Body type is something many of us are familiar with in one way or another. Essentially, it is a way to describe bodily morphology at its current state.
There are three main body types, but the idea that your bone structure is related to your metabolism is a myth. Ectomorphs are tall and have little muscle and fat. Endomorphs have the most body fat out of the three and are rounder in shape. Mesomorphs have moderate build and are the most common and most ideal body type for men.
Body type is a designation that is pervasive throughout many fields of aesthetics. The most common application of somatotype is in athletic research. Many research papers have tried to explore the effects of somatotype on elite athletes and how their body works. Body type research is also common in studies dealing with obesity.
When you look up male body types online, you’ll see a couple of articles that point you towards male body shape. Although body shape is an aspect of body type, and body types have a general physical appearance or condition, this discussion will not focus just on the body’s shape. While there is merit in analyzing your body shape to improve the way you dress and its other applications, body types do so much more than help you dress better. For one, it focuses more on the biology of your body, defining your body’s morphology holistically.
Understanding your body type can make it easier for you to understand what you need to fix to achieve the most attractive physique you can. For a deep dive into the science behind male physique aesthetics, check out our guide to the most attractive male physique.
Different Male Body Types (Somatotype)
Before we talk about anything else, we need to cover what a somatotype is and what it isn’t. There are plenty of misleading sources online on what somatotype is and how we can use it daily. Most would suggest changing the way you eat and your exercise patterns. And while there is some validity in that, there are circulating myths about somatotype that we need to get rid of first.
Let’s go back to the 1940s, when the idea of somatotype was first coined. William Herbert Sheldon, an American psychologist, is responsible for the creation of somatotype. Back when he first created this classification method, it wasn’t actually for physique only but to associate body physique with human temperament; all in all, a very psychological view of the topic.
Today, the use of somatotype is very much different. Plus, we also know a lot more than we did then. Obviously, characterizations alone are insufficient actually to be of much use in the academe and science. So, Barbara Heath and Lindsay Carter built upon Sheldon’s way of somatotyping and improved it. They created guidelines that would rank a person on different scales of endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.
The idea of ranking somatotype characteristics leads us to our first point: most people are not one somatotype alone. In fact, there’s a likelihood that you are exhibiting all of these somatotype characteristics at one time. However, they vary in degree and area. Some people are more mesomorph than endomorph, while some are more ectomorph than they are mesomorph and everything in between. You can find the guidelines here.
In the many decades since the formulation of somatotypes, we have discovered several untrue things about Sheldon’s initial belief. One of which was that we could not change our somatotype. Today, we know that we can change our somatotype, but not all aspects of it, which is the second point. Common belief nowadays is that there are so many limitations to what you can achieve if you are a certain somatotype, which isn’t true. Let’s start with that you CANNOT change.
An excellent example of an aspect of somatotype that we can’t change is our bone structure (Bhushan, 2015). For example, if you were born with a narrow bone structure akin to an ectomorph, you would find it difficult to be an excellent swimmer. Swimmers usually have broad shoulders that are useful for the strokes they make in the sport. While you can build muscles, your bone structure limits the extent of how broad your shoulders can be.
However, the idea that your metabolism is tied to your body type is not true at all. Your metabolism is something you CAN actively change. People do have variations in their metabolism, but it’s not based on body type. For example, older people have a slower metabolism than younger people. Similarly, there are also variations in metabolism in obese and nonobese adults (McMurray et al., 2015). Regardless of that though, that doesn’t mean body type has ties to metabolism.
What that does prove is that metabolism has direct connections to your fitness levels. Obese and older people are likely to be less active than younger and non-obese people, which leads us to conclude that metabolism is not about body type but fitness.
Men who have ectomorphic bodies are usually very slender. We commonly see this body type in supermodels with their towering heights and their long legs in women. In men, however, it’s a much less desirable body type. It’s not that you can’t look good and have a great body with an ectomorph somatotype. Some ectomorphs happen to be fit and lean.
Male basketball players are classic examples of those who may have ectomorphic bodies. They’re tall and have characteristically slender bodies. Of course, not all basketball players are ectomorphs, but it is common among them. Marathoners or long-distance athletes also tend to be ectomorphs. Although long-distance athletes tend to be on the shorter side, they still look long and lean because of their natural tendency to look slim. Being an ectomorph is helpful in track because you need to be lightweight to cover long distances.
