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Anthony Mychal

Anthony Mychal is former skinny-fat dude on a philosophical-physical pilgrimage: flipping and freestyle acrobatics, flexing and physique training, thinking about and tinkering with physical freedom
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February 2012

Arnold Classic, New Coaching Program (Mentorship)



Just to let everyone know, my girlfriend (she loves driving, I hate driving) is escorting me to the Arnold Classic on Friday and Saturday. If you want to meet, let me know and we will work on it. Get at me on any of my one billion social networks. (Top right hand corner of screen). Hell, I’ve even on Pinterest. Or just e-mail me through the contact page.


“Thanks for everything, but I need to go it alone now.”

Those are the words I want every protégé saying as they walk away from me. I don’t expect you to need me forever. I don’t expect you to want me create your programs forever. I don’t want you to pay me forever. In fact, it’s my job to get you to stop paying me. It’s my job to put you in a position to go it alone. To make the future brighter. To create a human to human relationship, not a professional to client relationship. To make you see this field from a different eye. And to do this, we have to kill personal training. Together, we can make things better. Here’s how.


Claire hires Ben because Claire wants Ben to teach her fitness. What Claire knows about fitness is wrong. That’s why she’s hiring a trainer. Ben, seeing that Claire is a reliable client, wants to keep her around. So to keep the steady paycheck, Ben allows Claire to influence his philosophy and programming strategies to encourage long term adherence and dependency. He might throw in some muscle confusion tactics. He might use the latest gidgets and gadgets. He wants to keep Claire on her toes. A drab routine, no matter how effective, won’t motivate Claire to continue paying month in and month out. He wants to keep her happy and dependent on his services. He becomes an amoeba. But once this happens, Ben might as well not exist.

Customers and clients don’t know what they want. Steve Jobs knew that long ago. The majority of people that pay someone for programming don’t really want the program. There’s thousands of programs available on the internet for free. What they want is the experience of learning, being taught new things, and comfort of knowing they are in good hands. They want a mentor.

Psychological and philosophical coherency is king for long term success. “Program design” ignores both and adds complexity without explanation. More information is never better when learning. Math is taught with simplicity. Calculus isn’t used to teach algebra. Yet complex programs are the norm because paying someone to be told to squat, deadlift, and press isn’t flashy or gratifying.

Do you want to know how to succeed? Here, I’ll give it to you the answer right now:

  • Base Training = Squats, Presses, Pulls
  • Finishing Touches = Isolation Work
  • Explosive Work = Sprints, Jumps, Med Ball Throws
  • Energy System Work = Tempo Runs
  • Important Others = Basic Gymnastics and Tumbling Skills
That’s it. Do that stuff for the next three years and come back to me. The more detailed you make it, the greater chance you have of failing. You, of course, will make it detailed. We all do. But we can change. I would know, as I was one of the worst offenders of drowning in details.

You don’t need a program. You don’t need complexity. You don’t need coaching, consulting, or programming. You need someone that teaches you the fitness game. Most importantly, someone that sets you up in a position to go it alone. So I don’t want clients. I want protégés. Protégés that don’t want to be strung along forever. Protégés that want to know programming, not be programmed for.


On my part, every effort is made to work my way out of every protégé’s immediate needs. It’s a painful process. But don’t worry, we can get through it together. (With a little Novocaine.)  We dismiss dogma. We discuss common training theories. We devour personal goals. We even delve into personal motivation and why you want to embark on the journey. We lay the mental ground work necessary for long term success. We discuss adaptation and how it intertwines with training and the “simplicity is bliss” philosophy. We go over programming to make sure you can create your own, never paying for one ever again. Lastly, we answer your questions, proving a smooth transition into freedom.

Now, everyone has different wants and desires, so there are different tiers and learning courses to pick from. Because of the mentor – protégé relationship, I have to talk to you. So these courses are based on one hour Skype conversations. We can e-mail, sure. But the bulk has to be done on Skype (USTREAM at the least) so that I can target the discussion in a way that is best suited to your current level of knowledge and future ambitions. Details are coming soon on the Coaching Page of the website.


At the end of Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity, he writes about one of his newsletter subscribers:

Someone once unsubscribed from my blog and left a note that said, “Thanks for everything, but I need to go it alone now.” I don’t like losing readers, but I instinctively understood what that person meant.

If you enjoy what I write and my ideas, I’d love to be apart of your life and teach you things. But I want there to be a time when you can come back and teach me things. And that’s what this is about: setting you up in a position to go it alone.





Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part IV – Nutrition, Intermittent Fasting, Carb Cycling, and Hormones

Steak and Eggs February 20th, 2010

For a long time, people ate six meals per day and the enjoyed every second of doing so. Lunking around Tupperware containers was a badge of honor, symbolizing a dedication to health. Then came intermittent fasting. Tupperware?Obsessive eating habits? So not cool.

