thin face with high forehead and receding chin; narrow chest and abdomen; a narrow heart; rather long, thin arms and legs; little body fat and little muscle; but a large skin surface and a large nervous system. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily; if he becomes fat, he is still considered an ectomorph, only overweight.
MesomorphMesomorph, a human physical type (somatotype) that is marked by greater than average muscular development, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although the Sheldon system of classification does not make absolute distinctions between types, a person is classed as a mesomorph if mesomorphy predominates over endomorphy and ectomorphy in his body build. The extreme mesomorph has a square, massive head; broad, muscular chest and shoulders; a large heart; heavily muscled arms and legs; and minimal body fat. He tends to develop muscle easily. His muscular development can usually be distinguished from that of one who has developed his muscles through body-building exercises.
Somatotypes definitions quoted from here.
Some sources claim that these classifications don’t matter, but I found this to be untrue. Identifying myself as a mesomorph (mostly) has helped confirm things I’ve suspected for years.
Whenever I’d mention them to other people before, they’d dismiss them as odd or unlikely since their own experience was different. This discovery encouraged me to follow these strategies. Here’s what I’ve noticed as a mesomorph.
I gain weight as soon as I start heavy lifting – or more specifically I gain muscle. Over time, I’ve learned to avoid strength training before competitions or I wouldn’t make weight. Cardio (BJJ), endurance training and yoga are the safest forms of exercise if I want to maintain a stable weight. Callisthenics are great for building strength without building muscle as quickly too.
Stretching is extremely important. Forgetting to stretch is the first step towards injury for me. This is consistent with some findings on the mesomorph somatotype, but not all. Make sure to adopt strategies that suit you, but remain sceptical about accepting everything you may read.
Being aware of these things earlier would’ve definitely spared me a lot of stress and pre-comp weight cutting.
There are a lot of combinations of somatotypes, but if your body is relatively close to one of them you may find this helpful in achieving tour fitness goals. ;)
What’s you body type?
If you want to find out more and get some practical tips on how to optimise your training and diet base on your somatotype check out this article. Most sources on the web say pretty much the same thing, but I found this one explained it best.