The Complete Skinny-Fat Transformation Guide: 5 Phases to Sculpt Your Physique


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


skinny-fat transformation23131

In my experience training over 100 skinny-fat 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.

Are You Skinny-Fat?

This is especially the case if you subscribe to the notion that lifting heavy weights will help you sculpt your physique.

In the beginning of this blog, I wrote a post about one of the most popular strength training routines: Starting Strength created by the fitness trainer Mark Rippetoe.

The post was titled “Why You Shouldn’t Do Starting Strength As A Beginner” and it created a huge discussion within the fitness community with over 200,000 views.

On the one hand, we had the “Rippetistas”  – Mark Rippetoe fanatics who follow and preach his advice as the only truth out there.

They believe that lifting heavy and getting as strong as possible on the compound lifts is the only “real” way for a natural lifter to build a muscular physique.

If you aren’t squatting 400 pounds and weighing over 200 pounds you are considered skinny, weak and under muscled.

On the other hand, we have me and other guys who actually managed to build impressive physiques despite having lifts that are nothing impressive.

Now, the big question is: Should YOU do strength training if you want to build an aesthetic physique?

The short answer is: Yes, you should always do some heavy resistance training, but the capacity in which you do it, should change over time.

After you build a foundational level of strength, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and additional strength gains will do little in regards to muscle gains:

law-of-diminishing-returns1Once you reach this foundational level of strength you want to change up most of your training so it becomes similar to that of a bodybuilder: Higher reps, more sets, lower rest time between sets and higher time-under-tension.

In this article, I will show you my results in my first year of strength training and explain why strength doesn’t necessarily equal muscle gains.

Based on this, I will explain when you should do strength training, what routine you should follow and how it all fits into the big picture of your Skinny-Fat Transformation.

Once you’ve read the article, you will know exactly what I would do to transform my physique in the fastest time possible if I could go back to February 2010 where I was a skinny-fat beginner.

Gaining 704 Pounds On My 5 Key Lifts In 1 Year

old oskar

The first training routine I ever followed was Kethnaab’s Modified Starting Strength Routine for bodybuilders. It looked like this:

Workout A

  • Barbell Squat 3 x 5
  • Barbell Bench Press 3 x 5
  • Barbell Deadlift 1 x 5

Workout B

  • Barbell Squat 3 x 5
  • Barbell Military Press 3 x 5
  • Barbell Row 3 x 5 (the original Starting Strength program would replace barbell row with power clean 5 x 3)

The workout was performed 3 times a week on non-consecutive days to allow for recovery and the purpose was to add weight to the bar each workout while gaining muscular bodyweight.

I followed Starting Strength for the majority of a year. (About 8 months into training I made the switch to the intermediate lifting routine called MadCow 5×5 which is very similar to Starting Strength. I also added assistance exercises for arms and abs which were done at the end of each workout.)

During my first year of training, I made the following gains on my 5 key exercises:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.06.38

Note: The starting numbers are all precise, but the after numbers may be off by 5-10 pounds. Also, all lift numbers are my 5 rep max.

I did everything “according to the textbook”.

I lifted heavy and I increased my weight as often as possible.

I ate a high protein-high carb-low fat bodybuilding diet and supplemented with creatine, multivitamin, post-workout protein, vitamin D, calcium and fish oil.

All of this hard work resulted in me gaining 704 pounds on my 5 key lifts in my first year of training while gaining 35 pounds of bodyweight at a height of 6’2″.

According to Lyle McDonald’s Muscle Gains Formula, a beginner should be able to gain 20-25 pounds of muscle mass in his first year of proper training, therefore one would assume that I gained 20-25 pounds of muscle mass and the remaining 10-15 pounds would be fat, right?

Unfortunately, that was not the case as you can see in my before-after picture:

Fat OskarThe first picture was taken 7 months into strength training and the second picture was taken 12 months into strength training. (I lost my shirtless before-pictures a few years ago, but I looked pretty much the same as I did 7 months into training.)

I’m not sure about how much muscle mass I gained in my first year of training, since it was hidden under my fat, but I’m confident that it was much less than the 20-25 pounds one can expect.

A guess would be that I gained 10 pounds of muscle mass and 25 pounds of fat. And most importantly, the little muscle mass that I gained, went to my thighs, glutes, lower chest, abs, traps and lower back.

My arms, shoulders, upper chest and lats barely gained any size. In other words, I gained strength and size, but I just became a bigger version of my former self. I didn’t improve my aesthetics at all.

The reasoning is that an increase in strength does not necessarily lead to improved aesthetics.

Strength Does Not Equal Aesthetics

A lot of people believe that progressive overload will magically lead to a better physique. It doesn’t.

There’s not a single impressive skinny-fat transformation out there that was solely a result of a strength based training routine. I’ve googled for years, and I’ve asked several strength-training advocates to post just ONE impressive skinny-fat transformation that was a result of lifting heavy. So far, I’ve received just 1 transformation in an entire year, and it’s mediocre to say the least.

In contrast, I’ve encountered plenty of people who used big words to convince me otherwise.

Here’s your typical Starting Strength before-after picture:

Starting Strength

And, here’s one of many comments/emails I’ve received from many SFT-readers about Starting Strength:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 11.23.20

And here’s a comment from my topic at bodybuilding.com:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 13.40.08

Those are just 2 out of dozens of comments/messages that I received about strength training leading to lackluster results. Need I say more?

WHY Strength Does Not Equal Aesthetics: The CNS

CNS

Let’s go back to my first year of training.

I gained a ton of strength, but I didn’t acquire aesthetics.

In contrast, during the past years, I haven’t improved my compound lifts much (maybe added 5-10 pounds here or there), yet I’ve made much better muscle gains.

And most importantly, I’ve gained my muscle mass in the right places.

Now, I’ll tell you why that was the case.

First, when you lift heavy, you stress the central-nervous-system (CNS) to a much higher degree compared to using higher reps and light-moderate weights.

When you stress the CNS a lot, you aren’t able to train often, since your body will need to recover for a longer period of time compared to when you just break down muscle. This is why most strength routines are only performed 3 times a week.

However, if you look at most bodybuilding routines, they are performed 4-6 days a week. There’s a reason to why bodybuilders, the people on earth with the most muscle mass train more often: IT WORKS. Unfortunately, most people are unable to lift heavy 4-6 days a week!

Furthermore, many of the strength gains you experience are a result of your CNS adapting to higher loads and improvements in lifting technique, rather than your muscles growing bigger! A good way to think about this is to think of it as you “learning” how to lift more weight, rather than tearing down muscles.

Second, when you lift heavy in the 1-5 rep range with compound movements, you don’t focus on using your target muscle to lift the weight. Instead, you use momentum, swing and your strongest muscle groups to perform the reps.

This may impress other guys at the gym, but it won’t build much muscle mass in your weak muscle groups. For example, if you do heavy bench presses and your chest is lagging, but your shoulders and triceps are strong, you will use your shoulders and triceps to push the weight rather than your lagging chest! This will lead to heavier weights being lifted, but your chest will stay small.

Therefore, heavy weights make it difficult to build muscle in the right places, since you will always be using your strongest muscle groups to lift the weight.

Third, even if you introduce assistance exercises like I did in my first year of training, you won’t benefit much from them, since you will be doing them at the end of your workouts when you’re tired from the heavy lifting.

It’s difficult to progress on chin ups and dips when you have trashed your entire upper body with deadlifts, military presses and bench presses.

Does This Mean Strength Training Is Useless?

Not at all.

Strength training has its place in every persons’ training career.

Think of strength training as a foundation for a house.

housefoundation

If you build a solid foundation, everything else will fall into place.

If your foundation is crap, the house will be crap too.

The key to implement strength training is to introduce it at the right time, have the right expectations in mind and to know when to switch to specialised training.

In the next section, I will explain when exactly you should do strength training.

5 Phases of The Ideal Skinny-Fat Transformation

Note: Regular fat guys (endomorphs), athletic guys (mesomorphs) and skinny guys (ectomorphs) can use the strategy presented below, but skip step 1. 

If I was skinny-fat today, and I had to do it all over again, I would do my transformation as follows below:

Phase 1: Get Lean and Master Bodyweight Exercises

Lose excess fat through a simple diet and master basic bodyweight exercises. The goal would be to reach 10-12% body-fat while getting your chin up max to 15 perfect reps.

Reason: When you carry excess body-fat your hormones are not optimised for muscle gains so you won’t gain much muscle mass from ANY kind of training you do. Diet is key to lose the excess body-fat. In the meanwhile, you want to master the basic bodyweight exercises to prepare yourself for “harder” training.