When I first got into the game I devoutly counted every calorie I ate. It’s an obsessive lifestyle that I don’t wish upon anyone. But the past is important. The only reason I am nutritionally sound now is because I slaved over every calorie years ago. And overall, I think everyone that is locked in on their body composition has, at some point, gone through the same obsessive-calorie-counting-food-weighing phase.

So instead of blabbling that I don’t count calories or weigh food, the truth is that I used to, and it contributed to who I am. I know eggs have 70 – 90 kcalories and 1/4 cup of oatmeal is 150 kcalories. And if you’re ignorant of these nuances, maybe you need more obsession. It’s the four stages of learning, and you can’t jump from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

No, because after years of doing it slavishly and trying all sorts of eating styles, I’ve got a really, really good idea of how my body reacts to foods.  I’m really tuned into what’s going on so I don’t need to do that anymore.  But I couldn’t have gotten this way without keeping records and doing the experiments.

–          Jon Call (Jujimufu) in response to weighing food

The clean bulk

A few years ago, the consensus was that the clean bulk—gaining muscle without fat—was impossible. But since, the consensus changed. An idea still proliferates, however, that pancakes, maple syrup, and total disregard for body composition are keys to solid mass gain. But muscle creation isn’t expedited by an over ingestion of nutrients. If eating 3000 kcalories builds muscle, 6000 kcalories isn’t going to build twice as much muscle.

There’s an old adage about muscle growth being akin to laying bricks. Assuming a fixed number of workers, more bricks yield more building to a point. Once the workers have enough bricks to keep busy all day, sending more won’t lead to more output. So if we can only build ten pounds of muscle per year (plus or minus five to ten pounds for beginning and advanced trainees), trying to jam all ten pounds into a three month “bulk” window is silly. Even worse, fat cells (usually created during a “bulk”) are permanent. They shrink, but never really “dissolve.”

One reason for the popularity of the clean bulk comes from Martin Berkhan of, who regularly posts client updates showcasing the ability to get big and strong without getting fat and ugly. Martin is a pioneer of intermittent fasting, which refutes the superiority of a higher meal frequency. As I mentioned in Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part II, I’ve settled into intermittent fasting and carb cycling (a bastardization of Leangains) and it’s the basis of the strategy explained below, even though I’ve seen gains with both frequent and infrequent feedings.

Personally, I think most fitness professionals cling to the intermittent fasting boat out of necessity. Planning and pre-cooking six meals every day, seven days of the week becomes mentally taxing. The encouraging aspect of intermittent fasting and carbohydrate cycling, however, is that it better manipulates hormones. Hormones control both building muscle and losing fat. The specifics are complex, but the premise is simple: build muscle when you’re best suited for muscle growth and combat fat accumulation with you’re not suited for muscle growth.

The ins and outs

Partitioning describes how well the body handles excess calories. The guys mentioned in Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part I are good partitioners. Good partitioners have a hard time gaining fat, and gaining muscle is all about sacking up and eating.

For a skinny fat ectomorph, sacking up and eating leads to sacking up around the waist. We are on the low end of the partitioning totem pole for two reasons. First, genetics and hormones. Second, we have a judgmental eye when it comes to self body composition evaluation. We obsess over the slightest subjective imperfections, as mentioned in Part I. This can negatively affect hormone levels. How well partitioning goes depends — in general — on how hormones are working.

Carbohydrate cycling manipulates insulin — a storage hormone usually released in response to eating carbohydrates. A generalization is that when insulin levels are high, the body is prone to “build” and “store” things. So when insulin spikes, fat intake should be low to avoid its storage.

Again, that’s a generalization. Carbohydrate cycling can get complex, turning people away from its use. But by sticking to a few basic rules, it’s not complicating. The jist is this: more carbs, less fats, and enough protein on training days; less carbs, more fats, and more protein on rest days. And to get a little more specific:

Training Days

  • High protein intake
  • Mid-High carbohydrate intake
  • Trace fat intake
  • At least one gram of protein per pound of body weight
  • Leaner cuts of meat
  • Carbohydrate intake around one to three grams per pound of body weight

Off Days

  • High(er) protein intake
  • Mid-High fat intake
  • Trace carbohydrate intake
  • Carbohydrate intake comes from cruciferous vegetables
  • Fattier cuts of meat allowed
  • One to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight
  • Less than 100 grams of carbohydrates

For the specifics, and how to structure the intermittent fasting philosophy around your training schedule and daily life, check out the Leangains Guide. There’s no need to plagiarise Martin’s fantastic body of work. Below, however, is my personal adaptation and overall structure on how I use intermittent fasting.

