Body Types: What Do We Know?

Pic: MightyFastPig

We all know that setters are clearly the smartest and best-looking players in a Volleyball team, and generally the most talented. But what else do we know?

Let’s do a little bit of background work to start. Somatotype refers to the kind of body shape you have, what your body is inclined to look like, what your physique is. You heard in the interview with Phill DeSalvo, that he referred to himself as an Ecto. What he meant was an Ectomorph, here is a small explanation of each type.

• Endomorphic body type is characterized by an increased amount of fat storage. There is a higher number of fat cells, and a larger proportion of digestive tissue. Endomorphs generally have a wide waist and a large bone structure.
• Ectomorphic body type is characterized by long limbs, narrow shoulders, and supposedly more nervous tissue. Their muscles are long and thin, they have very low fat storage and are usually skinny.
• Mesomorphic body type is characterized by a large amount of muscle growth, and more muscle tissue. They have a large bone structure, but very little fat storage. They often have wide shoulders and a narrow waist.

What has this got to do with anything?

Not much really, but its kind of interesting. Different positions in Volleyball call for different athletic abilities, and therefore you would think, different body types are more suited to certain positions.

In 2001 a study was conducted called ‘Somatotype, role and performance in elite volleyball players’. The work done in this study was with senior Italian players and was investigating the different body types amongst different positions in Volleyball. They found that setters tended to have the highest endomorphic and mesomorphic characteristics (fat and muscly), whilst middles have the lowest endomorphic and the highest ectomorphic characteristics (skinny…just really skinny). And funnily enough, outside hitters and opposites were somewhere between the two. You could have guessed all that right? Well me too, but there was more interesting stuff in another recent study.

An English study done in 2006 called ‘Anthropometric and Physiological characteristicsof junior elite volleyball players’ looked at the same thing, but in some younger kids. The results differed. Here it showed that setters were classed as endomorphic ectomorphs (fattish but kind of skinny), hitters and opposites were balanced ectomorphs (skinny) and middles were ectomorphic mesomorphs (skinny but muscly).


Theres not that much to take from these studies. It’s fairly obvious when you watch a match of Volleyball that each position carries different responsibilities, which means there is a need for different kinds of athletes. You aren’t going to see a short and chunky dude running the middle anywhere at a high level. Therefore the kind of body type you have will affect your ability to play Volleyball, at least determine which position is best for you. When doing talent ID, that’s got to be kept in mind, and that’s the main reason someone decided this would be a good idea to investigate.

It seems hitters and middles have the same characteristics from junior level through to senior. Interestingly though the setters differed somewhat. Perhaps in England they like their setters a little fatter?

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