Article last updated: September 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
Bodyweight exercises are by far the best way to get started if you’re skinny-fat and now I’ll explain the top 3 reasons to why this is the case and then debunk some of the top myths related to the skinny-fat physique at the end.
Reason #1: Bodyweight exercises represent the opposite of being skinny-fat.
The skinny-fat guy is soft, weak and under-muscled however to master bodyweight exercises you have to become the exact opposite: strong, lean and muscular.
Just imagine the changes your body will go through when you progress from 0 to 15 chin ups.
There’s no way you will remain skinny-fat when you can knock out 15 chin ups with perfect form.
Here’s a photo of how I looked when I could do 0 chin ups and 0 diamond push ups:
And here’s a photo of how I looked when I could do 15 chin ups and 30 diamond push ups with perfect form:
#2 The Signalling Effect Is Stronger When You Train With Bodyweight
Bodyweight exercises that move your body through space have a superior training effect when compared to their weight training equivalents that don’t move the body through space.
A good example here is the comparison of the chin up and lat pulldown.
With the chin up you’re moving your body through a lot of space:
With the lat pulldown you’re training the same muscles, but you’re only moving your arms:
Overall, the chin up is much harder than the lat pulldown, but it also produces much better results.
When you you move your body through space, you send a powerful signal to your body that it has to shed body-fat while packing on lean muscle.
This is why you will see that nearly every guy who focuses on bodyweight training and gymnastics has a very ripped body.
You can’t be great at bodyweight exercises while having too much body-fat, because that body-fat is dead-weight and slows you down.
Overall guys who practice bodyweight training have leaner and more athletic looking physiques with just the right amount of muscle mass in the right places: The shoulders, upper chest, arms and lats while having a small waist.
A good example is this physique which has been achieved purely by bodyweight training:
#3 Training your muscles 3-7 times per week leads to superior muscle gains
One of the main reasons to why I put off bodyweight training for so long was because I couldn’t do a single push up or chin up.
And I was too embarrassed to drop my ego and practice knee push ups and negative chin ups.
So just like many other skinny-fat guys, I made the mistake of focusing on heavy weight training and cardio.
I did heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts and added over 500 pounds to my total in the first 1-2 years of training.
However, after doing all of this for over 2 years, I had nothing to show for it.
You can see a photo of my 2 years of gym training below:
Sadly, the photo above is what I see nearly every week when work with my Online Transformation Program clients.
Nearly every skinny-fat guy who reads my site and applies for my coaching has at some point fallen for the “squat, deadlift and bench press heavy advice”… which means they trained for years or even decades without anything to show for it.
The result is most often mediocre strength gains, slow progress, debilitating injuries and no visible physique results.
A great quote that applies here is that: “What most people believe is science is actually marketing”. (I can’t remember where I read this quote).
In this case, every skinny-fat guy believes that heavy weight training is scientifically proven to be the best training method, but where are the success stories of skinny-fat guys transforming on a 5×5 program?
You won’t find a single one online, yet people keep following these programs.
The issue with heavy weight training is that it doesn’t work well for skinny-fat guys.
Skinny-fat guys have a way below average recovery capability, so doing training that is taxing on the Central Nervous System (CNS) limits your training frequency to the point where you aren’t getting optimal frequency for muscle growth.
Since protein synthesis takes 24-48 hours, the optimal training frequency for muscle growth is about once every 48 hours.
In other words, you want to train your muscles to failure anywhere from 3-7 times per week. (Some muscles respond to being trained more often than others).
Now, if you go in and lift heavy once every 48 hours, you will find that you plateau in your training a lot and that you won’t be able to progress in your training program unless you cheat and use terrible technique.
With bodyweight exercises, you don’t put much stress on the CNS, so you can go in fully recovered and train everyday and make progress on a regular basis.
Over time, when combined with the signalling effect, this leads to more muscle growth and a much better body-composition with less body-fat.
Here’s a photo showing my 1 year of training progress when I made the switch to bodyweight exercises:
And here are some examples of my Online Transformation Program clients who used bodyweight training to get into great shape:
Logan Rando, US:
Harshit Godha, India:
So, to sum up this point: Yes, you may have to start with knee push ups and negative chin ups to build up your strength to do proper reps, but it’s 100% worth it.
Over time, you will get much smoother strength progress with bodyweight exercises and the signalling effect will help you get a lean and muscular looking physique.
Top Skinny-Fat Myths Debunked
To sum up this article, I want to debunk a few diet and fat loss myths regarding the skinny-fat physique.
“You need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to build muscle mass.”: People have been building jacked physiques before protein shakes were invented by eating regular balanced meals and training hard. There are currently no good studies showing the need for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. All this protein non-sense is the result of the supplement industry wanting to increase the sales of their #1 product: WHEY PROTEIN POWDER. Now let’s take a look at what whey protein powder is. It is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained then made into powder form. Milk is a dairy product and dairy products are known to be hard on the digestion for +70% of the population and increase the female hormone estrogen. In other words, whey protein powder is junk and you can get all the protein you need through a balanced diet.
“If you aren’t losing weight, cut your Calories further – even if that means going hungry.”: When you want to get lean, you have to always focus on increasing your metabolism instead of losing weight fast. When you have a faster metabolism, you can get away with eating 1-2 meals more each day while maintaining a lean physique. This is the only long-term approach to fat loss because continuously cutting Calories is a zero sum game that you can’t win. (Unless you have the will-power to go hungry everyday for the rest of your life). The best way to increase your metabolism is to add as much muscle mass as possible because muscle mass is metabolically precious. (I.e. the more muscle mass you have, the more Calories you burn at rest). The best way to gain muscle mass for skinny-fat guys? Bodyweight training combined with a properly balanced diet plan.
“You can achieve a ripped 6-pack as long as you work hard enough for it.”: The way your mid-section looks after you lose body-fat is largely determined by your genetics. The truth is that most skinny-fat guys will not have aesthetic looking abs after losing body-fat. Instead, you will most likely have some ab-outline or even a 4-pack in the right lighting, and then a bit of skin or body-fat on the lower part of your waist and love-handle area. Going for the ripped 6-pack look is not a realistic goal simply because for most of you it will require that you starve yourself to the point where your natural testosterone production, energy levels, strength, mood, sex drive and metabolism suffer for it. But does that mean you can’t build a great physique? No! You can still build big arms, big shoulders, a V-tapered upper body and a physique that is in the top 1-5% everywhere you go.
Finally, a quick point on diets: Anything that isn’t a healthy and balanced diet, is a fad diet.
Fad diets include the KETOGENIC diet, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), paleo, juice cleanses and anything else that isn’t a balanced diet.
Don’t fall for the marketing of these diets.
I’ve tried KETO, IIFYM and intermittent fasting and and they are all inferior when compared to a proper, balanced diet plan that optimises your hormones and metabolism.
There’s a reason to why the world’s top nutritionists recommend a balanced diet plan rather than KETO, low carb etc…
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer