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CHAPTER I 5 Body Types No two human bodies are exactly the same. Even though we all have the same basic equipment, there are many subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences. There have been many attempts to classify variations in hu- man structure. One of these is somatotyping (body typing), first investi- gated by W. H. Sheldon and documented in his Atlas of Men (1954). Shel- don proposed three body types based on what he believed to be the predominant type of tissue: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph (see Figure 15.1). According to Sheldon, the ectomorph has predominance of nerve tissue, the mesomorph has a predominance of connective tissue and muscle, and the endomorph has a predominance of endocrine tissue. The relative proportion of tissue and the relative efficiency of functioning vary dramatically {rom one body type to another. In theory, these three somato- types are separate and distinct, yet in practical application there is consid erable overlapping. One seldom finds an individual who is a true ecto- morph, mesomorph, or endomorph in the theoretical sense. It is much more common to find individuals who tend toward one body type but also have some characteristics of the other body types. Information on somatotypes is of interest to dancers because it has di- rect implications for understanding capacities and limitations. Each body type has a proclivity for certain kinds of movement and certain movement limitations. Understanding body type can guide and direct the dancer's in- dividual conditioning program. This information is certainly pertinent to teachers of dance, for it can assist in setting realistic expectations and in- dividualizing instruction. The information in this chapter is divided into two sections. The first discusses the shape, composition, and physiological functioning of the three body types. The second discusses the movement potential and limi- tations of the three types. Each tendency presents advantages and disad- vantages, and an attempt is made to focus on both benefits and detri- ments, Shape, Composition, and Physiology The ectomorph has a long, narrow, lean, lithe body with a fragile bone structure. The hips tend to be wider than the shoulders, and excess weight 281 282 Physiological Considerations for Dancers & @ © 0 FIGURE 15.1. Somatotypes or body types: (a) ectomorph, (b) mesomorph, and (c) en ‘domorph will be carried in the hips and thighs. The bone tissue is actually less dense and the long bones of the body are longer than the other two body types. The ectomorph tends to mature late and (if 2 woman) experiences menopause fairly early. The human skeletal system (particularly the long bones) continues to grow approximately until puberty, and the ecto: morph’ delayed puberty allows the long bones to continue to grow for a r period of time. The ectomorph tends to be “loosely strung to- and this fact—combined with an inefficient muscular system— leads to a tendency toward poor posture, but it also allows for greater mo- bility and flexibility: The cardiovascular system of the ectomorph is not efficient. Specilically, there is a tendency to low blood pressure, poor vagal tone, high heart rate. and, generally, poor circulation. The blood bed is not cfficient in adapting to diflering demands, and therefore accommodations in vasodilation and vasoconstriction are slower than for the other two body types. These factors related to the cardiovascular system of the ecto- morph lead to a tendency toward cold hands and feet, dizziness on stand. ing up quickly, and poor endurance. In contrast to the cardiovascular sys tem, the nervous sysiem of the ectomorph is highly efficient. The ectomorph is highly sensitive to stimuli, and the nervous system responds rapidly. This higher sensitivity also means that the ectomorph is more sen- sitive to pain than the other two body types. The neural sensitivity of the ectomorph also promotes a high level of neuromuscular tension. The di- gestive system is relatively inefficient. That is, the body does not absorb nutrients as readily as the other two body types. This means that the ecto- morph can eat like a horse and stay slim. But there is a disadvantage to this: the low absorption rate makes the ectomorph susceptible to hypo- glycemia (low blood sugar). The standard eating patierns in our culture are not appropriate for the ectomorph. The long delay between meals al- Jows the blood sugar to drop too low. A much more effective eating pattern for the ectomorph is to eat six or seven smaller meals, spaced evenly Body Tupes 283 throughout the day. The ectomorph also has a tendency to be anemic (low hemoglobin count in the blood), and to have low levels of adrenaline in