The 2 Phases of a Skinny-Fat Transformation

Page last updated: January 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer

Download my free eBook “Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Guy” (10-page PDF).

Oskar Faarkrog Profile Photo (High Quality

My name is Oskar Faarkrog, I’m a certified personal trainer from the International Sports Sciences Association and the founder of SKINNY-FAT TRANSFORMATION which has 100,000 monthly readers.

Growing up, I used to be skinny-fat with low testosterone levels and puffy nipples.

I wanted to change very badly because being skinny-fat affected my confidence in all areas of life.

I got bullied because of my puffy nipples and I was embarrassed to take off my shirt at the beach.

I didn’t have any girlfriends until I was almost 20 years old and stayed inside playing computer games all day long.

I got introduced to bodybuilding in February 2010 where I came across the forums.

I saw a guy transform from fat to fit and that’s when I realised it’s possible to transform your physique.

I read everything I could get my hands on and I was hooked.

I made my physique transformation my #1 goal in my life and spent all day long reading about fitness, training and nutrition.

Just like most people, I started out following the popular advice of eating a lot of protein and training with heavy weights.

I would pack tuna and eggs with me when going for classes, drink protein powder multiple times each day and do my heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts.

I didn’t skip any training sessions and I prepared my meals in advance.

After 2 years of heavy weight training I had added over 500 pounds to my bench press, squat and deadlift total.

I was proud of my strength gains, but I didn’t see a lot of physical progress.

Here’s my 2 years of training progress photo showing that I still looked the same:

Compared to my friends, it seemed like my body just didn’t respond to training and diet.

I put in all this hard work and I saw my training partner get amazing results following the same routine as me.

This is when I got frustrated and started researching different body-types.

During my research I discovered that 99% of fitness programs ARE NOT designed for skinny-fat guys.

In the fitness industry, there are 3 main body-types:

99% of fitness programs are made for the body-types above.

  • Ectomorph: Skinny guy who “can’t gain weight”. Heavy weight training and a high Calorie diet will work for the skinny ectomorph.
  • Mesomorph: The naturally athletic and muscular guy. Any program will work for a mesomorph.
  • Endomorph: Big-boned fat guy who gains fat and muscle mass easily. Daily resistance training and cardio combined with a Caloric deficit will work for the Endomorph.

The issue is that skinny-fat guys are a combination of the ectomorph (skinny guy) and endomorph (fat guy).

You have the skinny bone-structure of the ectomorph and you have a hard time gaining muscle mass.

You also have the body-fat of the endomorph and you gain body-fat easily.

In other words, you have all the disadvantages of the ectomorph and endomorph, but you don’t have any of the advantages.

Here’s a graphic summing up why skinny-fat guys have terrible genetics for training:

To be specific, you have to train and eat in a way that raises your natural testosterone production and now I’ll explain why.

When I was 1 year into my training, I got a skinny training partner who had no training experience.

He trained with me for 6 months and in that time-frame he built up his lifts to match mine.

He also ate a high Calorie diet and added 20 pounds of muscle mass while staying lean.

He skipped a lot of planned training sessions but when he walked into the gym, he always made great progress.

When I saw that, I realised that I don’t respond well to training.

My skinny friend was 40 pounds lighter than me and he skipped a lot of planned training sessions, but he progressed 2-3 times faster than me in strength.

His body also partitioned nutrients much better than me.

He ate over 4000 Calories per day and he just kept packing on muscle size while getting stronger.

In my case, eating a lot just led to a lot of fat gain, bloating and digestive problems.

After seeing my friend progress at a much faster rate than me, I thought that maybe I have some kind of hormonal or metabolic issue that prevents me from gaining muscle mass.

So I went to an endocrinologist to do a full hormonal panel (hormones, vitamin levels, mineral levels, thyroid, genetic testing etc.).

After a lot of extensive testing we found that everything was perfect except for one thing.

I had a low natural testosterone production.

My testosterone was 297 ng/dl which is the equivalent of an 84 year old man.

Testosterone is important because it’s the male hormone of vitality and it’s the main muscle building hormone in the body.

With low testosterone, you won’t build much muscle mass regardless of how you train and eat.

You simply don’t have the hormonal milieu to support a strong and muscular physique.

One of the main symptoms of low testosterone is a soft and under muscled physique. (Skinny-fat).

