Fitness can often appear complicated. There are so many variables that people think will give them their dream physique faster. For example, hitting each muscle from all possible angles with 10 different exercises, counting macronutrients, weighing meals and so on. Those kind of things only do one thing for you: they make fitness rule your life, instead of just making it part of your life.
Is your goal to be a competitive bodybuilder, fitness model or something similar? If not, then you should simplify fitness so it doesn’t rule your life. The price you pay is too high compared to the benefit.
However, you should still put effort into your new lifestyle. The ideal strategy is to channel all your effort into the right activities; progressing in your training as often as possible while eating solid and nutritious meals. If you do those 2 things for several years, there is NO WAY that your physique won’t transform. Nobody get’s lean and muscular by focusing on small details such as replacing hammer curls with concentration curls or buying tons of supplements, but plenty of people get lean and muscular by changing their eating habits and progressing in their training.
A Typical Training Routine
A typical bodybuilding split can look something like this :
Day 1: Upper Body
- Bench Press: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Bent Over Row: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Rope Tricep Pull-downs: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 2: Lower Body
- Front Squat: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Deadlift: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Lunges: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 4: Upper Body
- Incline Bench Press: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Lat Pull-down: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Barbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Front Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dips: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 5: Lower Body
- Back Squat: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- One-Legged Squats/Leg Press: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
This workout has a total of 19 exercises! Just take a look at this type of routine… It makes tracking progress so complicated. For example, if I go to the gym on day 2, I have to perform 5 different exercises for the lower body. However, the next time I train lower body I would have to replace 4 of the exercises with different ones.
In addition to that, some of the exercises state how many sets to do and a small rep range. In my experience those kind of rep ranges suck. Let’s say I can do 8 reps with 220 lbs on the back squat. Then the next set I would probably only be able to do 6, then 4-5 on the last 2. In order to complete that rep range and move up I would have to “save” energy for my later sets, unless I use smaller weights on the later sets, but that would make tracking progress even more complicated.
How to Simplify Training
So how do you simplify your training? If you’re a beginner I have already done this for you in Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Beginner.
The routine I shared with you has 3 exercises you can progress on, and 2 optional exercises you can perform if you have the energy. It makes progressing so simple and effective. Here’s the routine:
- Warm-up (Don’t skip this!!): Dynamic stretching + light cardio for 10 min
- Exercise 1: Chin-Ups 2-4 sets
- Exercise 2: Push Ups or Diamond Push Ups 2-4 sets
- Exercise 3 (if your legs and glutes grow fast, reduce the squat frequency): Squat or Pistol Squat 2-4 sets
- Assistance Exercises (optional): Leg Raises for abs and Supermans for lower back (2 sets to failure on each)
Your focus is to progress on 3 exercises. The big advantage of focusing on a few exercises rather than a lot of exercises, lies in the mental benefit of it. When you know that your training routine only has 1 or 2 exercises for each muscle group, you will push yourself much more on those exercises, compared to if you had to go in and do 4-5 exercises.
I would much rather see you add 10 reps to your chin-up max, than add 20 lbs to 10 different isolation exercises. Once you got a solid base of strength, you can always focus on lacking muscle groups, by doing different variations of the basic exercises. Currently, I’m focusing on growing my shoulders, so my routine looks like this:
- Exercise 1: Handstand Push-Ups – 3 sets
- Exercise 2: Chin-Ups – 3 sets
- Exercise 3: Diamond Push-Ups – 3 sets
- Exercise 4: Leg Raises – 3 sets
- Exercise 5: Pistol Squats – 3 sets
As you can see, my current routine is VERY similar to the basic routine I give to a beginner. Instead of adding 5 different isolation exercises for my shoulders, I simply added handstand push-ups. If this doesn’t work out I may add an isolation exercise, but the point remains: I’m making sure that my training routine has as few exercises as possible so I can focus all my effort to progress on those exercises.
How to Simplify Eating
Eating starts at the grocery store. If you’re on a tight budget I recommend you to find the closest discount store and shop there everytime. My closest grocery store is about a 2 min walk from my appartment, and it’s as cheap as it get’s here in Denmark. I always go there, buy what I need, and get out fast. I never buy useless stuff such as candy, chocolate, bagels and useless supplements that won’t make a significant difference to my physique.