Phase 2: Build The Strength Foundation

Do variations of GreySkull LP with arm plug-in to build strength and muscle while eating around maintenance for as long as strength gains occur. When strength gains stop, you increase calories with about 300 above maintenance to keep them going. The goal would be to reach a 2 x bodyweight deadlift, 1.5 x bodyweight squat and 1 x bodyweight bench press while keeping weight gains to a minimum. You want to stay at 10-15% body-fat at all times. The short bulking and cutting cycles would be ideal here.

Reason: You need a solid strength base. GreySkull LP is in my opinion the best way to reach that strength base. I haven’t tried the routine myself, but I know from experience that the principles work, and I cannot see any other beginner routine out there that matches it.

Phase 3: Lose The Excess Chub While Maintaining Strength

Lose the excess fat you gained while bulking up to get to 10-12% body-fat again while maintaining your strength. The key here is to avoid making these 7 fat loss mistakes.

Reason: You want to prepare your body for the next phase: hypertrophy training where you focus on gaining muscle in the right places. You prepare it by losing fat. Never go above 15% body-fat.

Phase 4: Becoming “Muscular” By Training and Eating Like a Bodybuilder

Follow the short bulking and cutting cycles in combination with a bodybuilding routine such as Beginner Pump Routine.

Reason: After you got a 2 x bodyweight deadlift, 1.5 x bodyweight squat and 1 x bodyweight bench press, the law of diminishing returns kicks in – you don’t benefit much from further strength gains if muscle mass is your goal. Instead, you should focus on higher rep training, shorter rest time between sets and do short bulking and cutting cycles to stay lean year-around.

Phase 5: Getting Jacked Through Instinctive Training and Eating

Train and eat instinctively. At this point, you should know your body better than anyone else. You will know when to eat, what to eat and how to train on a given day.

Reason: You don’t want to follow a routine on a piece of paper for the rest of your life. Get in tune with your body to maximise your results!

The Ideal Skinny-Fat Transformation: Expectations and Time-Frame

Phase 1: Get Lean and Master Bodyweight Exercises

Phase 1 should take you about 6 months to accomplish if you’re the average skinny-fat guy at 25-30% body-fat who can’t do a single chin up. (Add or subtract 1-3 months depending on your situation and work ethic.) During this time, you can expect to lose weight, gain reps on the basic bodyweight exercises and go from skinny-fat to skinny. Most skinny-fat guys will feel like they start looking like “skeletons” during this phase, but that’s fine. It’s only a preparation phase. It’s similar to learning stuff in school. You may dread learning the basics, and it may be boring, but once you learn them the more advanced classes become A LOT easier and more fun to attend. Here’s how SFT reader, Daniel Habtegebreal from Canada who lost got lean while going from 4 to 14 pull ups in just 3 months:

Daniel-Before-and-After-300x229

And here’s a picture of SFT-reader Tommy Nguyen who lost almost 40 pounds and got to 15 chin ups:

Tommy Nguyen

Phase 2: Build The Strength Foundation

Phase 2 is a tricky one. I put 2 x BW deadlift, 1.5 x BW squat and 1 x BW bench press as benchmarks to aim for, but the truth is that the benchmarks will differ. My benchmarks are based on the tall guy who has long arms, long legs and is a natural weak squatter and bench presser.

Therefore, guys that are shorter, and on the lighter side may have to aim for a 1.25-1.5 x BW bench press and 2 x BW squat and 2 x BW deadlift.

Phase 2 should take around 6-12 months to complete depending on your situation. This will be one of the hardest phases, since you will have to learn the compound lifts, address flexibility issues and consistently add weight to the bar.

Phase 3a: Lose The Excess Chub While Maintaining Strength

Phase 3 will be the easiest provided that you followed step 2 correctly. Here, you just have to lose the excess fat you gained during your strength training phase, while following the same routine you used to build the strength.

If you stayed at 10-15% body-fat while building your foundation, step 3 should take no more than 2 months to complete.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that you want to cut the excess weight slowly and train your ass off as if you were still bulking. If you do this, you may find that you gain additional strength during your cut!

Here’s how such a cut could look, again using Rody as an example:

Rody Before and After

Ideally, you will lose inches around your waist while increasing your strength here. To do that, you absolutely must cut slowly and train like a machine when you do your strength workouts. If you’re into counting calories, simply have your caloric deficit at 300 per day, and have 2 days where you eat 300 calories ABOVE maintenance to refeed your body. Preferably, those days will be on your training days and you will train in the evening for maximum energy (you will have more food in your system in the evening, thus more energy).

Here are 2 links to guides that will help you cut slowly:

Phase 3b (optional): Depleting Your Body To Prepare For Massive Gains

If you want to benefit the most from step 4, you want to do intense cardio 3 days a week for about 2 weeks at the end of step 3, while following a low-carb diet in a caloric deficit of about 300 calories. This will completely deplete your body and you will get lean and lose some size, but once you jump on the Beginner Pump Routine and start eating a lot of carbs again, you will EXPLODE in size.

Now, I would usually never recommend a low-carb diet and I never do them myself anymore, but there’s a time and place for everything, and in this case, the low-carb diet can be used strategically for “the greater good”.

Here’s how I looked at the end of a depletion phase where I had lost 60 pounds in total over 18 months:

back

In the picture above I was about 177 pounds at I would guess around 8% body-fat and I could deadlift 400 pounds. This is what I believe a guy can look like after a proper cut in step 3. Keep in mind that while I had some good stats and looked great in this particular picture (perfect lighting, angle, pump etc.), I looked skinny and starved in real life which brings me to the next point…

Phase 4: Become “Muscular” By Training and Eating Like a Bodybuilder

You will feel like shit for 2 weeks doing low-carbs and intense cardio, but after those 2 weeks are done and you introduce a proper bodybuilding routine and carbs, you can gain anything between 15-20 pounds in the FIRST month of following step 4.

This is what happened for me back in late 2012 where I went from around 177 pounds to 194 pounds in 1 month (the first picture is me at the end of my depletion phase, this time you can see how skinny I was):

low carb

When you’re lean, depleted and you have a solid strength base, you will see some of the best muscle gains of your whole training career once you reintroduce carbs and jump on a proper bodybuilding routine.

This is about the point where I remember people started calling me “big” on a consistent basis and this is also the time where you want to push yourself to the limit. You disregard the whole notion of “overtraining” and start looking for ways to gradually make your workouts harder, longer and more frequent.

When you make your workouts harder, longer and more frequent and you combine that with a caloric surplus, you will keep gaining muscle. Here’s how I looked after about 5 months of doing the beginner pump routinecheerleading partner stunts and calisthenics:

wide shoulders

Ideally, you will follow 2-3 different bodybuilding routines over 6 months during step 4 to learn what works best for you.

Phase 5: Getting Jacked Through Instinctive Training and Eating

As you gain more experience, you will start training and eating instinctively and that can lead to some amazing gains again, similar to those you had after your depletion phase (step 5). In my case, I learned that my body responds best to what most people would call “overtraining”: high volume, high intensity, moderate frequency.

I would (and still do) trash the muscle groups I want to grow 2-3 days a week with high volume training (+20 sets), moderate-high reps (8-20 reps) and use high intensity techniques such as dropsets on a large number of my sets.

Furthermore, during this phase, I’ve learned that eating correctly can lead to much higher testosterone levels, and when you combine that with a solid strength base, good sleep and instinctive training, you are in for some amazing gains. During my last 2 month bulk, I’ve lost half an inch around my waist, while gaining over 4 inches on my chest circumference! (Article about that will be up soon!)

The gains I’ve experienced have been similar to what most people call “beginner gains” – something that I never had, but that I finally experience now that I have my training and eating dialled in.

Here’s how I looked in April 2014 after training and eating instinctively for about 1 year (around 190 pounds at around 8-10% body-fat):

spring shredded

And, here’s a pic from December 2014 where I’m almost 200 pounds at 11.9% body-fat:

OSKAR TODAY

Disclaimer: Calves are a bit smaller than my arms but they have actually grown during this bulk which I’m happy about! Training them hard 4-6 days a week helped!

The interesting part is that my lifts are probably about the same or a bit weaker than they were in my pic after my 1st year of training where I was a fat slob with no shoulders, upper pecs, arms or lats, but I look like a different person.

This is additional proof that while strength training is a great tool to build a solid foundation, it is not the main tool to build a jacked, aesthetic physique.