Here are a couple of defining characteristics that you often see in an ectomorphic body type:
When a male is an ectomorph, they’ll have characteristic narrow shoulders that go together with the rest of their frame. Narrow shoulders can become a problem as it makes a man look small. Although narrow shoulders don’t define one’s whole body, it can contribute to a spindly look.
2. Narrow Chest
Most ectomorphs also have a narrow chest. A narrow chest is not a strong point in a man as it contributes to the spindly appearance that comes with a limited frame.
3. Delicate Bone Structure
Overall, ectomorphs have delicate bone structures that make their bodies look wiry and long.
Advice for an Ectomorph
The first thing you need to understand is being an ectomorph is not a limitation for the most part. It is a description of what you may look like now but is not an indication that that is all you are going to achieve. If you’re an ectomorph, focus on bulking up to eliminate your wiry frame as best as you can.
Focus your training on programs that train and strengthen your muscles. Over time, you may improve your body’s characteristics, and you’ll look muscular.
For males, a mesomorphic body type is probably the most ideal. The best way to describe it is the type right between an endomorph and an ectomorph. Note that having a mesomorphic body type does not indicate that your body is currently better than someone else’s. Individual preferences aside, body types have little influence on how fit and healthy you are. Even mesomorphs can resemble endomorphs due to muscle loss and gaining fatty tissue.
1. Broad Shoulders and Chest
Mesomorphs usually have broad shoulders that make them look top-heavy. They also usually have well-developed chests that make for a well-toned appearance. With a mesomorphic body type, you can easily become an athlete with the right environment and training. Still, sports are a case-to-case basis, and being a mesomorph doesn’t mean you’ll do well in every sport. Swimmers are typical examples of mesomorphs with their broad shoulders and strong muscle tone.
2. Moderate Athletic Build
Because of a mesomorph’s moderate characteristics, they often look athletic or have a fit build. Male mesomorphs often have a narrow waist that makes it relatively easy to achieve that inverted triangle torso that looks excellent with a lean and muscled frame.
Advice for Mesomorphs
The most dangerous thing for mesomorphs is the idea of reliance. Your genetic predisposition can only get you so far. Relying too much on the idea that you are a mesomorph can become your downfall in the long run. According to Bhushan (2015), mesomorphs can look like endomorphs as they age or if they lose muscle mass and gain adipose tissue.
In summary, you need to maintain what you have as a mesomorph. Don’t slack off because mesomorphs can just as quickly gain weight as they gain muscle.
Endomorphs are the opposite of ectomorphs. Where ectomorphs are long and spindly, endomorphs tend to be round and large. However, this doesn’t mean that endomorphs are unfit. In reality, endomorphs can be extremely fit and look lean. While they’ll probably never achieve the wiry frame of an ectomorph, they can build up muscle and look incredibly fit. When endomorphs work out, they may look larger than the regular mesomorph because of their natural bone structures.
1. Round Shapes
Endomorphs have round or pear-shaped bodies, mostly due to their tendency to store fat in their bodies. Men often retain this roundness near the center of their bodies or on their bellies. Men generally tend to have more fatty tissues in their stomachs, so they store more fat there. However, endomorphs can store fat at a high rate in any part of the body. In addition to that, endomorphs are also the most at risk for obesity of the three body types (Pizzorno et al., 2016).
2. Stocky Build
Men with predominantly endomorphic bodies also tend to have a stocky build. This manifestation can be due to their thick arms and legs. Endomorphs also tend to be shorter than average, and that can significantly contribute to their stocky appearance. Many endomorphs also exhibit large frames, which makes them look stockier.
Advice for an Endomorph
If you have an endomorphic body type, what you need to focus on is your fat loss. You need to constantly watch what you eat because the weight gain could creep up without you even noticing. A constant caloric deficit will help you achieve your ideal body if your goal is to lose fat. Even if you are already reasonably fit, there’s still plenty of reason for you to track what you eat. A good exercise program for an endomorph focuses on cardio to burn fat. Strength training or HIIT are also excellent ways to lose weight differently.
Note that focusing on burning fat is not for endomorphs only. It will work for every body type as well. However, as endomorphs usually have a high percentage of fat in their bodies, burning fat is a good way to start.