In other words, being skinny-fat and having low testosterone go hand-in-hand.

Other symptoms are puffy nipples, brain fog and anxiety. (Also common symptoms in skinny-fat guys).

After finding out that I have low testosterone, I was devastated.

I thought that my dream of building a great physique was over and that I would have to settle with my skinny-fat body for the rest of my life.

I can safely say that I was close to giving up at this point.

But I’m happy I didn’t.

Instead of giving up, I set out to study everything I could get my hands on about optimising testosterone naturally.

I spent hours each day studying the endocrine system and reading message boards about hormone optimisation.

After countless nights of studying, I concluded that it’s possible to raise testosterone by dialling in your training, diet and lifestyle.

After I dialled in my training, diet and lifestyle, I increased my testosterone with a total of 180%, from 297 ng/dl to 831 ng/dl.

Here’s my bloodwork to prove it.

To give you some perspective, I went from the bottom of the range where old men are to the top of the range where you will find high performing college athletes.

While boosting my testosterone, I saw amazing results in my training and body-composition.

I lost 60 pounds of body-fat and gained a total of 40 pounds of muscle mass.

Here’s a photo summarising my progress from the front:

skinny-fat transformation23131

And here’s my popular YouTube transformation video showing my progress with monthly progress photos:

Boosting my testosterone levels meant that I could finally build an amazing physique… after training hard for 2 years without any results.

For the first time in my life, friends and family finally started complimenting me on my physique and I was able to go to the beach and take my shirt off without feeling uncomfortable about the way my body looked.

I used my new-found confidence to make new friends, study abroad in Thailand and get my first girlfriend.

Overall, boosting my testosterone didn’t only help me transform my physique.

As I explained in my post What’s It Like To Have A Great Body? it helped me build a better life.

You see, when you boost your testosterone levels you will find that building muscle is just one of the benefits.

Testosterone is the male hormone of vitality and it controls everything from your brain function to your mood and energy levels.

Having low testosterone levels is associated with a shorter life, lower sperm count, anxiety, depression, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction and lower quality of life.

In other words, by boosting testosterone you will be able to build a great physique and lead a better life.

And by having high testosterone levels you are able to benefit from the actions that are supposed to give you results.

Instead of training and dieting hard for years and seeing no results, you will see results just like most other guys who hit the gym and follow a good diet.

Therefore, the #1 key to permanently get rid of the skinny-fat look is to maximise your natural testosterone production.

This is done by following a testosterone boosting diet while mastering basic bodyweight exercises.

pull up

During Phase 1 of your transformation, we focus on boosting testosterone through the High Testosterone Diet.

With the High Testosterone Diet you will experience a tremendous amount of benefits:

  • Boost your natural testosterone production.
  • Pack on muscle mass.
  • Train hard.
  • Recover faster.
  • High sex drive.
  • High energy levels.
  • Great mental focus.
  • Feeling light because of great digestion.
  • Lower disease risk when inflammation is under control.
  • Shed body-fat while feeling great.
  • Better skin.

These are the key characteristics of the High Testosterone Diet.

The High Testosterone Diet consists of several components that optimise your natural testosterone production and achieve the other benefits listed above:

  • Eliminate estrogenic and inflammatory foods to maximise free testosterone in the blood-stream.
  • Include nutritious, testosterone boosting foods to maximise testosterone and permanently shed body-fat.

The first thing you need to do is to reduce your intake of estrogenic foods such as soy and dairy.

Controlling estrogen is important because it’s the female hormone and high estrogen levels result in lower free testosterone levels.

The way it works is as follows: Estrogen is made from testosterone.

When you have high estrogen levels (like most skinny-fat guys do), a big portion of your testosterone is converted into estrogen.

This means that you will have less testosterone available in your blood stream for important functions such as building muscle mass and shedding fat.

And it’s the free testosterone in the blood stream that matters. Not your total testosterone.

Therefore, reducing estrogen through diet is one of the keys to boosting your testosterone.

The next thing you have to do is to eliminate foods that cause inflammation and digestion problems.

Most skinny-fat guys have digestive problems such as bloating and constipation.

  • Bloating: Your stomach expands a lot after eating meals. If your bloating is severe it can make you look like you’re almost pregnant.
  • Constipation: Not being able to go to the toilet on a regular basis and when you do go, you spend a lot of time taking a dump and not all of your food comes out.

