Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon organising my progress pictures. (I have over 1000 progress pictures)!
While organising them, I stumbled upon a progress picture from April 2011:
April 2011 GOAL PHYSIQUE
This picture brought back memories from the early phases of my skinny-fat transformation.
At the time, I had been training for a bit over 1 year, and my back was finally starting to get that wide look.
However, I was curious about how my physique looked like when I’m lean, so I drew white lines to cover up the love handles.
I remember that I was amazed at how wide my back looked when the love handles were gone. The physique that you see in my edited progress picture was my ultimate goal.
achieved surpassed my goal:
April 2011 DREAM vs. August 2014 REALITY
So, why am I telling you all of this?
Because, I believe that taking monthly progress pictures was one of the keys to achieve and SURPASS my fitness goals.
Why You Should Stop Relying On The Mirror
“If you see progress in the mirror, you know you’re headed in the right direction.”
That’s true for some people, but not for the skinny-fat guy with below average genetics.
When you have crappy genetics, you gain muscle at a slower rate than other guys:
- 1st year of proper training: 20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)
- 2nd year of proper training: 10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)
- 3rd year of proper training: 5-6 pounds (0.5 pound per month)
Take a good look at the monthly numbers for muscle gains.
If you’re a beginner, and train hard with a good diet, those are the kind of numbers you can expect to achieve.
Now, think about this. If you weigh 200 pounds, there’s no way you will notice a 2 pound muscle gain.
The same applies for a lighter guy who’s 130 pounds.
The muscle gains are so slow that you won’t be able to see them yourself.
To prove that this is true, take a look at my progress pictures below:
7 months of progress (didn't see a change at all in the mirror)
Those progress pictures represent 7 months of consistent training where I added over 100 pounds to my deadlift and lost body-fat.
Do you think that I was able to see progress in my physique on a weekly or even monthly basis? Hell no.
In 7 months, all I gained was a bit of size on my back and traps, while losing some fat.
The monthly muscle gains were extremely small and gradual, therefore I never noticed them in the mirror.
Luckily, I took progress pictures, so I was able to see the slight change in my physique and thereby remain motivated to keep pushing the iron.
If I hadn’t taken progress pictures, I would most likely have given up at this point.
This is unfortunately the case for many skinny-fat guys. They rely on the mirror instead of taking progress pictures.
As time goes by, they don’t notice the small amount of progress they make, and eventually quit training.
Progress Pictures Can Save You From Getting Fat
In the section above I explained that muscle gains are so slow that you can’t see them in the mirror.
However, there’s also another side to the coin: fat gains can be so slow that you don’t notice them in the mirror.
I have experienced this myself.
In fact, this is one of the main reasons to why I let myself become skinny-fat and eventually FAT in the first place:
I didn't take progress pictures between September 2010 and February 2011
This picture shows me in February 2011, at the fattest I’ve ever been in my life.
I was about 235 pounds of fat at the time.
The interesting thing, though, is that I didn’t realise I was getting fat!
In September 2010 I was a skinny-fat 200 pounds. Each month I added about 5 pounds of bodyweight while gaining tons of strength, until I eventually ended up at 235 pounds in February 2011.
I was the guy doing heavy deadlifts at the gym, and cardio 3 times a week. I could also do about 5 pull ups.
I thought I was in good shape, and didn’t notice the fat gains sneak up on me.
This wouldn’t have been the case if I had taken progress pictures every month.
If I had taken progress pictures every month, I would have realised that I was getting fat and thereby stop my bulk much earlier.
Gain Confidence By Comparing Progress Pictures
Have you ever heard about the guy or girl who lost 100 pounds of fat, and gotten lean, but still feels fat on the inside?
The same applied to me during most of my transformation.
Despite making a lot of progress, I often felt like I didn’t make ANY progress.
The month prior to taking the picture below, I still felt like I was in poor shape!
After taking this picture, I was constantly thinking about stuff such as:
- My upper chest is too small
- I need to get a 6-pack
- I want bigger arms
Those things bothered me so much that I wasn’t able to ENJOY the progress I had already made. I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own body.
Then, one day I sat down and compared my progress pictures.
When I saw the difference I realised one very important thing:
I’ve made a lot of progress and should be proud of it.
Instead of constantly thinking about what’s missing, I started using my own progress as motivation to train harder.
After this event, my life has improved tremendously. I’m more confident in my own body and I make more progress in the gym than ever before.
