The 3 Most Important Exercises for a Skinny-Fat Guy

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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 sufferers natural shape, it’s vital to develop:

  • the back to create the illusion of wide shoulders
  • upper chest to create a masculine chest
  • shoulders to get even wider
  • arms because women love big arms
  • legs because you don’t wanna have arms as big as your legs

To do that I have developed a minimalistic approach that consists of 3 bodyweight exercises. The main reason why this minimalistic approach works for a skinny-fat guy is: less stress.

As a skinny-fat guy you have a natural tendency to be more stressed out than other people. By adding complicated workouts, diets and trying to find the new secret supplement all day and night, you will only add more stress. Stress is a muscle KILLER.

Furthermore, I prefer bodyweight training because to be good at bodyweight exercises you cannot be skinny-fat, you need to be lean and muscular to do 20 chin ups and 100 push ups.

During the past year I’ve used 3 exercises 90 % of the time, and made better progress than I did in 2 years at the gym.

1) Chin Ups to get a Wide Upper Body

If I could choose to do ONE exercise, it would be the chin up. The chin up builds a wide back, muscular biceps and forearms. Additionally, if you do chin ups with a high volume and frequency the rear shoulder will grow.

Here’s my 3 year back and biceps progress as a result of getting strong at chin ups:

1st and 2nd year of training

Wide Lats1

3rd and 4th year of training

Wide lats2

As you can see, I made better progress in my 3rd and 4th year of training than I did in my 1st and 2nd year. This is unusual, since most people get their best gains in the beginning.

There are several reasons to why I made more progress in my 3rd and 4th year, but the main reason is:

I stopped concerning myself with overtraining and did chin-ups as often as possible

Chin-Up Variations

There are different variations of this exercise, I have listed the most known variations in order of difficulty:

  • Chin Up: Palms facing you. Uses mostly back and biceps.
  • Neutral Grip Pull Up: Palms facing each other. Uses slightly more back and slightly less biceps than chin ups.
  • Pull Up: Palms facing away from you. Uses more back and less biceps than the other variations.

Furthermore, you can put more emphasis on the back or biceps by varying your grip.

  • Narrow Grip: Uses more biceps.
  • Shoulder-Width Grip: Uses mostly back but also biceps.
  • Wide Grip: Uses more back.

And finally:

  • You can use a backpack with weight in it and do chin ups with that on your back
  • Increase the Time Under Tension to make the reps harder

The best variation?

As a beginner you’re most likely weak on all of the variations or perhaps you can’t do a single chin up yet.

If you are strong enough to perform a chin up, my recommendation is that you perform regular chin ups (palms facing you, shoulder width grip) since those are usually the easiest.

Once you can do 12-15 chin ups, you can start playing around with different variations such as weighted chin ups and increasing the time under tension.

If you can’t do a single chin up yet, I recommend you to do negative chin ups until you get strong enough to do your first chin up (read about negative chin ups in my free eBook).

My favorite variation is the close grip chin up, since my main goal right now is to maintain the size of my back while increasing the size of my biceps. Find your favourite and get strong as hell on it!

2) Diamond Push Ups for Upper Chest, Triceps and Shoulders  

The diamond push up targets your triceps, upper chest and shoulders. To do a diamond push up, you simply get into a regular push up position; however you put your hands close to each other, so they resemble the shape of a diamond.

Most skinny-fat guys have crappy chest genetics. The upper chest is almost non-existent while the lower chest is either soft or overdeveloped. This gives a feminine appearance to the chest rather than a full masculine chest.

I was one of those guys less than a year ago, but by accident I was introduced to the diamond push up by one of the best male cheerleaders in Denmark. I started out at a measly 5 repetitions or so but built up my sets and reps very fast since I trained the diamond push up 1-2 times a day for several months.

The result was that my chest, triceps and shoulders increased in size while getting more defined despite carrying more bodyfat. Believe it or not, but in the May 2013 picture I actually have a larger waist and more bodyfat.

diminishing returns

Cannot perform a diamond push up yet?

If you cannot perform a single diamond push up, all you need to do is 1) Lose fat and 2) Do regular push ups and narrow your grip gradually until your hands touch each other. Once you can do one, train it everyday and build up your sets and reps.

Elevated Diamond Push Up

To target the upper chest more I used the elevated diamond push-up where I had my feet on a bench – this variation is superior to the regular diamond push-up, however it’s much harder.

3) Squats for Legs

To get stronger legs you can do any squat variation. Legs grow best when you do a lot of sets and high repetitions. Just get a good pump for the legs, and you will be all set.

If you’re new to training I recommend you to do some regular bodyweight squats for high reps and lunges before you do any single leg variations, since those are hard on the knees.

Once you can do 100 bodyweight squats below parallel, it’s time to start training for the pistol squat:

pistol squatYou probably won’t be able to do a pistol squat the first time you try, however you can perform pistol squats by holding onto something for support, until you eventually will have the coordination, strength and balance to do them without any support.

Why I don’t want to have huge legs

When it comes to building the legs, I have to say I don’t care about having huge legs. It’s inconvenient and looks bad.

I used to squat heavy 3 times a week. My glutes (butt muscles) and legs grew much faster than anything else, but I kept doing those squats because that was the program.

When I bought jeans they always fit awkwardly and my butt was sticking out way further than my back. Nowadays I train legs as little as possible. Usually 3 times a month I will do a short leg work out to maintain my strength.

Some people may call me lazy; I call it training for the body that I want.

This doesn’t mean that YOU should train legs only 3 times a month. Look at yourself in the mirror.

Do you want bigger legs? If not, then there’s no reason to train them a lot. Just do one workout a week for your legs and that’s it.