These are the most common digestive problems in skinny-fat guys and they’re crucial to address.

When you don’t digest food well, your body doesn’t partition its nutrients well for muscle building.

This means that you will gain a minimal amount of muscle mass regardless of how hard you train and how much you eat.

The other problem is that indigestion leads to chronic inflammation.

Over time, chronic inflammation does two things:

  1. Chronic inflammation increases the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels lead to a low testosterone production.
  2. Chronic inflammation opens up your body to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Nearly all modern diseases are a result of chronic inflammation. This is why Omega-3 fatty acids work so well. They decrease inflammation.

In other words, by eating foods you don’t digest well, you experience a drop in testosterone production and open up your body to all modern diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Therefore it’s important that you only eat high quality foods that you digest well.

Once you’ve cleaned out your diet from estrogenic and inflammatory foods it’s time to shed excess body-fat.

Shedding excess body-fat is important because:

  • Excess body-fat is estrogenic and estrogen lowers your natural testosterone production.
  • Excess body-fat hides your muscle definition.
  • Excess body-fat hides your facial features. (After you lose fat on a diet your face will look a lot more angular and masculine).
  • Excess body-fat makes it hard to achieve a V-tapered upper body. A big waist makes your shoulders look small.
  • Excess body-fat can make you have man boobs or puffy nipples. This kills your confidence.
  • Excess body-fat is unhealthy and puts you at risk of disease.
  • Excess body-fat is much easier to lose than gaining muscle mass. You can gain at most 1.5 pound of muscle mass per month but you can lose up to 8-10 pounds of body-fat per month!

In other words, shedding excess body-fat will provide you with a massive return on investment.

It will make your face and body look better while indirectly enabling you to gain muscle mass at a faster rate through a higher testosterone production.

The key to permanently shed body-fat is to always play the long game.

This means that you always focus on speeding up your metabolism so you burn more Calories at rest and to maintain a high natural testosterone production so you can spare metabolically precious muscle mass. (The more muscle mass you have, the more Calories you burn at rest).

The best way to explain how this works is by showing a real life example.

Here’s a photo showing my client Francis who followed my Phase 1 training and diet strategy to get in the best shape of his life in just 10 weeks:

Francis is 37 years old and trains just 30-40 minutes per day from home.

When he joined my transformation program, he had already lost some body-fat, however he was stuck and couldn’t get leaner.

He thought that he had to reduce food intake to lose body fat but it was actually the opposite… he was undereating with his Calories being way below his estimated Daily Caloric Expenditure.

This of course resulted in his metabolism slowing down.

As a result, we decided on creating a diet plan that had a higher food intake than he was used to and the result was that the he was able to build muscle mass while simultaneously losing body-fat.

All his muscle measurements increased (chest, shoulders, arms) while hips and waist decreased with a total of ~6 inches.

Chin ups increased from 4 to 14 with form becoming cleaner and diamond push ups are up to 34 clean reps on the first set.

You see… The key to sustainable fat loss is not to cut food intake overnight because that will just make you lose muscle and slow down your metabolism.

You want to use the diet and training strategy that allows you to eat the most amount of food while still losing fat – even if that means losing weight at a slower rate.

When you do so, your diet will maintain metabolically precious muscle mass and if your training is on point you will even build muscle mass.

The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism becomes.

With a faster metabolism you will burn more fat at rest and thereby you’ll be able to eat more food while staying lean.

You will also maintain a high natural testosterone production and feel a lot better throughout the whole diet process.

In addition to keeping Calories as high as possible, it’s important that you further boost testosterone by eating testosterone boosting foods such as Omega-3 fatty acids, spinach and eggs.

These foods will further boost your natural testosterone production and have a dramatic effect on your ability to build lean muscle mass.

Now I’ll explain how foods can boost your natural testosterone production by using Omega-3 fatty acids as an example.

As mentioned earlier, your ability to produce testosterone and to have it readily available in the bloodstream is tied to a bunch of other hormones such as estrogen and cortisol.

Two other important hormones are SHBG and LH:

  1. SHBG: Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin – This hormone binds to your testosterone, thereby leaving less free testosterone.
  2. LH: Luteinizing Hormone – This hormone triggers testosterone production.

When you take Omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis and increase your Omega-3 index to optimal levels, you reduce SHBG while increasing LH.

The end result: More total testosterone AND free testosterone.