The money I save can be spent on buying proper testosterone boosting foods such as steaks, organic eggs and red meat.
I buy meat and fish in bulk, cook for 2-3 days and freeze the rest. I don’t care if I have to eat the same food for 2 weeks. Not only does it enable me to become good at cooking certain types of food, but I also save money in the long run since I buy big packages that are on discount. Cook more food than you need and store the rest in tupperware:
By doing this I can afford a good cut of red meat on a regular basis.
My grocery list is divided in 3 parts. One part is the meat, eggs and fish that will provide me with protein and fat. The other part is the carbs such as rice, potatoes and rye bread. The final part is fruit and vegetables.
For dinner I usually eat beef, steak or chicken breast with white rice and vegetables while my breakfast is either rye bread with peanutbutter, or 6 eggs with a bit of rye bread. The breakfast takes me roughly 10 minutes to make, and dinner usually takes 45-60 minutes including cleaning., and as I mentioned earlier, I make dinner for several days. By eating this food I can stay lean and I’m never hungry despite eating only 2 meals, because the meals are so filling.
If I want to lose fat, I simply eat less. This is done by either reducing the portion sizes and/or reducing the meal frequency. If I want to gain muscle, I increase the portion sizes or add high calorie foods to my diet. I personally had succes with snacking on 5-6 tablespoons of peanutbutter everyday and making peanutbutter mass gainer shakes during my bulks to gain muscle. As you can see, it’s quite simple. I have a few staple meals that keep me full all day long, and when I want to gain muscle I just add more peanutbutter to my diet.
With that said, I stick to the basic foods listed above +80 % of the time. Once in a while I go out to a restaurant or to a friend’s place to eat, but when I do that, I eat whatever I desire.
Finally, when I make changes to my eating or training, I usually change a few things at a time. Not only does it keep my eating and training simple, but it enables me to learn what works best for me.
If I switch from bodyweight training 6 times a week to heavy weight training 3 times a week, while adding 10 supplements and switching to a KETO diet, then how will I know what actually works and what doesn’t? Chances are, that I will just keep looking for a magical training routine and diet that doesn’t actually exist. The key is to learn what works for you, and stick to that as long as it works.
A simple training routine that makes it easy to track progress, combined with buying solid foods at the grocery store and cooking for several days will make this lifestyle simple, yet effective.
Fitness is an easy sport where science is all what is needed. Most beginners make the workout difficult themselves, where all they should focus on are basic compound exercises. The workout should be simple and should be changed every 4-6 to prevent hitting plateau.
This is an awesome post, and an awesome blog. I just came across this while doing a google search for something random.
I almost felt bad and weird that all I was doing recently was chin ups variations (neutral grip, palms facing you, facing away, wide grip, shoulder grip, narrow grip, door pull ups), push up variations (regular push ups, pike push ups, feel elevated push ups), triceps dips, and body rows when I can.
Other than this, I literally have two fixed weight dumbbells with me. So I do some curls and triceps with them. And I have one resistance band which I use to do some shoulder isolation exercises and forearms.
My “routine” is fairly brainless. Just do a bunch of these exercises that I feel like on a given day, and aim to do as much volume as I can. That’s it! Since I am aiming to bulk, without feeling drowsy through the day at work, I eat less in the morning, workout in the evening, and hog on food at night. I try to workout 4-5 days a week.
Weirdly, since I switched to this super simplified setup, I have actually started making steady progress for the very first time in my life. But somehow, I kept feeling bad that maybe I am doing enough, and that I should be doing more! Or maybe, this won’t keep working forever as well as it has been recently!
But now I know better after reading you blog! Thanks. Will continue to do this. And thanks for the diamond push up variation recommendation.
Hi Oskar and thanks for your website
I have a dilemma and hope you can help me out.
