Skinny Fat guys/gals can’t play by the normal rules of the game—High Volume Split routines, light weights for more reps, doing steady state cardio, eating a high carb, high protein diet and so forth won’t work for them.
I have tried following these conventional rules/guidelines for a long time and as a result only achieved an average Skinny Fat Physique in 9 long years!
Essentially went from Skinny to Skinny Fat (not a good condition to be in, see above picture).
I still remember those Skinny Fat days. I used to go to the gym, and used to look at skinny kids and think… heck, even they look better than I look right now:(
I just couldn’t believe after putting in so much effort of going to the gym 5-6 times a week, eating every 2-3 hours mostly clean food and yeah a lot of boiled chicken with broccoli, I was still not happy with the way I looked.
Don’t get me wrong here. My health improved (my immune system was not up to the par during my teens) so for sure I was falling sick less often, my digestion dramatically improved, my energy levels were high.
Yes, I did gain some muscle-I did; but there was something inherently wrong with the way I trained and ate.
There was my voice inside me that whispered- Akash there is a much smarter, simpler and more effective way to build your physique. And this ONE FINE DAY, I saw two things and it just clicked. Like a switch. (I hope it does for you when you read this post and probably other related posts on my blog)
1 I read this quote somewhere.
2. I saw Steve Reeves classic body shot.
If you have read my full story, you’ll understand how Steve Reeves has inspired me and refuelled my motivation to start re-building my physique with a completely different set of workout and diet guidelines.
So I immediately threw out all the bodybuilding magazines, stopped listening to gym trainers (who probably had superior genetics or/and were on steroids..Hey I am not judging here..to each his own…but what works for them would not have worked for my Skinny Fat genetics)
Over time, I learned a LOT about how to make my Skinny Fat genes respond. I won’t say that I have reached my dream physique, but I have made some great progress.
Here are some of my current pictures at the time of writing this article:
In this article, you’ll read about some very important workout tips that when applied to your training over time will help you completely transform yourself. Just don’t expect instant results.
Here we go:
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 1
Let go of the ‘Bulk’ or ‘Cut’ mentality
There is a place for ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ in our calendars, but not when you have 20% body fat and little muscle mass to show.
Generally speaking from experience in counselling hundreds of Skinny Fat guys/gals, do know that most of them start off with a body fat percentage of 21-24% (for ladies is somewhere between 33-37%) with relatively little muscle mass. This certainly is true if you are an Asian like me.
Related: Why are Indians Skinny-Fat?
So THE question or should I say dilemma that stands out for Skinny fat guys are:
Should they bulk or cut?
My answer: Neither!
This is one of the BIGGEST Skinny Fat mistakes I made and paid dearly in terms of my health, wasted food, supplements and time.
In the picture below, where I am wearing a red T-shirt, my body fat was around 18-20% like most Skinny-Fat guys. And out of desperation, I made the decision to bulk up. And so I did.
I gained weight, a lot of it, but unfortunately, most of it was fat. Great! Awesome, more belly fat, little muscle gain. There were times when due to inflammation my waist measured almost 39-40 inches!
40 Fu#$king inches!!
I could never have imagined this. Especially being a health club owner at that time, I started to feel like a hypocrite. Just imagine my state of mind.
We as Skinny Fat guys/gals gain belly fat pretty easily. When calories are increased way more than your TDEE, your body stores most of the calories as fat. For people who are genetically superior, most calories go into muscle building.
Professor Jimmy Bell, head of the molecular imaging group at the Medical Research Council’s centre at Imperial College coined a new term for us Skinny Fat people-
‘TOFI’-Thin on the Outside, Fat on the inside.
TOFI…haha….as if our problems weren’t enough…haha…we’ll take it…with a grain of salt.
But seriously, he goes on stating that TOFI’s need to take extra care of their health than their counterparts, as they are more predisposed to storing belly fat than others.
In his own words:
“TOFI’s need to worry more about their health than others, because the fat deposits they carry are hidden in the white fat that lies around the vital organs, streaked through the underused muscles, and wrapped around the heart. It is this fat that sends out chemical signals which eventually leads to insulin resistance, diabetes and heart conditions, rather than the fat lying in dimples underneath the skin.”
So stop thinking in terms of ‘bulking’ or ‘cutting’. Instead, build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 2
Let go of cardio….for your sake.
There is no hint of doubt in my mind that you can beat the ‘Skinny Fat Syndrome‘ with the potent combination of weight training and HIIT.
Being Skinny Fat means less muscle mass and both the activities that I just mentioned builds a lot of it. I have tried both steady state cardio and HIIT, along with weight training, and have always felt ‘Flat’ especially after a cardio session.
But when I do a sprint or any such HIIT type workouts- Oh I feel good.
I feel good & strong. Plus I save time.
A lot of it. That’s why my total workout time commitment per week hardly goes over 5 hours. That’s not even 5% of your week (There are 168 hours in a week)
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 3
Reduce your workout frequency ideally 3 times a week, maybe 2 times.
Most bodybuilding routines are useless and won’t produce the results you desire.
Stop following chiselled-to-perfection Instagram fitness models/bodybuilders who tell you to use extremely high volume with light-moderate weights 6 times a week.
It may work for them, but not for you.