To sum it up, the ideal skinny-fat transformation has the following time-frames and expected “looks” at the end of each phase:

  • Phase 1: 6 months (after phase 1 you will be “skinny”)
  • Phase 2: 6-12 months (after phase2 2 you will be “average/slightly built and strong”)
  • Phase 3: 2 months (after phase 3 you will look “lean”)
  • Phase 4: 6 months (after phase 4 you will look “muscular”)
  • Phase 5: Forever (after following phase 5 for a year or so you will look “jacked”)

In other words, it will take you around 14-20 months to have that lean “beach look“, 20-26 months to look “muscular” and 32-38 months to look “jacked” provided that you follow the strategy above consistently. (Those are conservative numbers though!)

For convenience’s sake let’s just say it takes 1.5 years to get beach ready, 2 years to look “muscular” and 3 years to look jacked. Those are in my experience realistic numbers to aim for, for the drug-free skinny-fat guy who trains and eats properly.

To give you some perspective, it took me over 4 years to look what I consider “jacked” which is over 1 year longer than the conservative numbers I put above. The main reason to why it took me so long to get to the “finish line” was that I bulked before I cut and the secondary reason is that I believed in overtraining. Therefore, avoid making these 2 crucial mistakes if time is valuable to you!

If You Don’t Believe In Yourself, You’ve Already Lost!

Even though this website can help you reduce the time you spend on your skinny-fat transformation, it cannot reduce it to weeks or just a few months. The truth is that transforming will take a long time, and that’s why it’s crucial that you surround yourself with positivity.

Ideally, you will surround yourself with positive people that believe in you and you will watch motivational videos that pump you up. If you don’t have the option to be with people that support you, it’s better to do this ALONE – I did most of my transformation without any training partner or person encouraging me and telling me it can be done. The worst thing you can do is to be around negative people!

Don’t hang out on forums where people constantly talk about the dangers of overtraining and how everybody who has a great physique has great genetics and/or does steroids. I did that in the past, and whether those people are right or not, doesn’t actually matter. What matters is if you believe in yourself or not. If you don’t believe you can build a great physique, you have already lost!

Here are 2 comments from my topic at bodybuilding.com:

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Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 13.38.55

I take those comments as a compliment though and I can’t blame people, because it’s hard to admit that someone has worked harder and been more persistent with their goals than you. However, for people reading this, they may take it as the truth and start thinking “it cannot be done”. That’s why you wanna ignore most internet forums and focus on your own training and eating instead!

For some inspiration for your transformation, be sure to check out my popular YouTube video below:

 

And follow my daily updates on my facebook page and instagram.

 



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



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Comments

  1. Hi Oskar . Bought your book recently and there is great information in it . But one thing that I am disheartened/disappointed by is that you have not mentioned anything about vegetarian diet . I am an Indian Vegetarian and you have not mentioned any testosterone increasing Vegan protein. I am ready to sacrifice Cottage Cheese , Soy & Whey Protein powder but would have definitely appreciated if you had a small section on Vegetarian sources and how vegetarian skinny-fat guys can create a sustainable diet to transform their physique. Hope you can cover this in an article soon .

    It is my humble request .

    Btw I had sent you a diet plan some time ago which looks like this –

    6am – Before the cardio , I take BCAA

    7am – In my breakfast , I have Oats and Protein shake ( 1.5 scoops now ) 
    10am –  I have 2 omelettes (with onion and chillies ) 

    1-2pm For my lunch I am having 200 g cottage cheese , 50 g brown rice and veggies ( mostly Cauliflower , Broccoli , Green Peas , Carrots and some lettuce ) 

    6 pm – One slice of multi grain bread with 1 tbsp Peanut butter , Creatine and bcaa . 

    7pm – Hardcore workout with PT in the gym 

    8 pm – 2 scoops Whey Protein
    9pm – 150 g tofu and 50g sweet potatoes 

    I know I should completely eliminate these proteins (Cottage cheese and tofu ) but what do I replace it with ? As far as I understand Vegan sources of Protein such as Beans , Legumes , Lentils etc do not have complete amino profile and must be added with other proteins . Please advise . I am stuck in a rut.

  2. Hey Oskar,
    I just stumbled across your site and it is very helpful for me and i’m willing to follow the guidelines you give in your pdf.

    However I have 1 concern. I’m 13 years old so still growing. And since i’m overweight i want to create a caloric deficit, but if worried this will stunt my growth. Is this the case? I hope you will provide me with a solid anwser. Thanks in advance.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey M,

      Great question and great job on getting started so early.

      My advice is that you focus on changing your food choices rather than Calories. You want to eat clean, nutritious foods so your body can get all the nutrients it needs to grow and you want to eat 5-6 balanced meals per day to spike your metabolism.

      It’s very hard to overeat on potatoes, chicken breast and spinach so clean up your diet for 3 weeks and see if the fat starts melting off. If not, you can go in and start at around maintenance Calories and see if that triggers any fat loss. The Caloric deficit should only be a last resort and if possible limited to a short amount of time because when you are in a Caloric deficit, you will over time slow down metabolism and lose some muscle mass.

      • Hey Oskar,

        I started clean dieting and i’m going to see if i get results. But there are still 2 things i am thinking about.

        1 is it okay if i do daily cardio? I mean cycling for around 30 mins to help the fat furnace and because i enjoy it.

        2 some of the advice you give regarding strength training goes against basic bodybuilding principles. Like doing strength every day instead of some rest days, and going high rep instead of high tension. Did this actually work for you or did you do some other form of ressistance training alongside it? Would be glad to hear from you

        Thank you so much for the reply and have a great day.

  3. Timothy says:

    I didn’t believe in myself anymore and I’ve lost the battle,

    But I’ll be back with believing in myself!

  4. According to Mike Matthews and a few other people progressive tension overload, muscle damage, and cellular fatigue seem to be the three drivers of muscle growth. Cellular fatigue being the least important and progressive tension overload being the most important. Sarcoplasmic hyper trophy or “pump training” only accounts for little mass and deflates after not being in the gym for a few weeks. You can only max out your sarcoplasmic fluids with pump training so much before it’s filled and with pump training is useless your just spinning your wheels that’s why it should never be the focus of a natural weight lifters routine. Always heavy compound lifting and pump training is accessory work. How do u explain this and who do u think will have a bigger chest someone who benches 350 or 170? I think your philosophy is misinformed and flawed.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      “Always heavy compound lifting and pump training is accessory work. How do u explain this and who do u think will have a bigger chest someone who benches 350 or 170? I think your philosophy is misinformed and flawed.”

      Obviously the guy who benches 350, but that’s not a fair comparison.

      I’ll give you a more fair comparison… My roommate benches 125 kg at 72 kg bodyweight and I bench around 100-110 KG at 90 KG bodyweight.

      My chest is much bigger and more defined but using your logic his chest should be bigger than mine.

      He now switched over to doing higher rep training with me and guess what… He’s gaining size all over.

      Another example is my arms… When doing heavy training my arms never got over 35 CM and they always looked skinny.

      Now, my arms are about 39-40 CM in the morning before eating any meals. I have previously stopped training for a few weeks and I didn’t lose any of my arm size despite only training them with high reps. I just lose a bit of definition, that’s all.

      Furthermore, you state that gains from pump training start to disappear AFTER a few weeks out of the gym.

      Why would someone stop exercising for so long? If you’re serious about building your body you should never take more than 1-2 weeks off, unless you get injured (something that happens when you lift heavy).

      “Always heavy compound lifting and pump training is accessory work.”

      Let’s see how many injuries you have after decades of heavy compound lifting and how many I have after decades of training with moderate weights.

      Even if we assume that heavy weights can make me 10 pounds bigger than high rep training, I would rather minimise the risk of injury and enjoy being pain free when I’m in my 40’s and 50’s.

      “I think your philosophy is misinformed and flawed.”

      It’s ok if you prefer another philosophy, my success stories speak for themselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxNHgjfhTX8

  5. mason shepherd says:

    I’m 12 but 6ft 1 and I was wondering can I still do this process since I’m skinny fat

  6. Bobb Sanders says:

    I also wanted to ask, what are you doing for cardio? jogging? walking? or was body weight the only thing you did? what about abs? i stil have lower back pain so crazy amount of crunches is out of the equation for me. i’m glad i found this post. thanks again!

  7. Bobb Sanders says:

    i’m going to follow this for the next few years! i hurt my back a while ago and now out of shape. i will take pictures of my self every month to show progress of my skinny-fat transformation. keep this post alive!

    i did have one question though.

    do you stretch after workouts or on off days or in between sets or all of the above? i know a fella who is jacked but can’t even keep his arm out straight because he never stretches.

    Thanks for your time!

