Bodies come in different shapes and sizes, influenced by a person’s frame and composition. This is part of what makes every human unique.
Some bodies are curvier, some have broad shoulders, and some have more musculature.
People usually have a defined body type after puberty, but this can change based on activity level, dietary habits, and other major lifestyle and hormonal changes.
This article focuses on common body shapes, common body types, what determines body shape, and ways a person can improve their body image.
A person’s body type depends on the distribution of muscle mass and fat. Some people are long and lean, while others are curvier.
Likewise, some people find it challenging to gain weight, whereas others have difficulty losing weight.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
In the 1940s, psychologist William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of different body types, or somatotypes.
While many people tend to think that this type of classification only refers to males, it can also describe the female body. This classifies the body based on how lean a person is or how easy it is for their body to store fat.
Per this classification, there are three different body types:
- Ectomorph: This is when the body is lean and slender and tends to have less body fat and muscle. People with this body type can often find it challenging to gain weight in the form of muscle or fat. Fashion models are an example of this body type.
- Endomorph: This is when the body has more stored fat, lots of muscle, and gains weight easily. People with this body type are not always overweight. Football lineman and Marilyn Monroe are examples of this body type.
- Mesomorph: This is when the body is athletic and strong. People with this body type are neither overweight nor underweight. Swimmers and volleyball players are examples of this body type.
Females tend to have more fat mass. They also tend to be curvier due to a combination of larger breasts, wider hips, larger buttocks, and bigger thighs.
While every body is unique, there are several broad categories for the female body shape. An older 2004 article notes that this historically stems from the fashion industry.
Common shapes include:
- Pear or triangle: People with this body shape have narrower shoulders than their hips. A person tends to distribute most of their weight in the buttocks, lower hips, and thighs.
- Inverted triangle: This is when the lower half of the body is smaller than the top, with shoulders wider than the hips. People with this body shape tend to gain weight in the upper body and stomach areas. They also tend to have larger chests and narrow hips.
- Rectangle: This is when there is no major definition at the waistline and hips. People with this body shape have similar hip and shoulder width, and the body tends to be in equal proportions.
- Hourglass: This is when both the top and bottom halves of the body are equally broad. People with this body shape tend to have a smaller waist than the chest and hips.
- Oval or apple: This is when the top and bottom halves of the body are narrow. People with this body shape tend to carry weight in the chest and stomach areas and have slender legs.
- activity level
Changes in activity level and diet may affect a person’s body shape. For example, if someone is an ectomorph and wants to gain some weight, while they will have to put in some extra effort, they can do it successfully with a proper diet and exercise routine.
While some people may find it helpful to identify their body shape, others may find little benefit. The appearance of a person’s body can change with exercise and diet. Additionally, a person’s body type may not be an indicator of their overall health.
A person who seems to have an ectomorph body type may believe that they will not experience as many benefits from working out as a type that may find it easier to gain muscle, such as endomorphs.
However, people with all body types will notice improvements in strength, flexibility, and weight if they follow an exercise routine to reach their goals.
Some people may assume that certain body types are less likely to develop conditions due to overweight or obesity. However, this is not necessarily true.
Low amounts of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and not following a healthy, balanced diet are all risk factors of having metabolic obesity. While some genetic factors also exist, experts have not investigated this link fully.
People should not assume that they are at a lower risk of developing conditions associated with obesity due to their particular body shape.
A person who displays characteristics of one body shape but wants to look like another may develop poor body image issues or body dysmorphia. In some cases, a person may develop disordered eating patterns.
The researchers suggest that people who see a “thin ideal” on social media may be at a higher risk of developing disordered eating patterns in an effort to achieve this ideal.
Eating disorders can severely affect the quality of life of people living with these conditions and those close to them. Early intervention and treatment greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.
Anyone who suspects that they or a loved one has an eating disorder can contact the National Eating Disorder Association for advice and support via:
- phone or text at 800-931-2237
- online chat, by going to this link
These services are only open during specific hours. Someone in crisis can text “NEDA” to 741741 at any time to get support from a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.
