Do you know what your body type is?
In this post, you will learn:
- The difference between the ectomorph, the endomorph, and the mesomorph
- How to design a workout plan based on your body type
- How to adjust your diet to optimize your unique physiology
Let’s get started.
What Is My Body type?
There are three different body types:
- The Ectomorph,
- The Mesomorph, and
- The Endomorph.
Most people have will have a general idea of what body type they fall under.
It is also possible that you are a hybrid, meaning that you have a slight combination of two body types.
Let’s begin with the ectomorph.
The Ectomorph Body Type
Ectomorphs are people who have always been skinny their whole lives. They tend to have small joints (skinny wrists, ankles, waist, etc) and have a difficult time gaining weight.
If you have ever considered yourself to be scrawny, thin, or lanky, then you are an ectomorph.
Ectomorphs can generally have a fast metabolism and never seem to gain weight.
If you are an ectomorph, you will probably never ever be obese.
Here are a few examples of ectomorphs:
- Brad Pitt in Fight Club
- Bruce Lee
- Tobey Maguire in Spiderman
- Cameron Diaz
Ectomorphs who exercise regularly are usually lean with less than 10% body fat.
These are the people you see on the cover of fitness magazines.
An ectomorph’s muscles aren’t bulky; they are small, well developed, and well defined.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of an Ectomorph?
- Small Frame / Narrow Shoulders
- Small Wrists
- Narrow Waist
- Small/Medium Sized Muscles
- Difficulty Gaining Weight
So, if you are an ectomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a fitness model.
The Endomorph Body Type
An endomorph is the opposite of an ectomorph. These are the people who have always been a little heavier than their classmates. They have never been skinny and can add body weight very, very easily.
These are the individuals who struggle the most with weight loss. One bad meal could mean starting over from scratch.
Endomorphs have larger frames, bigger joints, and higher levels of body fat.
They will probably never get as skinny as a Victoria’s Secret runway model unless they completely starve themselves to death.
Here are a few examples of endomorphs:
- Brock Lesnar from Wrestling
- Brian Shaw from World’s Strongest Man
- Jennifer Lopez
- Marilyn Monroe
Endomorphs who are into exercise and fitness generally favor power sports and strength training.
For example, people who compete in Sumo Wrestling, or in World’s Strongest Man tend to be endomorphs.
They carry a higher body fat percentage, and will probably never be under 15% body fat.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of an Endomorph?
- Big Joints
- Wide Waist
- Broad shoulders
- Higher body fat percentage
- Difficulty losing weight
If you are an endomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a World’s Strongest Man competitor.
The Mesomorph Body Type
Mesomorphs are in between the previous two. They are generally considered to have the ‘athletic’ body type. These individuals can go either way. They are not scrawny, nor are they very heavy.
If you do not fall into either of the above categories, then you are likely a mesomorph.
Here are a few examples of some mesomorphs:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Serena Williams
- Aly Raisman of Team USA Gymnastics
Mesomorphs can have the best of both worlds. They can get quite muscular and be very lean at the same time. People who excel in bodybuilding or other physique-type sports tend to be mesomorphs.
Mesomorphs can build muscle and gain strength more easily than ectomorphs. They won the genetic lottery when it comes to exercise and fitness.
So what are the hallmark characteristics of a Mesomorph?
- Well Rounded
- Average-Sized Joints
- Narrow Waist
- Medium-sized muscle
- Responds well to exercise
If you are a mesomorph and in great shape, you are more likely to look like a competitive bodybuilder or professional athlete.
There Are Actually 5 Body Types
Some mesomorphs can be hybrids. It is possible to be a mesomorph with ectomorphic tendencies, or have endomorphic tendencies.
The Ecto-Mesomorph Body Type
An ecto-mesomorph is someone who can build muscle easily but has a narrow waist and a V-taper look. Many would argue that an ecto-mesomorph has the most aesthetic body composition.
The Endo-Mesomorph Body Type
Conversely, the endo-mesomorph has a more boxed look. They are strong and can build muscle, but don’t generally get very lean.
Many people fall into one of these hybrid somatotypes.
What Predisposes You To Your Body Type?
As with most things in life, your genetics is what determines your body type, how and where you store fat, and how fast your metabolism is.
With that said, you can influence how your body looks by optimizing your lifestyle with diet and exercise.
How Fast Can You Build Muscle Based On Your Body Type?
Muscles synthesis is a slow process that requires multiple cycles of Stimulus-Recovery-Adaption described in my post on building muscle naturally.
Under optimal conditions, a realistic rate of muscle growth is about 1-2 lbs of muscle per month.
That is only 12-24 lbs of muscle per year. Keep in mind, that this rate of muscle growth is for an inexperienced lifter. The longer you have been lifting, the slower this process will be.
For women, this rate is a lot slower.
Muscle growth also comes in spurts, with plateaus, peaks, and troughs.
In general, ectomorphs will struggle to achieve this rate of muscle synthesis, while mesomorphs will get it easily.
Endomorphs will also build muscle fairly easily however it may be hidden under high body fat percentages.