  8. Also: I had not been doing any real cutting in terms of diet.

  9. Hi. Want to know if I should perhaps skip to Phase 2. I also want to tell you my situation and find out if you have 1–3 really key pieces of feedback that you might provide in light of what I tell you. I’m new to your website, but I suspect that maybe I do not need to begin with Phase I….or perhaps I can simply incorporate the Phase 1 BW exercises into some lifts I am doing already. In terms of diet, I’m not sure quite what to do next. (I eat about 2000 calories per day, more than that about 2 days per week.)

    I’m a skinny-fat (16.4%) ecto, age 43, 150# (68kg), 5’9″ (1.75 meters) who is *not* new to working out and has made some progress….but only very recently despite years of working out! My body fat percentage used to be 18% just 6 months ago, and I was only 145# then. So, it would seem that I have gained some muscle mass while also lowering my body fat percentage.

    PROBLEM: my measurements at the hips and waist have NOT changed (even though my stomach is slightly firmer–I can tell even when I walk and run; there slightly less jiggle—slightly. I lifted weights and jogged for many years without results. The sudden progress I’ve had recently seems to have been a consequence of the these changes I made in my routine starting in October 2015:
    *I reduced steady-state cardio (40+ minutes) to 1 day a week at most (I used to do it every other day), probably more like only once every 8 or 9 days,
    *I began doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—sprints on the treadmill for only 20 minutes—perhaps 1 or 2 days a week only,
    *I began excising every day….no planned “rest” days. I missed the gym only if some complication at work messed up my schedule.
    So, almost every day, I go to the gym and lift weights for about 40 minutes, doing 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps, and I tend to do body area “splits” (e.g., Arms/Back one day, Chest/Shoulders another, etc.). But, I do the occasional HIIT or the very occasional long-traditional cardio day.

    Any thoughts, observations?
    I will add this: I’ve done a poor job of reducing my alcohol consumption (an average of 1 drink per day). I suspect that if I reduce my alcohol consumption, it will help matters.

  10. Oskar, for Phase 1, should I lift all 7 days if possible? My schedule allows me to work out 5–7 days per week.

    Elsewhere on your website you suggest that over-training should not be a major concern (so long as injury is avoided, of course); therefore, I suspect that it is OK to do workouts all 7 days if possible during Phase 1.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Hey Wayne,

      It’s best to start with 4 days and slowly build up. You will still make great progress with 4 days.

  11. Alessandra says:

    Would you say most of your advice is applicable to women as well?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Hey Alessandra, I use a completely different strategy for the women I train since women respond to a different type of training and eating. Unfortunately I don’t have articles about this since the vast majority of my readers are men.

  12. Imma start phase 2 of the program might need some help in bulking because I’ve never been that much of an eater. (love eating good food but not a lot of food). Anyways oskar what’s your opinion on fierce 5 program. Personally I think it’s amazing first two excersice are heavy compound lifts next two are high Rep hypertrophy and last on is a Superset.

  13. I have probably the worst genetics ever. I have an ectomorphic body and the muscle building potential of an ectomorph( weak muscles, thin wrists, thin neck, think ankles) but I gain fat easily and store it in my thighs. It looks really embarassing ( hourglass figure :( ). What would u suggest I do? Burn the fat first or build muscle first? id be REALLY REALLY happy if I lost the fat as soon as possible cuz id rather have a completely skinny body ANY DAY than have a skinny upper body and fat as fuk hips, but ill follow whatever you ask me to do

    And what would be the best kind of diet for me?
    Any help will be greatly appreciated, thanks :D. (Sorry for my poor English)

  14. I see so much resemblance to… pfff. I’m starting your Skinny-Fat Transformation today. Already ordered a pull-up bar. Thank you for opening my eyes! Ive got strong with stronglift 5×5, but not lean with an Aesthetic figure. This will work and when I am transformed I will send you my before and after picture.

    One question; Can I do weighted squats? Starting at 60% of my one rep max… and pyramid.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Yes, definitely.

      And good luck with it bro. I believe you can do this.

  15. Alex Stoilov says:

    Oskar, what do you think about this modified GreySkull LP routine:

    M – Bench 2×5, 1×5+/ some assistance
    W – Squat 2×3,1×3+ / romanian deads
    F – Press 2×5, 1×5+/ some assistance

    As skinny fat, we have terrible recovery. I do not think we are going to recover from two compound lifts a session and squat twice a week. I have reduced the squat reps as i don’t want mass in that area. Also i am not going to star with an empty bar, so i do not need such a high frequency (although not as high as SS).

  16. Alex Stoilov says:

    Jack, you don’t have to cut to 3 meals a day. You just have to be in a calorie deficit. You can do this with 10 meals and with 1 meal a day. It is up to you. Choose the number of meals you are satisfied with, as long as you track calories!

    • Hey Alex thanks for the info! I’ve been in a deficit for a long time now but still no fat loss, but my weight is already very low. Eating 5 meals a day made me bloated by the end of the day, so I’m hoping a day helps me out.

  17. Hey Oskar thanks so much for all this information! I can see now what I’ve been doing wrong. I share a bit about me: 6’1 in height. 24 years old, 173 pounds and skinny-fat. I’ve never struggled with my weight since I can shed and gain it no problem however percentage body fat is a whole different story. If I were to lose even 2 more pounds, I would be considered under weight. I’ve tried intense cardio, heavy lifting, etc for over years now and nothing. I’m doing to be making the changes you recommend like 3 meals and not 5 a day and focus on body weight exercises. While I don’t do traditional cardio, I still do circuit training as cardio which really gets me sweaty. Would this be alright? Any other tips? Thanks a bunch!

  18. Sitting at 25% bf here, have been skinny fat my entire life and most members in my family are as well.
    is a low carb diet ideal to get to a comfortable bf %? Been lifting for almost an year and a half now, but ive made literally no gains and all my weight gain has been fat. Please help :)

    • by literally no gains i meant literally no muscle gain

      • plus most of my fat is concentrated around my thighs and butt which makes me look really weird. im really aiming to get rid of the fat first

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Low or high carb doesn’t matter much.

      The two big priorites are:

      1) Total daily caloric intake
      2) Your training routin

      • alright, is what im doing atm fine? no cardio, weight training 3 times a week, tuesday thursday saturday. Low carb but high protein diet. Been doing a full body workout 3 times a week. Assisted pullups, Cable rows, Dumbell bench press, Shoulder press, Leg Press. 3 sets of each with a rest of 2 minutes in between sets. Please let me know if this is alright. Goal is to get to atleast 15% bf first.

  19. Does what you’ve mentioned apply to skinny fat ectos as well? im a skinny fat ecto and I have fucked up hormones, people online say skinny fat ecto is probably the worst set of genetics for bodybuilding. Should I cut to 10-12% and then start bulking or will this result in too much muscle loss?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      All the advice on my blog is tailored for skinny-fat ectos. I made the blog because of that exact reason: its the hardest body type to change and there were no good resources out there.

  20. Hey Oscar, needed to clarify something, I fall under the category of people you’ve mentioned(Skinny fat and ectomorph) and I’ve been working out for almost an year now while following a diet plan but I’ve made literally 0 gains.
    I have an hormonal inbalance(slightly high estrogen levels). I understand it’s better to start from a lean base but I have a spinal condition called thoracic kyphosis(basically a rounding of the upperback) due to slouching and the reason I’ve started lifting is to correct it. If I try getting skinnier, I feel I might lose muscle which might worsen my condition( increase the rounding of the back even more). What should I do in my condition? Should I just start bulking? Plus in my condition, I’ve been advised against deadlifts and squats.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      What if you gained strength while being in a slight caloric deficit? Would that improve your condition?

      If that’s the case, stay away from these. You can replace squats with leg press, leg extension and leg curls and deadlifts with hyper extensions.

      For estrogen levels, avoid soy and beer, lose the fat and eat testosterone boosting foods such as natural peanut butter, steaks and eggs.

  21. Hi Oskar. I admire your hard work and smart analysis. I would like to imitate your improvements, but I would prefer that my back not b so wide as yours. Should I modify your pull-up prescription to achieve that?

    Again, a great site and physical achievement

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Thank you Daws.

      My huge back width is partly because I have very short lat insertions.

      My suggestion is that you don’t worry about getting too wide unless you’re already somewhat wide because it takes YEARS to build a back that is huge. Should your back start getting too wide, simply do minimal work for it to maintain but I assume you haven’t reached that point yet?

  22. hanikaa says:

    So basically in the first phase i need to respect my diet and do bodyweight exercices (diamonds, pull ups,squats) ? Also how do i know if i’m lean enough ?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, when you have a flat waist.

