Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

Click here for a free Athletic X Physique Workbook and learn about the Eight Essential Exercises for the X Physique.
Smart one you are.

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

by 259 comments

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.

Programming

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

Monday

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

Wednesday

A1) Overhead Press 3×6-8

A2) Barbell Rows 3×8

B) Hip Thrust 2×10

C) Calfs 2×20

–Farmers Walks

Friday

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

–Sprints

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

Sunday

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

Monday

A) Back Squat 3-4×8-12

B) Romanian Deadlift 3-4×8-12

C1) Calfs 2×20

C2) Back Extensions 2×20

–Sprints

Wednesday

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

Friday

A) Deadlift 2-3×3-5

B) Front Squat 2-3×3-5

C1) Hip Thrusts 3×10

C2) Calfs 2×20

–Sprints

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

Throw your email address into the box for the Athletic-Aesthetic Hybrid Workbook and honestly good stuff. [


xEmail privacy guaranteed, opting out is a breeze if you change your mind. This course also comes with a free subscription to updates: I send you totally cool and relevant stuff once in a while.

251 comments… add one

  • Once again, another solid article Anthony.

    [The routine itself isn’t important. Picking something, sticking with it, and working hard trumps the “program.”]

    Word.

    Reply
    • Yeah. Consistency is king.

      Reply
      • Hey Anthony. First I have to say its an excellent article you wrote. But there’s seems to be a confusion for me. The workout that you’ve given tells different sets n reps for different exercises like front squat says 4*6-8 while incline press you say 3*8 reps. But at the bottom you’re saying do at least 5 sets(including warmups) can you please explain this to me. Thanks in advance man.

        Reply
        • This is a bit outdated, I prefer the Skinny-Fat Solution where everything is explained in full.

          Doing at least five sets is exactly what it says – do at least five sets. So if I wrote 3 work sets, do at least 2 warm-up sets.

          6-8 means…6-8 reps. Work in that range.

          Reply
  • Great article Anthony. Very interesting read that confirms so many points that I know but fail to remember when training. Also like the looks of the program. Will be giving it a go and it looks like I start on the beginner’s program. Damn chins and incline presses.

    Quick question though, I train at home and don’t have dip bars. Substitute for that one?

    Reply
  • Nice article Anthony.

    Your program(s) put the basics together and will help many lost skinny-fat people to stick to a program.
    What do you think about going to failure vs leaving one/two reps in the tank?
    I’m currently on WS4SB, which doesn’t differ much from your intermediate template, so I guess I will stick to it (I’m doing it for 4 months now and I made some serious progress).

    Greetings from Germany

    Reply
    • I think failure is an overrated concept. If you’re looking for long term progress, you shouldn’t really “fail.” You should know your limits and push your mental barriers but getting stuck under a bar, in my opinion, shouldn’t happen.

      Reply
  • “embrace vanity”, i like that haha. but for intermediate to advanced lifters, rotating exercises is necessary right?every 4-6 weeks or so

    Reply
    • No. It’s a common misconception. One deserving of it’s own post. But suffice to say, rotating exercises simply changes the stimulus. But a change in stimulus can happen by adjusting volume, intensity, load, time under tension, etc…You don’t have to “rotate” you just have to plan slow progress over time.

      People that max out weekly rotate because they hit a wall. You can keep adding five pounds to the bar forever. So then they switch exercises to allow them to add five pounds to the bar. Then they rotate again, etc. But if you view it as a long term journey and add reps and volume over time, you can get very strong without rotating.

      Reply
  • Is this you on the first picture.Because this is realle remarkable progress.Did you jacked your body with this kind of training routine.Right now I am looking for a fresh start (I am doing it every two months,cause I am not enough consistent).I am doing 2xbodyweight deadlift but I think beginner’s program is better for me having in mind the bad recovery we have.I have a lot of questions but let me shoot some of them .How long should I rest between sets or it si better to superset them all, for example: A)1 superset with A)2 and so on.Should I train in fasted state in terms muscle growth is my goal.

