Skinny-Fat Beginner: Part 1

Download my bodyweight training program for skinny-fat guys (63-page PDF)

Hello friends,

A lot of my articles are good for skinny-fat guys that have been training for a while, but I haven’t written much advice for skinny-fat guys that are new to the gym. Therefore, I decided to make a Skinny-Fat Beginner Series where I will give you advice I wish I had gotten when I just started out training. Here it goes:

1) Soreness Doesn’t Matter

Since day one I have done strength training and my first routine was Starting Strength. Even though Starting Strength isn’t an optimal strength training routine for a skinny-fat guy, it taught me a lot of important things that got me on the right track to transform. One of the things I learned is that soreness doesn’t matter.

You can train through soreness and make progress. The first 3 weeks I was sore for days from all the heavy squatting and I could barely walk up the stairs at my gym, but that’s perfectly normal. When you start training, your body is not used to it, therefore you will experience soreness. That doesn’t mean you should wait to train until the soreness is gone. Instead, you should train through the soreness and stick to the program you have chosen to do.

After you have trained for a few weeks the soreness will start to subside and eventually you might reach a point where you will rarely feel sore. Personally, I rarely feel sore and to me soreness doesn’t matter at all – it’s not an indicator of how hard you train. To give you an example; if I stop doing chin ups for 7-10 days and I suddenly do a workout after this, I will experience  a tremendous amount of soreness because my body got used to being inactive. Therefore I advocate you to always do some kind of training, even if you are on holidays. Keep your body active and soreness won’t bother you at all.

There is on exception to what I said above; Joint Pain. You need to learn the difference between soreness and joint pain. The difference is that muscle soreness is NOT a problem, while joint pain immediately after an exercise implies one or more of the following things:

  • You didn’t warm up properly
  • You used too much weight and did too many repetitions with poor form (Using poor form on the last few repetitions is okay sometimes, but if you experience joint pain from it simply STOP)
  • Your body isn’t suited for the exercise
  • You need to work on your mobility

If you didn’t warm up properly, you need to fix that first. I will write about warming up in one of the upcoming parts of this series. If you used too much weight and did too many repetitions with poor form, you need to back off a bit and use this technique sparingly.

Sometimes though, your body simply isn’t suited for the exercise and/or you need to work on your mobility. In this case you need to make a judgement call: is it worth it to work on your mobility to make your body suited for the exercise, or is there a suitable replacement?

When I started training I was in this exact position with the squat. I’m a tall guy with long thighs and squatting below parallel is very diffcult for me. I wasted a lot of time stretching and squatting with pain. In the end I bought a pair of olympic weightlifting shoes and this fixed my squat technique.

However, by looking back I think a smarter decision would have been to simply abandon the barbell squat and get strong on leg training machines instead. Among similar examples I can mention upright rows, behind the neck chin ups, behind the neck barbell presses and skullcrushers. Those exercises do absolutely nothing for me besides resulting in joint pain. I’m 100 % sure if I did those exercises for a few months I would be seriously injured as a result.

2) Choose the Right Training Program

Another important element of training is the difference between the concepts of frequency, intensity and volume. Here are the definitions:

  • Frequency: How frequently you train or perform a lift. This is typically measured in the amount of days you train every week or the amount of times you train a body part on a weekly basis.
  • Intensity: How intensively you train or perform a lift. This is typically measured in the intensity of your SET.
  • Volume: How much work you do in a given workout. E.g. if you squat 200 lbs for 10 sets of 10 repetitions the volume equals 200 lbs * 10 sets * 10 repetitions = 20,000

Most training programs are typically:

  • High Frequency, Moderate Volume, Low Intensity
  • High Intensity, Moderate Volume, Low Frequency
  • High Volume, Moderate Frequency, Low Intensity

Most of the programs I have performed were High Intensity, Moderate Frequency and Low Volume. I think those kind of programs are a good starting point for you. The intensity allows you to train hard and get strong on the lifts, while the moderate frequency allows you to practice the lifts sufficiently.