      • I have a flat waist when I stand upright but not when I sit down. Also there’e a lot of jiggling in the midsection area, so I think I will go for further leanness before bulking? Is this the right approach?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          It’s normal to have some skin when you sit down. Whether you bulk or cut depends on how happy you are with your current physique. Would you mind gaining an inch around your waist during your bulk? If so, cut until you reach a point where you wouldn’t mind.

  23. I used to be a fat (not skinny-fat) guy till I was 15. I went on a calorie. deficit and did a lot of stair climbings and body-weight training to get lean. In a year I got so lean that people started calling me skinny smack !
    I was lean but I wanted to gain some muscle. So I started weight training. But lifting weights seems to give me pimples. So I had to stop due to weight training acne.
    Last march 2015 I read about the three basic body-weight exercises for skinny-fat guys. I did a lot of chin-ups,diamond push-ups and leg-raised push-ups last 2 months and eat like a man. I must say my arms ,lats and even by abs improved.My moobs are also almost invisible (though I have those gland stuff).I also added reps to my push-ups. But I just cant improve my chin-ups.I just manage 5 reps now after increasing from 2. Any advice would be extremly appriciated.
    Thanks for this website dude. This is the best.

  24. I really love your dedication and perseverance, and I truly admire your dedication. However, I do have a poignant question: It seems you went around in circles with your training, could it be that while you are doing starting strength if you added assistance work on off days, and did some fasted cardio, and your diet dialed in, you would end up 210 with 18% body fat, and furthermore, after Starting Strength if you did more volume, you would ended been 200 with 11% body fat, the same as your picture above, but it would only take 12- 16 month of good training and even better diet. So, my question is do you think if you had a better diet , maybe a slight better program, and assistance work, including body weight, you would achieve the same goals but in a much shorter time frame…… kai.you@gmail.com

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Ryan,

      You’re right, I wasted way too much time training incorrectly.

      The approach you suggest is definitely better than the basic SS routine, but it’s not far away from what I actually did.

      When I did SS, I added assistance exercises (push ups, assisted pull ups and weighted sit ups) about 2-3 months into the program.

      The problem was that after I had done my heavy compounds, there was close to no energy left for the assistance exercises.

      I also experimented with 30 minutes of steady state cardio and 15-20 minutes of HIIT after my SS workouts.

      While these helped me burn extra calories, I was so hungry when I got home from my workouts that I would eat extra food and thereby cancel out the extra calories burned through cardio.

      Finally, I want to make it clear that I’m not against SS or any other strength program. SS is the best book written on barbell training and the program enabled me to learn correct form on the lifts and get me strong for the first time in my life. I have recommended the SS book to several of my skinny ectomorph friends who wanted to bulk up and get stronger.

      With that said, SS is not an optimal routine for guys who are skinny-fat who train for aesthetics as a primary goal and not strength. There are almost no skinny-fat success stories from SS (if any), and it’s one of the most popular beginner routines out there.

      I know this because I have consulted with hundreds of skinny-fat guys over the past few years, and every single one of them who did SS or SL complained about their lack of muscle gains on these types of routines. In contrast, the exact same people are making gains on basic bodyweight routines and higher volume bodybuilding routines.

      Today, I’m convinced that higher volume and higher frequency is the way to go for skinny-fat guys who want to build muscle while staying lean. My own training now is mostly in the 10-15 rep range with A LOT of sets for each muscle group and I hit the same muscle group 2-3 times a week.

      • Hi Oskar, you said it’s possible to lose 3% bodyfat each month. I lost three inches around my waist in the last 2 months. How much percentage would that be approximately? That will give me an idea as to whether my fat loss is quick or not.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          It’s difficult to say but in my experience, losing about 1.5-2 inches per month is ideal since it’s sustainable so you’re headed in the right direction. I wouldn’t try to speed up your fat loss, just continue doing what you’re doing.

          • Thanks, Oskar. Losing all that weight has made it easier to do negatives chins – I can do about 4 negatives (10 seconds coming down). But the problem is, I get elbow pain if I attempt negative chins within a few days. You said high frequency is better – I agree with the logic – and I can easily do diamond pushups every day and NOT feel any pain.

            But pullups are different – whenever I attempt to do them within a few days gap my elbows hurt. It seems like my body takes one week to recover, but that would be low frequency which you dont advise.

            What do you suggest, Oskar?

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              Hey Oscar,

              Everyone is different so listen to your body. Start with the frequency you’re comfortable with and then slowly build up. Don’t push through pain since that’s a recipe for injury.

      • You just said: ” My own training now is mostly in the 10-15 rep range with A LOT of sets for each muscle group and I hit the same muscle group 2-3 times a week.”

        Does that mean that you still push every set until 1 rep before failure or you work out something like 4×10 by failing at the last set?

  25. I would go on to add that you don’t really need to do a strength gain kind of program specifically even in the initial phases. You can achieve the same results doing the more “bodybuilding” kind of programs – because ultimately your strength has a genetic ceiling.
    Programs like SS, Madcow, etc allow you to reach your strength ceiling a little faster than say Allpro or other conventional stuff etc. But hey, what is the end result we are looking at? Physique.
    Why screw your physique, trying to gain strength, when the same can be done by staying at better looking body?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Interesting comment. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately.

      What program do you suggest instead?

      • Aaah, the eternal question about which program!
        Frankly I don’t know. Otherwise I would’ve come up with some snazzy name and marketed and sold it and made millions :)

        I am not sure if my point was clear, so I will use numbers here.
        Say a Person A embarks upon a journey called overhead press.
        He sticks to 3-5 rep range and starts lifting 90 kg on SS and stalls (because he reaches his genetic potential more or less). The stall happens because the body cannot keep improving the neural efficiency forever. And the muscle gains stop as soon as you decide not to get fat any further (or you don’t want to meddle with steroids).

        A twin called B, embark upon similar journey, but decides to stick to 10-15 rep range. He will mostly stagnate at 70 kg.

        If person A shifts to higher rep routine, he will take some time to adapt, but once adapted will also stagnate at 70 kg.
        Similarly, person B shifts to lower rep routine, he will take time to adapt, but will stagnate at 90 kg.

        So the question about which program? I don’t know. I think it makes no difference. What makes difference is to utilize movements that allow progression. Dumbell raises for shoulders will not allow progression, dumbell presses will.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Great explanation, thank you. Im working on a full skinny fat transformation program and was stuck with this issue. Did you start off with a high rep routine? If so, how was your progression and results?

          • I began with traditional BB split style with medium reps.
            I must’ve increased the strength in most of the lifts with this, without knowing anything about internet and various programs floating about.

            Switched to Serge Nubret’s program (because of lack of visible improvement). Gained more visible results. No improvement in the loads lifted. Automatically Cut down the fat greatly without resorting to diet restrictions! In fact Serge had said that his training style was like Cardio – and hence nothing more is required. He was right.

            Switched to Dogcrap style of extremely low volume. Made some progress with weights. Don’t know if I reduced visible muscle since I had started overeating and becoming fat. :)

            Changed to SS in order to improve the lifts further. Gained weight further. Improved lifts. (Quite surprised with the improvement in the lifts in spite of training for many years – but I realized it later why I made improvements)

            In between I upped the volume with heavy weights but realized that I was getting sick frequently. Definitely overtraining.

            Realized that I was becoming a mini sumo wrestler in pursuit of all this strength. Cut down while being on something hybrid of Madcow and Doggcrap. Started losing strength too inspite of tracking minerals, vitamins, proteins etc.

            This is when I realized that all the strength gain till now had happened because of gain of muscles along with FAT.

            So summary of experience till now?
            1. Newbie strength and muscle gains will happen anyhow.
            2. After newbie gains, only constant eating of food (thus increasing both muscles and fat) can only lead to higher strength.
            3. Trying to decrease fat will lead to reduction in muscles as well as strength, no matter what you try.

            4. High volume low weight approach primes the muscles for a constant “pumped” look. The inflated muscles looked large from deep within.
            5. Low volume heavy weight gives the muscles a compact look. The muscles looked deflated but tight (toned?).
            6. High volume with heavy weight tends to give the modern bodybuilder look – but at the cost of getting overtrained. People who have great genetics may be able to train this way and get away with it and reap benefit.

    • what about the fact that strength is primal in nature and paramount as men in western society, and if you looked the qualities and traits that disappears as we age, strength is the last to go, while speed is the first to go. Looking jacked without the strength and power is just a guy with tits…

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        It depends on how you define strength and power.

        Is it being able to squat, bench press and deadlift a certain amount?

        How about athletic feats such as these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SqBdEJnSLA

        Or muscle ups?

