Male body types are often divided into mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. These types are determined by factors like limb proportions, body weight, height, and body fat distribution.

Male bodies come in many different shapes and sizes, but they’re sometimes simplified into three categories:

Body typeFeatures
Ectomorphicnarrow shoulders and hips, and tends to have little muscle or fat
Mesomorphicbroad shoulders, narrower hips, and tends to build muscle easily
Endomorphic“pear-shaped” body and higher affinity to store body fat

Nobody falls purely into one of these three categories, and we all have features of each. You might find that you mostly fit into one of these three categories or you have features of two or more.

Take this quiz to find out your body type.

male body types illustration, ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorphShare on Pinterest
Male body types. Illustrated by Jason Hoffman.

The ecto-, meso-, and endomorphic body types are also called somatotypes. Psychologist William Herbert Sheldon coined these names in 1940 when he wanted to create a system that could predict criminal behavior based on people’s body types.

In one of his later books, he ranked the degree of each of these three body types in people on a scale from 1 to 7. For example, somebody with an almost purely ectomorphic body type might be given a score of 7-1-1. Somebody with an average build would have a score of 4-4-4.

Although Sheldon’s theories are now discredited in the scientific community and considered pseudoscience, his classification system is still sometimes used to help people understand which sports they’re best suited for or to help people better understand how easily they might gain fat or muscle.

Today, the most common way to classify somatotypes is using the Heath-Carter formula, which uses 10 measurements:

  • height
  • weight
  • skinfold thickness at:
    • the back of your arm
    • shoulder
    • calf
    • waist
  • the breadth of your:
    • upper arm bone
    • upper leg bone
  • flexed arm girth
  • tensed calf girth

Ectomorphs are generally tall and thin with narrow torsos and thin limbs. People with this body type typically have small amounts of body fat and have trouble building muscle mass.

Examples of sports where ectomorphs may do well include:

  • long-distance running and race walking
  • other endurance sports
  • basketball
  • volleyball

Endomorphs tend to be stockier and store body fat easily. Although people with this body type might not be overweight, depending on their exercise and eating habits, obesity is associated with this body type.

Endomorph bodies tend to have a wide waist and hips compared to their shoulders.

Sports where people with endomorphic features may do well include:

  • track and field throwing
  • Olympic weightlifting
  • football or rugby

Mesomorphs tend to have broader chests and shoulders and relatively narrow waists. These body types also tend to put on muscle more easily than other body types.

People with a mesomorphic body type may do well in:

  • track and field sprints and jumps
  • other sports that involve sprinting or jumping
  • strength sports
  • boxing
  • gymnastics

Your age and genetics play a big role in determining your body shape. They determine factors like:

  • limb proportions
  • bone structure
  • your affinity to store body fat
  • the ability to build muscles
  • muscle and fat distribution

Lifestyle habits can also play a role in determining your body shape, including:

  • your diet
  • how frequently you exercise
  • the type of exercise you do
  • whether you work a physical job
  • your amount of sedentary time

The best diet and exercise habits to support your overall health are similar no matter what type of body you have. But knowing your body type may help you understand whether it will be easier or harder for you to gain muscle or body fat and may influence some of your eating and exercise habits.

Ectomorph diet and exercise

Since ectomorphs tend to be resistant to putting on body fat and muscle, they may want to spend more time focusing on strength training.

People who fall into this category may not need to worry about gaining weight as much as people in other categories.

Endomorph diet and exercise

Endomorphic bodies tend to put on body fat more easily than other body types. People who fit into this category may want to spend more time focusing on cardio to burn more calories and be more careful consuming high calorie foods like:

  • highly processed foods
  • sugary drinks and sweets
  • fried foods
  • white rice or flour

Mesomorph diet and exercise

Mesomorphs tend to put on muscle more easily than people in other categories. It’s important to eat plenty of protein to support muscle growth.

People with this body type generally don’t put on body fat as easily as endomorphs but may still need to watch their diet more closely than ectomorphs.

Learn more about how much protein you need to build muscle.

Knowing your body type is another tool to help you reach your fitness goals. It’s important to remember that nobody fits entirely into one somatotype and that many factors determine how easily you gain muscle and fat.

One area where knowing your body type may be helpful is in determining which types of sports you may perform best in. Many different sports groups use the Heath-Carter somatotype to assess physical performance potential.

Knowing which body type you have may help you understand whether you may gain muscle and fat easily or understand which sports you could be best suited for.

Still, no one fits perfectly into one of these three categories and you shouldn’t let any category limit your choice in sports.