You might ask now: How about volume?  Generally speaking volume is known as the most effective method to increase the size of your muscles, but I personally NEVER do high volume training. The reason for this is quite simple; I never met anyone in real life that had great results with high volume training. Typically, high volume training works for people with elite genetics or people that take illegal supplements.

I think moderate volume training can be good for hyperthrophy when you have built up a solid strength base after at least 1 year of training.  If you are a skinny-fat guy your genetics are not good, and I assume that you don’t take illegal supplements, thus I advice you to stay away from high volume training.

If you are skinny-fat and you experienced great progress from high volume training, please let us know in the comments section.

As you can see, I haven’t posted an actual training routine and the reason for that is simple: it doesn’t matter that much what training routine you do as long as it’s NOT ”stupid”. By stupid I mean routines that have a huge amount of exercises and high volume. In other words: a routine you would typically see in a bodybuilding magazine.

Instead, I’m giving you the tools to either find and customize a routine or make one yourself. As you gain more experience your routine will increasingly become better for you as you adjust it to your individual requirements.

If somebody is telling you that they have a secret muscle building routine for you, they are lying. As long as you consistently train your whole body through a full range of motion on all exercises and try to do ”one more thing” everytime you train, progress will eventually happen. By doing ”one more thing” I mean that everytime you feel fresh prior to a training session you try to do one of the following things:

  • Train at a higher intensity: You do one more repetition than last time on your first set, or you push yourself beyond failure by implementing a dropset or superset.
  • Train at a higher volume: You increase the amount of work done during training by increasing the amount of sets or repetitions you do.
  • Alternatively, you can train on a day you would usually not train to increase your training frequency

As you can see, the keywords here are higher and increase, and NOT “Top Secret 6 Pack Abs 3 minute Workout”.

Don’t Neglect Isolation Exercises

As written in my article The 3 Most Important Exercises for a Skinny-Fat Guy

To become aesthetic the goal should be to get an X-shaped body; strong legs, small waist and wide shoulders. A skinny-fat guy typically has wide hips and waist combined with narrow shoulders. To fight the skinny-fat guy’s natural shape, it is vital to develop the lats (the side muscles on your back), upper chest, shoulders, arms and legs.

To emphasize your weak points simply train them frequently and make sure to do them first in your training. I mentioned 5 weak points in the quote above; lats, upper chest, shoulders, arms and legs. Those weak points compose the majority of your body. As a beginner your whole body is most likely a weak point, but you can still make intelligent exercise choices that will make your workout routine more effective.

A typical routine beginner routine is Kethnaabs modified Starting Strength Routine:

Workout A

Squat 3 x 5

Bench Press 3 x 5

Deadlift 1 x 5

Workout B

Squat 3 x 5

Overhead Press 3 x 5

Barbell Rows 3 x 5

To do this routine you simply alternate workout A with workout B 3 times a week done on non-consecutive days. E.g. it could look like this:

Week 1

Monday: Workout A, Wednesday: Workout B, Friday: Workout A

Week 2

Monday: Workout B, Wednesday: Workout A, Friday: Workout A

and so on…

A lot of beginner routines implement the basic compound lifts from Kethnaabs modified routine: squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press and barbell rows.

Those exercises are good for building overall muscle mass, but they lack direct arm work and they emphasize the lower chest over the upper chest.

So, if you want to tweak this routine a bit you can replace a regular bench press with the incline bench press or diamond push ups to target your upper chest instead. Also, if your legs grow faster than the rest of your body you can consider to reduce the squat frequency from the typical 3 times a week to just 1 or 2 times a week and replace the squats with 8-10 sets of direct arm work at the end of your workout.

For a skinny-fat beginner the abovementioned routine could look like this instead:

Workout A

Squat 3 x 5

Incline Bench Press 3 x 5 or 3 sets of Diamond Push Ups

Deadlift 1 x 5

Biceps Exercise 4 x 8

Triceps Exercise 4 x 8

Workout B

Overhead Press 3 x 5

Barbell Rows 3 x 5

Biceps Exercise 4 x 8

Triceps Exercise 4 x 8

To make it clear, the abovementioned routine is just an example of how you can customize a regular beginner routine to fit your goals. Everybody is different so your routine of choice might be totally different than this one. All I can say is that you should try different things and see what works for YOU. However, to know what truly works for you it is very important to track your progress.

