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What is the Difference Between a Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph?

By B. Schreiber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph are the three basic body types as identified by psychologist William Sheldon. In his system, the ectomorph is skinny, has trouble gaining weight, and has a generally nervous or uneasy disposition. The mesomorph gains muscle easily, has an athletic to powerful build, and bears himself confidently. The endomorph accumulates fat most easily, and has a cheerful or jolly disposition. Sheldon thought that, by measuring and determining a particular body type, he could make various predictions about a given individual's psychological traits.

To arrive at his conclusions, Sheldon measured the proportions of thousands of students during the early 1950s. To arrive at a more descriptive score rather than mere type, he rated bodies on their components, including body fat, muscle size, and nervousness. An extreme ectomorph would be a 1-1-7, an extreme mesomorph 1-7-1, and an extreme endomorph 7-1-1. While extreme scores would be little more than stereotypes, most would have mixed scores with perhaps one component being dominant. A score of 4-4-4 would be completely average in all respects.

Sheldon called these body types somatotypes, and associated each with a variety of mental and physical characteristics. The endomorph is easy-going, affable, possibly lazy, holds personal relationships in high esteem, and has a low sex drive. The mesomorph is ruggedly confident, energetic, and free of worry but not careless. The mesomorph's sex drive is higher than the endomorph, but lower than that of the ectomorph. This third type is described as nervous, even worrying, with a shy posture and an inhibited disposition, although he has the highest sex drive.

It was also thought that the response of the different types to alcohol confirmed the findings in some respects. The endomorph enjoys a few drinks with friends, naturally attracting listeners to his stories or songs. The mesomorph, by contrast, was thought to go from confident to overbearing or aggressive when under the effects of alcohol. The ectomorph, assumed to be inhibited, would become more nervous and strained in such a setting, and might prefer to remain at home.

Although the types are no longer considered valid by psychologists, later studies confirmed they may contain a bit of truth. The correlations are not very significant, though, and may encourage the practice of stereotyping. The terms are sometimes still used by people like weight lifters, trainers, and other athletes. For instance, since an endomorph supposedly is predisposed to being fat, a targeted training program may be recommended for such a person.

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Discussion Comments
By VexVerdis — On Oct 19, 2020

Where do you get the idea that ectomorphs have the highest sex drives? There is literally no other article or study that says that. In fact, I cannot find any reference to the relationship between somatotype and sex drive, not even in Sheldon's papers.

Most medical research articles find that underweight, overweight, and obese people have lower libidos compared to normal weight people, so it's more likely that mesomorphic types have the higher libidos.

Can you provide the source that shows ectomorphs as having higher sex drives? I can't find anything on the topic.

By SZapper — On Sep 01, 2012
@LoriCharlie - While I do agree that there are more than three body types, I think these broad categories are a good place to start. Some people are naturally slender, while other people are naturally larger. And I definitely know some people that get muscle definition easily, while other people I know work out like crazy and never really gain muscle mass.

So while Sheldon was clearly off base about assigning personality traits to these body types, I don't think the ideas about the body types themselves are invalid.

By LoriCharlie — On Aug 31, 2012
I'm glad this research is no longer taken very seriously. I think there are way more than three types of bodies, for starters. Also, the idea that personality is linked to body type is fairly ridiculous and seems like a stereotype to me. You know, like the idea that all fat people are lazy?
By sneakers41 — On Sep 14, 2011

@GreenWeaver - She is very slender but it is a good look for her. For me the best body type to have is the mesomorph. They develop muscle tone easily and are usually pretty fit looking.

They are really supposed to be strong and athletic. I would imagine that this body type burns a lot of fat because they have the most muscle tone.

I did hear from a personal trainer on television that this body type does have trouble with flexibility and should incorporate some yoga into their routine to optimize their fitness level. Flexibility is a source of weakness for this body type which is not a problem for me.

By GreenWeaver — On Sep 14, 2011

@Moldova - Everyone feels like that, but all body types are susceptible to problems. For example, the ectomorphs tend to get injured more easily because they have a smaller frame with smaller bones. The fact that they have trouble gaining weight can also be problematic especially is a woman wants to gain weight to become curvier.

Some women really wish that they could gain a few pounds so that they would appear more feminine. I read that the ectomorph woman is best suited for long distance running because her body is best suited for activities that involve significant endurance.

The only celebrity that I can think of off the top of my head that has an ectomorph body type is Courtney Cox. She is very slender and doesn’t ever seem to put on any weight.

By Moldova — On Sep 14, 2011

I have read a lot about body types and I have to say that I fall into the endomorph body type. This body type tends to be curvier and usually has a pear shaped body. I usually accumulate fat in the middle of my body which includes my hips, thighs and stomach area.

They say that the accumulation of fat around the stomach is the most dangerous and can increase a women’s risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

In fact, my doctor told me to lose a little weight because he was concerned about me developing diabetes because I do have fat accumulated around my stomach. He told me that fifteen to twenty pounds along with daily exercise will lower my risk of developing diabetes. I really wish that my body type was more like an ectomorph female.

They never seem to have a weight problem in fact, they have trouble gaining weight. This is definitely a problem that I wish I had.

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