Body types were presented by the American doctor William Sheldon in 1942 as a classification of physical and associated psychological properties. His research was based on the studies of the psychologist Ernst Kretschmer, who already in the 1920s made a classification into constitution types. In this sense, the assumptions of that time are considered outdated, but the body types are often used today in the fitness industry to develop an optimal training plan.
Constitution types according to Sheldon
Sheldon used the three germ layers from which all tissues of the embryo develop as the basis for his theses. According to Sheldon, the proportions of the three cotyledons ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm are different in later humans and lead to different appearance and properties. It should be noted that hardly anyone can be fitted into a single group of body types. As a rule, mixed proportions can be found.
This must be distinguished from the description of body types in human biology. There certain anatomical features are assigned to the individual types.
Synonym: leptosome, asthenic
People who are slim and have little tendency to accumulate fat are typically referred to as ectomorphic. Leptosome people are predominantly tall with long arms and legs. In return, the upper body is rather short. Another characteristic is thin hair.
In the fitness area, the ectomorph is all about increasing muscle mass. Endurance and strength are only sparse in the untrained state and muscle building is slow. Priority should be given to planning strength training in the sports program. The breaks between the training days should be chosen generously in order to guarantee the body a good regeneration. Sports such as endurance running or swimming are of the ectomorphic type, but they do little to build muscle.
In the past, the ectomorph was assigned a rather unsociable behavior. He was considered introverted and thoughtful.
The corresponding cotyledon, the part of which should predominate in this type of person, is the ectoderm. From this, among other things, the nervous system emerges, which is supposed to be evidence of the head-oriented approach of the ectomorph.
Synonym: metromorphic, athletic
This body type can be described as rather muscular. The upper body is strong and stands in a V-shape (broad shoulder, narrower hips). Fat deposits can accumulate on the hips and stomach. In addition to a pronounced cheek area and a rather elongated face, thick and thick hair catches the eye.
The mesomorphic type should strive for a balanced training program, as they tend to build muscle quickly and an unbalanced training position with only a few muscle groups is not desirable. Short breaks between training sessions are enough for him, as he can recover quickly.
In contrast to the ectomorphic type, the mesomorphic type was considered sociable. Other characteristics are reliability, courage and a rather simply structured way of thinking.
The corresponding cotyledon according to Sheldon is the mesoderm. From this, bones, muscles and the cardiovascular system develop.
People who are prone to obesity are called pycnomorphic or endomorphic. This body type is associated with strong fat deposits, especially on the hips. The face is rather round, the neck, arms and legs short. The hair is thin, but numerous. In addition, the skin is described as smooth or soft.
The goal of the endomorphic type is to break down fat deposits. For this, sports such as jogging, cycling or other high calorie consumption should be practiced. The training intensity should initially be selected rather low.
The endomorphic type was seen as a connoisseur who likes to eat and is also characterized by good nature, optimism and a relaxed lifestyle.
Here the endoderm is mainly pronounced as a cotyledon. All the internal structures of the body such as the intestines and digestive organs emerge from this. Therefore, the characteristics mentioned above are assigned to the endomorph.
Classification according to Kretschmer
Ernst Kretschmer's focus was on the connection between physique and character traits. To this end, he divided three types of constitution:
Leptosome: corresponds to the ectomorphic type. Characteristics are slimness, thin arms and legs, an increased height and narrow shoulders.
Athlete: It is the counterpart of the mesomorphic type and is characterized by its muscular appearance, broad shoulders and low fat accumulation.
Pyknic: The pyknic is analogous to the endomorphic type. The focus is on increased fat deposits, a small body size and soft facial features.
Body type of woman
The three body types already mentioned can also be distinguished in women (ectomorphic, mesomorphic and endomorphic). A woman can seldom clearly assign herself to one body type; she usually tends to one of the body types, but represents a mixture of several body types.
How can I determine my body type?
There is no universal test that can tell you with absolute certainty what body type you belong to. Nutritionists, sports medicine specialists and in some cases also fitness trainers can in all probability give you the most qualified information about your body type. On the one hand, you evaluate based on questions about your diet, your muscle building and fat accumulation.On the other hand, optical features as well as consideration of weight, size and joint measurements are included in the evaluation. Free tests can also be found on the Internet that are based on the most objective possible answers to questions about body type, eating habits or experiences in building muscle and weight gain.
Criticism of the division into body types
The division into different body types can provide a rough overview, but hardly any property that is assigned to the body types has been scientifically proven.
In addition, hardly any person can be clearly assigned to a body type, which means that in the majority of cases a specific nutrition and fitness program must be created that is tailored to the individual. A prerequisite for assignment to one of the body types is also an objective view of yourself or the involvement of a second, objective person, usually in the form of a nutritionist.