My name is Oskar Faarkrog , I’m a Certified Personal Trainer from the International Sports Science Association and founder of SKINNY-FAT TRANSFORMATION which has been viewed by over 6 million skinny-fat guys from all over the world.
Being skinny-fat essentially means that you are under muscled on the upper body while carrying excess body-fat around the estrogenic areas of your body (lower chest and lower waist):
Typically a skinny-fat guy has the following physical characteristics:
- Man boobs or puffy nipples.
- Love handles.
- Minimal upper body muscle mass (especially on the shoulders, arms, upper chest and lats).
- No definition on the body.
- Wide waist or wide hips.
- Low strength levels compared to other people your age.
- Lots of fat cells in the lower waist, lower chest and hips which makes it easy to gain fat there.
When you try to bulk up with heavy weights and gain muscle mass you end up fatter or in worst case, get injured.
When you try to cut down and lose body-fat you end up feeling fatigued and lose the small amount of muscle mass you have.
If you’ve managed to lose fat before, you’ve most likely regained it all after a while.
If you’ve gained muscle mass before, it was mostly accompanied with a lot of excess fat gain.
The truth is that skinny-fat guys have the hardest time transforming their physique when compared to the 3 traditional body types:
I’m the guy that skinny-fat guys come to after they’ve tried every shiny training and diet approach out there and gotten no results.
These are typically training and diet approaches such as:
- Heavy 5×5 weight training.
- Bodybuilding splits (PUSH/PULL/LEGS, UPPER/LOWER or even 1 body part per day).
- Counting Calories.
- Focusing on hitting a high protein intake.
- Going low carb.
- Doing lots of high impact cardio such as running to lose fat.
With this free 30 page guide, I will teach you how I:
- Lost 60 pounds of body-fat and got lean or the first time in my life without counting Calories, going low carb or doing insane amounts of cardio.
- Gained 40 pounds of muscle mass in the right places mainly with bodyweight exercises and weighted bodyweight training (after 2 years of doing heavy weight training without anything to show for it).
- Boosted my natural testosterone production with 270% after being diagnosed with primary hypogonadism (naturally low testosterone) at age 18.
- Helped thousands of skinny-fat guys with terrible genetics get into the best shape of their life (after years or even decades of training without any results).
I will also teach you about why you shouldn’t listen to fitness influencers with great genetics, the price you pay to get a 6-pack if you’re skinny-fat, the importance of optimizing your metabolism, why being skinny-fat is mainly a hormonal problem, why getting strong doesn’t translate to muscle gains, why nearly all supplements are a waste of money and how your bone-structure affects the type of training you should do.
I recommend that you save or bookmark this page because it’s the best and most comprehensive resource for skinny-fat guys online.
Before we get started, I want to emphasize that transforming out of skinny-fat is one of the hardest things I did in my life, but it was also the most rewarding.
Having a great physique can’t be bought by money and requires your hard work and sweat!
The pay off is you feeling comfortable in your own skin, a great boost in your social and dating life, much higher energy levels, much higher confidence and higher life quality.
There’s no easy fix to get out of skinny-fat, therefore if you’re looking for a 3 day a week low volume strength program, 3 minute fat burning HIIT routine or secret supplement then don’t waste your time here.
Let’s get started:
I Was Diagnosed With Primary Hypogonadism At Age 18 (Naturally Low Testosterone)
At age 18 I was diagnosed with primary hypogonadism which means that I have a naturally low testosterone production (testosterone is the main muscle building hormone in the body).
Despite my genetic shortcomings, I’ve lost 60 pounds of body-fat while gaining over 40 pounds of muscle mass in the right places:
The first photo of me in my worst shape is actually me 1 year into training! (I lost my starting photos when my old computer hard drive died but this doesn’t matter because I made no progress).
When I posted my transformation online back in 2013, it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube and shared on reddit, 4chan and the bodybuilding.com forums.
The comments below sum up what I’m about to say:
Most skinny-fat transformations you find online are tricks.
Either it’s someone who isn’t skinny-fat in the first place.
Instead it’s a naturally skinny guy with great genetics who has just a little bit of fat or a guy who has previously been in great shape.
These self-proclaimed experts always preach to you that you need to lift heavy and follow a high protein diet but these things simply don’t work for skinny-fat guys.
I know because during my first 2 years of training I built my squat, bench press and deadlift to fairly respectable numbers:
- Bench press: 66 LBS > 220 LBS
- Squat: 66 LBS > 315 LBS
- Deadlift: 105 LBS > 400 LBS
I did this while staying at the same bodyweight.
Unfortunately, I got no muscle gains out of following this approach:
I achieved most of my results by first mastering basic bodyweight exercises (chin ups, diamond push ups and bodyweight squats) and then later I moved to a hybrid approach where I used weighted pull ups, weighted dips, weighted squats and some key isolation exercises for weak points.
The truth is that you can achieve amazing results in your physique with minimal equipment and while training at home.
I believe bodyweight exercises are key to transform out of being a skinny-fat hardgainer because of the 5 reasons listed below:
- Skinny-fat guys have a small bone-structure and naturally low testosterone production therefore we need to perform low impact exercises that are easy to recover from. Bodyweight exercises are perfect for that. (I’ll cover testosterone more in-depth later in this guide).
- As a skinny-fat, you need a constant sustained stimulus to get results. This means that you have to train the entire body at least 4 days per week but ideally 6! With high volume bodybuilding workouts or heavy barbell training you won’t be able to recover for your daily sessions.
- Being a master of moving your own bodyweight through space locks you into being lean and muscular. You can be a fat powerlifter and bench press 400 pounds, but there’s no way you’ll be doing 20 chin ups with perfect form while being fat.
- Bodyweight exercises target all the most important muscle groups for skinny-fat guys: Upper chest, lats, triceps, biceps and shoulders.
- When choosing exercises for a muscle building program, it’s important to choose exercises that produce the highest ratio of muscle stimulation vs. fatigue. Bodyweight exercises provide a high amount of stimulation for all the target muscles with minimal fatigue!
Just imagine adding 1 rep to your chin up max for 20 weeks straight.