    Reply
    • There are many ways to skin a cat. You can train fasted. I do. But nutrition will be covered in the next article. Rest periods should be whatever is comfortable. Somewhere between 1-3 minutes. Or you can do 1-2 minutes with the superset to save time. Supersets aren’t anything magical really, unless you consider saving time magical. And no, that picture is not of me. But it kind of looks like it, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  • Excellent article man. I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but I’m proud of you. You can definitely tell that this article was the result of many many years of ruminating and experimenting. This is revolutionary stuff right here. Time and a good, sensible head trump any gimmick out there. I’m going to pass this along to some of my other friends. I had a faint idea of the concepts you promote, because I’ve obsessed over the fitness industry for a while, but some of my friends don’t even know left from right, metaphorically speaking. So to show them an article that gives you the truth, without hyping anything but the real deal, is just exciting.

    Truth be told, I’ve been neglecting my biceps, triceps, and calves lately, out of this minimalist sense that I developed after doing away with programs that tend to overdo it. In retrospect, it was needed to get me out of the overstimulated rut I was in, but now I know better. I’m going to train the guns today though.

    I’m really happy for you, man. I may seem as too flattering sometimes, but it’s all a big compliment. I hope the best for you!

    Reply
  • Anthony,
    thank you again on all these articles that give us both hope and trust!

    I have two questions:

    1. Should we do some kind of HIIT or 30 min light cardio (incline walking, biking…) on the OFF days?
    2. In “11 Tips…” article your training recommendation was to do Dan John’s “40 days workout” combined with Watterbury’s “PLP”. Do you now suggest us to replace “40 days” with the ones above or also to drop the “PLP” as well?

    Reply
    • 1. HIIT isn’t “light” cardio. It’s pretty intensive. If you wanted to go for a long walk though, that would be fine.

      2. I recommended PLP and the 40 day program, yes. But usually those with some experience will be best served for that plan. And I think it’s also more ideal for a true 100% cutting phase. The programs above are more holistic and long term.

      Reply
  • Great article. What do you think about sprinting on off days instead? Too much interference with recovery? On front squats, if you lack wrist flexibility, do you advise using the crossed arm method?

    Reply
    • Sprinting on off days would make recovery more difficult. If you wanted to do something on your off days, keep it to light calisthenics, mobility, and walking.

      Reply
  • Anthony–please do a post on the 4-6 week misconception. I’d be very interested to read this with all of the “muscle confusion” shit all over the place. I still change my routine once a month or so–not to “confuse my muscles,” but I enjoy the occasional change.

    I used to be guilty of expecting the results to happen overnight. Like you said, consistency rules the day. To stay motivated and on track, I’ve started doing a once-a-month tape measurement and progress photo. Unfortunately this never reveals that I’m turning into the Incredible Hulk, but the occasional half inch-to-inch increase encourages me to keep it up.

    Reply
    • As long as you don’t plan on stopping soon, those half inches will add up. And when they do, you’ll be glad you stuck with it and stayed consistent instead of bouncing around. You can vary things as long as you know what you’re doing.

      Reply
  • Another great article :)
    I have a question though : in your previous article you mentioned becoming a master in cutting after many failed bulking cycles.However,I can’t do carb cycling or IF because of budget and school.I’m planning to stop the ‘clean bulk’ in mid to late March,do you have any tips or techniques a 17 year old could follow?Last time I did a cut I ended up 8kg lighter with only small changes in my physique and I won’t let that happen in this summer ;)

    Reply
    • Chris, my “secret” to losing fat has always been to keep processed carbohydrates and simple sugars low (under 100 grams per day), and feast on meats, eggs, fish, and vegetables. It doesn’t have to be done IF style, either.

      But budget shouldn’t stop IF since food consumption will be about equal. It’s just a matter of meal frequency not overall volume.

      Reply
  • Great post Anthony.
    It’s the old adage that I constantly refer to – The best training regimen is the one you aren’t currently doing. Everything works to a degree, you just have to stick with it.
    Consistency, consistency, consistency.

    C/.

    Reply
    • Yeah, thanks for the input Clint. It is true. Those that are successful didn’t do anything special. They simply had the gull to fail many times. The more you fail the better because it means you aren’t quitting. Everyone figures it out over time though.

      Reply
  • Really fantastic stuff! Two questions for you

    “Calfs” refer to…? Is that a specific exercise or any exercise that targets calves?

