Endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph: Dumb labels from the 1940s that were never meant for lifters. Here's the real story.
A System of Built-In Excuses
A somatotype is one of three labels people like to use to describe themselves. Fat guys who say they have trouble losing weight claim to be endomorphs; skinny guys who say they have trouble gaining weight claim to be ectomorphs; and lucky bastards who say they gain muscle no matter what they do call themselves mesomorphs.
It's a popular system of categorization because it seems so cut and dry. If you look like this, then you're called this and you have these natural-born disadvantages, which means you should eat and train like this. That's why it's so appealing to lifters. It's a system of built-in excuses. "Oh, I'm an ecto so it's not my fault I'm 6'3" and 155 pounds. I've got, like, a serious condition."
The Big Problem
The problem is that these categories were originally described in the early-1940s by Dr. William Sheldon, a psychologist, who was using them as a way of predicting personality traits based on one's general appearance. It had nothing at all to do with actual physical improvement.
Sheldon's work was based on earlier research by Dr. Ernst Kretschmer, a psychiatrist in the 1920s who also attempted to connect the dots between physique and behavior. Kretschmer essentially believed that fat guys were more prone to be happy and skinny guys were most often nervous. The more "extreme" the physique, the more extreme the personality. Yeah, it's about as accurate as it sounds.
This is the problem with lifters being so quick to slap one of these labels on themselves. It simply doesn't have any real world translation to how they should be training or eating.
Maybe it's mentally reassuring for the underweight newbie to "know" that Frank Zane was an ectomorph too and he still managed to win three Mr. Olympia titles. Maybe the pudgy beginner looks at Mr. O winner Jay Cutler and thinks, "Wow, if that endomorph can build so much muscle and still get lean, so can I."
But neither lifter will get anywhere unless they stop trying to use psychological terms to influence their physical preparation. Drop the labels and deal with yourself as an individual.
No More Labels
If you're 6-feet tall and 160 pounds, you don't need to "eat like an ectomorph." You need to eat like a tall, skinny guy who's trying to gain weight. Maybe you have a fast metabolism (a stereotypical ectomorphic quality) or maybe you don't. Wanna know an easy way to find out? Eat some food for a week. If you didn't gain weight, eat more than that the next week.
On the other hand, if you're 5'5" and 240 pounds of rotund joviality, you're not an endomorph. You're a fat dude. Ditch the excuses and crack down on your diet. It's simple physiology. Fat dude plus lifting plus cardio plus smart diet eventually equals lean dude. There's nothing "endomorphic" about it.
Every single ectomorph or endomorph-turned-successful bodybuilder has a few things in common:
- They trained hard as hell.
- They ate smart.
- They stuck with it for the long term.
It's amazing how those three steps seem to magically overwhelm whichever unfortunate somatotype you're dealt.