When you go from 0 to 20 chin ups, there’s no way your body will remain the same.
It has to adapt by adding muscle size and shedding fat:
One of the keys to transform out of skinny-fat is to first start with mastering the basic bodyweight exercises: Chin Ups, Diamond Push Ups and Bodyweight Squats.
Initially, I have all my online transformation program clients go from 0 chin ups and push ups to 15 chin ups, 30 diamond push ups and 100 bodyweight squats.
All done with perfect form, full range of motion and controlled reps without rest.
I’ve had clients who have been sedentary all their life in their 40s and 50s work their way from wall push ups and just hanging on a pull up bar to doing 20 chin ups with perfect form.
Therefore, no matter what your starting point is, you can become much better than you are today.
I call this Phase 1 of a Skinny-Fat Transformation.
My training philosophy for Phase 1 can be summarized below:
- Stimulate all the key muscle groups 4-6 days per week with a few select bodyweight exercises. The target muscles are the shoulders, lats, arms and upper chest.
- Train with higher reps and perfect form to gain muscle mass while staying injury free. I recommend 7-30 reps per set.
After setting that foundation in Phase 1, you will have gotten rid of the skinny-fat look and look fairly lean, however you will most likely not have the muscle mass you want to carry.
Here’s an example of how I looked when I was on my way to hit the Phase 1 goals:
I lost 60 pounds of body fat during Phase 1 while gaining some muscle mass.
When you lose the excess body-fat and you build a better strength foundation, your body will be in a better state to take advantage of harder training and a higher food intake.
When your body-fat is lower your nutrient partitioning will be better which means that your body will be better at utilizing excess Calories for muscle gains instead of storing them as fat.
This is when you will be ready to benefit from doing a more hybrid approach of higher volume bodyweight training followed by weighted pull ups, weighted dips, weighted squats and some key assistance exercises for the shoulders and arms.
I typically have my clients work their way up to 50 KG on weighted pull ups and weighted dips.
This results in a classic V-tapered upper body with wide lats, broad shoulders, a squared chest, big arms and a small waist.
While Focusing On Becoming A Master of Moving Your Own Bodyweight Through Space, You Have to Optimize Testosterone (The Main Muscle Building Hormone In Your Body)
Here are some of the symptoms of low testosterone levels:
- Hard time gaining strength and muscle mass on the upper body.
- Excess body-fat around the lower waist and lower chest.
- Man boobs.
- Weak skeletal structure (small ankles, wrists and shoulders).
- Lack of morning wood.
- Brain fog / ADHD.
- Sleep problems and low energy levels.
- Skin problems such as acne.
As you can see, the symptoms of low testosterone are nearly identical to being skinny-fat.
And testosterone does not only control your body-composition but also your mental health and overall state of health.
Since starting the Online Transformation Program for Skinny-Fat Guys, I’ve recommended that my clients perform blood work for 8 key hormones including testosterone before starting.
By looking through all their blood tests I’ve found that most of them have a naturally low testosterone production.
On average young men today have just half of the testosterone production of the average young man in the 1940s.
In the 1940s the average young man was walking around with a testosterone production of 900 NG/DL while today the average young man is somewhere around 400-500 NG/DL and most skinny-fats are somewhere around 200-400 NG/DL. (The natural range goes from 300-1100 NG/DL and I personally went from 297 NG/DL to 1105 NG/DL).
This is why it was rare in our grandfathers’ generations to see young skinny-fat guys with man boobs and the strength of a 60 year old woman.
Our testosterone levels have been steadily declining each decade since the 1940s as a result of many factors but here are some of them:
- Our diets have changed from a natural diet consisting of whole foods high in micronutrients to a diet full of processed foods, soy, refined sugar and minimal in quality seafood, vegetables and fruits.
- Women are getting pregnant at a later age.
- The use of pharmaceutical drugs is widespread. Most of them impact hormonal production.
- Our lifestyles are higher stress with bigger demands from work. Most people are stressed out, sleep late and do not get the required 7-9 hours of sleep. Your sex hormones are produced during sleep.
- Lack of sunlight. Optimal vitamin D3 and a good circadian rhytm is imperative to maximize natural testosterone production.
- Less exercise and micronutrient rich foods which leads to worse circulation and issues such as varicocele (veriscose veins in your testicles). 20% of men right now have some degree or varicocele which can impact testosterone production.
Testosterone completely messes up our response to training and dieting and creates the skinny-fat problem in the first place.
When we try to increase food intake and train hard to gain muscle mass, we struggle recovering between training sessions, see minimal gains in muscle mass and and gain a lot of fat around the lower chest, lower waist and hips.
When we try to restrict food intake or do cardio to lose fat, we end up losing the little strength and muscle mass we have.
It’s a frustrating place to be because no matter what direction you go, you either see minimal results or get worse.
As a result, training with low testosterone makes transforming pretty much impossible and one of the keys to get out of skinny-fat is to raise your natural testosterone production.
When you train with low testosterone levels and a weak skeletal structure you play the body-transformation game on HARD instead of NORMAL.
You don’t respond well to hard training and your body’s natural state is to lose hard earned muscle and store fat.
Your energy levels are low and you don’t recover well between training sessions.
You get injured easily when doing heavy barbell training, high impact cardio such as running or high volume bodybuilding training.
This is why most skinny-fat guys train for years or even decades without seeing results. With low testosterone it’s close to impossible to see any fruitful results from your training.
The benefits of raising testosterone levels in terms of training and body-composition are massive:
- Faster recovery between training sessions.
- More muscle gains (especially on the upper body) and more fat loss (especially around the estrogenic areas which are the man boobs, love handles and hips).
- Better sleep and higher energy levels.
And health wise you’ll see a decrease in symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD and an increase in libido and erectile strength.
As a result by combining bodyweight training with raising your testosterone levels naturally, you’ll get far better results in your training.
As mentioned at the beginning, I was diagnosed with hypogonadism (low testosterone) at age 18.
My first testosterone reading was 297 NG/DL and the range goes from 300 NG/DL-1100 NG/DL.
You usually want to be above 650 NG/DL to be optimal.
