Being skinny-fat means that you lack muscle tone while being soft around your lower waist.
In clothes, a skinny-fat guy looks like a regular guy, but once the clothes come off all the flab and softness is revealed.
Skinny-fat guys find it difficult to gain even small amounts of muscle tone and we gain fat “just by looking at food”.
Most of us also find it extremely difficult to gain muscle mass on our upper body, especially around the shoulders, upper chest, upper back and arms.
In my experience coaching almost 100 men, the skinny-fat body-type is BY FAR the hardest to transform.
On this page, I will cover the 2 Phases of a Skinny-Fat Transformation and teach you the steps you have to take to transform your skinny-fat physique.
These are the steps that I took to shred 60 pounds of fat and gain 40 pounds of muscle mass, as shown in my progression photo below:
You can also check out my viral transformation video on YouTube to see my full transformation with monthly progress photos.
If there’s one message you should take away from my video it’s that transforming a physique is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.
You need to follow a sustainable diet and training strategy and give yourself time to make a lasting change.
Quick fixes can sometimes work but if you follow them you will most likely lose your results later.
The 2 Phases of a Skinny-Fat Transformation
The best strategy to transform the skinny-fat body-type consists of 2 phases:
- Phase 1: Shred excess body-fat to get lean.
- Phase 2: Add Muscle Mass IN THE RIGHT PLACES while staying lean.
Below you can see an example of my Indian coaching client Harshit Godha who went through both phases in less than 1 year:
During Phase 1 we focus on creating a solid foundation through two key elements:
- Bodyweight training: Achieve 10 pull ups and 20 diamond push ups with my bodyweight training program for skinny-fat guys.
- Fat loss diet: Optimise your natural testosterone production, metabolism and nutrient partitioning (your body’s ability to utilise food for muscle gains) through a fat loss diet.
In other words, we take a “step back” and start out small so you have ample time to build a very strong foundation.
The foundation you build during Phase 1 will enable you to pack on a lot of muscle mass when you start doing a REAL “physique program” in Phase 2 of your transformation and now I’ll explain why…
Phase 1 Bodyweight Training To Build Your Foundation
When I lost 60 pounds of fat and gained 40 pounds of muscle mass, I didn’t do that in 6 months or 1 year.
I spent over 3 years achieving these goals!
There’s only so much muscle mass your body can gain each month (1 or 2 pounds at most) and if you want to keep your weight off, you have to lose it slowly.
By now you hopefully understand that ANYTHING related to changing your body is a VERY long and slow game, regardless of what training program or diet plan you follow, so you need to have realistic expectations and train and eat in a way that is sustainable.
My phase 1 bodyweight training program is sustainable for skinny-fat guys because of 3 main reasons:
- Easy to recover from: You can do a basic bodyweight training session and the next day you will be good to go again. This is important to your body-composition because training frequency and volume are more important than intensity. To gain muscle mass, you want to achieve stimulation – not annihilation.
- Low risk injury: Basic bodyweight training is easier on your joints and minimises your risk of getting injured. If you get a serious injury you might be out of training for months, and we can’t have that while trying to build a muscular physique.
- Flexibility: Basic bodyweight training can be done anywhere at any time. This makes you more likely to stick to it long-term, and you need a long time to see muscle gains.
It’s a really good way to get started and build your foundation.
To me, it just makes sense to master essential movements such as pull ups before adding weight to your bench presses and barbell deadlifts.
In addition, bodyweight training works really well for skinny-fat guys because it forces us to stay lean.
You can’t be 100 pounds overweight and knock out 20 pull ups, but you can be 100 pounds overweight and lift heavy weights.
Therefore, mastering basic bodyweight exercises and ensuring that you can do many push ups and pull ups with ease is a great habit to stay lean for many years to come.
In addition to following my phase 1 bodyweight training program, it’s also crucial that you understand the importance of HORMONES.
Hormones Shape Your Body-Composition
The biggest mistake that I see skinny-fat guys make during Phase 1 is chasing quick fat loss and thereby damaging their hormonal balance and metabolism.
There are 2 important hormones that control your body-composition and your ability to “look ripped”.
- Testosterone: The main muscle building hormone in your body. It’s the hormone that increases when guys go through puberty and gives you wide shoulders, a big chest, a deep voice and bigger bones.
- Estrogen: The female hormone which makes you look soft.
Unfortunately, most skinny-fat guys have a combination of low testosterone and high estrogen.
When you’re skinny-fat and you have that imbalance going on, it’s VERY difficult to shred body-fat and gain muscle mass.
We want the opposite: high testosterone and low estrogen.
We want low estrogen because estrogen binds to testosterone, so the more you have of it, the less free testosterone you have available in your blood stream.
And we want high testosterone because:
- You will be able to recover faster between training sessions.
- Have more energy to train hard.
- Build muscle mass faster.
So in order to transform, you need to first and foremost train and eat in a way that supports your hormonal balance.
When you do that, you will see better results because your hormonal balance is linked with your overall body-composition.
High Testosterone + Low Estrogen >> Masculine Body-Composition
Low Testosterone + High Estrogen >> Feminine Body-Composition
Now, the thing about hormones is that there’s a lot more to it than just estrogen and testosterone and they’re complicated to explain in a quick blog post.
There are 3 things you need to know about hormones:
- Hormones shape the way you look and feel and skinny-fat guys have a terrible hormonal balance. It’s crucial to correct that hormonal imbalance in order to get optimal results from training.
- After years of research and trial and error, I boosted my natural testosterone production with over 150% and here’s my blood work to prove it.
- You can make a big improvement to your hormonal balance within 6 months of starting a fat loss diet plan and supplementing with Omega-3 and Greens.
I emphasise fat loss diet plan because excess body-fat is estrogenic and estrogen binds to testosterone so you need to lose the fat in order to boost your natural testosterone production.
Finally, you can get your hormonal panel done privately at Private MD Labs if you live in the US. I highly recommend EVERYONE get’s this done yearly as part of their health check up.
Phase 2: Gain Muscle Mass in the Right Places While Staying Lean
After completing Phase 1 you will be lean at a healthy body-fat percentage and be able to do 10 pull ups and 20 diamond push ups with perfect form.
Your nutrient partitioning will be better as a result of being lean so your body will become better at utilising food for muscle gains.
You will also have a higher natural testosterone production and a great strength foundation so you will:
- Find it easier to recover between hard training sessions and pack on muscle mass.
- Be able to benefit from harder training programs.
After getting lean your body is in such an unique position to pack on lean quality muscle mass, that you have to take full advantage of it and train your ass off.
However, this doesn’t mean we mindlessly add muscle mass everywhere on the body.
We want to be strategic about where we add muscle mass to create a proportional and athletic looking physique.
We focus on adding as much muscle mass as possible to the shoulders, lats, arms and upper chest, while keeping the waist and hips small.
The photo below shows the physique I built using my phase 2 training strategies:
My phase 2 training strategies are based on the proven muscle building principles of the old school Bodybuilder, Serge Nubret:
- Overtraining is overrated – your body can adapt to a lot more than you think. Serge trained for +2 hours a day, 6 days a week and did abs every morning for cardio.
- The amount of weight you lift doesn’t matter. What matters is how you lift the weight. Serge always used light weights and focused on contracting his muscles.
- Your muscles grow better from doing a lot of sets and reps with low rest between sets, because that enables you to keep a great pump throughout your whole training session. Serge would do 42-72 sets per training session with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
These principles work extremely well because you avoid the joint tear that comes from lifting heavy weights and you can target and grow the right muscles.
One question I often get from Phase 2 clients is: “Do I need to switch away from basic bodyweight training to get my best results?”
The answer is: It depends.
In most cases, I start out with a Phase 2 Bodyweight Training Program that uses similar exercises, but utilises a different training structure.
For some clients this is enough.
For others, weights and isolation exercises are needed to get optimal results.
“But I Don’t Have Good Genetics”
Most of the guys I train have poor genetics for fitness, bodybuilding and anything related to building a physique.
I didn’t have great genetics or a great starting point at all.
During my first training session in February 2012 I couldn’t even shoulder press an empty 45 pound barbell for ONE rep, and I was a 6’2″ guy at 200 lbs. bodyweight!
I also couldn’t complete a single push up and it took me 6 months to get my first pull up.
At the time, my DREAM was to do a set of 10 pull ups one day and needless to say, I surpassed that dream a long time ago.
From the over 100 skinny-fat men I’ve coached online, I had one of the WORST starting point from all of them, but through years of sweat and effort I still made my transformation happen.
Because of that, I truly believe that you will get your best results following my approach too.
Be proud but stay hungry,