How Determining Your Body Type Will Help You
Now, why is the determination of your body type so important? What aspects of it will help you lead a more productive life? Your body type isn’t just there for formality or scientific applications. As previously discussed, understanding your body type will lead to more intentional changes to your diet, exercise routine, and the way you carry your body.
1. It Allows You to Set Proper Expectations
One of the most bothersome things when trying to achieve your ideal body or appearance is that it can be challenging to look like someone else. Of course, it’s not like you’re expecting to change yourself entirely to appear to be someone else, but everyone has certain benchmarks of body types that they aspire to be. While that is a good approach and helps you set goals for yourself, it can also impair your expectations of what your body will look like.
For example, if you are an endomorph, you can’t easily achieve wide shoulders as easily as a mesomorph. But again, don’t let your body type hinder you from making positive changes to your body. Just make sure that you have realistic expectations for yourself.
2. You’ll Know Where to Start
Now, your body type does not necessarily predetermine a specific set of exercises or food that will work best for you but knowing your body type can make it easier to know where to start. You can determine which aspects of your body need the most work and how you will go about it. This does not mean that you have to follow a specific workout regiment for an ectomorph, as an example. Instead, it offers a starting point.
If you are an ectomorph, you start by building muscle and focusing your training on bulking up. Learn the proper diet that comes with trying to gain muscle and stick to it. If you are an endomorph, then start by losing weight. It all depends on an individual basis, but at least you’ll understand better what steps you have to take.
3. You Can Dress Better
The quickest way to aesthetically benefit from learning about your body type is in the way you dress. Throughout trying different styles of forms of clothing, you may have discovered that you look better in certain cuts or styles. In dressing, the shape aspect of body type is the most useful. If you know your general body shape, you know what kind of clothes to pick out to flatter you.
In reality, you don’t need to know your body type’s specifics just to answer the question of what clothes will fit better. But knowing your body type can be a powerful guiding mechanism that points you in the right direction. With all the options available to you and the influx of new trends that keep cropping up, is to be overwhelmed by it all. However, if you focus on making sure that you are dressing for your body type, it is much simpler.
How to Change Your Body Type
For the most part, you can’t do much to change your somatotype entirely. While you can make incremental changes here and there, your body type is mostly there to stay. However, don’t let this deter you from making proactive lifestyle changes. Don’t think of your body type as merely a limitation. While there are certain things that you might be better off doing due to your body type, this does not make it a hindrance. Try to think of it as a way to clarify and solidify what you are supposed to be doing.
Another thing to remember is that your body type is not indicative at all of your fitness levels, not by any means. Some ectomorphs are fit and have toned muscles, just like endomorphs who have low body fat levels. Your body type is an inclination, not a boundary to cage yourself to. Remember, body type is all about what your body is genetically disposed to be. It is not just about how much fat you have in your body or how well-toned your muscles are.
When people get accustomed to a certain body type, they often attach ideas of themselves to this body type, and with that, a certain level of fitness. These people think of themselves as the ‘fat guy’ or the ‘hard gainer.’ In reality, they may be that way now. But that doesn’t mean there’s no potential for change there.
Certainly, there are body types to aspire towards. As a man, you probably want to have a mesomorphic body type to make muscle mass easier to gain and for that overall balanced appearance. And you can aspire to get as close as you can to that body type. If it is the physical appearance you are concerned about, push towards your ideal body type (within reasonable means). You can change your body type marginally through the diet and exercise suitable for the change you want to happen.
For example, if you are predominantly an ectomorph and want to become a mesomorph, you need to focus on gaining muscle and eating protein. Again, you will not completely turn into a mesomorph, although you can change some of your ectomorphic tendencies. If you are an endomorph and want to exhibit mesomorphic characteristics, you need to lose the weight first and then build the muscle. But these distinctions are meaningless either way.
Whether losing fat or trying to gain muscle, your training and diet will be similar to everyone else’s, regardless of your somatotype. You’re going to eat the correct calories, focus on your macros, and get adequate training with progressive overload. That won’t change.
What you should instead focus on is creating an aesthetic physique. This includes a V-shaped back, large shoulders, and a trim waist. Check out our article on the most attractive male physique for a deep dive into male body aesthetics.