Back when I asked my endocrinologist to get on testosterone injections to normalize my testosterone levels, however she said that they have too many side effects (such as increased risk of high blood pressure and blood clots) therefore she would not give them to me.
Therefore, I set out to raise my levels naturally.
I ended up boosting my natural testosterone production with 270%.
Increasing my levels with 270% meant that I went from being in the complete bottom of the range to even exceeding the top of the range slightly.
This completely greatly boosted the results I got from working out and dieting.
When I got this reading the doctor said it’s the highest reading they had ever seen in the hospital.
It’s also one of the highest (if not the highest) testosterone increase that you’ll be able to find online.
Here are screenshots of the blood work to prove it:
I’ve throughout the years lived in different locations (Denmark and Thailand mostly) therefore some of the labs used different units.
I’ve converted the units for you below to NG/DL which is the most common unit:
- September 2010: 10.3 NMOL/L > 297 NG/DL
- December 2010: 19.06 NMOL/L > 549 NG/DL
- July 2012: 22.59 NMOL/L >650 NG/DL
- June 2016: 8.31 NG/ML > 831 NG/DL
- September 2018: 11.05 NG/DL >1105 NG/DL
A lot of people will tell you that they raised their testosterone levels, but they will not show you their bloodwork.
I found that training with bodyweight and raising testosterone levels are synergistic for a skinny-fat guy with a small bone-structure.
First and foremost, the scientific consensus right now shows that men with high testosterone have better blood flow all over the body and less incidences of heart attacks.
This is one of the reasons to why higher testosterone levels improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction (especially in young age) is an early sign of a major cardiovascular event coming up.
On average, a guy with erectile dysfunction will have a cardiovascular event (stroke, heart attack or blood clot) within 5 years.
Therefore, if you are a man with naturally low testosterone it’s key that you focus on circulation.
A constant sustained stimulus from full body bodyweight training makes sure that your blood is flowing to the target muscles on a daily basis.
I believe that blood flow optimization is one of the keys to raise testosterone and I center my clients’ diet plans and training programs around blood flow optimization.
By doing so, my clients have seen a major improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol values as well on the program (high testosterone also means that your body is better at utilizing cholesterol, thereby preventing arterial plaque build up).
By training with bodyweight exercises, you’ll also prevent excessive fatigue from training which can decrease your already low testosterone further.
It’s key that you focus your program around exercises that provide the highest ratio of muscle stimulation to fatigue and bodyweight exercises are ideal here.
On the other hand, by boosting testosterone levels you will gain more muscle and lose more fat from training, recover faster between training sessions and have higher energy levels.
Therefore, bodyweight training and testosterone optimization are synergistic!
By focusing on both, both of them improve exponentially.
Training from a skinny-fat base is like building a house.
By setting a strong foundation, you enable yourself to make better gains in the future.
Once you build a great base with bodyweight training and a high testosterone production you can always implement heavy training later (that is if you want to get incredibly strong on say the barbell deadlift or squat, but until you set that foundation it’s best if you wait with the heavy and high impact work).
The first 2 photos are when I trained with heavy weights with suboptimal testosterone levels:
The last 2 photos are taken in November 2012 and early 2013, after raising my testosterone levels to over 650 NG/DL and training with bodyweight.
What the Science Says About High Testosterone: Inactive Men With High Testosterone Gain More Muscle Mass Compared to Active Men With Low Testosterone
Let’s take a look at the science of testosterone.
All the way back in 1996, there was a study done on the effect of testosterone on muscle growth before.
The study involved 4 groups:
- Group 1: Didn’t train, and didn’t inject testosterone, however they received a placebo.
- Group 2: Didn’t train, but injected testosterone.
- Group 3: Trained, but didn’t inject testosterone, however they received a placebo.
- Group 4: Trained, and injected testosterone.
All groups had the same diet, and the two groups that trained, did it 3 times a week by using the same program. Here are the results of this study:
The graph shows the groups starting from the left 1-2-3-4.
The interesting finding in this study is that the group that injected testosterone but didn’t train gained almost twice the amount of muscle mass as the group that trained but without testosterone injections.
Finally, the group that trained with testosterone injections gained 3 times as much muscle mass as the group that trained without.
So how does this relate to low testosterone levels? Well, it clearly shows that increasing your testosterone levels has a HUGE impact on your ability to gain muscle mass.
The study compared guys on testosterone injections that did not even workout to guys that trained naturally without any injections.
The guys on testosterone injections gained more muscle mass than the guys who worked out.
You heard that right. The guys who sat on the couch for 12 weeks straight gained more muscle mass.
In other words, by doubling or even tripling your natural testosterone, you dramatically boost your ability to gain muscle mass.
And here’s an extreme real life example: Raising testosterone levels through injections is the key to achieve female-to-male transformations:
When a woman wants to transform into a man she injects testosterone.
After doing this, she starts to gain upper body muscle mass, a more squared face, deeper voice and facial hair.
This happens without any special type of exercise regimen.
Now, I’m not promoting injections because they have a lot of side effects such as increased risk of high blood pressure, water retention and deadly blood clots.
However, I want you to understand how powerful it is to raise testosterone levels naturally.
When you’re someone with a naturally low testosterone level (say 150-300 NG/DL) you can achieve anywhere from a 2-4X increase in your natural production and that’s going to have a massive impact on your ability to gain muscle mass, lose body-fat, sleep, sex drive and energy levels.
To end this section I will also show you my personal observation of people with high testosterone.
I have a close friend called Tonni.
He’s a natural athlete with a lot of muscle mass and high testosterone levels.
When he trains, he trains very hard.
However, he’s often very busy and just doesn’t have the time to train and diet.
During these times he can go for weeks or even months with barely any workouts while eating lots of “bad” food.
But he still maintains a highly muscled physique during these times:
I have never seen him truly out of shape.
I also went to a high school class that had several guys that had greek god type of bodies and they barely exercised.
You probably knew a few guys like that in your life too.
Guys like that have a naturally high testosterone production.
Their bodies are muscular without any training and when they do decide to train, they gain muscle mass regardless of what type of training they do and at a much faster rate than their peers.
Why Testosterone Levels Transform Your Physiology: Better Nutrient Partitioning
So why exactly does testosterone have such a powerful effect on body-composition?
Why do you see a faster recovery between training sessions, more muscle gains and less fat build up and higher energy levels?
Testosterone improves your nutrient partitioning.
This means that when you go from low testosterone to high testosterone, your body becomes better at utilizing food for muscle gains.
Excess Calories you eat will become more likely to be used for building muscle mass rather than being stored as fat.
In other words, you go from being in a fat storage mode into a more anabolic, muscle building mode.
This is why testosterone is the key to overcome your skinny-fat genetics.
It completely changes your physiology and turns you from a skinny-fat hardgainer that doesn’t respond well to training and dieting into an easy gainer.
After researching testosterone for years and helping my skinny-fat clients raise their levels, I’ve found that other than blood flow optimization and bodyweight training the other keys to raise your testosterone levels are diet and sleep optimization.
When you eat and sleep well, you will allow your body to produce healthy levels of testosterone.
Let’s start with diet.
The biggest mistake people make when dieting is that they focus too much on protein intake, supplements (which don’t absorb well by the body) and Calories while completely neglecting micronutrients.
This is a huge problem because you’re neglecting the most important diet problem which is micronutrient deficiencies.
+90% of people have some type of micronutrient deficiency such as iodine, magnesium or vitamin B12.
These deficiencies disturb the endocrine system and lower your testosterone production.
In addition to lowering your testosterone production, they increase cravings for sugar and junkfood.
For example, when you crave chocolate it’s a sign of magnesium deficiency.
When you crave dairy (which is the worst food group for skinny-fat guys since it lowers testosterone), you need more essential fatty acids.
Over time as the micronutrient deficiencies build up, you won’t be able to stick to a diet because your cravings get out of hand.
That’s when you go on a binge and lose all the progress you’ve made.
You probably know it all too well already.
Every time you tried to diet off body-fat you’ve managed to lose some, however eventually you’d go on a binge and regain all of it.
This is the biggest reason to why all studies on fat loss show that nearly all people that lose fat, regain all of it within just a few years.
To avoid becoming part of that statistic you need a diet that focuses on micronutrients instead of protein and Calories.
The second biggest mistake people make on a diet is to include estrogenic and inflammatory foods such as dairy, whey protein, soy and wheat.
Pretty much all skinny-fat guys either use milk, whey protein or cottage cheese as a protein source.
Dairy products such as whey protein, cheese, milk and butter raise estrogen levels in the body (the female hormone) while also increasing inflammation since they’re hard on the digestive system.
When your levels of estrogen and inflammation increase, your testosterone levels decrease.
Some of the side effects of consuming dairy are skin problems such as acne, constipation, bloating and gassiness and puffy nipples (sign of high estrogen).
Now some of you may think that dairy products are necessary to get sufficient calcium.
That’s a complete marketing lie.
Calcium deficiencies are very rare and you can get all your calcium easily from green leafy vegetables.
Some other foods you want to stay away form are soy and wheat (bread and so on) since they also raise estrogen and cause inflammation.
When you eliminate whey protein, cheese, butter, milk, soy and bread from your diet you will experience a much better digestive system.
Try it for 3 days if you don’t believe me and you will see for yourself that your skin, energy levels and overall well being improve.
Also, you want most of your Calories to come from protein sparing nutrients (fats and carbs).
Sufficient levels of both healthy carbs and fats are necessary to allow your body to produce optimal testosterone levels.
These have a much higher impact on your testosterone levels compared to protein.
Finally, use foods that work well with your digestive system.
You want to minimize constipation, bloating and gassiness since indigestion means that your body is not absorbing the foods well.
When you don’t absorb foods well, this leads to higher levels of inflammation in the body.
As mentioned earlier, one of the key benefits of raising testosterone is an improved nutrient partitioning and this goes hand in hand with digestion, inflammation and micronutrient deficiencies.
By eating foods you digest well, you will absorb the nutrients better, prevent micronutrient deficiencies, reduce inflammation and make it more likely for your body to use the food for muscle gains.
To build muscle mass you need the building blocks for it.
You need sufficient protein, carbs, fats, Calories, water and a healthy hormonal profile.
Then for the best results, combine these with a good training stimulus.
When you eat foods that you don’t digest well, your body is less likely to use those nutrients for muscle building compared to when you eat foods that your body absorbs like a sponge.
Essentially, you want to be on a diet plan that achieves the following goals:
- High in micronutrients since +90% of people have some type of micronutrient deficiency (iodine, magnesium, vitamin B12 etc) and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to low testosterone.
- No cravings for sugar and junkfood. (Cravings for sugar and junk food are a result of micronutrient deficiencies).
- Low in foods that raise estrogen levels (the female hormone) and increase inflammation. The more estrogen and inflammation you have, the lower your testosterone levels will be. I have my clients cut out whey protein, dairy products, wheat and soy to start with.
- Most of your Calories should come from the protein sparing nutrients (fats and carbs) since protein does not have much impact on testosterone levels.
- Uses foods that work well with your digestive system. You want to minimize constipation, bloating and gassiness since indigestion leads to higher inflammation levels in the body.
When you combine a diet that’s rich in micronutrients and protein sparing nutrients that work well with your digestive system while eliminating estrogenic and inflammatory foods that lower your testosterone, you achieve a dramatic improvement in testosterone levels.
This enables you to lose excess body-fat while gaining muscle (of course when combined with the right training which I will get to soon).
When you lose excess body-fat, you will also see a further increase in testosterone because excess body-fat is estrogenic. It makes a big part of your testosterone convert into the female hormone estrogen.
Another side benefit of eating this way is the elimination of cravings for sugar and junkfood.
The reason to why most of us fail on our diet is not because we don’t know what to eat.
It’s because we eventually give in to our cravings and go on a binge.
As mentioned earlier, the root cause of cravings is micronutrient deficiencies.
So what happens to your overall health when you start to eat properly?
You will at first see improvements in your BioFeedback markers: sleep, energy levels, focus, sex drive, satiety, skin health, digestion and training performance and recovery.