In part 2 of the Skinny-Fat Beginner Series, I will explain why tracking your progress is a crucial aspect in your body transformation. Also, I will explain why you should gain weight slowly rather than doing a traditional bodybuilding bulk.

To stay updated, simply subscribe below and let us know in the comments section if you have any great advice for a skinny-fat beginner.

– Oskar

Download my bodyweight training program for skinny-fat guys (63-page PDF)

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  1. I was 100 kg and by eating healthy food and not junk food and some Running on a treadmill I became 59 kg

    I didn’t train with Weights and strength training and because that I am skinnyfat I think

    I am 17.5 years old and my height is 178 cm and now my weight is 67 kg ( when I was 59 kg I started doing bulking and train in the gym but I just became fat)

    I am in right weight to my height but, I got ugly body, fat in my chest, arms, legs and shoulders.

    What should I do if I am in right weight ? Still doing cut ? And until what weight should I do that? I really really Desperate! All what I wanted is be happy with nice body , I hope u can help me

    And ur story so amazing

    If u wanna I can send u photos of my body: my email is:


  2. Great article there Oskar. I am a skinny-fat sufferer and according to this article I started doing dynamic stretching first as shown in the video link you posted. But after few minutes of stretching, I started feeling dizzy and my hands and feet shivered. Is it ok for the first time or should i stop doing exercise.?

    Thank you

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Yasir,

      I have never experienced that. Perhaps do the stretches with breaks in between and see how that works?

  3. How far in progress where you in the back photos in your ebook, you seem to have fairly skinny arms, even though you have a wide back. I’m trying to decide between a bodyweight routine or a normal mon/wed/fri weights routine, but it seems that despite the amount of chinups you do, the arms haven’t got that much bigger?

  4. Hi, great site! Thanks for share it with us.
    I like your modified SS routine. I’m gonna stick with it. Is it ok to add direct arm work every workout day?? Is not too much work for the arms?? Wouldn’t be better to add arm work just on one workout, let’s say Workout A?

  5. Hey, I used to do weight training (starting strength and other routines) I lost a lot of fat and put on some decent size! However, moving back home I had to stop for 6 months… now my only option is a really poor commercial gym with NO squat, deadlift or Barbbell bench press acessability. Is it worth me going just for DB press, leg press machine and a lot of isolations? Thanks.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, it’s worth it. Get as strong as possible on the exercises you can do, and consider to do a lot of bodyweight training. I haven’t done any of the 3 lifts you mentioned for a very long time.

  6. What is the weekly frequency and volume for your back and chest work?

    Also, are you adding any abs work?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I try to limit my back work now since I don’t want it to get wider.

      My training varies a lot since I’m competing I’m training partner stunt at least 2 times a week for 2 hours. This type of training is a fully body workout with a lot of emphasis on the shoulders and arms. In addition to that, I try to train as often as possible. I don’t have a set training routine right now, since it all depends on how much my partner can train.

      For abs, I hold the L-sit position and lift one leg at a time for about 20 reps at the end of my workout.

  7. hi oskar,
    i would like to thank you alot for this wonderful site of yours it has definitely given me hope to have a good physique, i never understood my body type, although my bmi seemed fine, i always felt i was overweight. i have these thin limbs but on the contrary i have big love handles and belly fat. i couldn’t tell what training program should i follow in gym but after i read those articles of yours i think they perfectly reflect the experience of a person who suffered from what i believe is a syndrome and was through strong will capable of turning into a a person with awesome body

  8. Hi Oskar,
    Sorry, but I think I haven’t understood.
    In a recent post you said a “skinny fat” shouldn’t do starting strength.
    Now are you saying he should?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Marco,

      In this article I gave an example of how you can modify the starting strength routine so it’s suited for a skinny-fat guy (more focus on arms and upper chest).
      The original starting strength routine is not good for a skinny-fat guy since it emphasizes the lower chest and legs too much.

  9. I’ve been in doubt about training through soreness but this article definitely cleared my doubts! thx alot, this site is a great resource

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