Wave your way to gains

Building muscle is a long term process. You don’t suddenly add one pound of muscle to your frame after eating turkey legs, corralling wenches, and downing some mead. It’s not an “either-or” process. You’re not “either” building muscle “or” losing fat.

The goal of bulking is to linearly gain weight and then linearly lose the fat that accompanied the journey. The rationale is that during the “bulking” period you’re optimizing the ability to gain muscle. And truly, you are. You’re in a caloric surplus and you’re telling the body it will be fed plentifully. But the body isn’t a linear creature.

When gaining muscle while minimizing fat, there are no straight lines or steep climbs. Instead, there are small waves that gradually increase in gradient over time. So every day is an experiment. Every day can vary. Everyday you can signal your body to do different things. You can bulk one day and cut the next. It works like this: If you wake up feeling super lean and ripped, eat more. If you wake up feeling puffy for a few consecutive days, eat less. Daily caloric intake depends on how you feel. Consider this nutrient autoregulation.

A generally accepted caloric increase for building muscle is 500 kcalories above maintenance. Now, “maintenance” level will vary as not one equation can predict everyone’s metabolic rate. But a gross formula is multiplying your body weight by anything from thirteen to sixteen. Here’s an example:

Body Weight = 200 pounds, 90.7 kilos

x 13

Maintenance Intake =  2600 kcalories

Note: I’m guessing this equation assumes a relatively lean body fat. When comparing two people of the same weight, the person with more muscle and less fat will have a higher metabolic need. This little nugget is precisely why relying on calculators is difficult and why I prefer coming to a “maintenance” level by eating a set amount of food for a week or two and seeing how the body reacts. I’d set a baseline with thirteen first and move up from there.

Instead of sticking the maintenance level day in and day out, the idea is to fluctuate the intake depending on both training status and subjective feel. Think of it as daily, yet controlled, mini bulking and cutting cycles.

If you’re already at a comfortable body fat level…

  • Eat an extra 500 kcalories on your training days. If, after one week, you are still lean and mean, slowly add more kcalories on your training days.
  • Keep your rest day calorie level constant. But if you ever feel puffier over a four or five day span, keep your training day calories to 500 above maintenance (at most), and drop your rest day intake to 500 kcalories below maintenance.
  • If this doesn’t get you leaner in a few days, drop your training day calories to maintenance and keep the 500 deficit on rest days. But always try lowering the rest day 500 kcalories before lowering training day kcalories.
  • Training frequency can vary, but have no more than three to four “heavy” sessions for high carbohydrate feedings. In general, you want to save these for the lifts and body parts that are lagging to ensure they will be fed accordingly. So if you want bigger shoulders, follow an intensive pressing session with a high carbohydrate day.
  • Just because you train doesn’t mean you need to carb you face off. Just understand the training days that occur outside of the three or four high carbohydrate days will be best suited for strength development, not size.

 If you’re leaning out…

  • Keep the 500 kcalorie deficit on rest days.
  • Stay at maintenance on training days.
  • If you’re struggling to lose one pound per week, then — and only then — drop your training day calories down 500. Never further.
  • Keep two to three heavy training sessions per week and use these days as your high carbohydrate days. (Similar to the strategy mentioned above.)

The more precise version of the above advice…

  • Body weight x 13-16 = maintenance.
  • On training days, intake maintenance x 1.1 or 1.2.
  • Rest days, if feeling puffy, go for maintenance x 0.8 or 0.9.

A note on food types:

There are a lot of philosophies that dismisses gluten, dairy, and other foods. These kind of debates are outside of the scope of this article. My advice: experiment. Some people feel awesome after eliminating gluten. Some notice no difference. I’m a fan of the old school bodybuilding staples. Meats. Fish. Eggs. Vegetables. Fruits. Potatoes. Oats. Rice. Beans. Nuts. Dairy (if tolerable).

Carbohydrates peri-workout

The age of superultratectonicperi-workout nutrition is over. You don’t need to gorge on liquid sugar pre-workout to refuel your glycogen (it’s filled long before the immediate pre-workout hours). Likewise, you don’t need a Super Mass Gainer Pro Z X Grade post-workout shake.

Following Leangains, I’m a fan of working out in a fasted state after the ingestion of BCAAs. (Although for a few months now I haven’t used them and I’ve yet to notice much.) Post workout, no shakes are required. Just a wholesome carbohydrate dense meal. Precision Nutrition, another damn good nutrition resource, also recommends secluding most carbs to the post-workout window (especially when trying to lose fat).

 Hormones and fasting

Warning: If you don’t have a solid grasp on the above nutritional concepts, below will only confuse you. But discussing this is in the best interest of everyone reading, and I feel it will be popping up in the future. Just another issue to think and tinker with. For the most part, however, the following section is broscience. Proceed with caution.

Fasting can boost growth hormone and may do the same with testosterone. When both of these hormones are churning, lipolysis (breakdown of fat) is primarily rocking to fuel the body. The moment insulin surges, however, both testosterone and growth hormone levels fall. Theoretically, ingesting a monsoon of carbohydrates post-workout kills the workout enduced surge of growth hormone and testosterone . So there’s compelling evidence for saving the carbohydrates until hours after the workout. After all, feasting later in the day may be better for fat loss. And about the immediate post-workout refuel — there might not be a need. Have you ever noticed that, after a workout — for the most part — you’re not overly hungry?

The problem with making this an absolute is that there are many factors to consider. By carbohydrate cycling and fasting, you’re already benefiting from elevated growth hormone and testosterone levels through out the day. And because you’re limiting carbohydrate intake on rest days, your body might better utilize post-workout carbohydrates.

So if you don’t carb cycle or fast, avoiding carbohydrates in an eight hour window (-+ 4 hours before and after workout) may be your only shot to bask in elevated growth hormone and testosterone levels. In this case, a good post-workout meal would be eggs and meats with trace carbohydrates from vegetables or something similar.

Odds and ends

There are a lot of nutrition programs and protocols out there. Truthfully, most of them probably work to certain degrees. For the skinny fat ectomorph looking to lose weight with no regard for retaining muscle mass, detailed nutrition isn’t necessary. It’s more about reducing overall caloric intake and jacking physical activity through the roof. Understand, however, that this method tends to take  muscle mass with it (as it does for most people without the use of steroids). But if that’s the goal, that’s the goal. Skinny fat ectomorphs don’t have good muscle retention genes when nutrient deprived. It’s a tradeoff you have to be willing to take.

The better way to go about both losing fat and gaining muscle is the long term training approach mixed with mini periods of bulking and cutting – otherwise known as nutrient autoregulation – by fluctuating hormones through dietary manipulation that concide with your training days.

I need your help

Skinny fat brethren, I need your help. This article is all over the place. I know there are loose ends that remain loose. But after working on this article for over twelve hours, I simply don’t have “it” in me anymore. Whether it be in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else, I need your feedback. Tell me what I’m missing and what needs more detail.

To give you an idea of what’s to come, specific topics like GOMAD and other popular principles are in the wing. If you have any others, request them. Also, I plan on writing a post about my specific nutritional strategy (eating only twice per day) and a “storytellers” version of the information above (I’m going to tell a story of a guy or gal using these principles so you can see what a typical day would look like). Lastly, I’m thinking of giving away one or two free coaching spots for my readers. So show your face and give me some feedback. I’d appreciate it.




 Other articles in the series:


Accompanying resource: The Skinny-Fat Solution

Chronic Knee Pain, USTREAM, Posting Schedules, Education, and The Video of the Year


There are some changes and big events floating about. (Most of which are remaining secret, because I’m 007 like that.) But here’s the as-far-as-I-can-spill update. By the way, I hope to see you on USTREAM soon.

1. Update to An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain

When I released An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain  in January, half of its sequel book — Increasing Strength and Explosiveness Through Barbell Exercises, Leaps, and Bounds — sat latent on my desktop. Oddly, there was a sunny day here in Pittsburgh, which allowed me to shoot videos and complete the book.

I planned to sell it as a second book. But I’m a terrible businessman, seller, marketer — whatever you want to call it — and I just gave it away for free to those that bought the first book. And now, if you purchase the An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain here, you get both for the original price. So instead of the initial 90 page book, it’s 180 pages and two-books-in-one. Much more holistic.

The book’s home page got a makeover because of the updated comprehensiveness.An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain is truly more of an athletic enhancement program as it teaches movement in a way few people conceptualize. So while it does wonders for chronic knee pain, it also affects how your body synchronizes to accomplish athletic tasks. Check it out here.

If you already bought the book and haven’t received the updgrade e-mail, e-mail me:

Lastly, I created a newsletter list for chronic knee pain — specifically for those that bought An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain — so that I could drop tips as I came across them. Initially, the list was private. But I’m extending the invitation to everyone. Yeah, yeah, I know. You want to subscribe to another newsletter like you want a third nipple. But it is free. I already have content bookmarked that I can’t wait to send. (Like a supposed instant fix for tendonitis.)



Conquer Chronic Knee Pain 




Two weeks ago, I advertised holding Google+ chats with an experimental disclaimer. But the “experimental” overtone took heed. Corralling people and having multiple voices going on at once makes delegating questions difficult. So for practicality, I’m switching to USTREAM. (And kicking it up a notch.)

My vision for this places changes a lot. Ultimately, my goal is to become more available. A lot of coaches out there have their own gigs and jobs in gyms and schools, and their website is a side venture. But I want to flip that ratio, spending most of my time on the folks online. So I’m opening up a daily USTREAM feed, which is superior to Google+ in that its easy for me to moderate, and users have anonymity.

I understand that it’s impossible for commitments in today’s world, so I’m simply going to “be there.” To accommodate for viewers around the world, I’m broadcasting at different times. During the week, times will be announced earlier the day of on Twitter and Facebook and will go for an hour starting anywhere from 3PM-10PM Eastern Standard time. On the weekends, it will likely be 7AM. Grab a coffee and stop by. So hang around me on  Twitter and Facebook and watch for broadcasting updates.

3. Sporadic Posting Schedules

One year ago, I committed to posting on this blog twice every week. One Monday. One Thursday. Last week, I broke this schedule and felt empty inside. But I’m moving in that direction for two reasons. First, I feel free. Second, the product ends up higher quality. As a writer, I obsess over details even though errors slip here and there. Snagging all of your own spelling errors is impossible unless you’re the creature that pops out of the stomach of the guy sitting at the diner in the movie Spaceballs.

Eventually, when this place gets a fancy new design (any web developers that want to exchange services, send me love) I’ll distinguish between “blogs” and “articles.” Yes, I’m a little anal retentive about design and unstructured things.

This lack of schedule doesn’t mean less posting. It just means better, yet unpredictable, posting.

4. Education of Millionaires

Here and there I mention my hatred for modern education. I’m apart of the Occupy Student Debt group and I wrote a review for them of Michael Ellsberg’s book, Education of Millionaires. Check it out here.

 5. Su6pec Spoof

To finish things off, enjoy this video. The guy I’m always talking about — Jon Call / Jujimufu — is a fantastic video editor. And yeah, that’s him in the video with Antoine Valliant.


Dear Skinny Fat Ectomorphs [Everyone, For That Matter], It’s Your Job to Fail


Dear Skinny Fat Ectomorph,

As self-sworn leader of the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Brohirrim, I have something I need to tell you: I fail. A lot. Sometimes, I neglect the very advice I give you. It’s contradictory. It’s fraudulent. And you can hate me for it. I’ll understand if you do. But know that it’s in your best interest.

I write to prevent your failure. 11 Training Tips for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph, Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part I – The Basics, Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part II – My Story, Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part III – Programming and Training, and the soon-to-be Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part IV are all written so that you don’t experiment. Experimentation is scary because it might not work.

But it’s my job to fail. And it’s your job too.

Not once. Not twice. But as much as possible. Because that’s the only way you learn. Sure, you can “read” what I write. But I know what I know because I’ve repeatedly fail since 2006.

Hell, in January I started a breathing squat routine. I was psyched. Four weeks into it, I had to quit because my foot couldn’t handle it. Now I’m getting back into my “old and reliable” program, and most of lifts are down. I lost two months of training. One from the breathing squat program. The other from taking my time to regain my strength.

Yeah, I program hopped. I clubbed the baby seal. And I did it right before I explicitly told you not to. But I did it because, well, I’m stupid. But this stupidity is what allows me to chastise you for program hopping, because I know what it does. And I just proved to myself, once again, that it hinders progress. That’s all. But the only reason I’m so passionate about it is because I’ve experienced the failure many times over.

When it comes to learning, the goal is to fail. You can only repeatedly fail if you’re consistent. And if you’re consistent, you haven’t quit. That’s what’s most important. Use the cheat codes below to create a solid base, but allow for wiggle room and experimentation. (Try not to let your failures lead to month long setbacks.)

Everything that’s done can be undone. If you’re trying to lose fat, just go try something. If you end up an emaciated Ethiopian, you failed. But at least you know what not to do next time.

Your past and hardships are going to cultivate you. Your failures are what make you who you are. Few people understand this. And it’s why writing this series is time consuming and difficult. People only highlight current success and what’s working “right now.” But what’s working “right now” may only be working because of what was done in the past.

So here are some failing cheat codes. They are general rules to follow that make everything else arbitrary, and encourage experimentation.

For training, stick to the Big Six. Never stop doing these six exercises: squat, deadlift, chin-up, barbell row, barbell curl, and incline press (or push press). Everything else, let it fly. Fail. Adapt. Repeat.

Nutritionally, here are general rules. If you want to gain weight, and you’re struggling, eat more. If you want to lose weight, and you’re struggling, eat less. More carbs, less fats, and enough protein on training days; less carbs, more fats, and more protein on rest days. Fail your way to specifics. Fail your way to success.