No one talks about biofeedback, however the key to raise testosterone is to improve overall health.
Health starts on the inside and a healthful diet should make you feel better.
Usually for my clients, these effects start within 2 weeks of eating properly.
Then within 3-6 months they see a significant increase in testosterone levels as well (confirmed by lab tests).
These dietary changes must be combined with sleeping 7-9 hours a day (starting before midnight).
Proper sleep is essential as well because most of your hormones are regulated during sleep.
High Quality Sleep Is Almost As Powerful As Anabolic Steroids
The most underrated factor in transforming your body is sleep.
Proper sleep is essential because sex hormones such as testosterone are regulated during sleep.
If you train and diet correctly, but your sleep is off, you will not get anywhere near the best results.
Studies have shown over and over again that people who sleep well produce higher levels of testosterone, have a faster metabolism and when they workout, they gain a lot more muscle mass and lose more fat.
To get the best results, you must combine the dietary changes with sleeping 7-9 hours a day (starting before midnight).
There are people (less than 1% of the population) that are type A high performers and can get by on less than 7 hours of sleep, however they are massive outliers and it’s most likely not YOU.
You probably know the basics of good sleep are to get early morning sunlight, avoid electronics before bed time, go to bed early and sleep in a dark, cool, clean and quiet room.
But do you do it?
If you’re like +80% of skinny-fat guys, then sleep is neglected.
You may go to bed late and sleep 6 hours a day and wake up unrefreshed or even if you get sufficient sleep, you snore or you don’t wake up refreshed.
Therefore, if you follow a great diet plan but sleep badly, you’ll not be able to reap the benefits of it.
Some of the key things I’ve seen in clients that disrupt sleep are:
- No evening relaxation routine. (Sleep simply isn’t prioritized).
- Diets low in Calories, carbs or micronutrients. When you’re in a state of starvation you won’t get restful sleep.
- Exercise programs that have too much heavy lifting or high impact cardio (or the other extreme: insufficient exercise). High levels of cortisol from too intense exercise disrupt sleep and on the other hand, a completely inactive lifestyle doesn’t make you physically tired enough to fall asleep at night.
- Too much computer and smartphone use right before bed-time. Blue light makes it harder to fall asleep and decreases deep sleep.
Luckily, sleep and diet are complementary.
When you follow a proper diet, create an evening relaxation routine and prioritize sleep, you will find it much easier to get restful sleep.
The combination of a testosterone boosting diet and good sleep, will enable your body to produce much higher levels of testosterone and turn you into a muscle building machine.
In the case that you consistently get bad sleep, one of the best investments you can make is to see a good sleep doctor.
With my skinny-fat clients I’ve observed that a high percentage suffer from sleep apnea which is very hard to diagnose and disrupts your sleep quality and decreases testosterone levels.
I personally have mild sleep apnea due to genetically narrowed airways and getting treatment for it was life-changing in terms of energy levels.
The only way to diagnose it is with an in lab sleep study (do not use apps or at home sleep kits to diagnose it).
One of the main signs of sleep apnea is a constant fatigue.
Snoring and being overweight or skinny-fat are also a major risk-factor due to fat build up around your neck.
With that said, many people have sleep apnea without being overweight or snoring, therefore if you feel fatigued daily or snore it’s a great idea to get it checked out.
Therefore, if you follow a great diet plan but sleep badly, you’ll not be able to reap the benefits of it.
Luckily, sleep and diet are complementary.
When you clean up your diet, you will find it much easier to get restful sleep.
The combination of a testosterone boosting diet and good sleep, will enable your body to produce much higher levels of testosterone.
Therefore, with my Online Transformation Program clients I always take a holistic approach where we focus on improving diet, digestion, sleep and stress levels.
During the first 3 weeks of working together I have them fill out 14 BioFeedback questions related to these areas to ensure that their diet and training are producing body-composition changes while optimizing health markers.
We take a holistic approach because that is the only way to get rid of the skinny-fat look long-term. (There are truly NO quick fixes!)
Since 2013 thousands of skinny-fat guys from all over the world have applied to join my Online Transformation Program and those who have been accepted to join, got into the best shape of their life.
Develop The No-Excuse Attitude To Make Your Transformation Happen
I’ve just laid out the overall framework for transforming and as you can see results don’t happen over night.
Getting lean typically takes anywhere from 3-12 months, however building muscle is a longer process.
For most people it takes at least 2 years of hard training to look jacked.
It’s a long process that requires you consistently put in the work while maintaining expectations.
To achieve your body-transformation you need to completely overhaul your lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercising) and instill the right mindset.
When you go online you’ll see a lot of self-defeating forums, websites and YouTube videos of people who say you can’t build an impressive physique if you have shit genetics.
With that kind of belief, you will not get anywhere.
To achieve your body-transformation, you have to completely believe that you’re going to look great over time as you put in the work.
There cannot be any doubt in your mind that you’re going to look great.
If you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no way it will happen because you won’t go into the training sessions with the vigor needed to push yourself both physically and mentally!
Training is part mental and part physical.
The most productive training sessions were the ones where I went in feeling full of energy, took each set to its max and had to rest in bed for 1-2 hours after before I was even able to get a shower.
Once I even puked after a training session in the hot summer sun where I did a dropset of 26 perfect form pull ups followed by negative reps of pull ups to failure.
After this experience, I’d make sure to schedule those training sessions in the evenings because I would be unable to do any productive work after.
I’ve done crazy sets for upper body, combining lots of exercises and hitting 100 reps in a single set, going to failure for multiple muscle groups with high reps.
You don’t want to train like that everyday since it’s not sustainable (both mentally and physically).
And you certainly don’t need that type of training as a beginner. You need to know your body and have a good foundation before going to failure or beyond failure.
Once you have a good base, you occasionally you need to train hard and push yourself to reach new limits.
Don’t limit yourself to the old dogma of simply doing straight sets of 3×8 reps or 5×5 reps.
This won’t work for anyone except the steroid users and genetically blessed.
Second, develop the no-excuse attitude.
Don’t rely on motivation to get training done. Make it a habit and just get the job done, just like you brush your teeth every morning.