Alternatively, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) run a Disaster Distress Helpline that people can contact on 800-985-5990 for 24-7 support.
Many other resources are available, including:
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness
- F.E.A.S.T., who provide support and educational resources to friends and family who want to help someone living with an eating disorder
Sometimes, people do not feel comfortable with their body shape.
For example, a very curvy person may wish for a more rectangular-shaped body, while someone with a rectangular-shaped body may want to have more curves.
It is common for some people to feel pressure around the concept of the “ideal body” shape or type, but ultimately there is no ideal body shape — health is the most important factor.
The National Eating Disorders Association outlines some thought patterns a person can consider for a more positive body image:
- Appreciate what the body can do.
- Remember that beauty is not skin deep.
- Be around positive people.
- Shut down negative self-talk.
- Wear comfortable clothing that inspires confidence.
- Be critical of social media images.
It is important for people to consider that all bodies are beautiful and unique but are only a part of what defines a person. How individuals treat others and behave are also important aspects.
If a person suffers from poor body image issues or body dysmorphia, they should seek support from a medical professional.
(Video) 10 Best Ways To Dress For YOUR BODY SHAPE
All bodies are special and unique. One aspect of what makes them unique is their shape and how they carry weight and muscle.
There are many different body shapes and many different body types. Sometimes, people do not feel comfortable with their body shape. If a person has concerns about their body, they should consult a doctor.
To get a precise assessment of whether you're an ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph, or a combination type, you could go to a lab and have your body fat, bone, and muscle mass measured.What are the 3 different body types? ›
People are born with an inherited body type based on skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.What is body type example? ›
If the shape of someone's body or a part of his or her body is ample, it is large: her ample bosom.What is a common body type? ›
Rectangle Body Type
This body type is the most common and is typically considered the healthiest. Rectangle-shaped people are less likely to develop obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. A rectangle body shape is typically thin and has a proportional waist, hips, and shoulders.
Mesomorph: This body type is generally considered the ideal body type. Individuals usually look lighter and have a more rectangular bone structure, longer limbs, thinner bones and a flatter ribcage. A mesomorph has a natural tendency to stay fit and achieve muscle mass very easily.What are the 12 body types? ›
|Petite or short||Tall, vertical|
|curvy or round||angular, lean, straight|
|full lips||thin lips, straight lips|
|round face||angular face|
The five main body type shapes are rectangle, inverted triangle, hourglass, pear and apple. To begin specifying your body shape, stand in front of a full-size mirror with no clothes on, or just your underwear. After your initial inspection, you can determine what body type you might be.How to identify your body type? ›
To determine your body shape, start by looking at your midsection and determining if it is the largest part of your body. If it is, and you have slimmer legs and hips, you have an apple shape. Alternatively, if your midsection and bust are smaller and your hips are wide, you are likely pear-shaped.How many different body styles are there? ›
The three different body types are: ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph. Each has their own typical characteristics that can help you determine which body type you have.What can I write about my body type? ›
- Overweight. This simply means “heavier than is healthy.”
- Obese. It means very overweight. ...
- Stout. Maybe slightly fat but strong or solid looking. ...
- Stocky. Short with a wide body.
- Paunchy. You know how some men gain weight?
- Pot-bellied. The same as “paunchy.”
- Big-boned. ...