If you want to conquer skinny fat syndrome, I dare you to fail as much as I have. If you do, and use the cheat codes above, I’m afraid of the things you can accomplish.

Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part III – Programming and Training


The following sentence will save you hundreds of dollars and cost me current and future clients: for physique purposes, programs don’t matter. Or, they matter, but not to the extent you believe. Nearly any reputable program has some type of squatting, some type of pressing, some type of pulling from the floor, and some type of rowing. Mind blowing stuff, isn’t it?

You are never going to find a program that has a result increasing secret set of exercises or a secret sequencing of exercises. There are no Holy Grail exercises. There are no Holy Grail programs. So stop looking. Results come from consistent training. That’s it.

Yet we’re constantly misled. We’re told squats make bigger arms. And deadlifts do just about everything. Not to take anything away from those important lifts, but for all around development—what most skinny fat ectomorphs seek—you have to embrace vanity. If you want big arms, you have to curl. Sure, you can do chin-ups and rows, and, over time, your arms will grow. But you’ll never match the growth you would otherwise have with isolation exercises. It’s like math. Why do long division by hand when you can use a calculator and get the answer much quicker? Now, this isn’t a squat bashing. I squat. I always have. And I will until I can’t. But there’s simply more to consider for a well rounded physique.


Everyone wants to know what program to use. But programs are poison. They lead to program hopping—the worst behavior any trainee can adopt. Progress is the ultimate motivator. And progress comes from practicing a handful of lifts consistently enough to get good at them. Doing barbell row for two weeks and then switching to dumbbell rows and then switching back to barbell rows before trying arc rows after moving to inverted rows after doing chest supported machine rows makes progress impossible to gauge.

Instead of focusing on a program, focus on having your mind in every session, lifting with a semblance of heart, and developing a worthwhile intensity while taking targeted muscles through a decent range of motion. Do that on a regular basis, and you can’t fail.

Rate of muscle gain

Skinny fat ectomorphs have to come to terms with their bodies. We will never be the Incredible Hulk. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone from reaching their maximum potential. Casey Butt created a rather accurate maximum muscular potential calculator.

Don’t use it.

Fixating on it yields an ill mind. Truly, it doesn’t matter. What should, however, is questing to always improve, regardless of where arbitrary numbers estimate failure. How fast muscle can be synthesized, however, is an important concept.

An idol of mine, Jon Call (Jujimufu), has undergone a tremendous physical transformation since 2001. I wanted to know his secret to lean mass gain, so I asked him. His answer was stunning.

It took years.  2002 I was 155.  2003: 165.  2004: 170.  2006: 185.  2007: 200.  2008: 215 (when I stopped tricking and started eating insane amounts of food).  Now I’m 205 again.  I’ve never gained a “lot” of fat no.  But I have gained some of course.

Yeah. There was no secret. Unless you consider staying dedicated enough to train consistently over a span of five years a secret. Now, Jon gained fifteen pounds some years, which is encouraging. But the disclaimer is this: Jon is the most dedicated person I know. My birthday celebrations consist of cake, cookies, alcohol, and other guilty pleasures. Jon, on the other hand, celebrates with a shrimp circle.

For us peons, ten pounds of raw lean muscle gain in one year is downright impressive. This equates to less than one pound of muscle gained per month. Beginners will add a little more—fifteen to twenty pounds, and experienced lifters will add a little less—five pounds. And while this sounds good, on a tall(er) frame, it’s barely noticeable.

Recently, I was working with a college lacrosse player who wanted to put on some size in his off-season. At 6’2” and 180 pounds, I didn’t blame him for wanting to get bigger. We packed 15 pounds on him during the summer, and when he walked through the door on the first day of practice the coach looked at him and said, “I thought I told you to gain some weight.”

This kid went from 180 to 195 pounds, with only three pounds being fat, and his own coach didn’t pick up on it until he got on the scale.

Granted, it’s partially a height issue; if a guy who’s 5’8″ put on fifteen pounds it would be a lot more obvious. But my point is most people aren’t putting on fifteen pounds over a summer; they’re adding five to ten, tops. And since it’s spread over their entire body, no one really notices.

-John Romaniello

Reasons skinny-fat sufferers fail

Skinny fats fail because they either expect results too fast or they follow a program not suited to their own vanity (doing a squats specialization program when wanting big arms). This leads to either program hopping or bulking. (You might as well club baby seals.) Bulking is a pastime in which skinny fat ectomorphs try gaining fifty pounds of muscle in six weeks, resulting in tremendous fat gain, eight weeks of cutting, and being back at square one.

But this whole series of behavior cascade into lackluster progress and falling for gimmicks.

The creation of muscle

Lifting weights signals for the creation of muscle as a survival mechanism. A barbell is a predator. Throw that sucker on your back or above your throat and the body only cares about not getting crushed. It responds by getting stronger. In the presence of the right signaling, the muscle grows because larger muscles give capacity for stronger muscles.

We know what exercises stress certain muscles. We know incline presses target the upper chest. We know rows build a big back. We know chin-ups do a lot of good for the upper body. We know curls work the biceps. And so on. So to build muscle, we simply need to pick a handful of lifts and consistently push the boundaries of our current level of adaptation.

Recovery and frequenct

Training frequency depends on recovery. The greater the stressor is, the greater the recovery must be. Martin Berkhan uses Reverse Pyramid Training, which consists of maxing out in some capacity every training session. This why he only train three days per week. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, train more frequently because they often use lower loads and stress the muscle on a local level. When a Powerlifter bench presses, he uses his entire body to push the weight. This is systematically stressful. A Bodybuilder, by contrast, wants the chest doing most of the work. So they localize the stress into the chest. Since the stress isn’t as widespread, they can train more frequently. This also explains why some bodybuilders aren’t as strong as their size indicates. They consciously neglect using more muscle mass because they only want the targeted muscle(s) working. Less muscle working means less weight lifted.

While training five or six days can work, it’s not optimal for a skinny fat. Not because of recovery, but because balancing between “bulking” and “cutting” requires fluctuations in nutrient and caloric intake. Maximizing absolute muscle mass is different than maximizing muscle mass while minimizing the likelihood of becoming Paula Deen.

There’s no reason to train, from a muscular standpoint, if you’re not optimizing the resultant growth. We want to grow on our training days and lose or minimize fat gain on off days. By training too frequently, this balance gets upset. So you can train six days per week, but you’re going to be growing six days per week. For most skinny fat ectomorphs, three or four training sessions per week is ideal because it means that three or four days you’re working on building muscle, and three or four days you’re working on losing or minimizing fat gain.

Methods and progression

Initial strength levels don’t matter, so don’t get self conscious. It’s all about slow progression, consistency, and small wins over time. If every week of the year you added one repetition to the amount of chin-ups you could do, at the end of the year you would be doing fifty-two additional reps. Now that’s progress.

For the absolute novice, progression should be linear. Using the squat as an example, go to the gym and find a weight you can do for ten reps without extreme fatigue. Next week, do the same warm-up, but add five or ten pounds to the weight you did last week. The week after that, another five or ten pounds. There will come a point where adding ten pounds becomes difficult. Bump it down to five pound jumps before you fail. For upper body lifts, use exclusively five pound jumps.

People, at minimum, reach high 200 pound squats for five reps on Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. This simple concept of adding weight to the bar can take you a long way. But once five or ten pound jumps become too difficult, abandon the obsession of immediate strength gains.

People go ballistic after programs like Starting Strength because tangible weekly results fade. While strength gains are important, realize that no one trains with intensity and consistency and gets weaker. Progress comes with consistency. Yet people are apt to jump on programs like The Texas Method or 5/3/1 because there is a semblance of structure. But don’t get too caught up in this.

You need to do two things to get stronger: add weight and do more reps. The answer has never been: lift light weights for high reps, or lift heavy weights for few reps. The answer remains: Lift heavy weights for high reps.

-Dan John

Lifting a heavy weight isn’t a good indicator of hypertrophy. What is, however, is repping a heavy weight. Strength comes in many forms. Lifting a single weight for one repetition isn’t much of an indicator of anything unless you’re a Powerlifter or Olympic Weightlifter. Decreasing rest periods, increasing total volume, and altering time under tension are just some of the ways that overall difficulty can be jacked up without increasing total load. In, Getting Jacked for Dummies, Mike Guadango put together a sensible progression.

Week One: 3×8

Week Two: 3×10

Week Three: 3×12

Week Four: 4×8

Week Five: 4×10

Week Six: 4×12

Sadly, few people will follow this scheme because the weight on the bar doesn’t increase weekly. Yet, if five or ten pounds were added to the bar at the end of this six week progression, and it was continued across the year, nearly one hundred pounds would be added to any lift. If you can lift a weight for three sets of eight and, in six weeks, lift it for four sets of twelve, you’re stronger. And if you’re getting stronger you will also be growing provided correct caloric and nutrient intake.

The program(s)

Skinny fats want broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and a low body fat. And nothing—nothing—contributes to this quite like the chin-up. The second most important lift is the deadlift. But in all seriousness, there’s no need to “neglect” any part of the body so ranking importance is silly.