Don’t stop training when it get’s hard. It’s normal to feel challenged and some level of fatigue after a hard workout! Especially when you start out with low testosterone and crappy genetics.
Most days you will not feel like training but you just have to get the job done!
As your testosterone levels increase and you start seeing a bit of results, you will find training much easier and more enjoyable.
How Building A Great Body Changed My Life
So is it worth it?
After going through my transformation I didn’t only see the positive effects physically but also socially and in my health.
As a kid I got bullied heavily and beaten up many times.
I was physically weak and naive and living in a bad, low income area.
Later, as a teenager I was diagnosed with low testosterone levels and developed severe acne and gynecomastia (man boobs as a result of glandular tissue).
The combination of the bullying, low testosterone, man boobs and acne led to anxiety and depression (all of them are interconnected).
I did not have any girlfriends until almost age 20 and spent most of my time inside playing video games. (I was a high level player in the eSport game counter-strike — playing with the current world champions gla1ve and dev1ce).
I tried medications and therapy for anxiety and depression but they did not work for me.
I also tried medications for the acne I had but it wouldn’t go away.
I can safely say that the first 20 years of my life were a bad time for me socially and mentally.
I was deeply unhappy and longed for a transformation, both physically and mentally.
The true transformation started happening when I dialed in my nutrition, exercise, sleep and overall lifestyle.
My skin cleared up and I started feeling much better from the inside.
Over time the anxiety, depression and low testosterone levels went away.
And I started seeing the changes on the outside.
My muscles started developing , I started getting attention from girls everywhere I went and random people in parties started asking me if I workout everyday.
I managed to overcome this big weakness of mine with my body-transformation as a starting point.
I completely overhauled my life and built up a very active social life with lots of high quality friends that I had 3-4 weekly night outs with and an abundance of dating opportunities with models from beauty contests, car shows, FHM and playboy.
Later, I used the mindset from training to develop a thriving personal training business that enables me to comfortably live anywhere I want in the world while doing what I love.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
How can bodyweight exercises work?
Despite all the evidence above, I still meet a lot of people that are skeptical of bodyweight exercises.
There are a few objections that I’ll go through below.
Why is bodyweight training superior to lifting weights for skinny-fat guys with a small bone-structure?
In fitness, there are usually 3 body-types:
Being skinny-fat, you are a combination of ectomorph and endomorph.
You typically have the upper body bone-structure of the ectomorphic, skinny guy (thin wrists, think ankles, small shoulders and undermuscled upper body) combined with the body-fat and lower body of the naturally fat guy (endomorph).
In other words, as a skinny-fat guy you have the weak skeletal structure of the ectomorph and the slow metabolism of the endomorph.
Guys with bigger skeletal structures have the following advantages:
- They start with much higher natural strength levels and muscle mass.
- They add strength and muscle mass at a faster rate.
- Their genetic strength and muscle potential is much higher.
According to Holway in The Sports Gene (2013, p. 125) each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bone supports a maximum of five kilograms (11 pounds) of muscle.
Here’s a quote taken from The Sports Gene, p. 125:
Most olympic athletes whom Holway has measured, like discus throwers and shotputters, have skeletons that are only about 6.5 pounds heavier than those of average men, but that translates to more than 30 pounds of extra muscle that they can carry with proper training.
This is why most guys who end up looking jacked or being athletes in explosive sports have a naturally big bone-structure.
You can also observe the wrist and neck size of most of the big bouncers in clubs and you’ll see that they’re huge.
The easiest way to determine your overall bone-mass is to look at:
- Wrist size.
- Ankle size.
- Neck size.
- Clavicle width.
- Rib-cage size.
Then compare your overall size in these areas to other guys your height.
It’s important that you keep in mind that:
1) Body-fat can make you appear bigger-boned. This is why a lot of skinny-fat guys get surprised when they cut down and find out they have the same body-frame as a small-boned skinny guy.
2) It’s possible to be big-boned in one area while being small-boned in other areas. A good example is tall guys who have very wide clavicles but are skinny everywhere else.
Overall, bone-structure has such a big impact on your physique, that a guy who is 5’6″ yet has a massive bone-structure can potentially become much stronger and bigger than a guy who is 6’3″ with a tiny frame.
This is why you can’t compare yourself to other guys that are the same height as you.
There’s no “normal weight” or “strength standard” for a certain height because your normal weight and strength potential will be determined by your overall bone-mass.
When you look at strength training forums, you see a lot of fat, big-boned guys succeeding on beginner and intermediate 5×5 training programs.
They keep making consistent strength and muscle gains for a very long time and when they lose excess body-fat, they end up looking lean and muscular.
With a small bone-structure, you will not get the same result.
Instead, you will find it very taxing to train with heavy weights and most low-rep strength training programs will only produce strength gains for a short amount of time.
When you push through a certain point, gains are not smooth, you plateau all the time, joints start hurting and the only way to keep getting stronger is by eating a lot of food so you can gain weight (mostly body-fat).
The reason for this is because:
- Heavy weight training fatigues the Central Nervous System (CNS) much more than high rep training.
- The CNS takes a much longer time to recover than your muscles. However, when you have a large bone-structure, your CNS is able to adapt to recover much faster and adapt to much higher workloads.
In other words, big boned guys see better results on low rep heavy weight training programs because their bone-structure supports consistent strength gains in the low rep ranges. (Progressive overload).
Over time, they gain more muscle mass because progressive overload is key to gain muscle mass. In any training program.
With a small bone structure, your gains are slow and you constantly stall on a low rep strength program, so there’s no consistent overload happening. As a result, your muscle gains are limited.
How can I gain muscle when I’m not using heavy weights?
Since 2013 I’ve been preaching higher rep training with bodyweight or lighter weights for maximum muscle gains while staying injury free.
I emphasize injury free because the key is to transform your physique without getting debilitating injuries that bother you for life.
Back then there was no research supporting this, and people said I’m crazy for training with so high reps.
However I still had my clients train with up to 30 reps per set on upper body exercises and 100 reps on lower body exercises.
In 2016 a well designed 2 year study came out, supporting what I’ve been saying for years.
