Anthropometric Measurements and Your Body
Science and our knowledge of how the body works has developed incredibly since the 60s and it’s time we started to retire the endo-meso-ecto classification for the myth it is. First of all there is no single person who is adequately described by one of these classifications which means that at best they are an approximation and at worst flat-out wrong and you don’t want to base your training nutrition on something that is ‘almost right’.
Second, each person’s body is the result of a mix of characteristics that are traditionally ascribed to one of the Heath-Carter ‘body types’. So, in reality the visual elements that make a person fit into one or the other are actually wrong and likely to lead to more problems than solutions.
The only area where somatotypes come into play in sports science and biology is when we need to take anthropometric factors into account to determine physical fitness and physical performance. Anthropometric factors include body breadth and length, body weight, bone density and even the ratio of the bones of the legs and arms in relation to the torso. There are a number of factors influencing anthropometric measurements: genetics, nutrition, environmental and cultural factors and, obviously, the sex of the person. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Madrid showed that anthropometric measurements can determine physical performance in a subject which then can conveniently be classified into one of the commonly used somatotypes.
There are four key things to remember:
1. Every person is a combination of all three somatotypes based upon the complexities of their anthropometric make up. Someone can be tall, heavy and still relatively lightly muscled for their size. Someone else could be short, light and yet heavily muscled (throwing up an out of kilter BMI Index). You cannot base any training or nutrition plan just on the visual aspect of how you look or how heavy you are (case in point Bruce Lee who built himself up with a proper training and nutrition program).
2. Physical performance has nothing to do with somatotypes and everything to do with physical strength, endurance, coordination and the ability of the body to successfully coordinate muscle groups during ballistic exertion involving concentric and eccentric muscle movements (case in point: Sammo Hung – https://goo.gl/8UXtC5).
3. Physical fitness is independent of somatotype. It refers to the ability of muscles to do specific work within a certain context and recover in a sufficiently short space of time to do it all over again (consider that both a heavyweight boxer and a marathon runner are very fit but visually look very different).
4. The popular link between body type and metabolism is false. While there are differences in the Base Metabolic Rate (MBR) which measures the amount of calories a body burns at rest for each body type, they are the result of muscles and musculature and the individual level of activity that each person engages in, rather than the body type itself.