These following programs are simple, not easy. They include high(er) reps than most programs. The reason the world is obsessed with 5×5 is because way back they found that 4-6 x 4-6 best produced strength. Five, being the middle, became the norm. But strength isn’t rep-range dependant. Like stated before, taking a set of ten reps at 200 pounds to a set of ten reps at 300 pounds means you got stronger. And that can happen without using low reps if you wanted it to.

For most everyone, I like upper and lower splits. Beginners, however, do well on a consistent three day per week total body routine. Upper lower splits can be done either four days per week (A-B-C-D) or three days per week (A-B-C / D-A-B / C-A-B ). Most skinny fat ectomorphs, are best served with three heavy training days if trying to cut down, and four heavy training days if trying to gain.

Beginner Program


A1) Back Squat 4×6-8

A2) Chin-Ups (25)

B1) Romanian Deadlift 2×8-12

B2) Incline Press 3×8

c1) Pushups 2 x max

C2) Thick Grip Barbell Curls 2×15

— Sprints


A1) Overhead Press 3×6-8

A2) Barbell Rows 3×8

B) Hip Thrust 2×10

C) Calfs 2×20

–Farmers Walks


A1) Deadlift 3×5

A2) Incline Press 3×8

B1) Front Squat 3×5

B2) Chin-Ups (25)

C1) Dips 2 x max

C2) Thick Grip Hammer Curls 2×10


Program Notes

  • For all exercises do at least five sets, including warm-up sets. So a squat workout planned for 3x6x135 will look like this: bar x 6, 95×6, 135x4x6.
  • Strive for 25 chin-ups in as little sets as possible. At first, shoot for five. Then four. Three is ideal. Two is great.
  • The 1’s and 2’s mean the exercises can be supersetted to save time.
  • Do two sets to failure of dips and push-ups. Strive to add one rep to the total each week.
  • Sprints are preferably done on a hill of about 50 yards, with 6-10 total repetitions. Sprint to the top, walk back down, catch your wind, and then go again. Do that a minimum of six times and a maximum of ten times.
  • Farmers walks are done for 100-200 yards. Just grab heavy dumbbells and go.

Intermediate program


A1) Incline Press 3-4×8-12

A2) Chin-Ups (50)

B1) Dumbbell Overhead Press 2-3×8-12

B2) Dumbbell Rows 2-3×8-12

C1) Lateral Raises 2×15-20

C2) Barbell Curl 3×10

–Farmers Walks


A) Back Squat 3-4×8-12

B) Romanian Deadlift 3-4×8-12

C1) Calfs 2×20

C2) Back Extensions 2×20



A1) Overhead Press 4-5×4-8

A2) Chin-Ups 4-5×4-8

B1) Dumbbell Incline Press 2-3×8-12

B2) Barbell Row 3-4×8-12

C1) Dips 2xmax reps

C2) Thick Grip Hammer Curls 2×15

–Farmers Walks


A) Deadlift 2-3×3-5

B) Front Squat 2-3×3-5

C1) Hip Thrusts 3×10

C2) Calfs 2×20


Program Notes

  • For Sunday’s Chin-Ups, use as little sets as possible to hit fifty reps. If completed in less than five sets, add ten repetitions to total amount (60). Once sixty is completed in under five sets, add another ten (70). Etc…
  • For the exercises that are prescribed ranges of sets and reps, use the progression referenced from Guadango’s Getting Jacked for Dummies Article.
  • Sprints and Farmers Walks follow same protocol as Beginner Program.

Loose ends

  • Both the rules and the method of progression change from the novice to intermediate stage. My general rule of thumb is this: if you can do ten consecutive chin-ups, squat or deadlift 1.5x your body weight, and incline press your body weight, go with the intermediate program.
  • You may be wondering where regular old bench pressing is. Most skinny fat ectomorphs will benefit from more shoulder and upper chest, so I opt for more incline work. Bench press fanatics can substitute it in place of barbell incline presses on Sunday.
  • You can swap the days around. The template is this:  upper-lower-off-upper-off-lower-off.

The programs aren’t revolutionary, and there are hundreds out there that also deliver results. The routine itself isn’t important. Picking something, sticking with it, and working hard trumps the “program.” So if you have something good going, keep going. But if you’re looking for a fresh start, here it is. Adopt this philosophy and slow cook your way to solid gains.

Be sure to check out the previous installments in this series if you haven’t already: Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part I – The BasicsSolutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part II – My Story

Drop questions or comments below. Ask me on Facebook and Twitter, too. As for this post, like it, share it, or do whatever the hell it is the cool kids do today if you found it valuable. Let’s crush this disease and let the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Brohirrim be heard.



 Other articles in the series:


Accompanying resource: The Skinny-Fat Solution