        While I don’t train for strength myself, I do still ocassionally do some heavy shoulder presses to keep up my overhead strength and I do muscle ups for explosiveness.

  26. When you sad deadlift 2x body weight, squat 1.5x body weight, etc, do you mean for your one rep max?

    Also can you please clarify what you mean in phase 3 when you say keep training with the same routine you use to build strength in phase 2? So does that mean I should start from the same weights I did when I started phase 2 or keep progressing ?

    Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      One rep max is fine, but the more the better. The numbers are just guidelines.

      Always keep progressing

      • I have embarked upon a journey of walking for two hours each morning at a comfortable pace.
        The changes in my physique have been nothing short of miraculous. My body “cooks” like an athlete for twenty four hours after walking. I can eat anything and any amount of food and still loose fat.
        My strength and physique gains are beyond anything I achieved in my twenties.
        It is my belief that daily walking for two hours coupled with body weight excersise is the best training upon which a man can embark.

  27. great stuff.
    thanks

  28. Hi, Oskar! As skinny-fat, we are very bad recoverer. Myc oncern is phase 2, do you think we can recover from 3 FULL body workouts a week, and especialy on a cut?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You can do it as long as your diet, rest and sleep is on point and you listen to your body. 3 days is a minimum regardless of whether you cut or bulk.

  29. First of all, I have to say that this is by far the best “skinny fat transformation” blog/site on the internet, and this 5 phase post was exactly what I needed. Thank You!

    I’m currently thinking about going to phase 2, I’ve lowered my body fat from 25% to 12-13% and got really nice strength gains in phase 1. I’m planning to do Greyskull LP with arm’s plugin, and use the short bulk/cut cycles. But how should I change my training session when I’m cutting and doing GSLP? I can’t really do shorter sets, because they are already only 5 reps long. And should I still try to add 1-2kg’s per session even though I’m cutting? So how should I lower the intensity?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you, it means a lot to me.

      Great job on the fat loss, did you follow the strategies from this site?

      Just keep the workout the same. I’m sure you can do it during cut cycles too. You want to keep the intensity as high as possible during cut to preserve muscle mass. The only thing I would lower ks volume and possibly frequency, but this program doesn’t have much of that so you will be fine.

  30. Wow, so much information here. And it’s awesome you sharing all of this and taking the time to reply to people. All the skinny-fats out there appreciate it!

    I can pump out 20 diamonds and 15 chins with decent form on a good day. I was thinking the next step is to focus on getting handstand pushups, and adding weight (i..e vest) to my chins, and diamonds.

    Now after reading the article, it seems your recommending the LP strength/weight program as a next step.

    • Do you think I’d be limited in size/muscular gains if I don’t progress to a weight program?

    • Can the 3x weekly LP type weight program be combined with pushups/chins/handstand pushups? (I feel like they’re the only thing that has worked for me – years in the gym before did little but perhaps now i have the foundation….)

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Matt,

      Just continue progressing on bodyweight exercises. They work for you and you enjoy them, so there’s no reason to make a switch. If you every get bored with them and they stop working, consider switching, but now now.

  31. oskar Im doing phase 3b I haven´t eaten carbs for 5 days,nothing of carbs.Should eat some of carbs,50 grams for day?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Why are you doing low carb? I never advised eating no carbs. Add more, it’s the primary source of energy.

  32. Amazing article, loved it! Right now i’m in the middle of phase 1, almost done getting rid of my skinny fat look. I have question for phase 2, is a strength training routine the same as a power lifting routine?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Nayan.

      Power = Strength + Speed
      Strength = Strength

      This is the basic difference between power and strength.

      You shouldn’t worry about the difference between a strength training and power lifting routine right now.

      Strength training is “foundational training” that you use to build a solid foundation of strength. Strength is best built around the 3-5 rep range.

      Once you got a solid foundation of strength you can progress into “specialized training”, such as power lifting, olympic weight lifting, bodybuilding training, sport specific training, advanced calisthenics etc.

      Power lifting usually focuses on the 1-3 rep range since you want to increase your 1 rep max.

  33. Hey Oskar! This is one of the best articles (if not the best) I’ve read about weightlifting and training. A no-nonsense approach with examples and a perfect workout plan that I already started to follow. Even though I’ve trained on and off over the years you gave me a reality check with the fact that before hitting weight room I should be able to do 15 chin-ups and 25 diamond push-ups. I also did 5×5 programs 2 years ago, my strength increased but I got fatter. Now I’m getting leaner and leaner and turning from a skinny-fat to just skinny. My stats still suck today I managed to do 5 sets of 3 perfect chin-ups and 3 sets of 12-12-10 diamond push-ups. Hopefully I can get till March to my goals with the main body weight exercises and get to Phase 2 aka GreySkull LP with arms plug-in. The reason why I’m writing (besides giving u props for awesome advice) is that I want to ask you: will my strength gains from GreySkull suffer if I train Kickboxing in parallel 2-3 times a week for 1 hour and a half? I’ve been training Kickboxing for 3 months and that’s also one of the reasons why I got leaner and I really love it and don’t want to give up on it.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!
    Alex

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Alex,

      Don’t worry about it, just do both. Your body will adapt. Just make sure to eat solid meals around your workouts and sleep as much as possible.

      • Thank you kind sir!

        Diet and sleep, two very important aspects that I’ve been neglecting for the last couple of months. Duly noted!

        Thanks again!
        Alex

  34. Fantastic site Oskar! I love how you don’t simplify this; it’ll be a long and hard road to get the body you want. More than likely, even if you’re not skinny-fat, I think all of this is very good given it’s probably the most difficult body-type to have.

    I was doing SS before I found this site; I’m now doing your modified SS (not sure what page it was on) every other day, with the alternate day devoted to bodyweight exercises. I can’t even do a single pull-up despite my respectable bench/squat/deadlift numbers, so I think you have a really great point.

    I’d appreciate your opinion on my bodyweight routine:

    1. 5-10-15-20-20-15-10-5 split for pushups (this is my max at the moment, I’d increase the pyramid as I improve)
    2. Similar for bodyweight squats and crunches, just with the additional two “25” rep sets.
    3. 5×5 chin-ups (my max at the moment)
    4. 5×5 assisted pull-ups (have to use 110lbs yikes!)

    I also do Muay Thai about 3x a week. This is all recent, so I’m still a fairly prototypical skinny-fat guy. Once I reach 15 chin-ups, I hope to switch to the beginner Serge pump routine you have posted on another page. I think this should give me enough time to build my strength base in SS (currently 70% of my bodyweight in incline bench, 110% bodyweight in squats, 127% of bodyweight in deadlift).

    I’d really appreciate an opinion from you on my plan, and from others as well! Thanks so much!

  35. Hi Oskar,
    Your article was a eye opening thing for me :D
    I already started the bodywheigth but i have two questions for you regarding the GreySkull.

    1- My height is 1,75 m, so what should be my goals on the deadlift, bench press and squat?

    2 After the 3 weeks of bulking, when he start cutting we use the same weights than when we were using while bulking or we decrease it maybe 5 kilos?

    • Hi,

      I also had the same question. I think (hope Oskar can correct me if I’m wrong), that you should continue training with the same intensity (lift the same weight), but reducing the volume (less sets, 3 o 4 sets, 5 top) when cutting. High volume is better for bulking, but when cutting, is an unnecessary stress because you are on caloric deficit.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great to hear!

      1: Aim for 1 x BW Bench, 1.5 x BW Squat, 2 x BW Deadlift.

      2: Lift as heavy as possible during cutting to maintain muscle mass.

  36. Hey Oskar,

    You’re site is opening my eyes. Gonna bookmark this article and just Do it.

    I’ve been SS for almost a year now and it’s really great to be stronger than most (gay-curl) guys in the gym.

    But they have six packs and great muscle definition. And i’m staying skinny-fat. So they have the last laugh.

    Also really struggeling with the diet. Eating less wil make me stall. Eating following the SS (or stronglifts) diet plan keeps me skinny fat.

    Yesterday i tried chin ups and couldn’t even do 3*5 on chin. For me it was the signal that i’m just to heavy and have to change my plan if i ever want to see my sixpack again (haven’t see them in about 10 years – i’m 32 now). Lifting 150 kg deadlift is cool but i’m getting angry at staying skinny fat.

    Gonna start phase 1 of this article today!

    Also one question:

    I don’t have a pull up bar yet (at home) and with study, kids and fulltime work i only have time to hit the gym 3 times a week.

    Can you advise one other excersice than chin ups on (workout) days when i’m not able to hit the gym?