Omega-3 fatty acids are just one example of a food that raises your natural testosterone production.

You can use a variety of foods to optimise testosterone further.

In addition to filling your diet with testosterone boosting foods that you digest well and eating enough to optimise your metabolism, you also need to dial in your macronutrient split (protein, fat and carb intake).

Most guys make the mistake to consume too much protein.

This leaves less room for the protein-sparing nutrients (fats and carbs) which have a bigger positive impact on testosterone.

The ideal way to go about it is to keep protein to the minimum required dose (as little as it takes for you to build muscle mass) while keeping fats and carbs as high as possible.

This will increase your overall well being on a diet while maximising your natural testosterone production.

As you can see, there are a lot of things that go into setting up a High Testosterone Diet Plan.

You need to structure a diet that achieves a lot of purposes at the same time: optimal digestion, low inflammation, low estrogen levels, high testosterone, good balance between protein/carbs/fats, variety of food options to get all your nutrients, supports muscle building and hard training and which allows you to eat as much food as possible while getting lean.

Dialling in your diet is the hardest part and it took me YEARS of study, experimentation to do so.

However once you dial in your diet it’s 100% worth it because diet is the fuel for your life.

Again, here are the benefits you will experience on the High Testosterone Diet:

  • Boost your natural testosterone production.
  • Pack on muscle mass.
  • Train hard.
  • Recover faster.
  • High sex drive.
  • High energy levels.
  • Great mental focus.
  • Feeling light because of great digestion.
  • Lower disease risk when inflammation is under control.
  • Shed body-fat while feeling great.
  • Better skin.

These are the key characteristics of the High Testosterone Diet.

Apply to get your own testosterone boosting diet plan here.

With diet out of the way, it’s time to talk about how to train for maximum testosterone production.

And don’t worry, I’ll keep the training section short and sweet since it’s less complicated.

Training at the right intensity will help boost your testosterone levels by keeping the stress hormone Cortisol under control.

The two biggest mistakes skinny-fat guys make here are to either train with heavy weights at a high intensity or perform a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (sprints etc.).

And some guys even do both.

High intensity training has a big impact on your Central Nervous System and takes a much longer time to recover from.

Consistently training at a high intensity has the most impact on cortisol and remember: Chronically elevated cortisol levels lower your testosterone production.

This is why so many skinny-fat guys with beginner and intermediate strength levels who run heavy weight strength programs complain about not being able to increase their lifts.

They simply don’t have the ability to recover from all the training stress and thereby they don’t make progress.

So what’s the best way to train if you’re skinny-fat?

The best way is to get started with basic bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training places a limited amount of stress on your body and it’s easier to recover from.

I personally made my first great muscle gains when I started doing bodyweight exercises.

When I started doing bodyweight training in combination with my testosterone boosting diet, my muscles started filling out in all the right places (the shoulders, upper chest, arms and lats) and I got visible abs for the first time in my life.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Here’s a photo of how I looked when I could do 0 chin ups and 0 diamond push ups:

And here’s a photo of how I looked when I could do 15 chin ups and 30 diamond push ups with perfect form:

One of the reasons to why bodyweight training works so well for us skinny-fat guys is that it places a limited amount of stress on the joints and central nervous system.

There’s also another important reason: SIGNALING.

When you become stronger at bodyweight exercises, you send a strong signal to your body that it has to shed body-fat and pack on lean muscle.

Just imagine the changes your body will go through when you progress from 0 to 15 chin ups.

There’s no way you will remain skinny-fat when you can knock out 15 chin ups with perfect form.

It has to adapt by adding muscle size and shedding fat:

Overall, bodyweight training represents the exact opposite of being skinny-fat.

The skinny-fat guys is soft, weak and undermuscled.

To become good at bodyweight exercises you have to become strong, lean and muscled.

Overall here are the top benefits of starting off with bodyweight exercises:

  • The main bodyweight exercises are compound. This means they train several muscle groups at the same time so you get more bang-for-the-buck with each exercise.
  • Bodyweight training is easy on your Central Nervous System. As a result, you can recover faster between training sessions, train more often and thereby build more muscle mass.
  • Bodyweight training keeps you focused. When you train just a few basic compound exercises, you stay focused and get very strong on those key movements.
  • Bodyweight training signals to your body that it has to transform. Just imagine going from 0 to 15 chin ups — there’s no way your body will remain the same!
  • Bodyweight training can be done anywhere at anytime. You have no excuses to skip your training sessions when they can be done from the comfort of your home or while travelling.
  • You can build 80% of your muscle mass with bodyweight exercises alone – even if you’re old or you have bad genetics for muscle building.