    Could you clarify your statement about five sets per exercise? Do you mean that, for example, the beginner hip thrusts (2 x 10) will require 3 warmup sets?

    Reply
    • Any exercise.

      In general, yeah you want either four of five sets to accumulate some volume. So two or three warm up sets would be nice. Depending on your strength level, one may have to be at body weight or something.

      Reply
  • How much would training differ for a skinny guy with some abs for who knows how long?

    Reply
  • Great article, especially in how you emphasize patience. A lot of us just want to “get there” or “have it”, but have no idea what we’d do afterwards. There’s an old Zen expression about “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water–after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” If you really hate what you’re doing to gain the muscle,how on earth will you maintain it? And if you’re enjoying yourself, then what’s the rush?

    I had a huge improvement in my skill and enjoyment of the martial arts when some instructor pointed out to me that, when I got my black belt, I’d still have to train pretty much the same way. Only the belt was gonna change. So why not just pretend like I was already there, and live accordingly? Otherwise I’d just be setting myself up for disappointment when I was a “master” and didn’t feel any different.

    Reply
  • Regarding progressive overload for the beginner’s program, is the idea that you simply add weight to the limited rep ranges until you meet the strength thresholds for the intermediate program (at which point you begin the new program along with the expanded rep ranges and Guadango progression) (?)

    Thanks,
    BB

    Reply
  • What would you think of adding a 4th day of eccentric and isometric work? I designed a program for a client similar to yours and was thinking of adding an eccentric/isometric day.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Oddly enough, just by you asking to what end made me think about it and realize that eccentric work is more advanced or at least not really necessary for the average skinny fat ectomorph. Got to remember to keep the goal the goal. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Anthony,what do you think about HIT (one set to failure in slow controled tempo) done once every 5-6 days?

    Reply
  • Fantastic article, Anthony!

    I’m also a recovering, skinny-fat ectomorph, and I completely agree with the patience that total-body transformation requires. Like what you said, I realized I was never going to “become the Incredible Hulk”, but if I could maximize my genetic potential, the results would still be tremendous.

    I followed a program similar to your beginners program, and over the past year, I gained about 22lbs. Consistency is was vital in training and in diet. Great stuff, man.

    Reply
    • Yeah, keep going Anthony. 20 pounds is great progress and within the beginners range I mentioned. It will become more difficult as you press on :)

      Reply
      • Hi,

        First of all great article, thanks for lots of useful information.

        I just have one question on the intermediate workout, why only one exercise on chest? Is that enough for gains?

        Thanks

        Reply
  • Thank you Anthony for this post. I am new to your site but so excited I came across it because it is exactly what I’ve been looking for. For the most part I am in shape and have some muscle mass for my size (I’m very petite) but I lost too much weight and now trying to gain weight and muscle. Losing fat and adding muscle is more familiar to me, not adding weight so I’ve been searching for the right program. This info makes perfect sense. I thought by training 6x/week I would add muscle quicker but I haven’t been giving my body rest (maximizing fat gain). Completed my first workout routine and it was tough but quite the workout! Any tips or references on caloric intake? My diet is very clean and pretty much follow a paleo diet.

    Reply
  • Anthony – Great stuff. Keep it up!

    As part of this programming do you recommend de-load (rest) weeks?

    That is something most of us in this category will find very difficult to do, but I’m seeing more and more trainers recommend it.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think down weeks are good if you need them. I don’t think — for aesthetic purposes — they need to be scheduled. I also think taking “one week off” is a poisonous mindset as one week is a societal thing. The body might only need five days. Or it might need nine. Who knows.

      But I think where people screw up the most is they take light “days” here and there. Chances are if it’s been a few months, three or four training sessions should be nothing but a warm up with light weights and whatnot.

      This might help you: http://www.trickstutorials.com/content/backoff

      Reply
  • Hey man I truly appreciate all the work you put into these articles, the site and your body. I think I’m not a full skinny-fat-ecto but definetly for some extent. I wont eat just 2 meals a day, that would probably fuck my day up as I couldnt concentrate when sitting in class hungry as shit. But I’ll definetly concentrate on carb-cycling more, stop switching routines every second month and adjust my cardio as righ now i run for 30 min almost every day. Just one question: following a pull/push routine instead of a upper/lower body routine would get the job done aswell, wouldnt it ?
    Thank you so much, for the first time I dont read these common informations that just (for some odd case) wont work for me.