I am a 36 years old 177cm skinny fat that never done any kind of training. 2 years ago I was at 75 kg and 23% body fat and followed a diet (due to medical reasons) and went down to 64 kg and 12% body fat (that was 2 months ago)
So 2 months ago 64kg 12% bf 177cm skinny guy decided to start training and, as you can imagine, I was advised to eat more (around 2500 kcal / day) so I did eat more although I think I was averaging 1800 to 2000 kcal per day
Now I am up for 5 kg (69 kg) and at 15% bf and this is kind of pissing me off. I have a belly bigger than I never had and I don’t like where this is going.
One week ago I found your website started training every day
4 sets of 3 chin ups
3 sets of 13 push ups
3 sets of 15 squats
3 sets of 20 abs
My problem is that I am not happy at all with my belly fat and I am not eating all that much (about 1800 to 2000 per day) and just healthy food so I don’t know what to do next.
Thanks for any insight
You cut your calories just ONE week ago. Results don’t happen in one week. Stick with it for at least a few more weeks, track your waist, bodyweight and hips, and see if it works. I’m sure you’ll lose the fat if you stay consistent with it.
Hello there Oskar!
Do you make your exercises in circuit style or you do all sets of one exercise at a time.
Hey Tim, that varies a lot for me nowadays, but if you’re new then I would do one exercise at a time.
Thanks for the quick answer.
I’m taking serious the bodyweight exercises since January 2014. In these 3/4 months I gathered a lot of knowledge about nutrition/fitness, and improved a lot specially in the nutrition field.
In February I started with IF. I feel great with that style of eating/life.
2/3 meals a day in the feasting window (6-8hrs) and in the fasting hours I just drink green/black tea and coffee, always with no sugar (I was used to coffee with sugar, but it wasn’t difficult the change).
I’ve learned a lot by reading tons of articles, specially in these two websites leangains of martin berkhan and anthony mychal blog (also a skinny fat), like you he found a way to overcome his condition.
Recently I was doing a 2 day split training (Upper and Lower Body), and mixed with Freeletics. I started in January with freeletics program and I wanted to get lean first, get rid of that annoying belly and the love handles.
I started with 83kg and when I stop cutting (April) I was 77.5 kg, I increased my strenght and got leaner (my hips width reduced and also belly size :D).
I’ve reached the state where I can see my 4 pack (still a bit of flabs, not entirely abs).
My bulk phase started one week ago, and since I’m doing IF, I want to do a clean bulk. But now I came across with your website and with your good info and tips, you made me confuse, I don’t know what path should I pick :P
Hey Tim, congrats with the progress! Pick one source, and stick to that if it works. Don’t take advice from several people at one time, because that will just confuse you.
Hey Oskar just wondering having white rice for dinner when trying to cut? I always thought white carbs are bad specially at night time.
Hey Rj, my body responds very well to white rice. I can eat a lot of it, and never get bloating/constipation and so on. I think this is individual, and you may want to test this out yourself, but I can’t see why white rice would be bad. I eat it pretty much everyday.
well,then ı will up my training days to 4-5 days a week and see whats going on.ı must admit that focusing on chins and pushups is really enjoyable.ı look forward to summer so ı can workout outside :D
thanks for your answer
Stick to it, and let me know how it goes.
That’s also one of the reasons to why I like bodyweight training. Nothing better than going to the park for a morning workout, then resting on the grass or going to the beach.
hi!ı saw your training blog 2 two months ago and ı decided to give it a shot two weeks before.however,ı have some questions about it.(ı am working out about 15 months and ı have little progress.ı think my biggest mistake was upping my calories from roughly 1900 to 3100 in one week.this quıck method always undid my diet efforts)
1)since ı am trying to lose weight after two failed bulking cycle,ı did your workouts no more than every other day.ı think training more will make it hard to have some decifit.ı like to have only 1000 cal day every 5 days to make sure ı am definitely in decift.what do you think about it?can ı be on decifit on training days?
2)there are not much room for cardio since we workout frequently?what do you suggest about cardio?
3)ı really love doing deadlifts and triceps pushdowns.how can ı do them in this routine or should ı do?