the bloodstream. The tendency to anemia contributes to the poor en- durance of the ectomorph, because it is the hemoglobin that carries the ‘oxygen necessary for resynthesis of lactic acid. Because of the narrowness of the body of the ectomorph, there is less space for the viscera (internal organs) and the belly tends to protrude, particularly after a large meal, ‘The mesomorph has a solid, square, muscled, athletic appearance. The shoulders tend to be broader than the hips, and the muscular systema is ‘well developed, giving a general appearance of width. Maturity comes rela- tively early for the mesomorph. Mesomorphs tend to excel at sports at a carly age. The cardiovascular system and the muscular system are very ef cient. When active, the mesomorph has average-to-low blood pressure and a low heart rate. However, with inactivity the blood pressure rises, as does the heart rate. This makes the mesomorph prone to hypertensive heart di ease in later life when the activity level is lower. Vasoconstriction and va- sodilation adapt rapidly to changing demands, and performing quick shifts in position seldom causes dizziness. Moreover, this efficiency of the meso- morph’s circulatory system means that the mesomorph often can be out in shirtsleeves when the eciomorph is bundled up in three sweaters, The skeletal structure and connective tissue of the mesomorph are actually denser than those of the other two body types. The mesomorph is sturdy and tightly strung together. The strength of the musculature combined with the tight connective tissue and a strong stretch reflex make it difficult for the mesomorph to retain flexibility. On the other hand, the mesomorph excels at activities involving strength and endurance because of the effi ciency of the muscular and cardiovascular systems. High levels of adrena- line give the mesomorph a high energy level, but the mesomorph can u ally relax more easily than the ectomorph. The mesomorph has the best posture of the three body types because of the strength of the musculature and the density of the connective tissue. The digestive system and metabo- lism of the mesomorph are normal and, when active, the mesomorph can cat fairly large amounts without gaining weight. However, with inactivity the mesomorph must cut back on caloric intake, When the mesomorph puts on weight, it tends to localize in the center of the body; the cla “beer belly” is a perfect example of this tendency. The endormorph has a rounded body contour with excessive amounts of fatty tissue. The shoulders tend to be slightly wider than the hips, but the excess weight tends to mask that difference. The weight is more evenly distributed than in the other bwo body types. Many of the physiological functions of the endomorph fall between those of the ectomorph and the mesomorph. The cardiovascular system and the muscular system are less efficient than the mesomorph’s but more efficient than the ectomorph’s. Posture also falls somewhere between that of the mesomorph and the ec tomorph, with the endomorph having fairly good posture. The level of adrenaline is lower than in the mesomorph and higher than in the ecto- morph. The eadomorph is less flexible than the ectomorph, but more flex- ible than the mesomorph. For these reasons, the endomorph has a natural 284 Physiological Considerations for Dancers potential for strength, endurance, and flexibility: The endomorph defines the extreme when it comes to absorption of nutrients and relaxation, with 2 very efficient absorption of nutrients and an ability to relax totally at the drop of a hat. The endomorph must consianily diet to maintain an ideal weight because of the efficiency of the digestive system. This is often in- tensified by a low thyroid level (hypothyroidism) and low metabolism. Everything seems to be slowed down for the endomorph, including heart rate, blood pressure (surprisingly, it is low), the onset of puberty, and the onset of menopause. The endomorph is least sensitive to pain and other stimuli, which certainly contributes to the ability to relax. The major prob- em for the endomorph is weight management, and the problem becomes major if it is ignored. Overweight, ranging to obesity, is common for endo- morphs. Movement Capacities and Limitations ‘The ectomorph has a definite potential for quick, sudden movement facil- itated by the efficiency of the nervous system and the mechanical relation- ship between different parts of the skeletal system. The inefficiency of the cardiovascular system, however, limits the duration of activity. Activities that require strength, muscular endurance, or cardiorespiratory en- durance can be difficult for the ectomorph. With training, the ectomorph can improve in strength and endurance, but the levels achieved will not be equal to