Here’s the link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4967245/
49 men who trained consistently for over 2 years performed 4 full body training sessions per week.
Each training session consisted of 5 exercises performed for 3 sets to muscular failure.
Subjects were randomly allocated into a a higher rep group that did 20-25 reps to muscular failure and a lower rep group that did 8-12 reps to muscular failure.
DEXA body-composition scans and 1 rep max strength tests were performed after 12 weeks of training.
The study showed that there was no significant difference in the strength and muscle gains in the subjects who trained with lower and higher reps.
This means that going all the way up to 25 reps is proven to be just as effective as training with low reps as long as you hit muscular failure.
The side benefit of training with higher reps is that risk of injury is greatly decreased.
Why would most fitness people and bodybuilders train at the gym if bodyweight training is so great?
The answer is that in order to maximize muscle growth on your body you will need gym equipment.
However, the question then is, do you want to maximize muscle growth or do you want to gain muscle mass in the right places?
Here’s a photo of the greatest bodybuilder ever, Ronnie Coleman:
He has one of the most muscular physiques ever, however how many people would want to look like him?
His traps, neck, lower chest, abs, obliques and arms are overdeveloped.
This is the result of years of decades of heavy weight training.
The truth is that bodyweight training will get you all the muscle mass you need and even more without thickening the wrong places on the body.
All the key muscle groups for skinny-fat guys (the chest, lats, upper back, arms, front shoulders) can be developed to the maximum potential with bodyweight exercises alone.
In addition, when you compare the extra development you get on the muscles that get developed more by going to the gym, the gains are not significant for +99% of people.
For the vast majority of people, bodyweight training will be able to develop way more muscle mass than you need, in the right places.
For an example of this, take a look at gymnasts:
Gymnasts are the most muscular athletes, pound for pound with incredible bodies and they’re the most versatile athletes.
Their upper bodies are almost as muscular as elite natural bodybuilders competing but all their muscle is in the right places.
They develop all this muscle mass with bodyweight exercises only.
How can you get started with bodyweight exercises if you can’t even do chin ups or push ups?
Many skinny-fat guys make the mistake to neglect bodyweight exercises because they’re unable to do chin ups or push ups however this is a huge mistake.
There are proven progressions that you can use to achieve perfect reps on chin ups and push ups.
When I started training I was unable to do a single chin up or push up with good form.
The key was to build strength by doing easier variations.
E.g. for chin ups you can start with just hanging on the bar.
Once you can hang for 60 seconds, move to doing negative chin ups.
Negative chin ups will strengthen the exact same muscles that are needed to perform real chin ups.
Similarly with push ups you can start with practicing wall push ups.
Can’t I just use machines, barbells and dumbbells to build strength for bodyweight exercises?
Strength on weight training exercises such as bench presses, lat pulldowns, assisted machine pull ups, rows and deadlift does not transfer well to bodyweight exercises.
For example, using lat pulldowns and assisted machine pull ups to achieve real pull ups is a much slower process compared to just using negative pull ups.
The reason is that machines take a lot of the small stabilizer muscle out of the equation.
Similarly, with compound exercises such as bench presses and rows, you are doing movements that are not similar enough to the bodyweight exercises.
Therefore, you’ll lack the training specificity to transfer those gains into bodyweight exercises.
I don’t want to do bodyweight training because I’m not good at them.
When training it’s important that you forget your ego.
We all start somewhere and no one will judge you for being weak on bodyweight exercises.
The fact that you’re trying to improve yourself is what matters.
With that said, if you feel uncomfortable training in front of others, then simply start training at home.
All you need to get started is a pull up bar.
I want to get strong on the bench press, deadlift and squat.
If your true goal is to get strong on the bench press, deadlift and squat then I still recommend you start with bodyweight exercises and at least complete phase 1.
The reason is because by starting with bodyweight, you’ll have the time to develop a good base of strength and mobility.
For example, with the squat a lot of people make the mistake to start with a barbell on their back when they can’t even go all the way down with good form.
It’s much better to start with just bodyweight squats then work on improving your mobility and strength on those.
Once you can do 100 perfect reps on bodyweight squats with full range of motion, then feel free to work on weighted squats.
If you can’t do this, then it makes no sense to load your spine with a barbell because it puts you at a too high risk of injury.
Push ups and chin ups are too easy, what now?
There are endless ways to progress on bodyweight exercises once you master push ups and chin ups.
If your main goal is to build more muscle mass, you can go two ways.
Either you can focus on increasing the density of your training by performing more work in a shorter time period.
This is ideal if you don’t want to do weighted pull ups and weighted dips.
The other way is to get a weight belt and some plates or dumbbells and do weighted chin ups, weighted pull ups and weighted dips.
These are all proven upper body mass builders that will get you that V-shaped physique with a square chest and big arms.
Finally, you can practice skill exercises such as muscle ups, front levers and back levers.
These exercises look incredible and are very fun to do.
I had to work hard for 5 years to get my first muscle up and front lever but once I got it, I was extremely happy:
How about the legs?
Bodyweight exercises are great for improving the mobility and conditioning of your legs while also adding some muscle mass.
The legs typically respond very well to very high reps (think up to 100 reps per set), therefore you can do higher reps on basic exercises such as air squats and hindu squats to get some nice development on the legs.
I have previously trained clients who were unable to gain much muscle with heavy weighted squats, however when I moved them into high rep air squats and hindu squats, their legs were on fire and they started growing.
If you don’t believe me, then try to do 100 air squats right now with each rep being full range of motion (ass to grass).
Most people can’t do this or if they do, it’s very hard.
If you can’t do this, then you most likely have a lot of gains to make from bodyweight exercises only.
Once you can do 100 deep squats with good form you can start adding weight and do them with a barbell or dumbbell.
Should I take supplements to boost testosterone?
I barely used any supplements to boost my testosterone and I can tell you now after trying over 100 supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein powders, testosterone boosters) that anyone selling you supplements and claiming they have a massive impact on muscle gains or fat loss is a scam.
The best results are achieved through correct training, diet and lifestyle!
