Published on April 29, 2012
And no single fitness program, workout, exercise machine, number of sets, cardio class, diet or any other method of attaining a dream body will work ideally for every body type. That magazine workout program or generic gym routine may not be optimized for you.
To understand why, it's important to know a bit about the history of body types and body shapes (don't worry, I'll get to the good stuff later, but I know some of you like to geek out on this stuff).
Back in 460BC, the Greek philosopher Hippocrates proposed 2 basic body types, and the awkward Latin phrases he used to describe them can be basically translated to a “long thin body” or a “short thick body.”
More than a thousand years later, in the early 1800’s, French physicians began to refer to three different body types: “digestif,” “musculaire,” and “cerebral.”
But body types weren’t quantified or described more fully until 1919, when an Italian anthropometrist named Viola took 10 measurements of the bodies of a large group of people, compared the individuals to a group average, and came up with 3 different and difficult-to-pronounce body types, which he quantified and described as:
-Microsplanchnic – 24% of the population, small trunk and long limbs
-Macrosplanchnic – 28% of the population, large body and short limbs
-Normosplanchnic – 48% of the population, an intermediate group
A few years later, a German psychiatrist named Ernst Kretschmer described 3 body types (and interestingly linked each one to psychiatric problems, which I will conveniently avoid addressing in this book). His types were:
-Pyknic – broad, round, and sturdy
-Leptosome – long and thin, a linear body
-Athletic – large and muscular thorax and shoulders
Later, in the 1940’s, American psychologist William Sheldon defined his take on the 3 basic physiques – using language with which you may be slightly more familiar:
-Endomorphy – spherical body, weak arms, fatty arms and thighs
-Mesomorphy – broad shoulders and chest, muscled arms and legs
-Ectomorphy – linear, spindly limbs, narrow chest and abdomen, little muscle and little fat
But Sheldon took his definitions one step further and devised a method of body typing called “somatotyping,” which was eventually turned into a mathematical model in the late 1960’s. In this model, bone length, height-to-weight ratios, fat percentage, photographic analysis, and other measurements were used to develop what is called the Heath-Carter Anthropometric Somatotype.
This model, although very complicated and a real head scratcher if you don’t have a math degree, still serves as the basis for scientifically identifying body types.
Care to try and figure out your body typing using the Heath-Carter model? Be my guest. Here's how you start
First figure out your degree of endomorphy, using the equation:
-endomorphy = – 0.7182 + 0.1451 (X) – 0.00068 (X 2) + 0.0000014 (X 3)
-where X = (sum of triceps, subscapular and supraspinale skinfolds) multiplied by (170.18/height in cm).
Next determine your degree of mesomorphy, using the equation:
-mesomorphy = 0.858 x humerus breadth + 0.601 x femur breadth + 0.188 x corrected arm girth + 0.161 x corrected calf girth – height 0.131 + 4.5.
Next, three different equations are used to calculate your degree of ectomorphy according to the following height-weight ratios:
-If HWR is greater than or equal to 40.75 then ectomorphy = 0.732 HWR – 28.58
-If HWR is less than 40.75 but greater than 38.25 then ectomorphy = 0.463 HWR – 17.63
-If HWR is equal to or less than 38.25 then ectomorphy = 0.1
Once you know your endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy, you can then graph your body type on an X-Y chart using the following coordinates for X and Y:
-X = ectomorphy – endomorphy
-Y = 2 x mesomorphy – (endomorphy + ectomorphy)
Here's what the chart looks like:
You Gotta Be Kidding Me
Of course, if you're like me, you probably don’t have the hours of time necessary, the many tools of measurement, or even the mathematical prowess required to determine your body type using the method described above, so I'm going to tell you about a far more simple body typing method farther down this post.
But first, let’s delve into a better description of what each body type actually is, since all these “morphisms” can seem confusing.
Here is a brief description of each of the body types:
Male Body Types
|Male ectomorphs have skinny arms and legs, thin waists, wrists and ankles, low muscle mass and “twig” shapes. When they do gain weight due to lack of fitness, they put the weight on their stomach and waist. Ectomorphs are often described in the fitness industry as “hard-gainers,” because they have a tough time building and maintaining muscle mass. However, they usually have a great deal of physical endurance. Clint Eastwood, Ethan Hawke, Billy Bob Thornton, and Chris Rock are examples of ectomorphs.||Male ecto-mesomorphs can easily fluctuate between being incredibly lean or very muscular. They tend to have broad shoulders, narrow waists, ankles, and wrists, and a “V” shape of the torso. Like ectomorphs, when they do gain weight, the fat tends to be on the stomach, but can also be on the buttocks. Ecto-mesomorphs can quickly build muscle and tend to be fairly athletic, but not as powerful or explosive as mesomorphs (think of a swimmer vs. a linebacker). Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Dwayne Wade are examples of ecto-mesomorphs.||Male mesomorphs are naturally muscular and have a thick, athletic build. They tend to have round, jutting chests, rectangular waists, large arms, thick thighs and calves, and a “square” shape. Male mesomorphs tend to gain weight easily, especially in the hips, buttocks, upper back, and stomach. Because of their athleticism, mesomorphs respond well to fitness routines and perform well at most physical activities, but must constantly stay active to maintain a fit physique. Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Duane “The Rock” Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, and LL Cool J are examples of mesomorphs.||Male endomorphs are round, and typically short (although tall examples, such as Alec Baldwin, do occur). They tend to be curvaceous males with short necks, small shoulders, thick waists, calves, and ankles, with an “apple” shape. Although they tend to have good cardiovascular endurance, endomorphs also have the most difficulty losing weight, and require frequent variations in volume and intensity to maintain fat loss. Seth Rogen, Danny Devito, Jonah Hill, and Jon Favreau are examples of endomorphs.|
Female Body Types
|Female ectomorphs are waif-like and slim, with thin necks, shoulders, hips, wrists, calves, and ankles – a “ruler” shape. Ectomorphs usually put on weight in their stomach and upper hips, while maintaining slender arms and legs. Taller female ectomorphs tend to be slightly more muscular and are often skilled at endurance sports, but lack the ability to develop curves without the proper exercise program. Gwyneth Paltrow, Thandie Newton, and Kylie Minogue are examples of ectomorphs. Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl are taller ectomorphs.||Female mesomorphs tend to have a classic “hourglass” shape, with wide shoulders and hips, and a distinctively narrow waist. They tend to both gain weight and lose weight proportionally in the hips and buttocks, upper back and chest, and have curvy bodies that balance out a bikini top and bottom. A slight weight gain can appear sizeable because the mesomorph’s body fat easily hides muscle. This type tends to be very athletic and good at a variety of sports and activities. Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Scarlett Johannson, Britney Spears, and Jessica Biel are examples of mesomorphs.||Because of the biological tendency for females to carry more fat than males, female meso-endomorphs are far more common than the male equivalent cross of an ectomorph and mesomorph. They tend to have mid-thickness waists and ankles, small to medium size shoulders and chests, and wider hips – a “pear” shape. Although out-of-shape meso-endomorphs appear to have a frail upper body with a disproportionately large lower body, they can easily create balance with a proper exercise program. Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Hurley, Kim Kardashian, and Minnie Driver are examples of in-shape meso-endomorphs.||Female endomorphs are generally bigger on the top half of their bodies than on the bottom. They commonly have narrow hips and a large chest and stomach, with a curvaceous “apple” shape. Endomorphs tend to gain weight above the waist or along the buttocks. They are typically good at cardiovascular endurance, but can easily put on weight without a customized exercise and nutrition program. Queen Latifah, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Coolidge, and Alex Borstein are examples of endomorphs.|
So which body type are you?
Leave a comment below this post (or a question if you can't figure it out). I'm curious to know what the “predominant” body type of BenGreenfieldFitness readers is…
A Few More Details
You’ve probably noticed that there are two different “combo” body types: the male ecto-mesomorph and the female meso-endomorph.
The reason that the combos for each sex are different is actually quite simple: females are naturally built to carry more fat on their bodies.
Don’t feel bad, ladies – fat gives you curves, hormones, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to propagate the human race!
As you can probably imagine, because the body types in the tables above are unique, no single fitness program, workout, exercise machine, number of sets, cardio class, or any other method of attaining a dream body will work ideally for every body type.
For example, if you're a male mesomorph with naturally high levels of fast twitch muscle mass, you're going to find yourself pretty dissatisfied with your fat loss progress if you engage in a heavy weightlifting routine.
On the other hand, that very same heavy weight training routine would give you a toned and curvaceous body if you're a female ectomorph.
Meanwhile, say you're a female endomorph married to a male endomorph. You'll notice that the long slow cardio sessions which allow your husband to rapidly shed weight are instead leaving your body frustratingly tired, swollen, and certainly no lighter.
How To Determine Your Body Type
As you can see, this body typing stuff can get pretty complex.
As a matter of fact, I've spent the past year trying to make it palatable, practical and easily applicate for anyone.
The result is my new book: “Get Fit Guy's Guide To Achieving Your Ideal Body”. The book contains a simple body typing questionnaire, and a customized fitness and nutrition program for each unique shape, along with a very cool appendix jam-packed with my top body sculpting tips and tricks.
Watch the video below to see what this new book is all about, then click here to pre-order with a guaranteed lowest price available (this isn't some $197 manual, the price is $13.45 – so you can get a few for your friends – and I've got a bit of an incentive below the video for you if you do want to get multiple copies).