    Thanks,

    Janus

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      “Lifting 150 kg deadlift is cool but i’m getting angry at staying skinny fat.” I was there a few years ago. Leave the ego at home and get good at bodyweight. You will love the new looks of your body once you get lean and get muscle in the right places.

      Just do push ups and ab exercises at home to get a good sweat. That’s better than not doing anything. Get a pull up bar asap so you can do them at home.

  37. Hey Oskar,

    I wanted to see what your thoughts were on the jammer shoulder press exercise (barbell placed in corner and you press upward on the other end of barbell either single or both hands) in place of performing the barbell press. To me it appears to offer more core stability than performing the overhead bb press and may prevent lower back injury chances. Just not sure how effective they would be in comparison to the overhead press. What do you think?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Haven’t tried it so can’t say, but I like barbell presses because they work the core. If you do a lot of standing movements you don’t have to do a lot of targeted ab work.

  38. Hey great website! I found this site in august and started on your body weight routine and am now finally starting to see some results. I know its a long process but I am committed! I do need some advice though I began your program being able to do sets of 3 chin ups and made all the way up to 9. As I got closer to 9 I noticed a longer and longer recovery time. Once I made it to 9 I had to rest close to 10 minutes maybe longer in order to complete the next set I recently tried switching to 5 minute rest periods because i thought that was more normal and I can only do 6 or 7. My goal is to be able to do sets of 15 before I jump into the next phase, Do you think 10-15 min rest periods are too long and that it may be counter productive to keep long rest times just to get to 15 reps? I also find it difficult to progess my chin up level when Im not increasing the amount I eat. I have made similar mistakes that you have in the beginning of your training and I guess alittle paranoid to build strength and not becoming lean. I have been able to increase my muscle mass before but have never been able to become truly lean.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Mark, great to hear! You just tripled your chin ups max.

      10 minutes is too long. Keep it to max 5 minutes. It’s fine if your chin up reps decrease with each set, that’s normal since you’re tired from your first set.

      Here’s an example of how a chin up workout can look:

      Set 1: 10 chin ups
      – Rest 3-5 minutes
      Set 2: 7-8 chin ups
      – Rest 3-5 minutes
      Set 3: 5 chin ups

      When I talk about reaching 15 reps on chin ups, it’s only on the first set. It’s very difficult to do 15 reps on 3-4 sets of chin ups unless you use extremely long rest times or you “save energy” on your first sets.

      If you’re already lean, a small 2-3 week bulking cycle won’t make you fat as long as you train hard.

  39. Hi Oskar

    Fantastic article, your putting out quality work. Following your tips I have made good progress in weight loss and have lost almost a stone in weight. I am just over 13 stone at 6ft 2″ and although I still have a skinny fat physique it is improving.

    I have quick question for you regarding diet. I rarely get hungry and could easily go most of the day without a meal and I normally just eat for energy. Its quite odd but I have always been this way. In this case, do you advise just eating when I am hungry rather than 2/3 meals a day?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      That’s great to hear Sachin! I would advise you to keep doing what you’re doing now since it’s working. Once it stops working you can consider switching it up.

  40. Hey Oskar,

    I notice you talked a lot about using inclined bench over the flat bench to increase upper chest development. If using great skull lp, would you advise doing incline instead of flat from the start or switch later on after strength increased on flat bench? Thanks again for all you do! Great inspiration and something to aspire to.

  41. https://i.imgur.com/1YebuuO.png
    Here are my humble gains from the past 4.5 months. When I took the first picture I had done body weight exercises consistently for maybe 2 months. Now I’m 79kg or 175lbs with the height of 186cm. I must admit that I am more to the skinny side on the skinnyfat spectrum so losing fat (more like weight including all hard worked muscle) has never been a problem for me. But I do have ridiculously long and thin arms and a tendency to get muscle on my ass and thighs.
    When the first picture was taken, I was able to do maybe two diamond pushups, now I do sets of 8-12. I just finished a pushing workout with a circuit of hindu, diamond, spiderman, broad and clapping pushups. I hadn’t done any other pushing or pulling exercises except pushups and pullups but recently I started to do some dips and deadlift aswell.
    Arms are still skinny as hell but atleast I got some definition on my stomach and back. Also my shoulders and traps have grown which is good since my neck doesn’t look that giraffish anymore.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Mikael, good progress, keep it up. You have to keep in mind it’s “harder” for us taller guys since we have longer bodies to fill out. I’m 188 myself and have very long arms and legs and a short torso, so it took me years to fill the arms out. However, once you do fill out it’s gonna look amazing. The key is to isolate them once you start doing hypertrophy training and do them several times a week. I do arms 2-3 times a week with +40 sets each time.

  42. As always a great post Oskar!!!!

    Look here a very good SkinnyFat Transformation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-jWAGq0Kfw

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Kevin. I’ve seen it on bodybuilding.com and liked the video a while ago. It’s a great transformation!

  43. Hey Oskar,

    So I feel I’m right around the beginning stage 2 portion. I have leaned down quite a bit, not fully able to rid of the love handle portion/ however have semi-decent ab formation when flexing. I can complete about 12 strict chin-ups and 20 rep diamonds at this point. After reading your e-book, you seem to focus mainly on increase the deadlift and chin-ups to get the V-shape. But on this article on stage 2 you suggest the greyskull lp. What would be the pros/cons in your opinion on doing one workout or the other? Also, I have been practicing doing more of a front squat variation at home with dumbbells and weighted vest to prevent any possible lower back issues. Do you think doing a front squat replacing the back squat in Greyskull would be beneficial?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Front squat is a great rerplacement.

      The ebook workout is more specialized, so it should be used by people who want to prioritize back width over anything else. It’s something I would run as a short term program.

      Greyskull LP is a more general routine so it’s better for your current situation.

  44. Oskar Faarkrog says:

    Thanks for all the nice comments and for your success stories, they motivate me to write more articles and make more videos!

  45. Thanks for the great article! I’m still in the phase of losing my body fat, so far I hv lost around 15kg by follow your guide, I hope I can be lean enough soon so that I can go into next phase! I feel very hopeful everytime i read your article. Thank you Oskar!!!

  46. Hey Oskar what are your lifts? I know that’s not your focus but I’m still curious.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey James, I don’t know my maxes, but I wrote a lenghty comment earlier in this post about what I lifted on some lifts this year. The only lift where I know my strength with certainty is the standing military press where I use 135 pounds for 6 reps (no belt, no momentum, no excessive back arch and slow negatives).

  47. I did maybe 15 powerlifting competitions in my 20’s and you are correct, its a completely different animal from bobybuilding. But with that being said, I think the foundation helped me a lot. I can go a lot heavier with some exercises than other guys because I have that powerlifting experience.

    BTW, not a big fan of Rippletoe. Never even heard of him until about 3 years ago. But I sure as hell heard about this guy named ARNOLD!!! and Arnold was most likely stronger than Rippletoe…

    Interesting post!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey John, I didn’t know that, very cool! I’m sure the foundation helped you a lot, which can also be seen in the thickness of your physique that many guys lack. Lately I’ve also gone back to basics and started doing heavy military presses for 2 sets twice a week and just added weighted pull ups and dips too. When I do the heavy lifts, I’m not able to train for as long, but I feel they can be good to do at times to increase your baseline strength so you can use more weight in your high rep training.

  48. Hey Oskar, your site is awesome man.
    Skinny fat is a real thing unfortunately good for someone who’s been there to lead the way.
    Just a question,what are your thoughts on strictly bodyweight exercises? Especially as a skinny fat beginner?
    Something like,
    Monday,Wednesday,Friday
    Assisted Pull ups
    Push ups
    Inverted rows
    Dips
    Until I can get 4 sets of 15 then add 2.5 pound weight.
    And then sprinting on Tuesday,Thursday
    And a Plyometric workout for Saturday.

    It sounds good to me as I personally can’t seem to get into lifting weights… I don’t like it.

    Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Day, thank you!

      This sounds like a solid plan. I don’t have anything against doing strictly bw training. I know plenty of people with great physiques that never use weights. The key is to make the exercises harder all the time. When you can do handstand push ups, muscle ups, levers and so on you will be in great shape.

      • Every time I lift weights I get extremely hungry and my self control gets thrown out. Bodyweight training is more my thing.Doing 15 pull ups with weight sounds way better than deadlifting 300+ pounds,IMO anyways.
        Thanks

  49. Hi Oscar,
    Amazing article once again. Been following your site for a while now and its currently just over six months since I started on the road to transforming my body and I’m delighted with the results so far. Just want to say thank you again, you’re making a real difference in people’s lives and I for one will be forever grateful for finding this site!