    Reply
    • Yeah, the most important thing is picking something you enjoy that’s sustainable. If the same workload is being done, just split on different days, it won’t make a difference provided you’re recovering fine.

      And thanks for the compliments. Truly appreciate it.

      Reply
  • Hi, I’m new here and just wanted to ask a quick question.

    Would circuit training be a good enough workout routine to help with being a skinny-fat-ecto? Or is more required excercise-wise?

    Reply
  • Basically something mainly consisted of bodyweight/core-based training, cardio, and some use of light or heavy weights depending on the exercise.

    Reply
    • Again, this is vague. What exercises? What equipment? What will be “heavy” what will be “light?”

      Gotta work with me here. Spend some time on your reply so I can give you a quality answer.

      Reply
  • Anthony, I just discovered your site. I’d like to follow your beginners program. But I’m confused by the lingo. What is A-B-C-D? or A-B-C/D-A-B?
    Would I do all 6 exersizes on Monday:Back Squat 4×6-8, Chin-Ups (25), Romanian Deadlift 2×8-12, Incline Press 3×8, Pushups 2 x max, Thick Grip Barbell Curls 2×15

    Then on Wednesday do all of the listed excersizes on Wednesday?

    Or are you saying that I could group all the A’s together on 1 day, then next day do the B’s then next day do the C’s?

    Or is there some other kind of a rotation?

    Reply
    • The letters refer to the rotation of the workout if you train three days per week instead of four.

      So if you train four times per week, you do four workouts – A, B, C, D. Letters just symbolize.

      But if you wanted to do the SAME workout in only three days, instead of dropping a workout, you have to rotate through the days.

      So the first week you would do workout a, workout b, and workout c. The next week would start with workout d. After, the cycle would continue back to a. So it would look like:

      WEEK ONE

      Monday – Workout A
      Wednesday – Workout B
      Friday – Workout C

      WEEK TWO

      Monday – Workout D
      Wednesday – Workout A
      Friday – Workout B

      WEEK THREE

      Monday – Workout C
      Wednesday – Workout D
      Friday – Workout A

      Reply
      • OK. Seeing as how I’m a super noob, you would recommend me doing all of the excersizes listed for Monday on Monday:
        Monday
        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

        Then on Wednesday do these excersizes.
        A1) Overhead Press 3×6-8
        A2) Barbell Rows 3×8
        B) Hip Thrust 2×10
        C) Calfs 2×20
        –Farmers Walks

        Then on Friday do those listed under Friday?

        Reply
        • Yup. Else I wouldn’t have written that as my beginner program ;)

          Reply
          • This is awesome. Can’t thank you enough for this advice. This routine is not complicated at all. Complicated routines make the trainer sound really smart, but intimidate all but the most hardcore. And to paraphrase you, the best routine is the one that you do.

            I am not skinny fat. Just skinny. While NONE of the hot women I know get amped up for the fat guy, thin dudes are not everyone’s cup of tea either. I’ve got a six pack and all that. But whatever. I gotta add some bulk in the other important places too.

          • Hah, awesome. Chow down on some food and hit the weights, my man. It will come.

          • Hey anthony, what are the best ways to incorperate conditioning and gaining strenght/size for developed skinny guy? Lots of athletic background with 3-5%bf but low on strength and size. need about 15lbs of lean gains
            Training @ http://brandonbikepunchkick.wordpress.com/

            help appreciated.

          • Brandon, I’m pretty sure I talked to you before, no?

            You either get rid of some of your conditioning (as you do an outrageous volume) or eat more. Two tempo sessions weekly is much different than the met-cons you do. So if you want to continue your activity, up the calories through the ROOF.

  • Once again i love this article… How to measure our progress by not just slabbing more weights on the bar, and the overall mentality of it. Also i just want to ask about a good video/article about how to do proper bent over barbell rows, and lastly what are calves? Is it just calf raises

    Reply
  • This looks very legit Anthony. Not many people know much about our skinny fat breed.
    I’m going to start with the beginner program for a 8-12 week period starting on Monday.
    I would really appreciate your opinion on a main question I’ve been seeking answers for.
    Would you recommend using Thick Bars on every time you workout? I really need to improve my grip strength and forearm size.
    Thanks for the Article!

