This blog post is a topic which my coach and I have discussed frequently and although it dates back quite a far bit, I think it's interesting enough to look back on past sporting theories. In this blog post, I'm going to discuss what the Somato and Anatomic types are. The Anatomic types were founded and created by George Walsh, whose knowledge was regularly featured in the health and strength magazine (around the 1930's to the 1950's). The Somatotypes were founded by William Herbert Sheldon in the 1940's, he was a psychologist with a Doctor title. Carry on reading to find out more about these body types and which ones you may be.
What are the Anatomic types?
The Anatomic types are split into three types called the Abdominal, Intermediate and the Thoracic. As George was a bodybuilder, he created these three body type theories to develop courses and training programmes suitable for specifically built people. The courses would either involve improving the individual's endurance, muscular strength, or both of these. So how exactly could he tell the difference between these three types? I'll tell you now.
Walsh was able to recognise who was which type by examining individuals lung and abdominal capacity. He measured the lung capacity of a person by looking at the distance between the bottom of the ribcage and the clavicle (collarbone). He would then compare this to the person's abdominal cavity, which was recognised as the distance between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the pelvic bone. The longer the chest of an individual meant that they would have a greater ability to breathe, hence having endurance and a running ability. The larger the abdomen of an individual meant that they would be more suitable for being bigger and stronger, therefore having a better body for lifting heavy loads.
Abdominal: Abdominals would be identified as having a short distance between their ribcage and collarbone, meaning that they would have a short lung capacity and could be more prone to chest problems such as asthma. However, Abdominal types would have a greater distance between their ribcage and pelvic bone, meaning that they could have more benefit from their food as they'd have much more room in their stomach than the other types due to their significantly smaller chest.
Intermediate: Intermediates would be identified as having an equal distance between both their ribcage and collarbone and their ribcage to their pelvic bone. Meaning that their lungs and abdomen were either the same size or of similar sizes.
Thoracic: Thoracics would be identified as having a large distance between their ribcage and collarbone, meaning that they would have a large lung capacity and chest. However, this type would have a shorter distance between the bottom of their ribcage and their pelvic bone, resulting in them perhaps being more prone to stomach problems.
The types and their training methods
Abdominal: These people would be viewed as built to be stocky, strong and able to lift heavy weights, rather than being good at running and having a great endurance ability. This would mean that in order for this type to gain muscle, Walsh would have them running or completing endurance based activities including high numbers of repetitions. But if they wanted stay the same they were, the course George put them on would involve the use of muscular strength.
Intermediate: This type would be seen as able to be strong and lift heavy weights, but also they would be viewed as able to run. Meaning that they would have an equal amount of endurance and muscular strength levels. These people, Walsh viewed as lucky because they were able to partake in both courses. To build muscular strength, the intermediate would lift a comfortable but not too heavy weight using between 8-12 repetitions. The intermediate could also complete endurance based activities with high repetitions.
Thoracic: The individuals who were classed as Thoracics would be viewed as able to run far and complete endurance based activities. Due to their larger lung capacity but smaller abdominal cavity making them perhaps slighter than an Abdominal, these people would be put on a course involving a small number of repetitions (2-5) whilst using heavy weights. If this type wanted to remain a long distance runner and didn't want to gain muscle mass, they would continue improving their endurance by running or completing many repetitions with a light or medium weight.
If you'd like to hear more about George Walsh (the man who not only made this interesting theory but also trained the King of Norway back then) then please check out the link below to read David G's more thoroughly written aspect on the history of the theory.
What are Somatotypes?
Somatotypes are three types named and created by William Herbert Sheldon which were named after the three germ layers which embryos develop. The three layers are called the Endoderm, Mesoderm and Ectoderm, each one of the layers contains different organs. The Endoderm is the inner germ layer of the body, the Mesoderm is the middle germ layer and the Ectoderm is the outer germ layer. Sheldon named each type relating to these layers to portray the types according to what the embryonic layers were like. Sheldon wrote a book entitled 'Atlas of men', I'm not sure whether it's possible to get yourself a copy. The book includes his psychological thoughts relating to the types and many half nude individuals. In the book, the types are categorised using a number scale of 1-7. Although I believe that this man had the knowledge to conduct and write a book, to test his theory he used thousands of nude images (without explicit consent) of university graduates for scientific research. The images the students had disclosed were meant for a different research programme (studying student posture), not originally for Sheldons.
Endomorph: This type Sheldon viewed as having a greater mass than the other types and genuinely being bigger in size. Endomorphs are the type most likely to have a pear shaped figure (wide hips and narrow shoulders).
Ectomorph: Sheldon viewed this type as thin and often containing narrow or slim like features. They usually would have a small mass due to very low amounts of body fat.
Mesomorph: The Mesomorph type were viewed as the muscular or more athletic type compared to the other two types. They often have low amounts of body fat, but their mass may be higher due to muscle weighing more than fat.
The Somatotypes and their personalities
William believed that the body type of a person would also reveal their personality, many have slated this theory due to cultural stereotypes and since the he came up with the concept within a such a discriminatory era. In this day and age, I do not believe his psychological views to be anything more than stereotypes based on a body type. If you wish to think these personality traits are true depending on a body type, feel free to do so.
Endomorph: As this type is predominantly the biggest out of the three, Sheldon viewed this type as extroverted, calm, bubbly, funny and a lover of food.
Ectomorph: Sheldon proclaimed that this type were more self conscious, introverted, artistic, shy, humble and thoughtful than the other types.
Mesomorph: The Mesomorph type was viewed as unique, competitive, helpful, powerful and active, due to having such an athletic figure. Sheldon saw this type as the best out of the three.
Comparing the Anatomic and Somatotypes
In this final section of this post, I have decided to compare George Walsh and William Sheldon's theories. Although Sheldon's theory is backed up due to his psychology degree, Walsh's theory seems to show less stereotyping as he doesn't mention personality traits. My opinion of Walsh's views is that they seem to be easy to measure and perhaps useful, compared to Sheldon's number scale system with more technical and scientific names. However, Sheldon's views seem to be the most written about online due to him being more famous than Walsh, but I personally prefer George's theory.
If I were to compare each Anatomic and Somatotype, it would look something like this:
Thanks for reading this post, please note that if any information disclosed you do not agree with or is incorrect, that it is my fault as I am in no way a professional on historical theories. This post has been made to covered two theories, one which is unpopular and one which is seen often online (in no way are these theories mine or in anyway scientifically up to date).
A 16 year old girl, fitness enthusiast and dedicated Olympic style weightlifter. I'm determined to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of my body whilst influencing other young people to do so. I never doubt my ability to achieve something; I just change what I'm doing until I succeed.