  50. Matias Page says:

    Oskar, this is one of your best articles by far. And I’ve read most of them.

    I’ve been applying your concepts and in the last two/three months I’ve seen more progress than ever before. I’m naturally prone to gaining fat and losing muscle like lightning.

    Right now I’m focusing like a laser on bodyweight chinups, pushups and squats as the staple. That’s 5x per week.

    I eat in a slight caloric deficit on weekdays and I do controlled cheat meals on the weekends. This has allowed me, just like you said, to keep on training and burning fat while keeping the muscle. I’m doing it very slowly, because I’ve got a tendency to hypothyroidism and low T. (I’ve had blood tests confirming this, and I’m trying to fix this with proper training and nutrition).

    I don’t know if you do this, but I got this from one of Martin Berkhan’s comments (he’s a crazy genius in my opinion). The days I eat on a caloric deficit, I make sure to eat very fatty meats and/or organs (like sweetbreads). And carbs are mostly vegetables.

    I think this has been key to feeling great while training 5x/week and doing 5 caloric deficit days. And it it my hypothesis that next month when I test my Testosterone levels and Thyroid, they will be both better. I’d bet on it, because I feel great, not drained.

    The days I eat in a caloric surplus, I lower the fat and I make sure that most of the calories are form carbs.

    What do you think?

    Thanks a lot for your work, man. Cheers!

    • Matias Page says:

      I forgot to say that I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (16-18 hours every day) for the past three years. And I feel just great! Mental focus through the day is incredible.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Wow I’m happy to hear that Matias!

      “The days I eat in a caloric surplus, I lower the fat and I make sure that most of the calories are form carbs.

      What do you think?”

      I train hard for 2 hours almost everyday so I eat “high” in everything now, but for your situation, what you’re doing is obviously working so you need to keep that up!

  51. Great article. 6months seems a bit short to go from 25-30% BF to 10-15%.

    I think I may add some cardio to my routine to speed things up. I know it makes you more hungry etc but it will speed things up I think.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You should be able to lose about 3 percentage points body-fat per month if you’re serious about it, thus about 18 percentage points in 6 months.

  52. Hey Oskar,

    Been following your posts and newsletters a lot. Mostly a lurker here and even on other forums. From all that I’ve read, your advice seems to be the most genuine and well-written. Unlike other sites or people seeking to profit by providing their routines/advice, yours seems to be the most honest and appropriate.

    You seriously inspire me and a lot of others, I’m sure. I hope to show you my progress one day and give you a sincere thanks.

    Regards,
    Mat

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Mat,

      Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate them, especially the compliment about writing which is a skill I’m working intensively on. I look forward to see your progress!

  53. Bro I have been slacking on my diet. I eat in a deficit for like a week and then 1-2x a week I binge eat. Basically wipes out an entire weeks effort. I feel so hopeless and eat when I’m bored. I know if I focus for a good 6-8 months I can break out of this skinnyfat body. I need to lose 40 pounds. I have never had a problem cutting before. I just feel like a damn failure because I have made such minimal progress for the 3 years I have been lifting. I just keep going in circles, don’t believe in myself, lack confidence. Do u have any advice?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, your biggest problem is that you eat when you’re bored. The solution is to book every single day full of activities that keep you occupied. Find a skill to work on, go do sports, read books etc. I had a similar issue to you, eating when I was bored, and for me, getting serious about my studies and starting cheerleading solved the boredom. I often forgot to eat because I was so busy.

  54. Hi Oskar,

    I really really liked this post, I read it entirely. I have some doubts about phase 1 and phase 2.

    I’m currently in phase 1 (is there a phase 0?? haha). I’m in the process of getting lean first. Let me say that this is an advise Ive heard from other sources too (about getting lean first), and I’m currently doing only bodyweight exercises and diet.

    The thing is that I’m kind of skinny (maybe 15% BF), and I can already do like 5-7 chin ups with good form. What happens if I lose the remaining fat but still cant complete the 15 you set as an example? I thought that the strengths gains required to get to that point are not possible in a caloric deficit. Can phase 2 be used to keep working on this bodyweight exercises? I mean, you can still working on building your strength foundation using the same exercises that in phase 1 but eating at maintenance

  55. Really good article Oscar.

    I went a very similar route that you did. At first I was doing SS squat/bench/dead, than changed it a little and started alternating squat/bench/dead with squat/bench/chin-up, finally I decided that there is too much lower body workout and went squat/bench/chin-up bench/dead/chin-up. I thought I was doing SS still, was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually almost switched to GreySkull :)

    One question – what training would you recommend for phase 3? Stay with GreySkull or switch to just chin-ups and diamond push-ups (thus not having to go to gym.. though I acutally like going to gym :)

    All best

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Lukasz!

      I would stay with GreySkull. You can always do the bodyweight exercises throughout the day/on off days, as long as you keep the sets easy. You can also use them for warm up and as finishers.

  56. Phase 2: Build The Strength Foundation onward: should I still be doing chinups, diamonds and bodyweight squats 4+ days per week, like start the workout with them without going to failure, and then do bench presses, squats etc as the ‘real’ workout? And similarly after that during the beginner pump routine, should I still do chinups and pushups almost every day even though the real pump workout has different days for different body parts?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You can do bodyweight training on your off days and use it to warm up. Stay away from failure though so you can be fresh for your heavy lifts.

      Once you start doing the pump routine, you can for example do the BW training in the mornings and evenings and the pump routine in the afternoon. The key is to stay away from failure on the BW exercises.

      • OK this wraps different articles up pretty well. I assume you check your squat/dl/etc maxes regularly too even though the bulk of your training is now in 8-12 reps pump workouts. So I think I have written four comments on this website since the beginning of summer, and “kinda” followed your model. I have read tens of articles about building muscle (especially when your body isn’t too keen to do that) and they taught me to believe in a certain way: you must go to gym, do squats, bench and dl, 5-12 reps but no more than 120 reps per week per muscle group, 1-3 times a week, get 2g proint per weight lbs, get creatine, no cardio etc etc.
        So I tried to desperately read the food descriptions and calculate protein and calories and buy creatine and arginine and what not, and was scared do anything physical outside the gym because ohmygosh overtraining muh gains. I didn’t progress, partly because I was too tied to the gym equipment and the mentality that I need extra protein so if I had a busy week or was away from my house like during summer vacations and so on, I wouldnt train at all, and I would switch from one miracle workout plan to another.
        I found this website after seeing some barbrothers videos and doing some google searches. And it was then that I started to respect bodyweight exercises, training almost every day and looking past those ‘normal’ workout programs. I seriously thought that you can only progress by adding plates to the bar and carefully count calories and rest periods, but that’s not really how our bodies work. Tribesmen nowadays or our grandgrandparents didn’t lift stones one day and then take two days off work because ‘muscles gotta rest’. Blacksmiths or warehouse workers have strong arms even though they strain them several ours five days a week. I don’t know what I’m rambling here but I started doing pushups then and now I can get a bit over 30 (and maybe 15 diamonds and 8 hindus etc I took some workout ideas from the bar brothers too). 11 pullups with 79kg bodyweight and looong arms, 16 dips, a bit over 30 bw squats. I got a bit impatient and moved a bit to the barbell training but now I will try to get my pullups to 15, pushups to 50, dips to 25 and squats to 60 before I start that strength phase.

        Ps. how do you finance this webpage? Put a donation button somewhere so I can give you 30 euros or something

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Hi Mikael, I sometimes do romanian deadlifts with 225-315 pounds for 10-12 reps at the end of my leg workouts but it’s rare. Maybe once every 2 months. Last time I did flat benches, I used around 200 pounds for 10 sets of 3 reps I think. Last time I did squats, I did 220 pounds ATG for 12 reps. If I had to take a guess, my deadlift is 400-450 pounds, squat 315 pounds, bench press 225 pounds. I don’t plan to max out though since I don’t do those lifts consistently so putting on a lot of weight to max out could easily get me injured. The only lifts I do consistently for strength are the standing military press where I can do 135 pounds for 6 strict reps (no leg movement, no excessive back arch and slow negatives) and the leg press where I do 530 pounds for 8 sets of 12-20 reps. Recently, I also started supersetting weighted neutral grip pull ups and dips where I use a 45 pound plate and do 10 strict reps on pull ups and about 12-14 reps on dips.

          The website costs have increased a lot this year but they are not too bad. You’re welcome to donate to my paypal oskarf92@gmail.com

      • mason shepherd says:

        I’m 12 but I’m 6ft 1in so can I still do this process since I am skinny fat

  57. great article oskar! greetings from spain :)

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