My point is that progress pictures can be extremely useful in the future.
You may not like the way you look now, but if you work hard for years, you will one day be able to look at your progress and be proud of it.
When that happens, you will gain momentum in your life, since your physique won’t be holding you back anymore.
How I Use Progress Pictures Today
This article wouldn’t be complete without some practical information that actually explains how you can use progress pictures to optimise your training and nutrition.
I personally take progress pictures of me once a month. It takes no more than 5 minutes to get it done.
All you need is:
- Back and front relaxed
- Back and front flexed
If you want to, you can do some other bodybuilding poses, although they aren’t necessary.
Ideally, you will take the progress pictures in the same place and under the same lighting. (I don’t always do this, however I should)!
If your goal is to get lean, you want to look leaner without losing muscle every month.
If your goal is to bulk up and gain muscle, you want to look bigger without getting fat every month.
It’s that simple.
Below I’ll show you 2 progress pictures.
One shows how I look at the end of a cut. The other shows how I look at the end of a bulk.
End of cut vs. End of bulk
This is usually how my look varies throughout the year. (Both pictures are taken without a pump, although the lighting and angle is better in the cut picture).
I never get extremely ripped when I cut and I never become a fat-ass when I bulk.
At the end of my bulks I can still do 20 good pull ups and several handstand push ups, even though my bodyweight is close to 200 pounds.
When I cut, I don’t lose muscle mass, since my cuts are short. I don’t need to cut for long, because I never get fat in the first place.
My point here is that progress pictures help me stay on track.
If I didn’t take progress pictures, I could easily end up bulking too far. My appetite is huge and I gain fat easily, so taking progress pictures are crucial for me to remain somewhat lean throughout the year.
Once I start losing my abs, I know it’s time to cut back and lose about 7-10 pounds of bodyweight.
There’s also another reason to why I’m showing you these progress pictures: honesty.
A lot of fitness bloggers only show the way they look when they’re extremely shredded for 2 weeks out of the year. But how about the other 50 weeks?
How Fast Should Your Progress Be?
Often, skinny-fat guys ask me questions such as:
“I’m making some progress, but I don’t know if I’m progressing fast enough. Should I change my routine?”
“How long time do you think it will take for me to transform?”
I also had those questions in my first few years of training, but over time I’ve realised that they are TOXIC to your mind.
Those questions show me one thing: you want a great physique as fast as possible.
You want it in a few months. You’re not willing to put in YEARS of hard work to achieve it.
It took me several years of hard work to build my physique.
Yeah, I could have done it faster if I did it right from the get-go, however, who does it right from the get-go?
Very few people do.
For most people, transforming a body is not only about having the right diet and training routine.
It’s just as much about learning how to transform your whole lifestyle by creating new habits.
You may have a new-born baby that keeps you up at night.
You may lack the money to buy quality foods.
Or, you may have your final exams which require all your attention.
No matter what the issue is, everyone has their own issues to deal with.
Those issues take away time and focus from your fitness goals, but despite that YOU want to be that person who fights through it and keeps making progress in the gym.
Slow progress is better than no progress.
I saw tiny amounts of progress every 3-7 months in my training, but in the end it all added up.
My point is, that this is not a SPRINT. It’s a MARATHON.
Monthly progress pictures are one of the best ways to stay on track in the marathon, so you better start taking them!
PS: I’ll have a new transformation video up soon on YouTube (subscribe here), and I have a lot of content in draft. If there’s anything you’d like me to write about, then send me an email and I’ll take it into consideration!
Well i am 132 lbs at 5″11 and have a layer of fat around my waist. I have been cutting from 3 months and I have lost 20 lbs. Now I feel much more confident and Look very slim with tight T shirt on. But now people are telling me that I am weak and I look very bad. People are telling me start gaining some muscles at regular basis or else I can be very sick. Being an Indian foods like chapati, white rice and dals are our daily meals. What will you suggest should i start bulking or should i cut even more. And now i have no strength to train hard also. I can do 5-8 pull ups and some push ups. Please help. Thanks
I make bows to your progress and hard work (way to go, bro!) but your whining about your “crappy genetics” every post I just cannot stand. You said it yourself: “gaining tons of strength” but take another look at yourself: your lats, vmos, quads are more than astounding and that is only from training a few years and still natty (how you convice us). Bad genetics? Think again!