    Reply
    • I like thick bar work. Currently, I’m only using it on curls (love me some thick bar curls), but I think it can be implemented on most pressing. On pulling, you have to be careful because it will limit the weight you can handle. You can do a heavy – light alternate kind of thing.

      So Day One, do rows with a regular bar.

      Day Two, thick bar.

      Get it?

      Reply
      • Yeah I did notice a difference on weight reduction using those Fat Gripz.
        I should have asked on the previous post, I noticed there’s no abdominal work.
        On what days would you recommend ab work and neck training? I wanted to pair them up on leg days.

        Reply
  • Darrel Tucker August 24, 2012 1:04 am

    Anthony, could you explain a little bit about cardio?
    Should we do it after work out, on off low carbs days or not doing it at all(due to cortisol realease, by traing every single day)? On your second article, (february 06 to June) you changed your physique from skinny fat to ripped by jacking your physical activity through the roof. And hinted that you were doing it while fasting. And by drinking coffee. Which brings me to another question: should skinny fats resort to thermogenics?
    I remember reading in some of your articles ( I really can’t remeber which right now) that a skinny fat should first aim in getting to a comfortable body fat level, and then worring about gaining muscle. Is this really the case? Even if that means going to an extreme low body weight?

    Reply
    • Darrel, these questions are all a bit loaded, but I’ll try.

      I advise leaning out first because those of us that are skinny fat carry such huge emotional baggage. In other words, they always get hung up on their fat. It’s best to just get rid of it and not worry about it. Otherwise, it can always throw a hitch in the plans. (IE: not eating enough for fear of getting too fat, etc…)

      Thermogenics can work if taken appropriately. I don’t think they are necessary though. I drink coffee daily now. Didn’t used to back in the day. But back then I used it as a thermogenic. Now I use it as a yummy tasty beverage.

      And you’re going to have to define “cardio.”

      Reply
      • Darrel Tucker August 24, 2012 4:07 pm

        Thanks for the answers, Anthony.
        By cardio I mean aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging or swimming.
        That being said, do you think it would be a good idea to ditch weight lifting for a while and only focus in eating below maintance everyday and running or swimming?

        Reply
  • Hey Anthony,

    I love your site and insight into what alot of us “skinny fat” guys/girls go through on a daily basis. I would love to jump in and help in any way I can. I think I have a fairly unique story relating to my experiences in weight training/dieting, and am also an avid writer. I would love to exchange some PM’s if you ever want to go back and forth about training, diet, or just “skinny fat” life exerpiences lol. My story may be too annoyingly long to post on this Q and A forum. I don’t want to be “that guy”lol. Thanks brother.

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony, I am definitely a skinny fat individual, and I am really interested in trying the beginner program. How could I incorporate the sprints on a treadmill, obviously with an incline, but how long should I sprint on an incline for?
    Also I currently don’t have a gym membership but I do have some stuff like resistance bands. Can I use those for any of the stuff on the beginners workout?

    Reply
    • You can, but bands won’t be enough. If you can, work on body weight stuff until you can mingle with barbells and dumbbells. As for sprints on the treadmill, I’d say 10 seconds at max speed, 30-50 seconds walking. Repeat for fifteen to twenty minutes.

      Reply
  • Is this regime appropriate for women, given the different hormonal environment? It’s often advised that women add in additional cardio and cut extra carbs to get at our ridiculously resistant thigh fat (bc of estrogen).

    (Re nutrition – would ask on that page but since it’s related – I’m not sure a 500 cal deficit is realistic for all women, since if we’re truly skinny fat, maintenance is low as it is. How far can we get with a 200-300 cal deficit?)

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • More cardio? Blasphemy! The rules for girls changes a bit, mainly in the food department — not in the training department. Your deficit may have to be less severe, but it depends. And different people respond differently to different macronutrients. Some girls may not have to reduce carbs. I will say, most everyone that gets rid of their personal stubborn body fat ends up cycling through some carbohydrates.

      You can shoot me an e-mail with more specifics and maybe I can help you more. The biggest questions I would need answered: are you weight-training? Not on machines, like with free weights?