If you made it so far, thank you for reading. As a final word I’d like to share an excerpt from a reader that applied my minimalistic approach:

Your two exercises (close-grip chin-ups and the diamond push-ups) are doing the job greatly. In my case the way to follow is HIGH FREQUENCY (EVERYDAY, SOMETIMES MORNING AND AFTERNOON). The more I workout, the more my muscles get bigger.

He kept it simple, emphasized his weak muscle groups and trained as often as possible. What happened? He started transforming.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

Pistol Squat Image Credit: Flickr


Read my guide the 2 Phases of a Skinny-Fat Transformation:


View My Top 40 Fitness Articles (Read By Over 3 Million Skinny-Fat Guys):


  1. Hi Oskar,

    How u get to your first pistol squat? I tried it a lot but end up falling down. And is it normal when u losing weight u lose ur muscle too but still can do 20 diamond push up?

    Hope u can answer this :)

  2. splattenburgers says:

    Why are diamond pushups better than normal pushups for chest? Can’t I just do normal pushups with a weight vest and still build chest? I hear diamond pushups are mostly just good for triceps.

  3. Rob Sojkowski says:

    Could you clear something up for me please? You have referred to both chin ups and pull ups in a number of your excellent articles here
    Which exercise do you recommend the most – doing chip ups or pull ups?

    I have been doing quite a lot of chin ups, and now I’m doing 3 sets of chin ups with a 10kg weight on my back in a back-pack. Should I continue to add weight as I get stronger, or move to doing pull ups?

    Thank you for your advice!


  4. So your advice don’t train your legs too much if you don’t want big ass legs? I have a skinny upper and bigger lower body.

  5. I started all these when I began going to the gym, being skinny fat and bulked Just for a month before starting to follow your advice

  6. Hey! Started doing diamond pushups and chin ups a few months ago (wasn’t able to dob1 rep of either). Increased my chinups to 6(it took me 2 months for that) and then started doing Pull ups. But
    Currently I do Diamond pushups 15-11-10 and pull up 6-3-2.
    My body doesn’t show much of change.. what could be the problem

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You won’t see much change in phase 1 of your transformation, besides fat loss, but this requires that you’re on a good diet plan.

      The big changes happen after you lean down and build a strength foundation

      • Okay 👌

        • Overtrain as much as possible in the beginning and build muscle cell nuclei that will remember you had muscles, will be easier to build muscle later. since we skinny fat guys don’t have enough nuclei, because we never had muscles in our life, we never really played sports like soccer in our young teenage, we have to increase the number of nuclei.. once you do it, you will have muscle memory, when when you lose muscle mass due to taking breaks, it will be easier to regain all the lost muscle size.

  7. You have mentioned some great exercises for overall mass gain and definition.
    Pushups, pullups, squats and deadlifts are some of the great compound exercises that will not only help in overall muscle development but also help in getting a better and proportionate body.

  8. Hi Oskar,

    Another great article. What are your thoughts on doing deadlifts for the skinny fat trainer?

    I think deadlifts should get honorable mention here as they work your arms, legs, back and shoulders at the same time.

    Deadlifts will add width and thickness to your back and shoulders, creating a wide, ‘V’ shape torso while improving your posture as well, thus bringing the shoulders back and chest out for an even wider appearance (which also helps to tighten up man boobs).

    I’m a huge fan of deadlifts and think the skinny fat trainer can definitely benefit from incorporating them into their workout routine.

    Thanks again for the great article – I’m off to do some pull ups now ;)


  9. Is it okay if you split the 3 exercises up throughout the day?

    Eg: 2-3 sets of push-ups in the morning

    2-3 sets of pull-ups in the afternoon

    2 sets of squats in the evening

    Is that okay if say for example you thrash your muscles doing push-ups in the morning and can’t move onto pull-ups even after waiting 2-5 minutes in between sets?

    Or is it more beneficial to do everything in one workout?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      You can do that but then you will have to remember to warm up before each workout

  10. If you experience wrist pain when doing diamond pushups, can you do decline pushups (on your fists from your knuckles) with your feet elevated on a chair?

  11. Hello,

    Your minimalist training have sense for me but… I can’t do pullup and negative is very taxing for me (overweight, yes I try to lose fat). Can I alternate with inverted rows ? And what about shoulders ? Are pullup and pushup sufficient, especially for the shoulder side ?

    Thank you for your help :-)

  12. Can close grip pull ups do my back wide and work my lats? Or i need to do another excercise?? You are awesome, thans for all info

  13. Hi Oskar, thanks to your advice, my body is slowly transforming. I am able to do 15 diamonds, 13 dips, and 6 chin ups. Not great figures, but my body is changing already.

    I am confident that my diamonds and dips will reach 20 in no time, but I am worried if I will ever reach my chinup target (12-15). Do I just continue working out frequently (based on your chin up ebook) and hope for the best, or do I do something different to increase chin up number? Please advise, Oskar.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Keep at it. If you’re seeing positive change, it’s only a matter of time before you do 20 chin ups.

      • Thanks so much, Oskar. Just one question: do we normally increase at least by one rep per week in chin ups? Or will even one rep take weeks? I am asking for two reasons, I am currently stalling at 7 chins, plus I want to keep track of progress… so if I can many weeks without increasing even one rep on my chinup, it it ok or am I doing something wrong?

        • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

          You increase whenever you can. Everyone progresses at different paces. It took me like 2 years to get to 10 chin ups, but you can get there much faster than me so don’t worry about the speed of your transformation (mine is pretty much a worst case scenario).

