Article last updated: December 2017 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
A lot of skinny-fat guys are sold on the belief that they need to hit a certain strength standard to look a certain way.
- You need to bench press 315 pounds to have a great chest.
- You need to overhead press 225 pounds to have big shoulders.
- You need to squat 400 pounds to have big legs.
While strength is a good indicator of size, most skinny-fat guys do not have the bone-structure to get very strong.
Most of us have tiny wrists and ankles.
And this is a big problem because your bone-mass is the greatest indicator of:
- Starting strength levels: How much can you bench press, squat and deadlift the first time you touch a barbell?
- Starting muscle mass: The amount of muscle mass you carry before doing any training.
- Strength response to training: How fast you gain strength on a good program.
- Muscle response to training: How fast you add muscle mass.
- Genetic strength limit: What is your genetic limit strength? How strong can you get after 10-20 years of consistent weight training?
- Genetic muscle limit: What your genetic muscle limit? How muscular can you get after 10-20 years of consistent weight training?
As a result, most skinny-fat guys have low starting strength levels and we don’t respond well to weight training.
After 2-3 years of weight training, those of you of you who trained hard on good program will have lifts that are somewhere in the intermediate stages:
- 200-240 pound bench press.
- 280-315 pound squat.
- 350-400 pound deadlift.
After that, it becomes very hard to add strength to your big compound lifts unless you eat a massive amount of Calories to add body-fat.
As a result, you can choose to gain more muscle mass but with more body-fat… or stay the same.
So the question is: How can a skinny-fat guy with decent strength levels develop the musculature of someone who is much stronger?
This is the big question that I’ve spent years answering and I got the answer for you:
We can use training frequency and volume to compensate for a lack of total strength.
By training more often, using a bigger variety of exercises and doing a lot of sets, we can get similar muscle development to a guy who is much stronger.
I personally don’t have huge lifting numbers and my strength has barely increased the last 4 years.
However, I have much more muscle mass today than 4 years ago.
All my measurements (shoulders, chest, arms) have gone way up.
All these increases have happened without increasing my maxes on any of the big compound lifts.
In my personal experience, you can build a similar level of musculature as someone who is much stronger than you, but you will have to put more time into training.
To be specific, you have to:
- Increase Frequency: Train each muscle group to failure more often. (3-5 times per week).
- Increase Variety: Use a bigger variety of exercises to stimulate more muscle fibres.
- Increase Volume: Do more total sets per week for each muscle group.
- Increase Intensity: Use drop-sets and rest-pause sets to increase the intensity of your training without using a bigger load.
- Use Circuits: Combine 3-5 exercises into a circuit and do them back-to-back. This has a strong metabolic and muscle building effect.
When you do all these things, you can compensate for a lack of load.
So you may only be able to bench press 220 pounds but have the chest development of someone who is working with 280-315 pounds.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer