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
3rd and 4th year of training
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
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.
- 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.
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:
You 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,
Pistol Squat Image Credit: Flickr