          • Thanks again, Oskar. It’s only after stumbling upon ur site that i learnt many things, especially about calisthenics, and also acquired the confidence that I can do it. Going from 0 to 7 chins (and 0 to 15 diamond pushups) itself is a great confidence booster.

  14. Nikhil Kudale says:

    Hi, I am from India, you post great content which helped me alot & I don’t have to google anymore! :) I am not a skinny-fat guy but total skinny :( I have joined a gym exactly a week ago, they make me do warm up, dips, pullups & surya namaskar(3 sets of everything), my back is like a curved ‘C’ with no mass at all in my back waist(just above butt), I’m 17, I’m going to hit senior college soon in a half year! please guide me :(

  15. what about calories intake then? is it true calories surplus on weight lifting day and calories deficit on cardio day? as they said us skinny fat must not consume normal calories surplus like a normal skinny person that wanted to bulk up.

  16. Hey Oskar great website.

    I stumbled across your website because I want to increase T levels naturally.

    Do you recommend – Hugh frequency, chin up + diamond press up everyday? and until failure? As best way to increase testosterone? Or not?

    II’ve never been a gym rat but have always done body weight exercises off and on throughout my life and I’ve stayed quite lean. However if I went a week without exercise any muscle would vanish and I would look skinny/skinny fat but most of the fat I gain goes to me face (y) not ideal.

    I will work on diet and sleep too.

    Thanks in advance for reply.

  17. Please mail the videos of exercise

  18. Hai oskar what I have to do?. my thighs are more broder and heavy with man boobs and ribs felt to be inserted Inwardly with lean arms and shoulder. In Jan and Feb I have started taking gym and pushups. And done 4 reps of 16 pushup daily over there. After sometime I came up with pain all along the left half of the body. Then had stopped working in gyms and still it is present. What would you like to suggest me for shaping the body and strength. Please must reply.

  19. Lorenzo says:

    Hey Oskar,
    do you think I can implement this workout in a boxing routine 4x week?
    Thank you for your time ;)

  20. Hey Oskar..first of all I would like to say that I find your website very informative..and enjoy reading it.Now my question is how can I get mascular arms..i have been training for 1 year.mainly i do heavy compound moves..and I have decent chest and lats but my arm are seriously lagging.should I start isolation moves for arms???

  21. justice yaw says:

    I’m a. skinny fat. bench press always
    wide up my back. how do I work on my chest without having an increase of my wide bak

  22. Hi Oskar,
    Anyway to combine the best of both worlds?
    Your bodyweight training and strength training in a program? Not necessarily to be powerlifting strong but to build some decent lean mass and musculature.
    Aesthetically pleasing symmetrical look but atheltic and strong looking too.

  23. Long Road Back……

    Back in the middle of March, I posted a six months results comparison, after following the basic 3 exercise routine recommended in this post. My results were extremely pleasing, I was delighted to have made so much progress


    Whilst bending over sawing some wood one day, I really badly pulled my lower back muscles (I was in absolute agony for some time). After a month of total inactivity, I started up again, only to get very badly bruised lower ribs – resulting from a football clash – couldn’t sleep properly for three weeks, then wrenched my left shoulder in an accident in a swimming pool after a slip.
    Finally started up again two weeks ago

    To my absolute horror, I can hardly do anything – in March I was doing 11 chin ups in my first set – now all I can manage is 4!

    Push ups are not quite so bad – doing 4 x 14 at the moment, then starting diamonds again when I can do 20 standard push ups

    Bodyweight squats – not good at all

    It seems as thought I’ve gone back almost to the start – its really depressing to think that I’ve got a huge mountain to climb to get to where I was a couple of months ago! Motivation is difficult – its very demoralising starting over again, like this but I’m trying my hardest to get back “into the groove”

    I still very much want to improve my strength, and physical appearance, and feeling of self esteem that goes with knowing that I can do miles more chin ups/push ups/squats than the average person

    Another thing I’ve found – I thought it would be easier the second time around to improve my results – not so – it seems really hard now! Don’t know if its an age thing (I’m going to be 60 in September)

    Don’t know if you’ve got any advise to help speed things up a bit – any tips would be very useful!!!
    Thank you

  24. Hi, Oskar! Love this website you’ve put together! I was just wondering what you think of inverted rows as a temporary (hopefully) substitute to chin ups. Due to a seemingly permanent issue with my wrist (old injury), the neutral grip variation is the only chin up/row exercise that doesn’t result in the wrong kind of pain. However, a) I’m not very strong yet, and b) places to do neutral grip chin ups have actually turned out to be ridiculously hard to find. I can, however, do neutral grip inverted rows, even in my own apartment.

    Would inverted rows be a decent substitute, at least for now? And if not, what would you recommend that I do instead of/in addition to inverted rows, to at least get most of the effects of chin ups? I suppose inverted rows would be easier, and affect the muscles differently, due to the differences in angles. Thank you so much, both for the website, and the possible feedback!

  25. Oscar, do you think that a guy can get at least to a decent level just with these excercises? By decent I mean something like the left shot on this picture:
    Thank you for the answer in advence!

