Guide to Male Body Types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph

Male body types side by side

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There are nearly 4 billion men on Earth, and they all have unique physical qualities. There’s nobody quite like you! That said, men can typically be classified into three male body types: ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs. Men can also be a combination of these types.

It may sound crazy, but there are scientific theories behind it. This may change how you see other guys when walking down the street and certainly give you valuable insight into your own physique.

What Are Male Body Types?

In the 1940s, American psychologist William Herbert Sheldon earned degrees from Brown University and the University of Colorado before receiving his doctorate at the University of Chicago. Sheldon’s education allowed him to study the legends of psychology, such as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

Sheldon created a new division of somatotypology and constitutional psychology. This field studies the shape of human bodies. Sheldon’s somatotypology divides the physique into three fundamental forms into ectomorphic, mesomorphic and endomorphic.

The root words ecto and derm mean outer and skin, respectively. Meso translates to middle — recall Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Endo means inside, referring to the muscles and heart inside your body. Here’s what each male body type looks like.

Computer generated image of different male body types.
Ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph.

What Are Ectomorphs?

Guys with the ectomorph body type are naturally very lean. Some traits you see with ectomorphs include:

  • Long limbs and thin bones
  • Small shoulders
  • Flat rib cage
  • Tall height
  • Low body fat
  • Small shoulders

Think about basketball players. Stars like Kevin Durant are pretty slim with a low body fat index. Their fast metabolisms allow them to consume much food without gaining weight.

Basketball isn’t the only sport where you see ectomorphs. Some other great examples include Michael Phelps, Deontay Wilder and Usain Bolt. These athletes have long limbs, allowing them to run fast and reach out with their arms. For example, two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has a wingspan over 7 feet long to go with his 6’11” frame.

How Do Ectomorphs Train?

Ectomorphs tend to be great at cardio due to their tall frames and lower body fat. However, they tend to compromise with their strength. If you’re an ectomorph, you may have heard the term hardgainer before because you have difficulty putting on weight. Ectomorphs typically emphasize strength training plus high-protein diets to build and maintain muscle.

Ectomorphs burn calories quickly, so getting maximum gains from your diet is essential. You need protein pancakes for breakfast, protein shakes after workouts and a big piece of steak for dinner. You’ll also need steady carbs and fat to maintain energy, so eat plenty of fruits and nuts.

For exercise, experts recommend ectomorphs primarily focus on strength training. Tall people must lift if they want to keep their strength. You don’t need to train much for cardio, considering your body has a natural build.   

Different male body types.

What Are Mesomorphs?

Mesomorphs are the middle ground of male body types. Their bone structure is denser than ectomorphs, allowing them to gain and maintain muscle easier. Mesomorph traits typically include:

  • Average metabolism
  • Easy muscle development
  • Square heads
  • Large heart
  • Even weight distribution
  • High testosterone levels

You read that right. Sheldon says mesomorphs typically have larger hearts than the other body types. It’s important to note that your heart size depends on genetics and cardiovascular health.

How Do Mesomorphs Train?

Mesomorphs are the middle of the road, so they can use inspiration from endomorphs and ectomorphs with their training. There isn’t a preferred workout method for mesomorphs, so it’s up to you to decide what’s best. Mesomorphs have thick bones, so they can quickly build muscle. You should consider balancing strength training and cardio activities in your workout regimen.

Leaner mesomorphs who want to bulk should focus on strength training three or four times a week. Focus on various muscle groups to maintain a balanced physique. Don’t skip leg day! Remember to do your hip thrusts and squats — even if you dread the thought of them.

Mesomorphs have an average metabolism compared to ectomorphs. You still have some flexibility in your diet, but you can’t stack your plate at the buffet like ectomorphs can. Prioritize protein in your diet to support the gains. Eating about 1 gram of protein per pound should suffice your muscle goals. For example, a 200-pound mesomorph should consume between 160 and 200 grams of protein daily.

What Are Endomorphs?

The last of the three male body types is the endomorph. Men with this figure are typically short, but tall endomorphs exist. You can identify endomorphs by specific characteristics, such as:

  • Short limbs
  • Great lower body strength
  • Easy muscle gain
  • Thick bones/arms
  • Slow metabolism
  • Faster fat gain and slower fat loss

You won’t see many endomorphs in the NBA. However, there are plenty of sports where these athletes thrive. Endomorphs excel with strength-based sports, so you’ll often see them in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Olympics, rugby, rowing and powerlifting. 

How Do Endomorphs Train?

Endomorphs have a strength advantage compared to the other male body types. Their bodies build muscle fast, thanks to their thick bones. For example, look at your wrists and ankles. Are they thicker than peanut butter? This endomorph specialty makes building muscle in your arms and legs easy. You’ll constantly set personal bests in the gym.

The strength-training advantage is excellent, but the tradeoff for endomorphs is easier fat gain. You must do more cardio than ectomorphs and mesomorphs. A slow metabolism means you’ll have to burn more calories to maintain a slim figure.

Consider doing sessions on the treadmill and elliptical to get the heart pumping. These cardio exercises burn more calories than equivalent time on the weight bench, so incorporate these activities if you need to drop pounds.

Endomorphs must watch their diet more than ectomorphs and mesomorphs. A low-calorie, high-protein meal plan is advisable for most people — but it especially applies to endomorphs. They gain fat quickly and cut calories while maintaining a high-protein diet. Some examples include grilled chicken, fish, nonfat Greek yogurt, turkey and more.

Are There More Than 3 Male Body Types?

Do you know which body type you are? Don’t worry if you look in the mirror and can’t tell. You might not fit perfectly into one of the three categories. All humans are unique, and you’d be hard-pressed to categorize all 4 billion men into only three types.

You may be a combination of the three types. For example, you could be an ecto-endomorph. This refers to an ectomorph who gains weight because they eat poorly and don’t exercise.

Another option is an ecto-mesomorph — someone who is lean like an ectomorph but shows muscles like a mesomorph.

The last combination of body types is meso-endomorph. This body type includes people who are naturally strong but don’t have the well-defined muscles you may see in a bodybuilder. Some good examples of meso-endomorphs are football players like offensive linemen. The big boys in the trenches don’t look the most muscular — but we dare you to battle them on the line of scrimmage. It won’t end well.

Understanding the Different Male Body Types

The human body is a fascinating subject to learn about. Nearly a century ago, an American psychologist from Rhode Island said he could divide everyone into three groups based on body type. Are you an endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph? Are you a combination or two or none of the above? Once you determine your physique, you can eat and exercise to make the most of it.

You are a unique individual, but like it or not, you fall into a specific physical category of male body types. Learn to work with your body instead of against it to boost your fitness and improve your health.

Diagram of ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph male body types.

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