In less than 6 months on a good bodyweight program and the High Testosterone Diet most of my skinny-fat clients achieve a lean and defined physique.

A good example is Logan Rando who got in amazing shape in just 12 weeks on my Online Transformation Program:

Another example is Harshit Godha from India.

He wanted to build a summer body like the one pictured below, in just 50 days.


After making a comprehensive assessment of Harshit Godha’s physique, I told him that it will take about 6 months to achieve that kind of body.

Why 6 months? Because like most other indian guys, Harshit had a difficult starting point.

He had wide hips, narrow shoulders, undermuscled arms, puffy nipples and high body-fat levels.

In other words, he was skinny-fat.

Here’s how Harshit looked when he was skinny-fat:

skinny-fat before

After about 75 days on my transformation program, Harshit was happy and achieved the summer body he initially wanted:

skinny-fat after 1

And here’s his overall progress on my online transformation program:

Harshit Godha

You can apply for the Online Transformation Program here.


Phase 2: High Volume Training For Skinny-Fat Guys

Phase 2: After completing Phase 1 you will be lean and strong on the basic bodyweight exercises.

Your nutrient partitioning and natural testosterone production will be better so your body will become better at utilising food for muscle gains.

This is the perfect time to switch to a high volume training program and maximise your muscle size.

Maximising muscle size is important because that’s what’s going to make your physique stand out.

The truth is that people judge you before they talk to you, therefore looking athletic and muscular is always going to benefit you in a social setting.

A large percentage of women are attracted to big muscles and an even larger percentage of women are attracted to the ripped and defined hollywood look. (Whether they admit it or not).

So you can be a guy who isn’t getting that much attention from girls but once you build a muscular body you will start getting looks from attractive girls that would previously never look at you.

And the same goes for meeting new interesting people.

I’ve made friends with a lot of interesting people because they came up to me and asked about fitness stuff. 

When you pack on 20-30 pounds of muscle mass in the right places, you will stand out in almost any social setting.

I emphasise stand out because this is where a lot of skinny-fat guys go wrong.

Most skinny-fat guys look at a picture of a fitness model and all they see is a toned physique with a bit of muscle mass.

As a result, they mistakenly believe that they can gain a bit of muscle mass and look the same.

The truth is that you will need to add a lot more mass than you except and now I’ll explain why.

Most guys who are fitness models have a great bone-structure for bodybuilding.

They have naturally wide shoulder bones or narrow hip bones or both.

Those who have the combination of wide shoulder bones and narrow hips are genetically blessed for bodybuilding.

They have a natural V-taper before they even start training.

This is why you will see a lot of fitness models who don’t weigh that much yet look amazing.

They already have the right body proportions to start with so they don’t need to add a lot of mass to look good.

The same isn’t the case for the skinny-fat guy.

Most skinny-fat guys start training with feminine body-structures and bone-structure can’t be changed.

We either have narrow shoulders or wide hip bones and some have both. (I personally have both).

In other words, our genetic bone-structure is terrible for building an aesthetic physique.

The reason is most likely because of hormonal imbalances during puberty.

We go through our teenage years with low testosterone and high estrogen.

As mentioned earlier, testosterone is the male hormone of vitality and high levels of testosterone result during puberty result in wider shoulders and narrow hips.

Estrogen is the female hormone and high levels of estrogen create a softer looking physique.

When skinny-fat guys go through puberty with low testosterone and high estrogen, the result is a bone-structure that looks more feminine (narrow shoulders, wide hips and high body-fat levels).

The only way you can transform those proportions is by adding a lot more muscle mass than the average guy.

So an average fit guy might need to add 15 pounds of muscle mass to look good, but you probably need 30 pounds.

In addition, you have to focus on adding muscle mass in the right places.

The average fit guy with wide shoulders and narrow hips can focus on gaining muscle mass all over his body because he already has good proportions to start with.

When he adds mass everywhere, he will build on his existing proportions that are great already.

In contrast, when a skinny-fat guy with narrow shoulders and wide hip bones gains mass all over, he just becomes a bigger version of his current self.