  26. Joe Ratanawong says:

    Hey Oskar Greeting from Aarhus. My name is Joe and I wonder about what to do after this Basic exercise in this post. I read in the comment section that you will post something later but I can’t find it. I’m so glad I found your website. I have a terrible proportion with hourglass shape = big butt and thigh. I had several personal training who have no idea about what to do with my body. I give up several times with training since It make very little difference in balancing my upper body with my huge lover body. However, I train on and off for almost 8 years and I gain considerable strength and size on my upper body without lifting a single weight with chin up and diamond push up. I’m really happy for it and I wonder what’s next after this. What to exercise after I max out this program and my muscle needs something new. Right now my state is 175cm 75 kg with 14% body fat to 77kg with the dame body in a month. I’m really impress since I can notice the different in y upper body size only after rafter a month. It is still a long way for my chin up since I have long arms and super heavy bottom half I’m still using weight support ( 14kg) chin up to get to 13 rep/4 set but I already reach 25 rep/ 4 set diamond push up both exercise I use 4 mins break per rep. I wonder when will you open your personal training session again. By the way, i’m moving to KBH in a month; do you still do in person training session?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Joe, at this point you either make the switch to weights or practice handstand push ups. There’s a guide on handstand push ups on the site.

      When it comes to programming, I can’t say exactly what program would be best for you without actually training you, since training depends a lot on how you’re built, how you recover, your diet and individual preferences, but a good place to start is the serge nubret pump training routine.

      You can sign up for my online coaching at then I’ll send a newsletter out when I open again for spots. As for in person training, I will be in Copenhagen from 1 June to end of July if that fits you. After July I’ll be moving to Bangkok.

      • Joe Ratanawong says:

        Dear Oskar, I will move to KBH from June 10th onward and I have the whole June free and July free in the afternoon. So the timing is perfect. I’m also from Bangkok myself and I would be happy to give you tips on that. I’m from Thailand by the way. Thank you for now I will give a look at Sergel program. Congratulation on your big move and I also looking forward to move to KBH as well. Hey would not say that learning Danish is a particularly easy either.

        • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

          Danish is so difficult I know. Luckily I was 6 when I moved so learned in a month or two.

          Message me on Facebook when you get closer to moving and we will figure out the training date. I believe one in person coaching session is all you need to get started.

        • I can do 14 chin up and 8 pull up but only one set. What should I do to make me do more pull ups and chin up. Oh and I can’t do a single dips. How should I start

  27. Hey Oskar, at this stage I am only lean enough to do negative pullups, no real ones. So this is my plan for six days a week training: 2 sets of negative pull ups, 5 reps per set. So all in all, 10 negative reps (taking 5 seconds to come down). 2 sets of diamond push ups (as many as I can).

    My plan is to build up pull up strength by doing negative only so that when I lose another ten pounds or so (with my diet changes), I will be ready for real pull ups. Do u think it’s logical – sticking to just negatives while dieting down (and not bothering with real pull ups)?

  28. Dear Oskar, Is it good to do only diamonds/squats for the time being, and once I lean down I could start doing Chins? As of now I can do diamonds and squats but am not lean enough to do chins. So is it okay to ditch chins for now, focus only on diamonds, become lean, and then later on include chins?

    Please advise.

  29. Anthony says:

    Hey Oskar! I really love this website. I feel like since I’ve found it I have learned a lot about the “skinny fat” condition. I have a question for you. I recently just got dumped by my girlfriend after being emasculated (she was a feminist and wanted control in the relationship ugh) and now I am ready to embrace my masculinity. I can do about 20 diamond pushups with perfect form and probably 15 regular chin-ups a set and 8-12 20 lb weighted chin-ups. I want to grow my back and my chest but I also need to cut. Would it be okay for me to train every single day throughout the day with these exercises and still see results? i.e.. every hour or so do like a set, so 10 waking hours 200 pushups and 80-100 chin-ups? or would that be too much?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Anthony, I’m glad you like it. That sounds like a phenomenal plan. I would take 1-2 rest days a week though and track progress. I know an older skinny-fat guy who trained for +20 years and is jacked… He found this kind of training approach to work extremely well for him.

  30. Ruelo Paolo says:

    What exercise did you do for your love handles? Skinny fat guy here.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I didn’t do any specific exercises. I lost the fat through diet, read 10 simple tips to lose fat without starving yourself.

  31. Oskar, just one doubt on chins – I was able to do 3 reps in the 1st set followed by 2 in the second and another 2 in the third. So daily if I do three sets trying to add just one more rep would that be okay? Or do I have to add negatives?

  32. Apologies for above post being somewhat untidy…wrote it in Word, then copy& pasted it here – column settings have all disappeared!!
    I wanted to add that I also do negative chin ups after the chin up exercise; and additional straight push ups after the diamond ones – just for fun!

  33. Just over six months ago, I decided to follow the training regime recommended here by Oskar, and I’ve now reviewed the results of those six months of effort!
    Sept 2014 March 2015

    Chin ups 3,3,2,1 10,8,8,8,7
    Diamond push ups 10,10,10,9 17,17,17,15
    Squats 4 sets x 30kg x 8 reps 42 + 37 reps x bodyweight + 2 19 x 30kg
    Weight 155.75lbs 155.5 lbs
    Waist 36.75 inches 36 inches
    (Measured at line with belly button)
    Shoulders 45 inches 46 inches
    Chest 38.5 inches 39.25 inches
    Legs 18.5 inches 19.5 inches
    Upper arms 11.25 inches 11.25 inches
    I’ve trained three times a week, I also play indoor football once a week, and go swimming at the week-end. Because I’m now not fat off being 60, recovery times are longer – I’ve tried training four times a week, but I just end up with muscle/joint pain that doesn’t go away!
    I have to say I’m very pleased to date with some of the gains in some of the exercises. Only disappointment is that my arms haven’t grown at all
    Nutrition: Breakfast – porridge with peanut butter + sliced banana. Lunch – sandwich on wholemeal bread + fruit. Evening – cooked meal
    I would be very interested to hear any advice as to how I can get my arms to grow in size, in spite of the large increase in exercise that I have achieved (there is a lot more muscle definition though – muscles might be small – but they look reasonable!)
    I have carefully logged down all my measurements over this period, and I’ve got photos of myself Sept / March (photos don’t show much difference!)
    I hope you don’t mind this long post, but I though this could be useful feedback on how one of your follows are progressing!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for sharing Rob.