I am on my own way to great body and fitness performance and am training for over 10 years not giving up but I am not even close to you. It’s like my progress is 10 times slower than yours – so what about my genetics? Even heavy bulking time I don’t get these strength gains l dream – just lots of fat and not much of the progress let alone how my body looks – skinny arms plus a belly. I almost have my own 6-pack now but still struggling at 1-2 chinups max and poor 1xbw bb squat!
Thanks for the compliments, I appreciate it.
I’m not whining about my genetics. I don’t use my genetics as an excuse to stay the same.
I’m just stating that my genetics are much below average, which is the truth. Average guys can attain my stats in 1-2 years of solid training and eating. I’ve been at it for over 4 years.
Have you been TRAINING for 10 years or WORKING OUT? There’s a difference here. Training means that you try to force your body to adapt to increased stress, in other words; doing more over a period of time. Working out to get a sweat is not the same. If you had been training for 10 years, you would be able to do more than 1-2 chin ups, unless you belong to a very small part of the population which do not respond to resistance training.
I like your attitude, that’s why I subscribed in the first place, and I’m neither trying to exuse myself – that’s why I keep pushing it. I think there were like 2-3 years of some progress and newbie gains and then it started fluctuating back and forth. I may have had similar experience with 5×5 and alike programs. Got fatter, been able to lift a little more, but struggle to lift myself up. I tried hard with many traditional split programs and other fullbody: HIT, HST, 5-3-1… some simple, some complex and after years of taking notes and pics I still have no idea what works for me and why my chin max goes from 0 to 7 and then back to 1-2 after another months of training. And no, I don’t constantly force to up the volume of my training as mass gain is no longer my biggest priority. This year I started calisthenics and gymnastics only.
PS. Still… your lats are not what common guy can achive, so brace them :P
How’s the calisthenics working for you? I found it to work better for me.
Maybe not, but everyone has their strong parts and weak parts, so just keep working at it.
I enjoy it many more but no miracles here in the strength department. Skills and static holds is a different story – much better progress. About size gain I cannot say much because I didn’t rely on mass and volume training nor did I diet with surplus.
Good thing you enjoy it. That’s for me the most important now. I train because I love training, and the results seem to come with it.
“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon”
best description i’ve ever heard of the process of progress in any area, especially bodybuilding. Well written mate, I enjoyed it. Reminds me of the Al Pacino speech in any given Sunday – “inch by fucking inch!”
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Also, good quote.
Hi Oskar, just saw your transformation video there, thought it was great and really inspiring! Watching you doing your workouts I was wondering would you be able to do a video showing you doing the three main exercises you advise for skinny fats: diamond push ups, pullups and bodyweight squats with proper form and maybe how you go about achieving proper form in your exercises, something like that. I feel that’d definitely be of great help to a lot of people including myself!
I’m glad you like it Ollie. I will do that in the future. For now, I have a muscle up tutorial coming up.
Hey man, I just discovered your website. I just want to say congratulations on everything you have achieved and you have given me hope that I can one day transform my physique, despite having crappy genetics. Ever since I was taking weight training in high school, I was embarrassed to be grouped with the weakest people in my class, which were the girls, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I often wondered why I couldn’t bench press or squat as much as the other guys in my class. This defeated me mentally and I gave up and settled with having a below average body and accepted it as my destiny. I lack self-confidence and despite feeling masculine, I don’t feel like my body matches how I feel on the inside. No girl wants a guy with wide hips and man boobs. I want to change that around. I just signed up for a gym membership, and I won’t give a damn if people look at me funny anymore. I will have a different mindset this time. Thanks for giving me hope!
in the beginning stages you dont even need to worry about the gym, especially if you are skinny fat, check out Oskar’s 3 part skinny fat beginner posts. The biggest thing is to just be consistent and stick with it for the long term, if you truly want to transform then you need to be in it for the long haul, how long it takes really doesnt matter as long as you are consistent the changes will happen. It took me a really long time to realize that the changes I needed to make were changes that I am willing to do for life and now I am at the point where I do my workouts and try to work hard and I know eventually I am going to get to where I want to be, its a journey and you should enjoy it.
4 part not 3 part.
I see that the first step is to lose the fat. I plan on doing that. I’ve been doing diamond pushups and chin ups each night, but I’ll also mix in some isolation exercises in there, just to keep it from becoming repetitive. You’re right, I just have to be consistent with my exercise. Thanks for your input.
