Being skinny-fat, you are under-muscled on the upper body while carrying excess body-fat in the estrogenic areas of the body which are the lower chest, lower waist and hips.
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.
And health wise I’ve found with most of my clients that they usually have one of these:
- Low quality sleep.
- Lack of morning wood / low sex drive.
- Low energy levels.
- Low testosterone levels. (The main muscle building hormone in your body).
- Hypothyroidism / slow metabolism.
- Vitamin D3 deficiency.
In general, a skinny-fat guy is a low energy person and has at least some of these characteristics.
In addition, you were most likely bad at sports with naturally low strength levels, explosiveness and speed.
When you wear clothes you look somewhat normal, however when the clothes come off you’re soft all over.
Your bodyweight is usually within the normal BMI range or only slightly outside of it.
So you may be 5’10” (178 CM) and 180 pounds (81 KG) but look soft all over.
The key to overcome skinny-fat is to pack on a lot of lean muscle mass in the right places:
- Upper chest.
Most skinny-fat guys need to gain a good 20-40 pounds of lean muscle mass to look great.
Here’s how my body changed when I lost 60 pounds of body-fat and gained 40 pounds of muscle mass with my 2 phase training and diet system for skinny-fat guys:
You have to gain muscle mass while losing body-fat in all the estrogenic areas mentioned earlier.
This results in an aesthetic V-tapered upper body with big arms, a squared chest, round shoulders and a small waist.
Losing body-fat only with cardio and dieting will NOT work because you have no muscle mass underneath to show.
As a result, losing body-fat only will simply lead to you becoming a smaller version of your current self (with minimal definition).
Below I will explain WHY doing these things is difficult for skinny-fat guys and later I will teach you the methods that I used to pack on a lot of muscle mass in the right places.
I personally started out training at 6’2″ (190 CM) and 200 pounds (90 KG).
In clothes I looked relatively normal and no one called me obese or fat:
However when the clothes came off, I had puffy nipples, no muscle mass and soft all over:
I was never strong or athletic despite playing soccer and swimming regularly throughout my entire childhood and early teenage years.
Despite being highly active I was unable to do a single push up, overhead press and empty 45 LBS (20 KG) barbell for 1 rep and when I flexed my biceps in the mirror, nothing happened.
The photos above were all taken around 7-12 months into hard training. (I lost my starting photos when my harddrive on my old computer die, however there was barely any difference anyways).
As you can see in the last photo, I started to have a bit of muscle mass, but that was 1 year into heavy weight training and the muscle I gained was pretty much all on my thighs.
My upper body barely responded to training despite doing heavy bench presses, rows and deadlifts 3 times per week and getting stronger on them.
During my first 2 years of training I built my squat, bench press and deadlift to intermediate strength standards:
- Bench press: 66 LBS > 220 LBS
- Squat: 66 LBS > 315 LBS
- Deadlift: 105 LBS > 400 LBS
The gains above may look impressive, however I had to get excessively fat by eating a high Calorie diet and gaining 35 pounds of mostly fat to be able to add that much strength.
Later, when I dieted off the fat, I had to do it slowly over a period of 1 year to be able to retain my strength.
Unfortunately, I got no muscle gains out of following this approach:
After going through my first year of training (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).
I’ve since then found that the majority of my skinny-fat clients have clinically low testosterone levels and that the symptoms of low testosterone are nearly identical to being skinny-fat.
Here are some of the symptoms of low testosterone levels:
- Hard time gaining strength and muscle mass on the upper body.
- Slow recovery between workouts.
- Excess body-fat around the lower waist, hips 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.
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.
I Boosted My Testosterone Levels With 270% Naturally (The Highest Testosterone Reading They Had Ever Seen In My Hospital)
Over the last 8 years I’ve extensively researched the impact of testosterone on body-composition and raised my own natural production with 270% mainly through training and diet.
I went from being at the bottom of the natural range (297 NG/DL) to being slightly above the top (1105 NG/DL).
When I got this reading the doctor said it’s the highest readings 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.
Most people will tell you that they’re experts on hormones but they will not show you their bloodwork.
Here are 5 of my testosterone tests taken over a time-span of 8 years to prove my increase:
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
The natural range typically goes from 300-1100 NG/DL.
I went from 297 NG/DL to 1105 NG/DL!
The methods I’m about to outline didn’t just work for me.
They also worked for hundreds of skinny-fat guys that were accepted to join my Online Transformation Program.
Here are some of my client results:
I believe that raising testosterone through proper training and diet was one of the keys to get rid of the skinny-fat look for me and in my clients.
I barely used any supplements to make this increase 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.
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 Transforms Your Physiology: Better Nutrient Partitioning
So why exactly does testosterone have such a powerful effect on body-composition?
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.
How Bone-Structure Affects the Type of Training You Should Do
In my 2 phase training and diet system I have skinny-fat guys focus almost exclusively on bodyweight exercises.
You probably think I’m crazy but hear me out.
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).
This body-structure results in that terrible upside down V-shape where you have narrow shoulders, a wide waist, minimal upper body muscle mass and lots of body-fat in all the wrong places.