I have 10 years of workout experience using bro-splits 5-6 times a week, using isolated exercises on machines and they don’t work! Period.
Neither will Full Body workouts will work, unless you are a beginner. They are just too taxing for our body type.
So what’s the way out??
I have tried both. And a hybrid split works out the best. I call it FBX (Fabulous Body) Workout Routine.
Listen, I don’t claim to have a miracle routine which will make you shredded in no time. Nor I will give you any fancy exercises (unless you call a trap-bar deadlift one).
Over many years of going through scores of scientific literature, journals, books, reading what the industry experts have to say, and most of all applying these theories relentlessly on myself and hundreds of skinny fat individuals, I have come to know the right volume, a rep range, body part combinations, and other important variables and guidelines that can work well for any Skinny Fat person.
I cover everything including diet and nutrition in my 18-week LEAN-The Ultimate Skinny Fat Solution Course.
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 4
Put special emphases on few key movements.
Prioritize as follows: Trap-Bar Deadlift (or squats until you manage to get the trap-bar), military press, weighted pull-ups, incline chest press, barbell curls, single arm triceps extension. In that order.
Skinny Fat people are characterized by narrow shoulders, thin arms, long neck and small rib-cage, perhaps a small head. Prioritizing key compound lifts as mentioned above will kick start you into growth, optimize your hormonal profile much more than isolated lifts can do.
Let me quote Stuart Mc-Roberts best selling author of Brawn, Beyond Brawn:
“If you want to add 3 inches on arms, for example, you’ll need to build around 30 to 40 pounds (14 to 18 kg) of muscle over your whole physique. You can’t do that by focussing on your arms. About two-thirds of your body’s total muscle mass in your thighs, buttocks and back.
Your shoulders, chest, abs, arms, forearms and calves made up one-third of your total muscle mass. Working your thigh-hip-back structure (through squats/deadlifts), yields substantial growth in that large area.
But the same movements also produces growth elsewhere. To build yourself up substantially, focus on big exercises, not detail exercises.”
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 5
Don’t completely forget isolation exercises.
Yes, compound lifts should be your focus 80% of the time. What about isolation exercises? These become important when you start to lean up. For example, when we Skinny Fat people start going below 15% few questions start to crop up again-
• I am looking thin, should I go on a proper bulk now?
• Should I increase my calories to above maintenance to increase muscle growth and so forth…
Hey, I get it. Going from 20% to 15% for a Skinny Fat is pretty easy. Things start to get tough when you want to go from 15% to 10%. Our bodies go into an alarm mode, starts partitioning more calories towards storing body fat. Since 5% of fat loss is a lot of fat, you start to look smaller (fat is like cotton and muscle like a piece of iron).
Our bodies go into an alarm mode, starts partitioning more calories towards storing body fat. Since 5% of fat loss is a lot of fat, you start to look smaller (fat is like cotton and muscle like a piece of iron).
These are legit issues which go on in our mind, and to combat that giving special focus on a few techniques can help you look bigger than you otherwise are.
Most of the changes are related to diet and nutrition.
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 6
Be mindful of the recovery process.
The day I do an all-out sprint there is no way I can even think of doing another session the next day. This is because our recovery sucks!
That’s why I cannot weight train more than 3 times a week.
That’s why I always need a de-load week every now and then.
That’s why I just cannot function well if I don’t sleep 7-8 hours a day.
One of the main reason why I gained a lot of belly fat earlier was that I was overtraining.
Overtraining leads to excess cortisol levels which are clearly linked with storage of more belly fat.
Always be conservative when it comes to your exercise. Less is more.
Skinny Fat Workout Tip # 7
Stay active overall.
When I said skip your cardio, I really mean it. Once in a while its ok to do it (Not every time we are up for an all-out session…I get it).
So what do you do on your off days? Sit on your ass and do nothing?
Far from it.
I strongly suggest you include walking as part of your lifestyle.
Aim for 10,000 steps on these days or shoot for at least 50,000 steps in a week.
Go for a long walk with your sweetheart, go play with your son (he won’t know you are doing it to for your step count..you mean person)
5 miles (10,000 steps) in total will burn few hundred calories and 100% of calories come from fat.
I know over time your body adapts and burns even less.
I get it, but in long term, these calories add up. The best thing about these low-intensity activities like walking is that they don’t eat into your recovery and you can hit your weight session with a lot of intensity.
Still not sure? Think of a time when you played a sport like a tennis for an hour or so, and you were sore that you weren’t able to lift weights the next day? And what happens when you miss your weight training, you lose muscle.
Being Skinny Fat is a blessing more than a curse. You may not agree with this statement now, but eventually, you will. I am SUPER GRATEFUL for my Skinny Fat genes.
Only because I had an issue that I was not happy with, did I worked towards it. What if I was naturally broad like my brother? (He hates it when I play the genetic card with him..sorry bro…)
Maybe I would not be in this profession at all!
A quote by Jef Bezos Founder of Amazon fits right in:
“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions. Your passion chooses you.”
Maybe I was destined to be in the profession of helping people get fit and healthy (especially Skinny Fat people) and only if I had the faced the struggle myself I am actually able to emphasize with people similar to me.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Bruce Lee to ponder over:
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”
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