What Kind Of Diet Should I Follow As An Ectomorph?
If you are an ectomorph and you would like to build muscle, then you must pay attention to your diet.
Without proper nutrition, you can spend countless hours training and not gain any significant size or strength.
In order or prevent this from happening, you must eat more calories than you are already consuming to add muscle to your frame.
Without a sufficient calorie intake, your body will never be able to synthesize muscle and repair itself at the necessary rate.
- Try to consume upwards of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
- Try to consume 14-16 calories per pound of body weight per day
For example, a 150 lb person should consume ~225o calories per day, and at least 120g of protein per day.
A Sample Ectomorph Workout Plan
Ectomorphs have the most difficult time building muscle. The good news is, you can still add an appreciable amount of muscle to your frame if you train correctly.
Ectomorphs need to keep cardio to an absolute minimum and they need to perform compound exercises almost exclusively.
However, keep in mind that ectomorphs have thin joints, and thus are more likely to get musculoskeletal injuries from excessive exercise.
The most common of which include shoulder injuries, elbow injuries, knee injuries, and low back injuries.
As a result, ectomorphs should not train heavily for multiple weeks on end. It is also a good idea to keep your training frequency to about three times per week.
Always listen to your body. Do not be afraid to cut back on some exercises and or volume if you start to feel a lot of wear and tear in your joints.
Here is a sample Ectomorph workout:
- Short workouts
- Low training volumes
- Exclusive compound movements
What Kind Of Diet Should I Follow As An Endomorph?
Endomorphs have the opposite problem. They have a difficult time losing weight, but an easier time gaining muscle than ectomorphs.
This is why endomorphs need to focus on decreasing their body fat percentage in order to appreciate any muscle gain.
Endomorphs also have a small margin for error when it comes to diet.
Consuming too many calories could result in more fat storage rather than muscle gain.
Endomorphs must really focus on the quality of food that they are consuming to gain lean muscle mass. Check out my best nutrition tips to learn more about improving your food quality to optimize fat loss.
A Sample Endomorph Workout Plan
Endomorphs are powerhouses when it comes to training. While ectomorphs have to be careful of excessive wear and tear, endomorphs are built to handle a lot more training volume.
The endomorph has big, strong joints that can tolerate heavy and more frequent bouts of exercise. If your training doesn’t seem to be challenging enough, it might be necessary to bump up the weight!
Train all 6 major compound exercises at least two times per week. Isolation exercises have very little benefit for the endomorph in terms of muscular definition.
In addition, endurance and aerobic activities will be your weak point. This is why it’ll be beneficial to include regular cardio exercises such as High-Intensity Interval Training or low intensity cardio like walking.
Here is a sample Endoomorph workout:
|Low intensity cardio||1||15 min|
- Higher volumes
- Large range of motion exercises
- Focus on cardio
What Kind Of Diet Should I Follow As An Mesomorph?
Congratulations, you will have an easy time building muscle, improving your fitness, and changing your body weight. It is still important to eat clean, however, as no one is immune to gaining unnecessary fat.
Eat a moderately clean diet with plenty of protein and nutrient-dense foods.
How Should I Train If I Am A Mesomorph?
Because mesomorphs have a naturally athletic build, they tend to not exercise as much as they can.
Mesomorphs just need to focus on consistency. If you show up to the gym 3-4 times per week and focus on high-quality nutrition, you will build natural muscle easily.
To develop your best possible physique, check out my post on training volumes of this series where we go over the optimal training volume for strength and muscle growth.
Otherwise, you can see my full-body workout plan for a great program to follow as a mesomorph.
Other Related Questions
Which Body Type is the best?
In terms of building muscle, the mesomorph body type is best.
In terms of being lean, the ectomorph body type is best.
In terms of being strong, the endomorph body type is best.
What Are Body Shapes?
Body shapes are different from body types in that you measure different parts of your body to determine if your body falls into one of four shapes:
- Rectangle shape
- Triangle (Pear shape)
- Hourglass shape
- Inverted Triangle (Apple shape)
Social media has over-glorified an hourglass figure and distorted many people’s sense of body image.
How Do You Calculate Your Body Shape?
To determine your body shape, you will need to tape measure the following body parts:
- Hip measurement
- Bust measurement (for females) / Chest for males
- Waist measurement (at the belly button)
- Shoulder measurements
These measurements will provide a ratio of how wide your upper body is to your lower body to produce the result.
You can google a body shape calculator if you are interested in seeing where you fall.
The Bottom Line On Your Body Type and Muscle Building Potential
Whatever body type you possess, own it. Do not use it as an excuse to not exercise or to not lead a healthier lifestyle.
Your genetics only determines the hand you are dealt, it’s your choice on how you will play.
Also, keep in mind that your body type is only one piece of the puzzle.
There are several other factors that you can directly modify to make up for your genetics. This includes how you choose to exercise, which foods you choose to eat, and how you perceive yourself.
Now we turn it over to you.
Have you ever heard of these three body types before?
Which body type are you?
Can you gain weight easily? Can you lose weight easily?
Comment below and tell us if you have had any issues with muscle gain in the past.
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.