So you may go from a lean 180 pounds to a lean 195 pounds but your proportions barely change.

In other words, to build a muscular looking physique you need to add a lot more muscle mass and you need to add it in the right places.

This by default requires that you switch away from the whole toning and circuit training mentality to the bodybuilding mentality.

Bodybuilding training is the tool used by the most muscular people on earth.

Bodybuilders have used it to build ripped +300 pound physiques so there’s no reason YOU can’t get a muscular physique with it.

Now I’m not saying that you will get to a ripped 300 pounds.

That requires the right genetics and a massive amount of drugs and hormones.

No one wakes up at a ripped 300 pounds after a few years of training and it will never happen if you train without performance enhancing drugs.

Skinny-fat guys with naturally low testosterone levels will never have the problem of getting too big and muscular.

You simply don’t have the hormonal output and body-structure to become too big.

You can use bodybuilding training to gain 30-40 pounds of muscle mass in the right places and get an aesthetic physique.

This will make you stand out and look impressive almost anywhere you go, but you won’t become too big.

I often get compliments from women about my physique when I go out and other men call me big guy or ask for fitness advice.

The last time I went for a massage the young girl working at the counter said: “You have the perfect body.”

My physique looks good to the average person, however if I stepped on a bodybuilding stage I would look bad and place last.

I’m no-where lean enough to complete in bodybuilding and if I decided to fully lean out, I would lose a lot of my hard-earned muscle mass and end up looking small.

The point I’m trying to make is two-fold:

  1. Bodybuilding training is a REQUIREMENT for skinny-fat guys that want to build a physique that stands out.
  2. If you’re naturally skinny-fat, bodybuilding training will give you a muscular physique that looks great to the average person you will meet on the street but it won’t ever make you look too big.

The only way you will achieve the stereotypical bodybuilder look with overdeveloped veiny muscles is by injecting massive amounts of hormones, steroids an drugs into your body.

Every single guy who has that unnatural look is on performance enhancing drugs.

It doesn’t look natural for a reason: It’s not natural.

If you train without drugs, steroids and hormones there’s no reason to worry about getting too big because it will never happen.

Natural bodybuilding will give you the classic V-tapered physique that stands out and looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

In the worst case, you may end up overdeveloping 1 or 2 muscle groups (in my case the lats).

However, that will take YEARS of hard and consistent training.

I personally overdeveloped my lats from years of hard back training.

They got big to the point where they pushed my arms out and I couldn’t keep my arms straight.

I felt slightly uncomfortable walking and when I wore a jacket people probably thought I pushed them out to the sides on purpose.

Then I stopped maxing out on my back exercises for a few weeks and the problem disappeared.

My lats shrunk to a good size and I haven’t had the problem since.

I guess that’s the only good thing about being skinny-fat: If your muscles become overdeveloped, you can lose muscle mass easily.

Therefore, don’t ditch the idea of bodybuilding training because you’re afraid of getting too big and bulky.

Bodybuilding training is the best way a skinny-fat guy can train to build an aesthetic physique.

In addition to building the right type of physique, there are two hidden benefits that I personally appreciate a lot:

(1) Muscle mass makes it easy to stay lean long-term

The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism becomes and the harder you can train.

When you develop a large amount of muscle mass you burn a lot more Calories throughout the day.

As a result, you will be able to get in an extra 1 or 2 meals per day while staying lean.

For a guy with a high appetite like me, it’s a god-send to be able to eat 1-2 extra meals per day.

(2) Muscle memory makes it easy to re-gain your muscle mass

Once you build your muscle mass naturally, it’s easy to re-gain it because your body has muscle memory.

In practice, here’s how that looks: Imagine a skinny-fat guy who trains for 5 years and builds up 30 pounds of muscle mass. Then life get’s in the way and he takes 3 months off training.

During these 3 months he loses a lot of muscle mass and definition and his friends and family notice.

Now, after 3 months he decides that he wants to start training again.

Each training session, he get’s amazing pumps and it looks like his muscles are getting bigger each time he hits the gym.

Over the next 3 weeks, he regains pretty much all the size he lost and in 4-6 weeks he’s back in his top shape.

This is how muscle memory and natural bodybuilding work.

If you build up your muscles without drugs, steroids and hormones, you will be able to maintain a good physique for life. 

