T Nation



I see a lot of people on here saying things along the lines of "I'm an ectomorph so I can't gain weight." The thing that I was wondering, is isn't the somatotype thing outdated? There's got to be another way to gauge what type of body you have, if there even is a way. I've seen some people say that they are "skinny fat," what is that?


Skinny Fat: The condition of being undertrained while carrying excess bodyfat. This results in a person with no muscle but who still looks soft.


Somatypes are shit.


How the hell would a beginner even know their somatotype? For some, yes, it's obvious, but is a grey area for most. I'm of the opinion that the majority of people have no business speculating on their somatotype unless they've been training for at least a year. Even then, progress can't always be a good gauge as there are too many mitigating factors(diet, metabolism, stature etc.).

I'm not even sure what benefits the whole somatotype concept even confers. Is the knowledge really helpful in any way? I'm interested to hear more thoughts on this.


It is not very useful in terms of how to train. There are people who are naturally slim, with slim bones and (relatively) long slender limbs, fast metabolisms and relatively little bodyfat. You could call that ectomorph but how does that help? interestingly Arnold S briefly covers it in his encyclopedia but the suggestions really aren't that deep - just the obvious (if you're thin eat some more!). He then spends hundreds of pages extolling the virtues of the many exercises, i think he got the priority right!

the theory was born of an attempt to link bodytype and personality/behavioral types in the 1940's by a psychologist, it feels intuitively somewhat 'right' in very loose terms but that could be an illusion of cultural expectations from fat/thin/athletic bodies, anyway - in terms of muscle building i don't think it really helps and may end up being used as an excuse.


They are true. They are very very true. To ignore it is silly and to use them as an excuse to do nothing is also silly.

Take 2 people. Have them both eat a high carb meal. One person's veins start to pop and muscles get full with glycogen. The other gets bloated, puffy and smooth. Nutrient partitioning folks. Those are some of the underlying mechanisms that determine body type.

There is alot more to it then that.

Some peoples bodies gravitate to carrying muscle seemingly from any effort to build it. Other peoples bodies resist muscle gains and don't want to carry it. Those people have to work hard on their diet and training to make gains. Little slips like getting sick and such will cause this person to loose muscle seemingly overnight.

Those people might be better suited to other sports. While muscle gains are hard to come by, they may be blessed with a great CNS and coordination and be great at other sports that favor that, sports like Basket ball or tennis.

Others still have a body with such a small work capacity that they should seriously consider just doing basic good eating, fitness and cardio for health and find other worthwhile pursuits in their life. Nothing wrong with that. Certainly better then wasting years of frustration and tearing their body down for essentially nothing.


Yes, they really do exist... sort of.

They definitely have no bearing over one's lifting career like everyone likes to make it sound...

There's no "training" for a certain somatype, though. (In my opinion.)

Where I think it makes the biggest difference is in the kitchen. Largely dictates what people can and can't eat.


They wouldn't, which is why this is a waste of time to worry about if you haven't even been lifting weights or exercising previously. Labeling untrained people as specific body types based only how they look right now is ridiculous. If some guy is very skinny with small joints but after a year of weight lifting and eating now looks like a running back, what is his body type? If he looks like Ronnie Coleman in 10 years, is he still an "ectomorph"?


I think there are also various mixs

so you can be a meso-ecto, ecto-meso, etc...

you could also have certain characteristics of each

I'm an odd-mix

I'm 'ecto' re: bone structure [I have tiny wrists, ankles, etc..]

but I'm not 'typical ecto super-lean'

etc... etc...

Also... it'd be flawed as Prof X said to classify the untrained

How do you know if you have good genetics if you've never been exposed to proper training/dieting?

I could be the best damn lacrosse player in the world, but I'd never know cos I've never tried it.


Yes somatotypes can be very helpful, but they are not rigid standards set in stone.

The body types may seem like BS at first, but just look at it in terms of goals and it makes a lot of sense.

If Ashton Kuther, Vin Diesel and Kevin James walk into your gym are you going to train them the same way? Of course heavy weights are going to build muscle and cardio is going to shed fat, but the parameters you set up for each will look different based on their body type. Even after their physical appearance becomes less distinct from years of training, Ashton will probably still need to keep his calories high, Vin just can still eat just about anything and keep his abs, and Kevin still needs to watch the food and keep up the cardio.

I have also read that fascia to muscle fiber ratio can be different too, and yes this would affect training. So basically an ectomorph has a higher ratio of fascia to muscle fibers, when he trains like the endomorph, he ends up with more inflamed fascia and DOMS than stimulated fibers. Not sure if there is anything to this but the theory makes a lot of sense, and itâ??s something I have seen anecdotally for years.


This is just another one of those bullshit concepts that I would love to roll into a lumpy little ball and shove up Richard Gere's ass.


Common, a true ectomorph that gets puffy and smooth by even looking at carbs will NEVER be a ronny coleman.

An untrained individual can look deceiving. But in general the types are true.

They are as true as genetics limiting how far you'll make it. Look at your calves. I can say just go heavy and shut up. I can say you're not working hard enough. I can say you haven't found what works for you. In the end, your calves are how they are because of your genetics. They'll never grow to be like mike matarazzos or something.

I think alot of this stems from Americans not liking to be told they can't do or achieve something. So info contrary to their beliefs gets thrown out and ignored as obsolete.


But the thing is...It doesn't matter what those limits are...

Who cares what the limits are...Everyone in this forum who is serious about this is here because they want to push their own physical capacities...They are here because they don't give a fuck about limits

If you limit yourself then you will never know what you are capable of...

who cares if you have to eat 6000 calories and some guy can eat 4000...If you want this bad enough then you don't see these genetic differences...you only see your goals and the tools to achieve your goals...

Do what you need to do in order to reach your goals...don't think about the limitations...


Everyone should know their limitations. Ignoring them is just plain dumb. It's that ra ra ra everyone is a winner attitude. It does not work. Some people have bodies that do not give them talent to be a bodybuilder that looks like a bodybuilder. Realize it and accept it. Ignoring it is silly.

It's like telling a midget that wants arms like Schwarzenegger to just "keep at it", think about your goals, not limitations. Never mind that this midget will NEVER accomplish what he set out to do. But let's keep him insulated from reality. The same applied to all of us.

Anyone can certainly improve, but how much and fast you improve is thanks to your God given talent, or as we call it today....Genetics.



We've all discussed these before but what the hell, I have a different opinion than most so I'll throw my .02 in.

Somotypes basically started as a good way to communicate "Hey, I'm a naturally skinny dude with good carb tolerance who generally needs to eat more to gain weight (ecto)." So for these reasons, I do think they have a purpose.

However, they get thrown around now as excuses as to why someone is too fat, too skinny, can't gain muscle, etc. They're also used to sell training programs as in "If you're an ecto, you shouldn't do too much volume...", etc.

I see myself as an ecto but I no longer look like a skinny bitch. That doesn't mean I've changed somotypes, it really just means that without proper diet and training I stay naturally skinny and still need to eat a lot to gain weight. No big deal, no harm done. What we don't want is noobs looking at the somotypes and automatically limiting their progress based on whatever it is they think they are.


No love for Richard Gere?


For some reason, shoving something up his ass doesn't seem as gay as shoving something up just about snyone else's ass. With all the things that have supposedly been up there, it seems more similar to a hotel than to a poop shoot.


My calves now measure 18.5" as of last week. You should keep that in mind as I continue. I was a very skinny kid. NO ONE looking at me when I weighed 100lbs in HIGH SCHOOL as a freshman would think I would be anywhere near the size I am now. These body type descriptions were meant to describe how someone gains when discussing bodybuilding. They should not be used to make some type of permanent description of someone when applied to an untrained person.

Genetics have much to do with HOW you gain, not just how you look at a given time. using myself as an example, my body needed a ton more calories than I was getting early on. Fixing that alone caused me to go from looking like an "ectomorph" to looking like an off season mesomorph. Even if I gain more body weight in an attempt to get bigger, labeling me an "endomorph" at those times would also be incorrect...especially since most people are a COMBINATION of different phenotypes.

Yes, I had very skinny calves, and given the size of the rest of me, they are still weak...but that is only because I compare myself to serious weight lifters, not the average person who is lucky to have 16" calves at best.


Agreed. People are no longer using these as an indication of how to they should adjust their food intake. They are using them now to point out limitations...which makes no sense considering many will not fit their initial "somatype" if they make drastic changes to their physique through weight lifting.

It is funny how people act like this simply isn't possible.


The somatotype theory is pseudoscience. It was invented by William Herbert Sheldon, a '40s psychologist who took pictures of some Ivy League college students and came up with personality types to match. His theories have been discredited. He was also a numismatist -- who used the American Numismatic Society's collection to steal rare coins.

I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there are some genetic differences in how we gain and lose fat and muscle, though -- it just seems anecdotally true. I remember my school's cross country team -- we were all doing the same workouts, but some people got skinny and some people got muscular legs. Or I think of my best friend; she's sorta chunky and avoids exercise, but she's kept a surprising amount of muscle from her high school hockey days, and her whole family has that kind of stocky-but-strong build. (I've always been in between the two extremes.) There could be some genuine variance. But putting people into three categories, or letting your "type" limit you, is stupid, I realize.