Why are some people tall and skinny and others are stocky? Why do some men have a v-taper and others go straight up and down? Good question! Read on to learn about somatotype.
A guy called Sheldon invented a taxonomy of body types known as somatotypes. There are three:
- Ectomorph – tend to be tall and thin, find it difficult to gain muscle, built for endurance.
- Endomorph – tend to be chunky, find it difficult to lose fat, built for power.
- Mesomorph – lucky lot, tend to be athletically proportioned, v-tapered, find it easy both to gain muscle and lose fat, well suited to numerous athletic activities.
Obviously this is a generalisation, but a useful one nonetheless, and one that has been widely cited and adopted. Far less useful are the behavioural characteristics that Sheldon associated with these somatotypes, but that’s for another day.
Is there any validity in this generalisation? Well certainly there are different body shapes, but to categorise everyone into one of three types is a gross simplification. In reality it is likely there is a continuum of body shapes from one end of the scale to the other.
Clearly there is a large genetic component to the structural characteristics of individuals, as people are often a similar shape to their parents of grandparents. But there is also likely a physiological difference between individuals. In his book ‘Biochemical Individuality’, Williams describes how there is great diversity in anatomical and biochemical characteristics amongst the human population. Some of the differences between the somatotypes – like tendency to store fat – must come from biochemical individuality which, in turn, must have come from genetic differences.
I’m a classic endomorph. I have a thick waist and strong chunky core which allows me to generate power and build muscle, but I have a devil of a time getting super lean.
Personally, I find it fascinating. Whilst the fundamentals of physiology apply to everyone and are generally all you need to help people lose weight, if we could understand the physiological differences between our individual clients, we could do even better. We can figure out the physiology of our clients through observation and questioning, but wouldn’t it be great to have an accurate test that just tells you what’s going on inside?
Although female body types do not conform quite as well to this categorisation it is still, in my view, a useful generalisation.
Where would you put yourself? Which somatotype are you?