those of mesomorph or the endormorph in the same training pro- gram. Because high levels of neuromuscular tension are common in the ectomorph, some form of relaxation training is also necessary. Strength, endurance, and relaxation are the constant conditioning battles for the ec: tomorph. One day off, and the effects start to show. The ectomorph can maintain high levels of flexibility, however, with a minimum of effort. The mesomorph excels at large, vigorous movements and can continue over long periods of time. Strength, endurance, and power are definitely capacities of the mesomorph. Compared with the amount of conditioning needed by the ectomorph to achieve strength and endurance, the meso- morph can maintain high levels of strength and endurance with a mini- mum of training. The mesomorph’s Achilles’ heel is inflexibility. One day away from stretching routines, and the mesomorph will show the effects. The mesomorph must work just as hard for mobility as the ectomorph works for strength and endurance. The endomorph maintains strength, flexibility, and endurance rather well. The problem for the endomorph is, of course, weight control. One cay without exercise, and the weight starts to climb. The best type of exer- ¢ for weight control is thought to be endurance exercises which con- timne over a long period of time IMPLICATIONS FOR DANCERS Table 15.1 lists the information covered in this chapter regarding differ- ences in capacities and limitations related to the three body types. A care- ucg Ap Tuaishs J2y981 POD. {uaysAs se]noseaoipse> Pood ‘ydiowopuy gouesnpue oueinpua Je]n2S! sous 83] P99A ‘yp eat WOT ‘04 ypRea 100d anssoic poold N07] jana} 9uy]2U94e 807 Pavis 309 YS syuanany Jo uoudiosge 12! ‘ueysts snowaL aN ydiouosan ydiowwono3 sayin ONINDIGNOS SNL “AINaW3A0W smLovd¥>) NINAAOM sunusaus. any XOOTONSAHA 286 Physiological Considerations for Dancers ful review of the wible is encouraged. It may be helpfull for the dancer to think of acquaintances who roughly fit into each of the body types and then think of the activities at which they excel. This information is particularly helpful to mesomorphic dancers who think they are “evil” because they can't keep their hamstrings stretched, or to ectornorphic “huffers and puffers” who can't make it once across the floor without breathing hard. There are physiological explanations for these problems. They are not the punishment of the gods on wayward dancers, Dancers are noted for comparing their om bodies wilh the bod- ies of other dancers and measuring their abilities by looking at the abili ties of others. This is truly self-defeating because capacities and limita Gions vary so remarkably. It is far better to focus attention on realistic, appraisal of one's own capacities and limitations and work to maintain the capacities and reduce the limitations. But dancers tend to do what they excel at and what “leels good.” Survey a dance studio befure class begins and one will see mesomerphs jogging arund the studio to warm up, and ‘ectomorphs sireiching to warm up. The needs of these body types are ac- tually reversed. ‘The mesomorph should be stretching and the cctomorph. should be jogging if the focus is expansion of potential. Realizing that one tends to warm up with the activities that one does well, the dancer should balance the warm-up: something needed and something that feels gand. There are also-some important implications for teachers of dance. What happens to a mesomorphic student dancer whe takes a class from an ecto- morphic teacher? Very likely the student will never feel warmed up and he or she will be demoralized (er injured) by the range of motion demanded in the class. If we switch the roles and send an ectomorphic student to = mesomorphic teacher, the student will be lucky to make it through class and if he or she goes to class “cold” there may be an injury, or the student may constantly feel as if he or she is trying to “catch up.” Understanding the natural tendencies of the different body types can de much to allow for differences in a class and to facilitate individually needed growth. The most horrendous words spoken by a teacher of dance are, “If | can do it, you can do it.” Indeed that can be possible, but for the students who have ically different body type, the cHort must be awesome. Teachers should sometimes ask the impossible of students, but they ought to couple the request with sufficient preliminary training and adequate encourage ment. Otherwise, the result fs defeated students and a frustrated teacher Haste information about the capacitics and limitations of the three body lypes can guide the setting of realistic objectives. The information should be used nol as a “cop-out” but rather for realistic, honest appraisal of ca- pacities and limitations.