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Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte

Print version ISSN 1517-8692On-line version ISSN 1806-9940

Rev Bras Med Esporte vol.9 no.6 Niterói Nov./Dec. 2003 



Body composition, somatotype and proporcionality of elite bodybuilders in Brazil*


Composición corporal, somatotipo y proporcionalidad de fisicoculturistas de elite de Brasil



Paulo Rodrigo Pedroso da SilvaI; Rafael de Souza TrindadeII; Eduardo Henrique De RoseIII

IMestrado em Endocrinologia – FAMED-UFRGS
IIMestrado em Ciências do Movimento Humano - UDESC
IIIComitê Olímpico Brasileiro





Bodybuilding is a sport that mainly emphasizes physical appearance, body configuration and shape, trying to achieve aesthetics perfection. Kinanthropometry is a fundamental tool to lead training follow-up in bodybuilding. In spite of that, there are few scientific papers on the subject. The purpose of this paper is to describe body composition, somatotype and proportionality of 23 bodybuilders in the 2000 Brazilian Bodybuilding Championship. The subjects were evaluated moments before the competition according to the following specific variables: total weight, stature, nine skinfolds (tricipital, subscapular, bicipital, chest, medium axillary, suprailiac, abdominal, front thigh, medium calf), muscle girths (flexed biceps and calf-standing), and three bone breadths (elbow, ankle and knee), in accordance with ISAK methodology. The athletes were between 20 and 56 years old, with body weight between 57.4 kg and 105.8 kg. The sum of the nine skinfolds varied between 38.4 mm and 70.2 mm. The somatotype was 1.8-8.1-0.7, which can be classified as a balanced mesomorphic one. The average of body fat was 9.65%, using the Faulkner protocol, proposed by the Brazilian Group of Kinanthropometry. Fat weight was 7.29 kg. When compared to Phantom, the athletes showed higher body weight (Z = + 1.66), elbow girth (Z = + 5.26), and calf girth (Z = + 1.91). This group of Brazilian elite bodybuilders showed lower body fat percentage and bigger muscular weight when compared to the Ross and Wilson model (1974), with their body structure similar to the elite international bodybuilders.

Key words: Bodybuilding. Body composition. Kineanthropometry. Somatotyping. Proportionality. Z index. Faulkner. Phantom.


El fisicoculturismo es un deporte que enfatiza la apariencia física, la configuración y el formato corporal, buscando así la excelencia estética. La cineantropometria es una herramienta fundamental para guiar el curso del entrenamiento del fisicoculturismo. No obstante, existe escasez de la produción de trabajos científicos para esta población. El objetivo de este trabajo es describir la composición corporal, el somatotipo y la proporcionalidad de 23 fisicoculturistas finalistas del Campeonato Brasileño de Fisicoculturismo del año de 2000. Los atletas fueron evaluados momentos antes de la competición, y las siguientes variables determinadas: peso total, estatura, nueve pliegues cutáneas (tricipital, subescapular, bicipital, pectoral, axilar medio, suprailíaco, abdominal, medial de coxal y medial de pierna), dos perímetros musculares (brazo flexionado y pierna) e tres diámetros óseos (humeral, biestiloidal y femoral), conforme a la metodologia propuesta por la International Society for the Advancement of Kineanthropometry (ISAK). Los atletas presentaron edades entre los 20 y los 56 años y pesos corporales entre los 57,4kg y los 105,8kg. La sumatoria de los nueve pliegues cutáneas (S9DC) varió entre 38,4mm y 70,2mm. El somatotipo encontrado fué 1,8-8,1-0,7; clasificado como mesomorfo balanceado. El percentual medio de gordura fué 9,65%, usando el protocolo de Faulkner, propuesto por el Grupo Brasileño de Cineantropometria. El peso graso encontrado fué de 7,29kg. Cuando fueron comparados con el Phantom, los atletas estudiados presentaron mayores: peso corporal (Z = +1,66), perímetro de brazo (Z = +5,26) y perímetro de pierna (Z = +1,91). Se concluye que los fisicoculturistas brasileños de elite estudiados presentan un bajo percentual de gordura y un gran peso muscular, cuando son comparados con el modelo de Ross & Wilson (1974), su estructura corporal resulta semejante a los fisicoculturistas de elite internacional.

Palabras clave: Fisicoculturismo. Composición corporal. Cineantropometria. Somatotipo. Proporcionalidad. Índice Z. Faulkner. Phantom.