      Your results are good, and faster than my own progress.

      The reason to why you didn’t see big changes in the mirror is that you did a strength routine and not a hypertrophy mass routine.

      The strength routine is designed to prepare your body for a hypertrophy routine later on.

      When you make the switch to a mass routine and start eating a caloric surplus, you will notice faster gains.

  34. Hi, thanks for the info it looks very promising! I tried different methods to get fit and some helped but not that much, your transformation’s very encouraging.
    I gotta ask, because of my house’s structural weirdness, I can’t place a chin-up bar anywhere. Is there an alternative option for chin-ups? I got some dumbells, 8 kg (17 pounds) each, should I use them or do another bodyweight alternative?
    Also, generally, should I warm up before I do any of these exercises, if so how?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Unfortunately I don’t know any good bodyweight training alternatives for pull ups/chin ups. Do you have a stable doorframe at home you could do them from or a pull up bar in a park nearby or something?

      Otherwise, purchase some heavier dumbbells and do dumbbell rows to train your back and biceps.

      Yes, you should warmup with dynamic stretches. Just google “dynamic stretches” and find different ones for the muscles you will train. Also, start with 1-3 light sets, then move onto the harder sets.

  35. Shaltiel Shirley says:

    hey Oscar,
    I appreciate your hardwork bro.. I am having the same body structure that you have when you started training.
    I’m to too training from last 1 year but there is no fat reduction in my body.
    My question is that should I use some fat burning supplements or shredding supplements???
    and do you have ever used these supplement???
    thank you

  36. Hey Oskar,
    I’ve been following your guide, and I have definitely gotten thinner, (I’m following the from skinny fat to thin part), but I’ve been losing more, mass/fat around my arms, and other parts of my body, than in my stomach area. Is this a common thing? Or should I try some other approach? I’m in my second month of losing fat.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Just keep going, you can’t spot reduce fat. It will eventually shred off your waist too.

      • Thanks! I know you mentioned that cardio gets you hungrier, but would you recommend something high intensity like insanity? I must admit, I have a very slow metabolism- its hereditary. So anything to improve that will help.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I believe cardio should only be used at the end of a cut (for example if you want to go from lean to VERY lean). Save it as a weapon in your toolbox for the end of your cut. If you use it from the start, what will you do when it stops working and you still have 10-20 pounds to lose?

  37. Hey, what’s the skinny hip movements helpful? Movements at home.

  38. Hi Oskar!
    Great advice you have, I’ve been following it for a while and I’ve lost 14 pounds and gained some muscle too.
    In the article, you mention that you’ve trained diamond push ups for 1-2 times daily for a few months. Do you recommend this to someone who has only 4 months of training behind him? Also, do you think it is also possible to do pull ups every day or even twice a day?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Chris, thank you and congrats on your fat loss! Yes, it’s a great way to add reps to your max, but the key is to stay away from failure and to build up gradually. For example, if your max is 12 chin ups, do a lot of sets of 6-8 throughout the day.

  39. Please dont call it Bodyweight exercises if you are using extra weights.. but good article!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks. I rarely use weights on the BW exercises. I only do it when I want to test my strength which happens a few times a year. The picture is not me if that’s what you refer to.

  40. Tawheed Sayyid says:

    Hello! Liked your article very much. I’ve recently started to do pushups (a month back). At first, it was just to reach 10 repetition. After achieving that, I started going with 39 pushups for a day. I do this for 4 days and take 3 days rest every week. Will this bee enough to make my chest bulk and strong? Waiting for your reply

  41. Thanks Oskar. I have read it.

  42. Hi Oscar,

    I am also a skinny fat person. I have bulked from 132lbs to 154lbs, and still, the result was minimal, and I grew lots of fats around my waist. I did strength training when I first started working out. Then, I began to follow pro bodybuilder’s workout routine, and that’s when I started bulking. I realized I was gaining too much fats, and now, I have decided to cut. I am currently on a beginner workout routine, which they aren’t complicated at all, but still, I feel I wasn’t growing, and I know one of the reason is because I am leaning out, thus losing muscles. I have read most of your articles, and I can say I have gained lots of knowledge from it, but I have a few questions; by doing this routine you are saying, do you do it everyday? Isn’t this over-training? If it is not, how should I do this? Every single day? 3 sets to failure? How should I increase the weight? Please advise me.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Brian, follow the routine in my article Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Beginner. Everything is explained there.

  43. Hi Oskar

    In your guidance on doing 1 ~ 5 chin ups – you mention doing negative chin ups for three sets after the complete ones. Can I clarify something please – in each set after doing the complete chin ups – do you do the negative ones straight away one after the other?

    I’ve been doing these for a couple of weeks now – and its really tough – my lat muscles were sore for days the first time I did them!

    I am making progress though – I could only do two a couple of weeks ago, now I can do three or four – depending on what bar I use – seem to be able to do more using a slightly thicker bar for some reason!

    Thank you for your advice

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, I would do the negatives straight after.

      Keep up the good work. Progress means you’re doing it right. The soreness will not be an issue once your body get’s used to the chins.