4)finally ı really lıked eating two meals a day and ı feel so full until my meals.problem is ı dont feel satisfied until 10 mins after meal so ı can easıly overeat.did it happened to you?
ps:ı am an 19 year old male 187 height and 75 kg.probably around %18 bf
This suggests that you need to focus on getting lean first (about 10-12 % bodyfat). That should take 2-3 months. Follow the advice here to get lean: https://skinnyfattransformation.com/lose-fat-without-starving/
Now onto your questions.
1) You don’t need to do a day of only 1000 calories if you follow the advice in the article posted above. Also, have you tried to train everyday while eating less? If not, then start with 4 days a week, and build up gradually. E.g., do 4 days, next week 5, then 6 and finally 7. If it doesn’t work well for you, you can always cut out some days.
2) Cardio is unnecessary to lose fat at 18 % bodyfat. Focus on eating less.
3) Do deadlifts once a week instead of chin ups or on a day where you don’t do chin ups. You can do triceps pushdowns anytime you want at the end of your workout.
4) I haven’t had this problem. My meals are big, and very filling, most often I have a difficult time finishing them, so I end up eating less and get leaner. I suggest you do this: when you start getting thirsty during a meal, stop eating. Getting thirsty during eating means that you are full.
It’s fine to take a day or two a week, where you eat more calories. That will make fat loss easier and sustainable, since being in a deficit everyday is NOT good and can be counter productive.
Thanks! I will, your way is the way to go for me. I know my body needs a constant routine like this.
Today I did 3 sets of 10 chins i maxed out, did 4 sets of Diamond pushups and then did another 2 sets of pullups, shrugs and finished with 3 sets of normal pushups.
Before bed some pushups and tomorrow ready to rock again!
Once you reach 12-15 chins, add time under tension to make them harder.
Good luck with the training!
This is 3 weeks, just clean diet and some excercise.
Now Im fairly lean, It’s time for 2800 calories to slowly bulk just as you explained.
You got any last tips ? :)
It seems like you are doing very well. All I can say is that you should focus a lot on chin-ups to add width to your back.
Is it okay to do everyday workout that looks something like this;
Incline Bench 4 sets
Pullups 4 sets
Squats 4 sets
Shrugs 4 sets
And then change workout daily to;
Pushups or Dips 4 sets
Pullups 4 sets
Squats 4 sets
Shrug 4 sets
Im just curious about your opinion
Squatting everyday for 4 sets might be too much, but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try it. I’ve personally never tried squatting that much since my legs can grow on 1 day a week.
Why do you want to do shrugs everyday? Shrugs are great to grow the traps, but if you have naturally narrow shoulders, it’s a bad idea to grow the traps too much since that will create an illusion of narrower shoulders.
I like the idea of alternating between incline bench and bodyweight training for chest, although I would do diamond push ups instead of regular push ups.
I have wide shoulders :) That is the only thing I dont have in common with most skinnyfat guys:)
Btw im making good progress i see gains in strength/more reps, I know that if I keep up with this program the visual gains will come as well. Btw i love this kind of workout!
Tonight I’m gonna do one of these workouts! Im excited, thanks for the fast reply, I have two photo’s from my back perhaps for some people motivation :)
Lucky you :-)
In that case go ahead and do the shrugs.
Upload the pics and post a link here, I’m sure a lot of people (including me) want to see your progress.
I got a lot more definition and depth.
This is before
This is after
It’s just the beginning of something good:)
Good progress, you look leaner!
How long time did it take and what did you do?
Hey thank you for your wonderful wonderful website :)
I have a question, can i train intensely on all the 7 days of the week when i am trying to lose weight ie calorie deficit or will that make me lose muscles?
also can you help show us a way to transition into a handstand pushup? i tried doing it against a wall but point of contact of the wall and my feet isnt helping much ( i tried doing it with face towards the wall). i feel like i am going to fall if i try going lower. neither am i able to push myself up in the handstand pushup as i go down.
thank you so much :)
How often and hard you can train depends on a lot of factors, but I would start with 4 days a week and see how that works. If you feel like you can do more, then try adding a day or two. Try the routine here: https://skinnyfattransformation.com/bodyweight-training-skinny-fat/
Don’t worry about losing muscle mass. It won’t happen unless you starve yourself and neglect training.