Bodybuilding is a sport that stresses physical appearance, muscle shaping and body symmetry. By combining a highly selective diet and strength training, bodybuilders seek a better aesthetic performance. The purpose of their training is to achieve muscle maximization and physical symmetry with the lowest possible fluid and fat retention1,2. These are crucial factors at a competition, where a set of features will be considered: muscle mass, muscularity, muscle symmetry and shape3. Thus, body composition is certainly a decisive factor to guide bodybuilding training.

Ross et al.4 described the expression "kinanthropometry" for the first time in 1972, and its most used definition is "the study of body size, shape, proportionality, composition, and biological maturation. Its purpose is to understand the growth process, training and sports performance".

The milestone for the development of kinanthropometry around the world was during the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, where the unification of kinanthropometric measurements regulation was proposed for the first time5.

Some investigators have used body composition and somatotype as tools to assess body and morphology features of bodybuilders, in order to quantify data for this population1,2,6-9. However, few studies so far, in Brazil and around the world, have addressed this issue6,8,10,11.

With this in mind, this paper intends to describe body composition, somatotype and body proportionality of Brazilian elite bodybuilders in the year 2000.




Our sample included 23 male athletes from a total of 63 athletes classified for the finals of the Brazilian Bodybuilding and Fitness Championship, held in the city of São Paulo, in the year 2000. The athletes were assessed moments before the competition. This investigation was approved by the Ethics in Research Committee of the Rio Grande do Sul Catholic University (PUC-RS). The athletes agreed to take part in this investigation by signing an informed consent form.


Measurements were taken according to the International Society for the Advancement of Kineanthropometry guidelines12, and from each subject the following variables were assessed: total weight, total stature, nine skinfolds (tricipital, subscapular, bicipital, chest, medium axillary, suprailiac, abdominal, front thigh, and medium calf), two muscle girths (flexed biceps, calf standing), and three bone breadths (elbow, ankle and knee).

Weight was measured on a Filizola scale, with accuracy of 100 g; height with a vertical metric scale with a 1 mm accuracy; skinfold thickness was assess by a Lange-type caliper with a 0.2 mm accuracy; muscle girths were measured with a metallic Rosscraft 1 mm accuracy scale, and breadths with a 1 mm accuracy Rosscraft Campbell-type bone caliper.

To establish body composition, the following models were applied13: percentage of fat, with the use of Faulkner's formula (1968); bone weight, by means of Von Döbeln's model modified by Rocha; residual weight according to the percentages proposed by Würch, and muscle weight was measured according to De Rose's and Guimarães' strategy (1984). Somatotype was calculated according to the method proposed by Heath and Carter (1967)7. Proportionality was calculated through the Phantom model proposed by Ross and Wilson (1974)14. Z-index14 was calculated for the following variables: total body weight, flexed biceps, calf standing, and femoral breadth.

Statistical analysis

The collected data are shown by means of descriptive statistics through minimum and maximum values, mean and standard deviation.



Mean, standard deviation, and the minimum and maximum values of variables age, height, weight, skinfolds, girths and breadths calculated in this study are presented in table 1.



Table 2 presents the mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum values of the four-weight components (fat, bone, residual and muscular) fat proportion, and of the somatotype (endomorphy, mesomorphy, and ectomorphy).



Somatotype values of this and other studies are presented in table 3.

Analysis of the somatogram from this and other studies is in figure 1.



The Z-index for the variables total body weight, flexed biceps, calf standing, and femur breadth is presented in table 4.

A comparative analysis of the Z-index from the subjects of this study and the one of American bodybuilders1 is presented in figure 2.




The bodybuilders of our study presented major ranges for age (20 to 56 years), body weight (57.4 kg to 105.8 kg) and skinfolds summation (38.4 mm to 70.2 mm) (table 1). Such major age and weight variation was due to the fact that the different bodybuilding categories were not taken into account15. The Brazilian sample presented lower height (mean = 165.7 cm; SD = 6.14) compared to the group studied by Maestá et al.10 (mean = 170.6; SD = 0.82). Stature, skinfolds, girths and breadths had low variation, showing similarity among athletes (table 1).

The low skinfold values indicate a low amount of subcutaneous fat and fluids (table 1). The highest mean skinfold was the subscapular one (9.5 mm), and the lowest, the bicipital (3.2 mm); Bamman et al.2 found similar results for a population of such athletes (means of 9.6 mm and 3.2 mm, respectively, for subscapular and bicipital skinfolds). Skinfold summation (SSF) is an excellent indicator of subcutaneous fat9. In their study, Belgian bodybuilders presented a S10SF = 64.1 mm, whereas in our study, S9SF = 49.24 mm. Even though comparison between the two studies is not possible due to differences in methodology, both presented a low SSF.