      • Hi Oskar

        Since my last post on the 19th Sept above, I’ve been really pushing the chin ups – with great results – this is how I’ve done since 19/9:

        6-4-4 Today

        All sets with negative chin ups in between as well

        Really pleased with how this is going. Moving on to next step in your instructions – doing up to 15 chin ups now

        Just wanted to share this – as I’ve just turned 59, and it shows it is possible to do something like this at this age (I’ve seen the video and article on the 62 year old man who’s done 17 chin ups) Show what can be done with a bit of determination

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Wow Rob, you’ve doubled your chin up max in 10 days. Great job and keep up that progress!

          I’ll make this the featured comment on the site so other people can get motivated.

          Let me know how your progress comes along.

  44. Antonio Hernandez says:

    Hey man I’m excited to have found someone who suffered from the skinny-fat guy syndrome like myself and I too happen to be lifting and trying to gain muscle. You’re truly an inspiration bro, I wanna look like you some day, give yourself a pat on the back you just gave a constantly depressed guy a reason to try harder.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I really appreciate the kind words Antonio. If I can do it, so can you. I struggled with depression throughout my whole life, and still have it come back at times. (Biological father was bipolar, so I guess it’s genetic).

      • Antonio Hernandez says:

        Hey i guess so, we’re just trying to survive am I right? Man it’s tough working out during college especially with the junk food and tests :/

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I’m sure you can do it. I did my transformation while completing my bachelor degree, and now I’m on my master.

  45. Hi Oskar,

    Having read this article / the diamond push ups article, and others – I am going to do the three exercises you mention for my training routine.

    I have a question:

    At the moment I’ doing 4 x 18 regular push ups in the morning; 4 x 13 “triceps” push up – at lunch time (these are with my hands moved to my sides near the bottom of my ribcage); and recently in the early evenings 3×9 + 1×6 diamond push ups.

    My question is: should I stop all the variations of push up I do, and focus on the diamond push ups?

    I’m really pleased with doing so many diamond push ups – I started a little while ago after reading your article on getting a beach body – doing diamond push ups.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Rob,

      Yes, just focus on the diamonds and get really strong at them. If you feel you need more work, feel free to do so, but I personally prefer to stick to as few exercises as possible.

  46. Must I do diamonds slowly or at moderate pace? If I do it slowly, it is hard to do even 5 reps for the first set…. But I am assuming creating tension in the muscle is more important than reps or sets?

  47. So basically, to reiterate and clarify in a short version…I need to stick to chin ups, push ups, and squats for body weight exercises and eating healthy and this will help achieve a more lean body and extra body fat?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, you will get leaner, but I don’t know what you mean about extra body fat.

      • By extra body fat I mean having too much fat and not having lean body.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I don’t get it. You’re asking me if my advice will help you achieve a lean body AND one with extra body fat? Those are two opposites

  48. I enjoyed reading this because it is how I am currently feeling. I weigh 157 lbs. I like my weight as it has gone down a lot in the past 5 years and I look very slim in clothes. However, it’s all fatty and I don’t have a firm chest, stomach or arms. If I follow these type of exercises, what type of reps will make those body parts firm, but won’t bulk them up to the point I’d have to change wardrobes and still be able to maintain my current weight?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Evan,

      Currently, you’re skinny-fat because you have too much fat and most likely undermuscled.

      Unfortunately, you can’t gain muscle and lose fat at the same time (besides in the beginning where you may get a SMALL amount of muscle gains while losing fat).

      Exercises will simply build muscle underneath the fat you have, IF you eat a caloric surplus. However, eating a caloric surplus will also lead to some fat gain.

      Muscle can rarely be built without gaining any fat, unless you have GREAT genetics.

      I, and many readers of the site have tried to lose fat while gaining muscle, and it usually leads to disappointment. The best thing you can do now is to lose the fat first while doing basic bodyweight exercises to build strength and maintain muscle mass:

      Why you should lose fat first:
      Fat loss tips: and
      Bodyweight training routine:

      Once that is done, you’ll be lighter than now, but then you can focus on gaining muscle so you end up at a lean and muscular 157 pounds.

      Don’t worry about “bulking up your muscles too fast”. That won’t happen. Muscle gains are extremely slow: If you lose 15-20 pounds now, it will take you at least one year of consistent and dedicated training to gain 15-20 pounds in muscle, and then you’ll have to cut the excess fat after.

  49. HI Oscar,i am a cricket player and i wanted to know how to approach weightlifting or any kind of home workouts while in season? i play four days a week,so should i lift and train at the same time? would it affect my performance? you might say train in rest of 3 days of the week,but what if i get sore afterwards,the problem is i cant skip practice, and i really need to get strong too. help me out!!!

  50. Hi Oskar, excellent site, exactly what I was looking for as a skinny fat guy.

    Some doubts, if you don’t mind. I have no bar, so I am doing two exercises – dips using chairs, and diamond pushups/incline pushups etc. so basically pushups and dips, no other exercise. Are these two enough to add size to arm and chest? Many ppl say pushups or any calisthenics workout is just like cardio to lose fat, so no muscle gain is possible.

    That’s why I am confused. I am already skinny, so I don’t wanna lose any more weight, so I am afraid that dips or pushups will make me lose weight instead of adding muscle.

  51. yo man i love the article and i have sooooo much trouble with skinnyfat and im trying to change before college start back the 18th of august
    -I was wondering on the eating part like what do i eat like i count calories i eat between 1700-2500 and i dont have money for all the healthy foods do you have some alternatives?
    -and on the workout like can i still implement weight lighting or just keep it strictly body weights?
    -and yeah all my stress is on what should i eat seeing that i dont always have the funds other than that i really don’t stress.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You should eat as healthy as your budget allows. I can’t help you with that, since I don’t know your budget and the prices of food in your country. I recommend to master the basic bodyweight exercises before you move onto weightlifting.

