In my experience training over 100 men in my online coaching program, the skinny-fat body-type is BY FAR the hardest to transform and there’s a huge lack of quality training programs for our unique body-type.
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.
The best strategy to transform the skinny-fat body-type consists of 2 phases:
- Phase 1: Lose fat to get lean.
- Phase 2: Add Muscle Mass IN THE RIGHT PLACES while staying lean.
During Phase 1, we focus on boosting testosterone because most skinny-fat guys have a low natural testosterone production… and testosterone is the main muscle building hormone in your body.
It’s also the hormone which controls your overall body-composition, so when your levels increase you will find that it’s easier to shred body-fat and pack on muscle mass.
I’ve personally boosted my natural testosterone production with over 150% and they key to do that was to get on a High Testosterone Diet. (Here’s my blood work for proof).
You want to follow a High Testosterone Diet that includes testosterone boosting foods while reducing your intake of foods that are estrogenic.
You want to minimise your intake of estrogenic foods such as:
- Wheat products: Bread, pasta, pizza, burgers, noodles, beer.
- Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, milk chocolate.
- Refined sugar: Candy, juices that aren’t 100% natural fruit.
- Soy: Soybeans, soy sauce.
- Low quality meats
Once you’ve cut out these foods, you want to increase your intake of testosterone boosting foods such as High grade Omega-3 fatty acids, green vegetables, fruits and nuts.
High grade Omega-3 fatty acids and green vegetables are by far the most important for your natural testosterone production because:
- Close to 99% of people have a very low Omega-3 Index. When you correct your Omega-3 Index, you will reduce the production of the hormone SHBG which binds to testosterone while boosting the hormone LH which triggers testosterone production. This results in an increase in your free testosterone production.
- Green vegetables have a variety of vitamins and minerals that boost testosterone. For example, when you increase your intake of spinach, you will get more magnesium through your diet and magnesium is one of the minerals that boosts your natural testosterone production. And remember, Popeye wouldn’t be that strong if he didn’t eat his spinach!!
The easiest way to ensure that you get enough Omega-3 fatty acids and green vegetables is to supplement with HIGH GRADE supplements.
You can find my top recommended supplement on this page.
Once you’ve cleaned up your diet, it’s time to implement a training program.
It’s not uncommon for skinny-fat guys to train with heavy weights and cardio for YEARS or even DECADES without any results, therefore it’s important that you choose the right program for your unique body-type.
My conclusion is that the best Phase 1 training strategy is to get better at 3 basic bodyweight exercises:
- Chin Up.
- Diamond Push Up.
- Bodyweight Squat.
So, why does bodyweight training work so well for us skinny-fat guys?
The short answer is: SIGNALING.
Just imagine adding 1 rep to your chin up max for 15 weeks straight.
When you go from 0 to 15 chin ups, there’s no way your body will remain the same.
It has to adapt by adding muscle size and shredding fat.
When you get better at bodyweight exercises, you SIGNAL to the body it has to change.
This is especially the case with the chin up and diamond push up which are the most important exercises for skinny-fat guys.
The diamond push up sculpts the upper chest and targets the triceps muscle which makes up 2/3 of your arm size.
The chin up builds the V-taper on your upper body by adding size to your lats and rear shoulders.
You can see how my V-taper developed with the chin up in the photo below:
Together, the chin up and diamond push up, sculpt your entire upper body, in all the right places: The lats, upper back, upper chest, shoulders, arms and abs.
While sculpting your upper body with diamonds and chins it’s also crucial that you develop strong and flexible legs that are in proportion with the upper body.
The bodyweight squat is the best exercise for that because:
- The leg muscles respond best to very high rep training (think 30-100 reps).
- It increases lower body mobility and thereby prevents the lower back and hip pain most people get from years of sitting down too much.
It’s also safe and light on your recovery.
I’ve never heard about someone who hurt themselves doing unweighted bodyweight squats.
This makes the bodyweight squat the perfect addition to the chin up and diamond push up.
The chin up, diamond push up and bodyweight squat are all compound exercises.
This means they train several muscle groups so you get more out of each exercise.