In other words, as a skinny-fat guy you have the weak skeletal structure of the ectomorph and the slow metabolism of the endomorph.
But you have none of the advantages.
You don’t have the fast metabolism and lean physique of a skinny ectomorph.
You also don’t have the powerful upper body bone-structure and natural muscle mass of the endomorph.
Overall, you have the worst skeletal structure for looking aesthetic which is narrow shoulders and a wide waist or hips.
In addition, you have lots of body-fat in the estrogenic areas and minimal muscle mass.
If you get lean, you will simply look like a smaller version of your current self with minimal definition.
If you bulk up, you will go from skinny-fat to all out fat/obese and look even worse.
Just right off the bat, we know that in order to overcome this look you MUST do a program that focuses on bringing up the following muscle groups:
- Upper chest.
These are the key muscles to develop to overcome that narrow shouldered, wide hip/waist bone-structure.
In addition, the overall size of your bones is small.
This is important to know because 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.
The Right Way to Train for Skinny-Fats: Bodyweight Training
So far we can conclude that as a skinny-fat guy you have the following characteristics that limit your training:
- Naturally low testosterone production
- Weak bone-structure
- Wide hips or waist combined with narrow shoulders
- Slow recovery between training sessions
- Hard time gaining muscle mass
- Easy time gaining fat
Exercises that place a high stress on the body such as heavy barbell training, high volume bodybuilding training and high impact cardio such as running will not work because you won’t be able to recover well from it.
When you don’t recover well, you will increase your stress hormone Cortisol and thereby your testosterone levels will decline.
Therefore, you need an approach that stimulates muscle growth without adding too much stress.
The optimal way to train is a way where you can:
- Create a constant sustained stimulus on a daily basis while being able to recover from it. You need sets and reps daily to force your body to get out of skinny-fat.
- Gain muscle mass in the right places: Upper chest, lats, shoulders, triceps and biceps.
- Do the least amount of exercises while building up the right muscles.
I found the perfect solution for this to be bodyweight training.
To be specific there are 3 key exercises that target the right muscles on your body while not putting too much stress on recovery:
- Chin ups: Lats, biceps, rear delts.
- Diamond push ups: Upper chest, front shoulders and triceps.
- Bodyweight squats: Legs.
When you do these 3 exercises, you hit all the most important muscle groups for skinny-fat guys.
I usually have my Online Transformation Program clients go from being unable to do a single chin up and diamond push up to working up to doing sets of 20-30 reps on each and later we build up their strength to work with heavily weighted pull ups and dips for reps as well.
On squats we work on reaching 100 reps ass to grass.
These exercises are great because they hit all the target muscles while having a high ratio of muscle stimulus to fatigue.
If building a great physique is your main goal, you want to perform exercises that provide a very high level of muscle stimulus in the right places while creating a low level of fatigue/stress.
By doing so, you can train these exercises often and with sufficient volume without overtraining… and you’ll see great gains in all your target areas.
For example, chin ups have been done DAILY in the military for decades and are easy to recover from.
EMG studies show that they have the highest activation of the lats of any exercises out there.
The lats are the most important muscle group to train for skinny-fat guys because they add the most upper body width.
I’ve used it as a staple exercise for nearly 10 years and developed elite level lats with it.
As a result, I consider the chin up to be the most important upper body exercise for skinny-fat guys with naturally narrow shoulders or wide waist/hips.
Similarly with diamond push ups, they have the highest activation of the triceps and the triceps make up 2/3 of your arm size. (The biceps are not as important as you think).
I’ve used diamond push ups as a staple to go from having soft 12 inch arms:
To lean 17 inch arms:
In my own experience and observations, diamond push ups also work incredibly well for building a great upper chest and front shoulders.
They’re the best exercise to perform if you have puffy nipples or man boobs to tighten up that chest.
I made a popular YouTube guide about chest training with diamond push ups here:
Therefore, by doing these exercises you get the biggest bang for your buck in training while minimizing risk of injury.
Other benefits are listed below:
- Building up to high rep bodyweight training leads to much better cardiovascular fitness. Since 2015 I had an elite level resting heart rate of 40-45. Everytime I went for check ups at the hospital, the nurses asked me if I’m a pro athlete due to my low resting heart rate.
- Having a low resting heart rate and powerful lungs saved my life when I had a nearly fatal blood clot in the lungs in late 2018 due to a long overseas flight combined with a genetic blood clot disorder (protein S deficiency), therefore don’t underestimate cardiovascular fitness. It can save your life!
- You can train these exercises anywhere at anytime. I’ve travelled to over 35 countries and current living in a rural area near the mountains without gym access. Bodyweight training is the only way I can stay in peak condition. If you’re a busy professional or travelling often like me, this is ideal.
Since late 2012, I’ve mostly used variations of these exercises to pack on 40 pounds of muscle mass in the right places.
I’ve also used some dumbbell and cable isolation work for my weak points from time to time, however the bulk of my training has always consisted of these 3 exercises.
I currently walk around at 6’2″ (190 CM) and 250 LBS (112 KG) bodyweight and all I do is bodyweight training. (This is not a very lean 250 LBS but I still look very fit, have a resting heart rate of 40-45 and can do sets of pull ups with ease).