  52. Bonnita says:

    I totally get what you mean about leg training. My husband has very defined and strong legs despite hardly ever training them, he also intentionally focuses less on training them because they tend to get over-developed. I think some people are just naturally more developed in some body areas than others and don’t need to work much on them. I think it’s a case of genetics and perhaps activities done while still growing (he did lots of cycling as a teenager).

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Exactly Bonnita, in the end it’s all about going for the physique that YOU want, and not what somebody else tells you.

      Furthermore, it’s all about proportion. For example, my calves are naturally skinny and they don’t respond at all to weight training. However, my thighs and glutes grow quite fast, so when I do squats frequently, I end up having thighs and glutes that are way out of proportion compared to my calves. If I trained for a sport that requires strong legs and glutes, then I’d hit them hard, but the truth is that I train to be healthy and look good, so I don’t see the reason for hitting them hard anymore.

      • I’m in exactly the same boat!!

        I want my calves to be bigger but my thighs are so disproportionate and bulky compared to the rest of my body and I almost never train them. So what should I do in this case if i am a skinny fat beginner with a huge gut + small calves and forearms? I was thinking of doing your recommended body weight exercises (negative pull ups and diamond push ups for now) but I don’t have a clue as to how I should train for the third exercise to create a more aesthetic look (lean and defined legs/not bulky ones) isolated calf exercises with high frequency leg work?

  53. Hi – thanks for great content.

    A question regarding diamond push ups – how much do these really hit the chest? My understanding is that they work the triceps more and push ups with hands wider apart work the chest?


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I thought that too, but my chest basically improved overnight when I added diamond push ups to my training. I suggest you give it a try and see how they work for you.

  54. well if you dont want big legs do strength training on them. I do 5×3. You get stronger legs but not much bigger legs. But you have to do squats, its a must to put strength in your whole body. Squats and deadlifts man.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for the suggestion PM, but I’m not a powerlifter and I don’t do any sports that require a very high squat, so I don’t see the point in increasing my squat further. I’m pleased with my legs the way they are now.


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Legs are important to train, just like everything else. I train my legs hard. What exactly are you talking about?

  56. Hi, Thank you for taking the time to write and share this post.

    My maxes are 14 chins, 8 pullups, about 8 diamond pushups or 20 regular.

    • In terms of a workout, what sort of volume should I looking at hitting in terms of sets per day and reps?

    • Is doing it 5 days a week a good idea to avoid any possible overtraining?

    • Would you also chuck handstand pushup progressions or dips in there or is that best left until you can get really high reps on the pushups? I’ve personally struggled with pushups for years. I suck at them and can’t honestly imagine being able to do 50 or more in one set..

    Thanks again

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Matthew,

      I covered the workout in: Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Beginner

      Wait with the handstand push ups progressions until you can do 20 perfect reps on diamonds. There will be an article about handstand push ups soon.

      • I am excited for the handstand push up article, I can do a ton of diamonds/ regular pushups now and it is getting pretty time consuming, although I have started to play around with time under tension and have graduated to incline diamonds to make it tougher and to work my upper chest harder.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Just keep up with the incline diamonds and get 20 perfect reps on that. It will make it a lot easier to transition to handstand push ups.

  57. Yo,

    Just wanted to give you a headsup;
    Today morning;
    Pushups 30,
    Upperchest pushups; 20
    Diamond pushups; 15

    Today evening;
    Pullups, 10,12,10,9
    Pushups, 20,25,20,20

    After that upperchest pushups; 15,15,15
    Diamond pushups; 12, 15, 10

    Before sleep
    Dips; 10,10,10

    I feel awesome! Thnx!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Damn man, you are a machine, good work!

      Keep me updated on how your progress is with this kind of training.

      • Haha thanks man!

        I measured my waist, hips, kilograms this morning and my reps offcourse.
        I will post progress pics/strength gains to you this coming month!

        I feel pumped and excited for this.

  58. To do that I have developed a minimalistic approach that consists of 3 bodyweight exercises. The main reason why this minimalistic approach works for a skinny-fat guy is: less stress.

    As a skinny-fat guy you have a natural tendency to be more stressed out than other people. By adding complicated workouts, diets and trying to find the new secret supplement all day and night, you will only add more stress. Stress is a muscle KILLER.

    SO glad i read this! This is me times 10 !

    Keep up the good work man!

  59. Hi Oskar,

    Im having the same problem that you had, i aint gaining any muscle. It frustrates me a lot.

    But you say overtraining I dont understand, so you train chins/pushups everyday?

    So if I train 5 days a week doing chins/dips to failure I will get some growth?


    • And thats all the training that you do in that day?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Rody,

      This year I have been focusing on getting strong at chin ups and diamond push ups while maintaining my squat.

      The reason is that chin ups will give you a wide back + bigger biceps and diamond push ups will give you a proportionate chest + bigger triceps. I have done those 2 exercises pretty much everyday. I take them to failure when I feel fresh, and when I don’t feel fresh I just do a light training.

      By doing this I have gained 3 cm around my arms and 6 cm round my shoulders since the end of January 2013, and I weigh less than I did before.

      • I like your attidude, you motivate me dude.
        Fuck that shit that you cant work the same muscle everyday, apparently it’s possible.

        A friend of mine is in the army he does pushups everyday and has a nice chest as well.
        When you are sore from doing chins, you still do them?

        Im going to do Chins every day, dips(have a dipstation/chinbar at home) and diamond pushups.

        Starting today! :D

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I’m glad you find it useful!

          I was stuck with the wrong mindset for a long time. Reading about training and nutrition confused me more than it helped me.