So what’s the best way you can build up muscle mass during Phase 2 of your transformation?

The answer: Priority training because it’s the only way a skinny-fat guy with bad proportions can achieve a muscular physique that stands out.

You want to prioritise the muscles that matter the most:

  • Shoulders.
  • Lats.
  • Upper back.
  • Upper chest.
  • Biceps.
  • Triceps.

These are the muscles that change your feminine and pear-shaped proportions into that powerful V-taper you see in oldschool bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves, Serge Nubret and Frank Zane.

It’s important you prioritise these muscle groups in your training because your body can only hold on to a certain amount of total muscle mass at any given time.

And you can largely decide where you want to add that muscle mass.

For example, if you have too much muscle mass in the legs, glutes, core, traps and lower chest, you will not be able to maximise the size of the upper chest, arms, shoulders, lats and upper back.

As a natural bodybuilder, you can only carry so much muscle mass, therefore, it’s key that you focus on maximizing the size of the muscles that matter the most while keeping the rest of your muscles just big enough to maintain good proportions.

Most skinny-fat guys make the mistake of adding too much mass to the abs, glutes, thighs, lower chest and traps.

The end-result is that you get a physique that is a bigger version of your current self.

The right way to train is to sculpt your physique.

Look at shirtless photos of yourself from different angles and then add the right amount of muscle mass in each place.

Speaking of photos… They’re extremely important.

To ensure that you get the most out of your training (both in Phase 1 and Phase 2), you want to take progress photos and body-measurements (waist, hips, arms, shoulders and chest).

You do these every Sunday morning to keep track of your progress, evaluate how effective your training and diet are for your unique body-type and then use that feedback to make adjustments to your plan. (This is essentially what I do to ensure that my online transformation program clients have close to a 100% success rate).

Here are 6 of the +1000 progress photos I’ve taken during my transformation:

As you can see, I’ve had almost any body-type you can have so I know exactly what it takes to transform a physique.

And one of the most important things you have to do to succeed is to track your progress and take progress photos.

Tracking progress and taking progress photos has 2 main benefits:

  1. You know exactly what kind of training and diet strategy works for YOU and your unique body-type.
  2. When you don’t make progress you can go in and adjust your plan so you can start making progress.

In my experience coaching over 100 skinny-fat guys, those who track progress every week are much more likely to build a great body.

And tracking progress only takes 5 minutes so it’s 100% worth it.

Now, returning back to the topic of training, here are two things you need to know about optimal Phase 2 training for skinny-fat guys:

(1) We use High Volume Training over High Intensity Training

When it comes to bodybuilding training, there are two ways you can go about it:

High Volume Training (HVT) and High Intensity Training (HIT).

With HVT you train to pump up the muscles.

You use higher rep-ranges on each set and you work the muscles from different angles with a variety of exercises.

Overall, you do more sets, more reps and use more exercises.

With HIT you train to break down the muscles.

You use heavier weights, lower reps and at the advanced level you use high intensity techniques such as drop-sets and rest-pause sets to take each set beyond failure.

Overall, you do less sets, less reps and use less exercises.

The difference is simple: With HVT you pace yourself, spread the workload throughout more exercises and spend more time at the gym.

With HIT you go all out on each set, do less overall work and spend less time at the gym.

Skinny-fat guys will do best with HVT because of the two reasons below:

  1. Skinny-fat guys respond better to HVT: Most skinny-fat guys cannot recover from HIT and we don’t respond well to training, therefore we need a larger exercise selection to fully stimulate our weak muscle groups. With HVT we can perform more exercises and thereby achieve a much better developed physique.
  2. Lower injury risk: When you look at all personal trainers, pro-bodybuilders and coaches who promote HIT you will find that nearly all have major injuries. The same isn’t the case for most HVT proponents who train injury free their whole lives. I’m one of them, being 100% injury free 7 years into my training.

I’ve covered the benefits of High Volume Training in-depth in my post Why High Volume Training Is The Best Training System for Skinny-Fat Guys.

(2) The Key is To Make the Weight Feel Harder

It’s important to choose the right training system, however it’s also important to execute that system properly.

You can take any training system, however if it isn’t executed properly it won’t do much for you.

When following a High Volume Program, it’s key that you try to make each rep feel harder.

This means that initially your goal should be to refine your technique.

Work on using the proper rep-tempo and technique on each exercise and building up your mind-muscle-connection.

