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It is all in the shape

Brian Mackenzie explains the three body types - Endomorph, Mesomorph, and Ectomorph.

Our success as an athlete comes from a combination of athletic ability, and our body build. There are three components to body build: type, size, and composition.

Body Type

There are three extremes of body types.



  • A pear-shaped body
  • A rounded head
  • Wide hips and shoulders
  • Wider front to back rather than side to side.
  • A lot of fat on the body, upper arms, and thighs


  • A wedge-shaped body
  • A cubical head
  • Wide broad shoulders
  • Muscled arms and legs
  • Narrow Hips
  • Narrow from front to back rather than side to side.
  • A minimum amount of fat


  • A high forehead
  • Receding chin
  • Narrow shoulders and hips
  • A narrow chest and abdomen
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Little muscle and fat.


All athletes are made up of the three extreme body types, so we are all part endomorph, part mesomorph, and part ectomorph. Using a score of one to seven, we can grade our bodies on each of the extreme body types. For example two, six, three means: two (low endomorphy); six (high mesomorphy); three (low ectomorphy). In this way, we can compare our body type with that of other athletes. This method of body typing is known as somatotyping. Height is not taken into consideration when working out our body type.

Body Size

Body size refers to the athlete's height and weight. The ideal size for an athlete depends on the sport or event and sometimes the position they play in their sport (consider the various body sizes in a Rugby team). There are standard ideal weight charts based on an individual's height. These tables, unfortunately, do not help athletes because they do not allow for body composition. Being overweight is not a problem provided it is the extra muscle and not fat.

Body Composition

Body composition refers to the athlete's body fat. In most sports, the athlete will try to keep his/her levels of body fat to a minimum. In general, the higher the percentage of body fat, the lower the performance.

Reference Man and Women

The concept of a reference man and women was developed in the 1960s by Dr Albert Behnke. The reference standard does not mean that men and women should try to achieve the body composition values, or that reference values represent "average". The model provides a useful reference to interpret the statistical comparison of athletes involved in physical training programs.

  Man Woman
Age 20 to 24 20 to 24
Height 174 cm 163.8 cm
Body Mass 70.0 kg 56.7 kg
Lean Mass 61.7 kg 48.2 kg
Muscle 31.3 kg 20.4 kg
Bone 10.4 kg 6.8 kg
Total Body Fat 10.5 kg 15.3 kg
Essential Fat 2.1kg 12.0 kg

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) It is all in the shape. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 6 / October), p. 9

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) It is all in the shape [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brian Mackenzie is a British Athletics level 4 performance coach and a coach tutor/assessor. He has been coaching sprint, middle distance, and combined event athletes for the past 30+ years and has 45+ years of experience as an endurance athlete.