          If I had to start over again I would just eat “normally” and do bodyweight training everyday until I got lean and had a nice strength base. After that I would do the short bulking and cutting cycles to gain a bit more muscle for 8-12 months. This would have taken at most 1.5 years rather than 3.5 years.

          About chins: I never get sore from chins anymore because my body is used to them. The “beginning phase” may be a bit tough because you get sore, but that doesn’t matter much. After 2-3 weeks your body should be used to chins and then it will be no problem – the worst you can do now is to skip planned trainings just because you are sore.

  60. Some really solid advice here. I know you wrote about how you shouldnt limit yourself to a predetermined number of sets and exercises etc. but could you give a quick layout of your bulking/cutting routines?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      The main difference in my bulking and cutting doesn’t lie in the routine itself but in the intensity and frequency I put into it.

      For example, this year I wanted to emphasize my upper chest and arms, so my routine was:
      Close grip chin ups 2-4 sets (biceps) – done everyday during bulks and 4-5 times a week during cuts
      Diamond push ups 2-4 sets (triceps + upper chest) – done everyday during bulks and 4-5 times a week during cuts
      Single legged squats 2 sets – done 3-4 times a month to maintain legs during both bulks and cuts

      As you can see, the main difference lies in the frequency since I would train more often during my bulks.

      Also, when I felt fresh during my bulks, I would go beyond failure on my exercises to increase the intensity variable and stimulate growth. On diamond push ups I would switch to regular push ups once I hit failure then do those to failure and then end the set with “burn-out reps” where I do half push ups. On close grip chin ups I would switch to negatives once I hit failure on regular reps and do as many as possible of those and then end my set with inverted rows.

      By increasing the frequency of my training and intensity when I felt fresh I saw great progress in my training. This is one of the reasons why I like to only have a basic outline that allows me to adjust my training depending on how I feel on that day, and really push myself on days where I feel like it, rather than when some routine tells me to.

  61. What is the rest time between set..just enough to recuperate, or very low 30-45-60sec, or more strength oriented 120-180s.
    Since rest time is one of the intensity variables, it should somewhat be kept the same, or controllably manipulated.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I have done everything from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and for me both have worked. In the beginning longer rest times are defnitely better so you can build a good base of strength. After you have a good base, you can try to reduce the rest time between sets to get more hypertrophy.

  62. what is your volume (rep range and sets) for pushups? must do a lot of them… Or are you adding weight so you stay within the 8-12 rep range for max hypertrophy?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It has changed greatly during the last 9 months I’ve been doing them. The key to progressing on them was doing them frequently. When I started doing them I would do them when we had water breaks during stunting practice (I’d maybe do 4-5 sets of diamond push ups in those breaks). Then I’d go home and eat, and do a few sets before going to bed. Right now I train them about 5 times a week where I do 4 sets of 20-35 reps. Sometimes I’ll switch it up and do them with my girlfriend on my back.
      Don’t be afraid to try new things like high reps, this worked very well for me.

  63. Right now I am not lean or strong enough to do a single chin up. Could you recommend a substitute exercise for chin ups in the mean time? I’m thinking lat pulldowns (I train in the gym by the way). Thanks in advance!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Kevin,
      The best way to work up to doing a regular chin up is to do a lot of negatives. Simply grab a bar, jump up in the air, and lower yourself slowly. Lat pulldowns are also fine, but I would focus mostly on negative chin ups.

      • Hi Oskar, do negatives really help if one can do 3 chin ups? Some people say just do those 3 chins over and over, others say 3 chins is too small a number so focus on negatives.

        Which approach is beneficial?

  64. R.K. Hessel says:

    When you say “chin up” do you mean that your palms face toward you when you grip the bar?

    That is how we define it in the US. “Pull up” is palms facing away.

    Just wanted to confirm. Thanks.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hessel, that’s exactly what I mean yes.
      I will edit it into the article to make it clear, thanks! :-)

    • Holy crap
      Same surname, and same first initial.

      On a different note, Oskar your thoughts have made me realize some things, which is interesting.
      I was in the same boat as you, I still do SS, mainly because i like it and can sustain it, but I focus on technique and I am not bothered about pushing up the weight too much (currently at 107.5kg on squats.)

      I’ve also done the stupid thing initially a few years ago and ate 5000 cal and pushed like an animal and went from 60kg to 120kg on squats and 60kg to 180kg on deadlift in 3 months (tru story bro) and then injured the crap out of myself.

      I agree with a lot of things you said. And it has made me reconsider what to do next, I still want to hit 120kg on squat stable before I move on, but now I will find other things to focus on.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        I’m the one supposed to say HOLY CRAP here! Those are some insane gains on deadlifts and squats.

        What are you considering to do next?

  65. I usually train at the gym, but after reading your content I’m very motivated to start training with my bodyweiht :)
    I can’t even do one push up.. How should I train?

  66. wow your back really blew up from those chin ups.. i get some elbow pain when i perform diamond push ups, what can i do to avoid it??

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      If you get any kind of pain, stop doing the exercise. Find an exercise you can do without experiencing pain. I get shoulder pain when I do dips, so I avoid them.

      • Are there alternatives to the Diamond Push Ups?? ‘Cos I can’t do them due to the pain I get in the elbow.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          The best alternatives are weighted exercises and depend on your fitness levels. Assuming you’re a beginner, the best alternatives are high incline dumbbell flyes, incline dumbbell pullovers and high incline dumbbell presses.

    • When you say “Once you can do 100 bodyweight squats below parallel, it’s time to start training for the pistol squat:”

      Are you saying to work up to 100 squats in a row or split into sets? Please clarify.


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