Brazilian bodybuilders presented, in average, a low proportion of fat (mean = 9.65%; SD = 0.51) (table 2). Results similar to these were found in another study with Brazilian bodybuilders8, whose mean proportion of fat was of 6.9%. Other authors, in investigations with bodybuilders of different parts of the world, found similar results, ranging from 6.8% to 9.9%6,9,10,11,16. However, the biggest difficulty for comparing results of different authors is the doubly indirect form of calculating fat proportion. Another way to estimate fat is from its weight; in our study mean fat weight was of 7.29 kg. In other studies with foreign bodybuilders, mean ranged from 3.4 to 7.9 kg1,2,6.

Brazilian bodybuilders, in addition to presenting a low proportion of fat (mean = 9.65; SD = 0.51), had a high muscle weight (mean = 39.10 kg; SD = 5.92) (table 2). These features were also evident from the somatotype analysis, which showed low endomorphism (1.8), high mesomorphism (8.1), and low ectomorphism (0.7) (table 2). Thus, according to somatotype classification (table 2), the athletes of the 2000 Brazilian Championship may be considered balanced mesomorphs (1.8-8.1-0.7).

In table 3 and in figure 1 different studies are compared as to the mean somatotype of bodybuilders, power-exerting athletes, and the Phantom. Brazilian bodybuilders, when compared to other power-exerting athletes, significantly differ (p < 0.05) from Belgian bodybuilders9, Olympic weight and discus throwers, Olympic weightlifters17, Olympic Nigerian weightlifters18, and from Phantom14. There is no significant difference between subjects of this study and the male world bodybuilding championship contestants19.

In spite of lower somatotype components of medal winners compared to those of other athletes, there was no significant differences between the two groups (medal winners n = 11, other athletes n = 12) as to endomorphy (p = 0.5), mesomorphy (p = 0.8), and ectomorphy (p = 0.8). Neither was there significant differences as to height (p = 0.5) and total body weight (p = 0.9).

In spite of the group under 40 years of age (n = 16) having presented lower endomorphy and ectomorphy, and higher mesomorphy values that the group aged 40 or older (n = 7), there was no significant age-related differences for endomorphy (p = 0.4), mesomorphy (p = 0.1) and ectomorphy (p = 0.1).

Our study showed that there are similarities between Brazilian and foreign athletes in terms of mesomorphy predominance, a crucial factor for success in both, power-exerting sports and bodybuilding. The somatotype did not differ between medal-winner and non-medal winner groups, thus there was no relationship between the somatotype and the outcome of the competition.

When compared to the Phantom model14, the subjects of this study presented high body weight (Z = +1.66), flexed biceps (Z = +5.26) and calf standing (Z = +1.91). Such increment was also evident in the study with Brazilian bodybuilders8, where high values for body weight (Z = +1.42) and flexed biceps (Z = +4.74) were found. In American bodybuilders1, one sees lower values for body weight (Z = +0,95), flexed biceps (Z = +2.75), and calf standing (Z = +0.65). As for bone breadths, Brazilian and American bodybuilders1 present negative values for the Z Index (Z = –0.16; Z = -0.62), as shown in figure 2. In spite of Brazilian athletes' measures being higher, they have similar behavior when compared to American athletes.

It is to be concluded that the investigated elite Brazilian bodybuilders present low proportion of fat and high muscle weight, as evidenced by the analysis of the different kinanthropometric methods used in this study. Moreover, flexed biceps was the higher proportional measure found (Z index). One can see a similarity among the kinanthropometric features of the different categories, when compared to age and championship rank. The elite Brazilian bodybuilders of year 2000 present quite similar features to elite international bodybuilders, thus showing the level of excellency of bodybuilding in Brazil.



This study was made possible thanks to the Brazilian Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Confederation (Confederação Brasileira de Culturismo e Musculação), represented by its President, Mr. Alexandre Pagnani; to Prof. Nara Müller, for the statistical analysis; to Graphic Designer Hugo Leonardo Alencar Fin, for designing the figures; and to Prof. Dr. Cyntia Alencar Fin, for her help in reviewing the text.


All the authors declared there is not any potential conflict of interests regarding this article.



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Correspondence to
Paulo Rodrigo Pedroso da Silva
PPG em Ciências Médicas: Endocrinologia UFRGS
Rua Ramiro Barcelos, 2.350 – Prédio 12/4o andar
90035-003 – Porto Alegre, RS

Received in 7/6/03
2nd version received in 20/10/03
Approved in 3/11/03



* Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul – PUC-RS.

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