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 find it difficult to gain muscle mass on our shoulders, upper chest and arms.
It’s not uncommon for skinny-fat guys to train with heavy weights and cardio for YEARS or even DECADES without any results.
So, what’s the best way to train if you’re skinny-fat?
My conclusion is that the fastest way to go from skinny-fat to ripped is to get better at 3 basic bodyweight exercises:
- Chin Up.
- Diamond Push Up.
- Bodyweight Squat.
In late 2012, after 2 years of heavy weight training, I switched my focus to doing a basic bodyweight training program that had just the 3 exercises listed above.
After 16 weeks of following my bodyweight training program, I gained more than 15 pounds of upper body muscle mass and got visible abs for the first time in my life.
You can see a before/after photo of my physique after doing basic bodyweight training below:
Prior to the first photo being taken, I had just started bodyweight training but the majority of my time before that was spent with heavy weight training.
I had been doing heavy weight training for over 2 years and I could deadlift 400 pounds yet I had nothing to show for it.
With the heavy weights and cardio, I was always tired and fatigued going into my training sessions and I didn’t feel or look fit.
At the time the after photo was taken, I was a lean 195 pounds at 6’2″ and I could do more than 15 chin ups with perfect form.
This was truly the first time in my life where I felt like I was in shape.
I felt strong, fast, light, energised and I always went into my training sessions fully recovered.
And more importantly: I enjoyed my training because it didn’t put a huge amount of stress on my joints.
So, why does bodyweight training work so well for us skinny-fat guys?
The short answer is: SIGNALING.
Bodyweight Training Signals to Your Body That it has to Transform
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 become better at moving your body through space, 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 without the need of going to the gym.
All you need is a home chin-up bar and 30 minutes of training time per day.
I Couldn’t Do A Single Chin Up or Push Up When I Started Training
I know that many of you reading this can’t do a single chin up or push up.
If that’s you don’t worry because I started in the same place as you.
I started training when I was 17 years old (February 2010) and I didn’t have great genetics for bodybuilding or training in general.
I started training because like most other guys I wanted:
- To attract hot girls.
- Stop being that guy who can’t do a single push up.
- Stop getting ridiculed by other guys for my out-of-shape physique.
I never dreamt about becoming a fitness model with a perfect body.
I just wanted to get a masucline looking physique with broad shoulders and a flat waist.
At the time, I was 200 pounds at 6’2″ (90 kg and 190 CM) but my physique was pear-shaped and I had puffy nipples and love handles:
I couldn’t even do a single push up and my big dream was to one day be able to do a set of 10 chin ups.
Then I started training.
I trained on a program called Starting Strength 3 days per week and I showed up every single time.
I put in the effort and I did my best to add weight to my squat, bench press and deadlift.
I also followed a high protein diet so I could gain muscle mass.
However, unlike my friends, my progress was VERY slow despite putting in much more work into my training and diet.
Here’s a photo of how I looked after 2 years of training:
During those 2 years, I gained a lot of strength on the squat, bench press and deadlift, but physically I still looked the same.
I barely changed.
Then I started looking into the skinny-fat body-type and I discovered that not a single skinny-fat guy has built a great physique by doing heavy weights.
Why? Because heavy weight training programs are designed to get you stronger and not to build muscle mass.
There are some people that build muscular physiques with heavy weight training programs, but these people succeed in spite of their training rather than because of it.
Most of these people would have gained even more mass with a higher rep training program that is designed for muscle gains.
If you ever watched the movie Pumping Iron with classical bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, you would see that they trained with heavy weights but they did high reps with those heavy weights.
They didn’t do heavy sets of 3-5 reps.
These guys had some of the most aesthetic physiques ever and they trained for the pump.
So what does that have to do with bodyweight training?
Bodyweight training can produce a similar training effect once you build your strength and conditioning to do sets of 20-30 clean reps on the chin up and diamond push up.
When you can move your entire bodyweight through space for 20-30 clean reps, you will experience much better muscle gains compared to wasting your time on small isolation exercises or doing heavy barbell deadlifts and squats.
And more importantly: The muscle gains will be in the right places since the bodyweight exercises sculpt your body in the right places.
Here’s an example of my reader Janu Rasby from Indonesia who built an amazing physique on the SKINNY-FAT TRANSFORMATION Bodyweight Program:
In the photo above you will see that his muscles are all sculpted in proportion. This isn’t the case with most guys at the gym who have disproportionate physiques with overdeveloped muscles and poor postures.
Building A Physique Is Similar to Building A House
Earlier, I mentioned that you can train the entire body with fewer exercises when you use bodyweight training.
This is ideal for us skinny-fat guys because we don’t have the recovery capabilities to start off with high volume pump training.
We need to to first build up our recovery capabilities with bodyweight training and now I’ll explain why.
When you’re skinny-fat, you have a low natural ability to recover from hard training.
You start with low starting strength levels, small joints and undermuscled arms, shoulders and upper chest.
Therefore, you need a body-transformation strategy that “takes a step back” and enables you to build a solid foundation.
Training is similar to building a house: If you build a solid foundation, everything else will be so much easier.
Again, heavy weight training and high volume bodybuilding programs are not optimal for building your foundation because these programs require a good amount of strength and muscle mass to produce results.
It makes no sense to go in and do heavy bench presses when you can’t even do 30 reps on the diamond push up.
Or to do heavy deadlifts when you lack the ability to do a single chin up.
Why add external weight when you can’t even move your own bodyweight?
Furthermore, your strength gains on barbell exercises will be limited when you don’t have the muscularity to support them because strength is built on the back-bone of muscle.
When you lack a strong foundation on bodyweight exercises, you will find yourself plateauing a lot in weight training and your overall progress will be much slower.
I wish I had known this when I started training almost a decade ago because it would have saved me years of wasted effort.
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.
My conclusion is very strong on this: I’ve coached over 100 skinny-fat guys and bodyweight training is by far the best way to transform from skinny-fat to ripped.
If you want to see how effective bodyweight training can be, check out my post about my Indian client Harshit Godha who used bodyweight training to get in the best shape of his life: They Didn’t Think I Could Get A Summer Body, But I Did! (Skinny-Fat Success Story).
And if you want to learn advanced techniques to accelerate your muscle gains on the basic bodyweight exercises, I have a comprehensive guide on that here: How to Get Muscular With Calisthenics: 6 Proven Techniques to Accelerate Your Gains.
Be proud but stay hungry,
Join hundreds of skinny-fat guys who used the SKINNY-FAT TRANSFORMATION Bodyweight Program to get into the best shape of their life:
Logan Rando, NY: “After 6 months of doing the beginner body weight routine I found myself 30 pounds lighter, with visible abs and a lean build. Friends who hadn’t seen me in months were astonished and inspired by my transformation. Simply put, the return on investment that Oskar’s plan yielded far exceeded that of any workout I had previously used.”
Steve Chavez, Peru: "It is the best workout I’ve had, I’ve never did a single pull up, managing to do pull up reps was a breakthrough for me. It was the best decision I made for my personal health. Without your coaching I wouldn’t been able to improve my physique.”
Harshit Godha, India: “I faced the same problems of low testosterone and skinny fat body type as you did, and after following your advice I made some real progress. I started with 0 wide grip pull ups, and progressed to 15. I am quite surprised with my back and shoulder growth.”
Gordon Martin, USA: "For the first time in 36 years, I am losing fat rather than gaining it! I already look better than most of my friends who are out of shape and overweight. I loved the customized bodyweight workouts. For those of us who travel a lot, there are no more problems with finding a gym."