The goal is to get the optimal training effect while using the least amount of weight.

If you can grow your biceps with 10 pound dumbbells instead of 30 pound dumbbells, you use the 10 pound dumbbells.

This will allow you to fully develop your physique while training pain-free your whole life.

Also, you want your muscles to control the weight instead of letting the weight control you.

This means that you eliminate all momentum, bouncing and swinging on all exercises.

Each rep must be smooth and “burn” into the next one.

You want to keep constant tension on your muscles so they can get fully pumped up.

For an outsider, the first and last rep of your set must look exactly the same.

This will automatically force you to use less weight and clean up your technique.

All of this requires that you put the ego aside.

One great way to put the ego aside is to mentally re-frame the whole situation from “I’m looking weak curling 10 pound dumbbells. Maybe they will make fun of me?” to “I’m great because I can build muscle mass using light weights. In 5 years I will have built another 10 pounds of muscle mass while they’ve lost all their gains because of serious injuries”.

Overall, proper exercise technique is just as important as the program itself.

With my transformation program clients I’ve seen that nearly everyone needs to work on their technique.

I’ve had a client fly in to train with me in Denmark and he had previously trained for years following various popular programs and watching instructional videos.

He thought that his technique was OK but he was wrong.

When I looked at his technique on various exercises, his posture was off and his technique was dangerous.

He could get seriously hurt if he continued training like that.

In just 2 hours, we cleaned up his technique on over 20 exercises and it made a huge difference.

He went from not feeling any of his target muscles working to feeling all of them.

In practice this means that he could have performed any program, but he wouldn’t get results simply because his technique was off.

But now, after cleaning up his technique, he was able to benefit from his training.

I’ve watched hundreds of client videos and coached several people in person and the truth is that the way you perceive your own technique is very different from reality.

Guys who are naturally athletic will have great coordination skills and decent form on most exercises, however skinny-fat guys are for the most part not that athletic.

If you aren’t naturally athletic, there’s a VERY high chance that you would get massive benefits from working on your technique.

Therefore, achieving optimal technique is the first thing you need to do on any training program.

It can be the difference between adding a bit of muscle size to all your lacking muscle groups each month or consistently being stuck at the same size.

I would go as far as saying that you won’t be able to build a great physique without good technique if you’re a naturally skinny-fat guy.

One thing you can do to work on technique is to watch instructional videos online and then compare them to your own videos.

This is an OK method, but it’s not optimal.

The problem with most instructional videos is that they’re not that great at all and they only show how a certain exercise looks for ONE specific body-type.

Using the barbell squat as an example, there’s a huge difference in the way it’s performed by a tall lanky guy who has long femurs and a short torso and a stocky short guy.

Most instructional videos will show the short stocky guy doing the squat with an almost upright torso but that’s not the optimal way for the tall guy.

The tall guy will have to bend over his torso more to balance out his body and keep the barbell over his mid-foot.

Therefore, when the tall guy tries to copy the shorter guy’s squat, he will end up using poor technique and limiting his training a lot.

I’ve covered how training for tall guys is different in my post 4 Challenges for the Tall Bodybuilder.

The best thing you can do is to have someone who is experienced look at your form because he will know how you should perform each lift based on your unique body-structure. (And if that lift fits your body-structure in the first place).

With my transformation program clients I do several things to ensure their technique is correct:

  1. I give them exercises that fit their unique body-structure. (E.g. for some tall guys with long femurs I would never use a barbell squat since it puts too much load on their spine).
  2. I provide them with the best instructional videos for each exercise.
  3. I ask them if there are any exercises where they don’t feel the target muscles working.
  4. I watch their exercise videos to ensure their technique is correct.
  5. I give them cues and tips to engage their muscles better.

It’s only after they achieved great technique that we start focusing on improving their performance and achieving progressive overload.

Overall, technique is an extremely important details that often get’s neglected.

But it’s crucial for getting optimal results.

To sum it up: my 2 phase strategy is based on first shedding all excess body-fat, mastering basic bodyweight exercises and maximising your natural testosterone production so you can start off from a clean slate… and then to use priority training to add muscle mass in the right places to improve your proportions:

Get help with the 2 phases of a skinny-fat transformation, by applying for my Online Transformation Program here.

Be proud but stay hungry!

Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer

Download my free eBook Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Guy (10-page PDF):