Next time you do handstand against the wall, try doing it like the guy in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQxeuiDzcgo (see from 3:07). Also, don’t go for the handstand push ups immediately. Get your body used to the handstand position first by increasing the time you can hold the handstand.
Thank you so much once again for the quick reply. The video is really useful too so thank you so much for it too. You are doing a great job. Thank you for helping all of us out here.
No problem :-) Let me know how it works out for you
Organic eggs are the way to go! I feel the difference the day after. They are alot tastier.
Great article again! The most useful site I’ve found because the info is from a man’s real experience and not a writer parroting what he has read in a book
Books can only take you so far. I still remember when I was new to fitness, and I had read several books about training and nutrition, and concluded that training 3 times a week with heavy weights while eating 1 g of protein per lb of bodyweight was the way to go. I thought that because I had read books about the subject, I knew the perfect way to get ripped.
I was still living at home at that time, and I told my father about my new lifestyle, and he responded something along those lines: “I always ate 3 normal meals a day and exercised on a daily basis. You don’t need all that protein and those heavy weights.” Keep in mind, my father was in very good shape until his early 50’s.
I thought he was just “old” and uneducated in fitness. However, in reality, what he said is close to what I do now, and it works so much better.
Love your site was just wondering how much rice you actually eat roughly?
i noticed you must eat about 2300-2500 calories a day i know you dont count calories but i was wondering is that to maintain your current weight ? as dosent seem like much
I just eat until I feel full. I really don’t know how much rice I eat, that depends a lot on how hungry I am. I just cook like 1 lb of rice, and that usually lasts me 2-4 days.
I’m doing fat loss right now, so the 2 meals there are used to cut. If I want to maintain, I can simply eat slightly bigger portions or add a small third meal. My maintenance calories depend on how lean a physique I want to maintain. If I want to cut down to about 10-12 % bodyfat and maintain, then that’s about what I can eat to stay there (without any cardio). Also, keep in mind that I eat out a few times a week, so my overall calories on a weekly basis are higher than the 2 meals posted here.
Thanks for this post and your site. It feels as if you’re writing specifically for (skinny fat) me. Any tips for doing the workout when I’m traveling and lack access to chin up bar?
Also any tips for eating for someone who does not eat poultry, red meat or eggs?
Youre welcome Duane, it makes me happy that people find the website useful!
How much do you travel? If it’s just a week once in a while, it won’t hurt if you just do the push ups, squats, leg raises and supermans. However, if it’s more than a week I would find a chin up bar close to where you stay, and do the chin ups. When I travel, I find a playground with bars, and do my workouts there. If you can’t find a playground, see if you can find a construction site. There should be a bar somewhere if you look hard enough for it.
Unfortunately I don’t have experience with eating like that, however go to this website: thefrankmedrano.com and click on diet. This guy has a great physique and he’s vegan.
How many grams of protein do you aprox. eat in a day?
I think eggs are 6.5 grams each so 6 eggs would be 39 grams.
What about the meat at dinner?
Hey Marco, how is the training going?
The meat at dinner is about 1 pound of 9-15 % beef, so I guess I eat about 120 g of protein most days – sometimes a bit more, sometimes less.
Hey there Oskar,
I came across your website this week and I’d like to know your opinion on something.
I’m a skinny fat guy and I’d like to know if you recommend full-body workouts 3 days a week (day on, day off, rest on weekend). I heard full-body workouts are great for cutting down on body fat. Please let me know what you think.
Great to see a site geared towards skinny fat guys! Good job and keep up the great work!
I’m glad you find the website useful and thank you.
I never had succes with training only 3 times a week. I would recommend you to start doing the training routine here: https://skinnyfattransformation.com/bodyweight-training-skinny-fat/
Do it 4 times a week, and see how that feels like. If you are able to, just add more days. I saw great results when I started increasing the amount of days I trained every week.
Fat loss is mainly a result of what you eat rather than your workout. If you want to lose fat, follow the tips here: https://skinnyfattransformation.com/lose-fat-without-starving/
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
Great post….keep up the great work….