Here’s a list the muscle groups that you train with each exercise:
- Chin Ups: Back, biceps, rear shoulders, forearms, abs.
- Diamond Push Ups: Upper chest, triceps, front shoulders, forearms, abs.
- Bodyweight Squat: Legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves).
In other words, with these 3 exercises you will sculpt your entire body and thereby build an athletic and proportional looking physique from the comfort of your home.
These 3 basic bodyweight exercises kick-started my physique transformation and enabled me to pack on a massive amount of muscle mass in the right places and create that V-tapered upper body I dreamt about for years.
Below I will summarise the top 6 reasons to why bodyweight training is the best training strategy to build your foundation if you’re a skinny-fat guy.
- 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.
When you put together an an effective high testosterone diet with a great bodyweight program you will find that your body-fat decreases while your muscles get bigger.
In 6 months to 1 year, most skinny-fat guys on my online transformation program are able to gain anywhere from 15-20 pounds of muscle mass.
Just imagine adding 3-4 pounds of meat to the shoulders, arms, upper chest and lats.
15-20 pounds may not sound like much, however when you add it to the right places, it makes a huge difference.
After completing Phase 1 you will be lean and be able to do 15 chin ups and 30 diamond push ups with perfect form.
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 sculpt the small muscles that don’t get worked with compound exercises.
The principles of high volume training work extremely well when coupled with the right exercises for your unique body-type.
When you do the right exercises and train with high volume, you are able to target and grow small muscle groups such as the medial shoulders, back shoulders, triceps, biceps and lats.
This will make a huge difference to your physique and here’s an example of Logan Rando who followed my training strategies to get in the best shape of his life:
The biggest mistake skinny-fat guys make during Phase 2 is related to diet.
Unlike what most supplement companies want you to believe, protein is not the most important macronutrient to gain muscle mass. (Read my article about optimal protein intake here).
In fact, eating too much protein is bad because it places a lot of stress on your digestive system and leaves less room for your protein-sparing nutrients (carbs and fats).
To bulk up and gain muscle mass, it’s much more important that you increase your carb intake.
A high carb intake is essential because carbs are the main source of energy for your body and your brain.
The best carb sources for skinny-fat guys are 1) potatoes and 2) rice.
Both are easy on the digestive system and it’s extremely hard to overeat on potatoes.
Potatoes are best if you have a tendency to overeat on rice and rice is best if you don’t have time to prepare potatoes and you can control your intake.
I personally recommend that you switch between white potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice and brown rice to keep variation in your diet.
Here are two important things that carbs will do for you during bulking:
- Carbs will fill up your muscles with glycogen and thereby ensure you get great pumps during your training sessions.
- Carbs will enable you to train harder, longer and more often.
The issue with high carbs is that as a skinny-fat guy you will not only gain muscle mass, but also body-fat.
This is normal for those of us who don’t have amazing genetics for fitness and bodybuilding and it’s the price we pay for gaining muscle mass.
The best way to minimise these fat gains is to keep bulking and cutting cycles short.
In practice it would look like this:
- You bulk up with a higher carb intake until your waist or hips increase with 1 inch. This usually takes 3-8 weeks if you train hard and follow a good diet plan.
- After your waist or hips increase with 1 inch, you reduce your carb intake until you lose that 1 inch you gained. This usually takes 2-3 weeks.
By keeping your fat gains to just 1 inch, you will never be more than 2-3 weeks away from your lean base measurements and you will be able to pack on muscle mass while staying lean year around!
Psychologically this works much better than doing a long bodybuilding bulk, because who wants to bulk for 6 months then spend another 6 months on a strict diet losing all that fat again?
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:
- You know exactly what kind of training and diet strategy works for YOU and your unique body-type.
- 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 3 times more likely to build a great body.
And tracking progress only takes 5 minutes so it’s 100% worth it.
Can You Transform From Skinny-Fat to Ripped?
Most of the guys I train have poor genetics for anything related to building a physique.
I also didn’t have great genetics or a great starting point at all.
During my first training session in February 2010 I couldn’t even shoulder press an empty 45 pound barbell for ONE rep… or complete a single push up.
It took me 6 months of hard training to get my first pull up.
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.