The Three Body Types: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph

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Based upon physiology, the human body comes in three basic types, but the distinctions are not as clear-cut as one may think.

We know from discovered human remains that our cave dwelling ancestors came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Through evolution, they have passed their characteristics down to us.

The three basic “body types” we have today are defined as ectomorph (light), endomorph (heavy) and mesomorph (athletic). Many people first learn about these classifications in junior high or high school health class.

However, the distinction amongst “body types” is not all that sharply defined. Most people are not 100 percent of any one particular type. Instead, they exhibit characteristics of a combination of two. Furthermore, nobody is sentenced to any one body type or combination forever; it can be changed.

Body type also isn’t always determined strictly by genetics, either. A “pseudo body type” can result from certain lifestyle habits.

Ectomorph: Characteristics are a thin or skinny build, and in women, not a curvy skinny, but a straight or angular skinny; fast metabolism, though not necessarily warp-drive fast.

A classic ectomorph is the “90-pound weakling” who eats “constantly” or “all the time,” yet hardly exercises. When he does try to build muscle, nothing happens.

Ectomorphs are not necessarily small. They include the lanky six-footer who weighs only 140 pounds.

Being ectomorphic does not predispose a person to having a huge appetite, and many ectomorphs eat normal-size portions.

Endomorph: These folks gain fat easily, but they gain muscle relatively easily, too, with the right program. An endomorphic build has excess fat and does not look athletic.

Endomorphic women have pear-shaped bodies, with fat distribution concentrated in the hips and thighs, and then often in the upper arms and lower legs.

Men have the “beer belly” and are just overall fat or plump. Endomorphs sometime claim they don’t eat that much, but an endomorph can also have a gigantic appetite.

Mesomorph: This is the athletic-looking build, the one that’s sometimes described as being “big boned” or husky, when in fact, there’s excess fat. Mesomorphs are not round, but on the muscular or solid side, appearing strong.

Female mesomorphs tend to have broader shoulders than the other body types, even when matched for weight. Their excess fat distributes fairly evenly throughout the body.

Men, too, have broader shoulders and appear more muscular than endomorphic men of the same weight. This body type responds very well to fat loss and muscle building plans.

It’s clear that a person cannot be a mix of endomorph and ectomorph, but indeed can be part ecto and part meso.

Trained ecto/mesos may have trouble with hypertrophy—a thickening of muscle fiber—yet are a lot stronger than they appear. Endo/mesos who work out often show muscle beneath the fat; they don’t “jiggle” so much but still have visible excess fat.

An example of a pseudo body type would be an ectomorph who eats too much and doesn’t exercise. As a result, he/she will appear to be a little on the heavy side.

A person can be a bit heavy and still have a fast metabolism. In modern society, it’s way too easy to overeat high calorie foods. Sometimes the caloric surplus is far greater than the fast metabolism, especially if that person doesn’t exercise.

Another pseudo example is a mesomorph who eats loads of food and thus, appears endomorphic at 250 pounds. An endomorph can also diet and exercise down to very lean proportions and appear ectomorphic.

Men and women indeed can change their body type over time with the right strength training, cardio and nutrition approach. Nobody has to stay round, soft and pudgy, or gaunt-looking forever.


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