Since 2015 I’ve been at a point where I have had too much muscle mass and people everywhere I go comment on my physique or ask me what kind of workout I do.
When I tell them I do chin ups, diamond push ups and squats at home, they almost don’t believe me.
Below, I will show you some of my client transformations which were all achieved with bodyweight exercises and weighted bodyweight exercises as a staple:
Here’s my client Harshit Godha from India:
Prior to joining me he also trained with heavy weights prior to joining my program but never got results.
You can read more about Harshit’s 1 year physique transformation in the post: They Didn’t Think I Could Get A Summer Body, But I Did!
Here’s Logan Rando from the US who also went through a similar experience:
“After 6 months of doing the beginner body weight routine I found myself 30 pounds lighter, with visible abs and a lean build. I took a vacation to the Dominican Republic and was constantly complimented on my physique. After making the best progress I ever had, I felt amazing but was hungry for more. I knew I was ready to take my fitness to the next level, so it was a no-brainer when I made the decision to work with Oskar in the online coaching program.”
Here’s Rikesh Murali who lives in a rural area and has no gym access:
And here’s Harrison Max:
(He’s doing a lat pulldown here, however his training program has always been based around bodyweight exercises and weighted bodyweight exercises — we use weight training only as assistance movements).
Being a skinny-fat hardgainer, Harrison initially trained with heavy weights for years but didn’t see results.
Then he started using my 2 phase approach to start packing on mass in all the right places.
In addition to helping clients, my training methods have been acknowledged by health industry experts such as Adam Meredith from Sydney:
I am saying all of this from my knowledge as a chiropractor and a DEXA scan business owner. I believe Oskar has perfectly matched the physiology of Skinny Fat body types with the most appropriate exercise and diet protocols to build the best physiques that skinny fat people can have.
Oskar has cut through all the rubbish out there, and gives you the core of what you need to get outstanding results in the quickest time possible.
I have my sports scientists read his website when they start with me, and many of his findings and advice are given to my clients.
With Oskars program and coaching I got results, and I realized for the first time, that I really can have a good physique.
Adam Meredith, Sydney, DEXA Scan Business Owner
Finally, here’s a photo of my friend Mike Joplin at age 70:
He did bodyweight exercises for 50 years and built all his muscle mass with them.
He started doing them in his early 20s to get more success with girls (that was years ago before any fitness content was available) and he got to a muscular 200 LBS (90 KG) in his first year of training:
So bodyweight training works regardless of your age and I’ve worked with clients in their late 50s who built lots of strength and muscle with bodyweight training only.
Keep in mind that I personally had trained for 2 years prior to that with heavy weights without any results to show for it and I had one of the worst starting points for building muscle.
Since switching to bodyweight work in early, I’ve become nearly 50 pounds heavier at roughly the same waist measurement.
I’m bigger than nearly all guys at any gym.
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.
You can also look at elite level gymnasts and you will see that they have as much upper body muscle mass as pro natural bodybuilders.
The truth is that you can achieve amazing results in your physique without any fancy equipment and while training at home.
The Hormonal Price You Pay to Get a 6-Pack If You’re Skinny-Fat
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.
Develop The No-Excuse Attitude To Make Your Transformation Happen
In this section I want to cover realistic expectations and mindset for skinny-fat guys.
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.
The truth is as I mentioned earlier that almost everyone who’s walking around with a ripped physique is on anabolic steroids or has great genetics.
Either they were born to look like that or they injected high doses of anabolic steroids to achieve that look.
You can look at all the most ripped fitness influencers and I can assure you that nearly all of them either have amazing genetics or take anabolic steroids because they train like pussies.
There’s no way that training 3 times per week for 20 min with a few heavy compound movements or doing long workouts with lots of machines and isolation movements only and a crap diet will lead to results – except for those that are on anabolic steroids or genetically blessed.
They promote that type of training to the masses because it’s mentally easy to finish workouts like that and barely anyone get’s results.
If you’ve trained hard for years without results it may even be tempting to start believing you can’t get truly fit.
I was there too myself and I can say that it’s partly true.
With shit genetics, you won’t walk around ripped with a visible 6-pack and dry muscles full of veins.
However, you CAN build a lot of muscle mass in the right places to achieve a V-taper, big arms, shoulders and keep your waist trim and achieve that superhero look (minus the ripped abs).
You’ll still look impressive anywhere you go.
To achieve this, you have to train hard with high rep bodyweight movements.
Mentally, doing sets of high reps is much harder than a heavy set of 3-8 reps!
But the results in aesthetics? Way superior.
To be able to train this way you have to develop the right mindset.
First and foremost, 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, I got an insane pump 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!
Third, don’t just be a reader. Develop a practical plan to implement.
Schedule in at least 4 workouts every week (but preferably 6), prepare all your groceries and meals in advance, make sleep a priority and stay consistent no matter how slow the results may seem to be.
Over time, even if you gain only 1 rep on your chin up every 3 weeks, that still adds up to 18 reps per year.
And 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.