Thank you, I’m happy to hear the site inspired you! I look forward to hear about your progress.
Another great article as always. I am still in cutting phase for 4 months and already lost 35 pounds already. My goal is to get to 145 lbs and I am 5’10 currently 168 lbs, do you have suggestion on how to avoid losing muscle? I am still doing the 3 bodyweight exercises for an hour and eating peanutbutter for 2 spoons everynight to get asleep quickly. My triceps shoulders and chest are getting a little muscle mass and Im planning to do jogging or cardio for 2 times a week so I can lose that love handles since we have to go swimming for a night one time. What are your thoughts?
Thanks for the great article once again!
If you cut that much weight, you are going to have to lose some muscle mass. My bench press in my bulk usually gets up to around 325, when I cut down my bench max goes down to 275-285ish. I try my best to keep the muscle on in the gym by going as heavy as possible and keeping up some decent protein intake, but its is impossible to keep on all of the muscle
Wow that’s a huge difference in your numbers. I usually maintain all my muscle when I cut. The difference is that I can’t train with as much volume and go past failure as often. Also, I don’t get as lean as you when I cut.
As long as you train hard with the bodyweight movements and don’t starve yourself, you won’t lose muscle mass. Don’t worry about it.
Also, read this: https://skinnyfattransformation.com/fat-loss-mistakes/
Yeah I train hard and dont starve, thats a great article as well. However just a quick question, when you do cardio do you use the HIIT with bodyweight exercises or just treadmill?
I rarely do cardio, since my workout in itself is cardio (I take short rest between sets, do several exercises at the same time and do a lot of sets). However, last time I did cardio to get lean (April 2014) I did the elliptical machine at around 85% heart rate for 20-30 minutes about 3 times a week. I like the elliptical machine, since it has a low impact on your joints.
A bit off topic but just quickly I have read your bulk article, you mentioned you were eating 2-3 big meals a day, were you still doing intermittent fasting on bulk? What were you eating exactly?
I am finding it really hard to put on weight, been training 4 times a week mainly with compound exercises
Depends on what time you want to know about.
In the past years I’ve mostly eaten 2-3 meals, and that was the best approach for me to learn how to control my appetite.
Most of the time I did intermittent fasting, but not in the strict sense that you know it. I went by feel. If I needed breakfast, I would eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. If I wasn’t hungry in the morning, I just ate lunch and dinner. Listening to your body is key to build a good physique.
The foods I ate and the quantities varied over time, however the staples were natural peanut butter, rye bread, white rice, all kinds of meat and eggs.
Recently I’ve started eating more meals as a result of a higher metabolism and the fact that I can train harder than I did before. I often need more than 3 meals to recover from workouts.
I haven’t gotten my “bulk up” down pat yet. I have gone from 205 down to 155 and from 165 down to 155. From now on, I want to be able to take my shirt off year round and still impress. This winter I just want to increase the protein and “clean bulk”.
Have you tried to do shorter bulking cycles and combining them with short cutting cycles? That way you can stay lean all year while adding mass.
Yeah I might try that…It gets harder and harder to remove fat as I get older, so I don’t want to add to much to begin with. But, I do need to add some mass or I get WAYYY to skinny..
Good stuff brother!
I’m going to take action on this and set up my camera and tripod – right now in fact. Let’s hit that 10% body fat before new year’s hey!
Thanks bro, let’s get shredded together, see you tomorrow!
One day, I’m going to workout with you guys in Copenhagen :)
For sure, feel free to join us bro!
Always underestimated photos until recently. Been weighing myself regularly and my weight hasn’t changed in a month. However, in the last 2 months I have lost 4 and a half inches from my waist which I measure regularly and looking at yesterdays photo compared to 2 months ago, the difference is massive and it is a huge confidence boost that I have never had before. Can’t state enough how important photos are.
Great progress Mike.
Great success Oskar!
You have far surpassed your 2011 goal!!!
Thank you Ron!
Oskar dude, your back is whack brah! :)
I agree mate, everyone and their mothers want FAST results. Like you said, building the body of your dreams is a freaking marathon and if you’re going to sprint for the first mile, you’re probably going to get nowhere :) slow but steady wins the race.
“building the body of your dreams is a freaking marathon and if you’re going to sprint for the first mile, you’re probably going to get nowhere”
I like this!