The only supplements you may need are a high quality, high dosed vitamin D3 and Omega-3 since +90% of people are deficient, however you would be better of just going straight through the source and eating real seafood and get real sunlight.
How lean should I get as a skinny-fat guy?
When I work with skinny-fat clients on my Online Transformation Program, I’ve often seen that they have a history of excessive dieting and chasing ripped 6-pack abs.
The reason is that they’ve previously followed training and diet programs by fitness influencers such as kinobody and vshred where one of the main goals is to have a ripped 6-pack.
One thing you have to know is that maintaining ripped 6-pack abs is not realistic year around for skinny-fat guys with suboptimal fitness genetics.
Most of the fitness influencers who promote a ripped look at sub 10% body-fat are dishonest about their methods and they use deceiving business tactics such as fake before/after photos.
Here’s an example of the famous YouTuber How to Beast with nearly 1 million subscribers using my before photo then putting a different person’s after photo on his skinny-fat program sales page:
This is just one example of many I found online of other fitness trainers using my own or my client photos to market their own stuff.
When you look at this, you’ll see he promotes revealing your 6-pack when you’re skinny-fat.
In some cases, that’s the right way to go, however in most cases getting a 6-pack is not realistic for someone with naturally high body-fat levels.
Why? Because someone with suboptimal fitness genetics already has a compromised endocrine system with low testosterone levels and a slow metabolism.
So when you’re skinny-fat and you diet down too low in body-fat, you’ll see all these symptoms exacerbate further.
Excessive dieting will lead to a cascade of negative hormonal effects on your body:
- Slowed down metabolism / thyroid problems.
- Low testosterone levels.
- Ghrelin and leptin problems > Big appetite > binge eating.
Over the long-term, this always leads to you losing a bit of weight at the expense of messing up your endocrine system.
Then you end up going on a binge and given that you have a slowed down metabolism, guess what happens?
You end up regaining all of the weight (and even more).
You’ve perhaps already been through this cycle yourself and can identify?
I’ve previously attempted to diet down below 10% body-fat and I ended up losing most of my muscle mass and looking like a skeleton.
Here’s how I looked:
People at the time told me that I looked like I hadn’t eaten for a month.
I was 177 LBS at 6’2″ and in good lighting I could see veins on my lower stomach and my face was completely sunken in.
When I wore a shirt, I looked so skinny you couldn’t even see I worked out. (Yet I could deadlift 400 pounds at the time).
Even when I sat down on my couch I could still see my abs.
I remember at the time that I had a girl come over to my room and she said: “Oh my god, your abs look amazing!”
But when I made the move to hook up with her, things down there simply didn’t work.
I couldn’t even get an erection.
That’s when I realized that for the past 1 month I hadn’t had a single erection and I felt my worst.
- I couldn’t concentrate since my mind was always thinking about food.
- I had no energy to complete a good workout.
- My reps on bodyweight exercises decreased despite losing weight.
- My libido was non-existent.
- My mood was VERY bad.
- I couldn’t get a pump when training, and my muscles looked deflated.
- The way I got this lean was simple.
I followed the “proven fitness formula” of lifting heavy weights 3-4 times a week, counted my Calories to hit a Caloric deficit and made sure to keep my protein high.
Despite doing everything correctly (at least I thought this was the correct way), I ended up looking like I don’t even workout.
This was around 1 year after I started learning about natural testosterone optimization and I learned through extensive research (and my own personal observation) that guys who are naturally skinny-fat or fat will see a major decrease in testosterone when they diet down to low body-fat levels (typically below 10% body-fat).
So how do all these fitness influencers on instagram and YouTube get so lean?
I have a friend, Jay Campbell who has been a fitness model for over 20 years and been on testosterone replacement therapy during this time.
He maintains a ripped 6-pack year around well into his 40s and he’s the world leading expert on testosterone replacement therapy with the best selling book on amazon on this topic.
Due to a testicle injury he had at young age when playing professional basketball, he has to inject testosterone several times a week to maintain healthy testosterone levels.
So it’s safe to say that he knows how to get a 6-pack and how anabolic steroids work.
Years ago when I wrote my popular article “The Price You Pay to Get a 6-Pack If You’re Skinny-Fat”, Jay Campbell commented that guys with suboptimal fitness genetics have to make a too big sacrifice to maintain a visible 6 pack year around:
After staying at his home in LA for several days, we had a lot of in-depth talks and according to him, nearly all of the ripped influencers on YouTube and Instagram are on anabolic steroids.
The main sign that someone is on anabolic steroids is that they’re incredibly lean with a visible 6-pack while having a lot of muscle mass.
This is rare to see in people who train without anabolic steroids, because when we try to diet down to such low body-fat levels, we see a major decrease in testosterone production and thereby lose most of our hard earned muscle mass.
In contrast, when we try to bulk up and increase our level of muscle mass, it always comes with some level of fat gain.
This is why you’ll see in almost all my photos I have a good amount of healthy body-fat on me. I never walk around with a ripped 6-pack.
In the photo on the right side below you can see the type of body-fat I maintain year around and on the left side you can see how I looked when I was skinny-fat:
Every time I tried to diet down to get a ripped 6-pack, I lost most of my muscle mass.
The body simply isn’t designed to hold onto a lot of muscle mass when it perceives a state of starvation.
The result is that it slows down its hormonal production and metabolism when you get too lean.
After a long diet into single digit body-fat you’ll have your ripped abs, but you’ll end up looking small, deflated and weak.
And trust me, intermittent fasting, HIIT cardio or any other method that these fitness influencers preach as the magic bullet to fat loss won’t change that.
So what’s the solution for us skinny-fat guys?
We need a more balanced approach where we stay at slightly higher body-fat levels (think 10-15%).
This is the type of look I achieved during my transformation that I showed you above.
Another good example is Henry Cavill who played superman:
By having this kind of body-fat level, you can look muscular with the small extra added padding of fat while still maintaining healthy hormonal levels.
This is basically the kind of look I aim to help my Online Transformation Program clients get long-term.
It’s a sustainable look that you can maintain without intolerable levels of hunger and you’ll still end up looking much better than nearly all other guys in the gym, as long as the muscle mass is added in the right places, in the right proportion.