According to Sheldon, there are three somatotypes: slim ectomorphs, muscular mesomorphs, and smooth endomorphs. Endomorphs, in his view, are relaxed and sociable, mesomorphs active and assertive, and ectomorphs quiet and restrained. Three somatotypes are ideal types: most people have a mixture of multiple somatotypes.What body type are models? ›
Catwalk models must be tall and slender, while glamour models are usually curvaceous. Alternative models need tattoos and piercings, while commercial models will do better with no body modifications. Some people may be attractive in real life, but that doesn't mean they'll look good on camera.What body type do girls like? ›
Summary. Women tend to prefer men with fit, athletic bodies. These ideal male bodies are significantly leaner and stronger than average, but not as lean and strong as most men wish to be, and certainly not as muscular as most bodybuilders. Think of the bodies of soccer players, rugby players, and mixed martial artists.What is the most popular female body type? ›
The stereotypically attractive female body shape is an hourglass figure, which includes wide hips, a narrow waist, and broad shoulders.What is the fattest body type? ›
Endomorph You tend to have more body fat than the other body types in this framework. Catudal says that women who are endomorphs may be described as curvaceous, while men may be called stocky. You tend to carry weight in your belly, hips, and thighs.What body is more attractive? ›
Felix's team took a survey for the most attractive body parts of men and women and here's what they found: Men cited women's faces as being their most attractive attribute by 46%. In second place, women's butts came in at 18% followed by hair at 11%. Legs, breasts, eyes, and others composed the remaining 26%.What is the strongest body type? ›
A mesomorph has a large bone structure, large muscles and a naturally athletic physique. Mesomorphs are the best body type for bodybuilding. They find it quite easy to gain and lose weight. They are naturally strong which is the perfect platform for building muscle.What are the 4 female body types? ›
The five main body type shapes are rectangle, inverted triangle, hourglass, pear and apple.What are endomorphs Ectomorphs and Mesomorphs? ›
Ectomorphs are long and lean. Endomorphs are rounded, with lots of muscle and body fat, a stockier structure, and a slower metabolism. (Think of football linemen.) Mesomorphs are athletic and muscular, capable of gaining weight or losing weight easily thanks to their efficient metabolisms.How do I know my body shape? ›
Body shape is based on the relationship between three points on your body: your shoulders/bust, waist and hips. Draw an imaginary line down from your shoulders to your hips and make a mental note of where the line hits. It can be helpful to snap a quick mirror pic for reference if you're having a hard time visualizing.
The 11 organ systems include the integumentary system, skeletal system, muscular system, lymphatic system, respiratory system, digestive system, nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, urinary system, and reproductive systems. The VA defines 14 disability systems, which are similar to the body systems.What are the 13 body types? ›
- Soft Dramatic.
- Flamboyant Natural.
- Soft Natural.
- Dramatic Classic.
- Soft Classic.
What is a Curvy Body Type? Using the term "curvy" twenty years ago, conjured up images of hourglass bombshells with tiny waists and generous busts and hips. It was all about the extreme hip to waist ratio, regardless of size. Today the term "curvy" is used to describe fuller, rounder figures of all proportions.What is the best body type for Girl? ›
The stereotypically attractive female body shape is an hourglass figure, which includes wide hips, a narrow waist, and broad shoulders.What does an endomorph body look like? ›
Endomorphs have softer bodies with curves. They have a wide waist and hips and large bones, though they may or may not be overweight. Their weight is often in their hips, thighs, and lower abdomen. Endomorphs often have lots of body fat and muscle and tend to gain weight easily.What do Mesomorphs look like? ›
According to Sheldon, people with a mesomorph body type tend to have a medium frame. They may develop muscles easily and have more muscle than fat on their bodies. Mesomorphs are typically strong and solid, not overweight or underweight. Their bodies may be described as rectangular in shape with an upright posture.Can a mesomorph be fat? ›
Mesomorphs are more prone to weight gain even though they tend to have low body fat levels. They tend to gain or lose weight easily. Since overindulging is easier than counting calories, mesomorphs may gain weight before they realize it.Am I curvy or apple shaped? ›
You lean towards an apple shape if you have a big bust and weight around the midriff. You lean towards an hourglass figure if you have slight curves. You lean towards a rectangle body shape if you have weight or strong bone structure around your hips.Can you have two body types? ›
Few people fall distinctly into one category, therefore it is likely you will be a blend of two body types. This is for those of you who feel you have characteristic of both a Mesomorph and an Endomorph. Quite often a Meso-Endomorph looks athletic and slightly chunky.What is an 8 shape body? ›
The 8 Shape has high hips that create a shelf. Think about a (naked) Barbie doll. Her tiny waist pops right out into her hips. No smooth transition from waist to hips. Another hint that you may be an 8 rather than an X: 8's are often short-waisted; there's not a lot of room between the ribcage and those high hipbones.