      Reply
  • Hi anthony,
    I really enjoyed your article and was referred here from JC Deen

    i’m a skinny fat guy, big thighs, love handles, narrow shoulders, thin arms, lack of an upper body etc.

    I have been doing greyskull LP for a few weeks which is based on SS (3×5 linear progression) with the addition of bodyweight chins everyday, though I have a high bodyfat and little muscle i’m confused as to how I should be eating to “recomp” myself. i know consistency is king, but should I be trying to eat at a surplus to gain weight and improve my lifts??

    thank you, and I have bookmarked your site to read more articles!!

    Reply
    • Dave, I’d eat a little under maintenance every day. Your fat is your caloric surplus, let you body use that if it needs extra energy. But I would add that if you’re doing barbell training, you’re going to need some carbs to fuel muscle creation. SOME carbs.

      So I’d go under maintenance while also getting some carbs like potatoes and a piece of fruit post workout. Nothing to break the house. But enough to give your body something to use.

      Reply
  • also what do you think of Starting Strength program? its similar to the program you posted, can i follow SS program and get the same results?

    Reply
    • I think Starting Strength is a wonderful program, but I think it’s powerlifter-centric. The linear progression is awesome and any beginner should follow that scheme.

      If you were to run SS, I’d do one of the versions that float around that include dips, chin-ups, pull-ups, and curls/tricep extensions on the normal “friday” workout.

      Reply
  • Thanks for the reply. I guess my other question didn’t go through but anyways I wanted to thank you for putting in time and helping us out but I still don’t get if the main goal you want us to do is to cut or bulk? I mean like you said it if we were to cut we end up being really skinny(loosing muscle) and then when we try to bulk up we’re back at the starting point gaining the fat we had before and vice-versa. So I’m at the limbo here Idk what to do. What Do you recommend I do first cut or try to gain muscle first?

    Im 5’5 weight 132 bf%20(estimate). Whats a right maintenance caloric intake for me..right now Im doing 2200 maintenance is it correct for my size?

    thank you in advance.

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony,
    Great article. You didn’t mention how long we should spend doing the exercises for the day, which i think is important. Do you agree with the “45-60″ minutes range or what’s your recommendation for us skinny-fats? Also the program does not have any abs, forearm exercises at all and little shoulder workouts why is that? will it be okay if I add some ab routine to it?. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Take however long it takes for you to finish the exercises. I don’t think you’re going to melt after one hour. But I’ll say if you’re there for 1.5-2 hours, you’re probably wasting time somehow.

      Reply
  • I was wondering what if we are not beginners can we use the 2 split routine. like this one I’m currently on. BTW I’m a skinny fat. Is it effective or should I switch to the one you posted. Thanks

    Mon: Chest/triceps
    Tues:rest
    Wed:Back/biceps
    Thurs:Legs/abs
    Fri:Forearm/shoulders
    Sat: rest
    Sun: rest

    Reply
    • I think skinny-fat people are much better off going on a more focused routine. The most split i’d go is upper/lower.

      You CAN use a split like that, but I don’t see a point in it — it’s gets you used to quantity over quality.

      Instead of only doing 1-2 chest exercises, you’re likely to do 3-4 and it will deter your focus.

      Reply
  • Anthony, first I want to thank you for your articles and your detailed responses to everyone. I appreciate any advice or direction you can give me moving forward. I apologize if this is too much detail, but given the quality of response you’ve given to each person, I thought it would be good to invest time into writing a proper post since I am in a somewhat unique situation.

    My weight has been in a constant flux throughout most my life. I was the chubby kid in middle school, lost 40 pounds between freshman and sophomore year of high school and kept that off until my 2nd year of college where I started packing the pounds back on. 2 years ago I weighed 220~ pounds, the most I have weighed in my life. Since graduating, I’ve changed my diet around completely, and stuck with a regular regiment of cardio. Right now I weigh 145~ pounds and have maintained this weight +/- 5 pounds for almost 16 months now.

    I run between 5-10k 6 days a week. Cardio (specifically running) has become more than exercise to me. It is a form of exercise I have fallen in love with and it isn’t about the weight loss at all anymore. It is meditative and helps clear my head. I look forward to getting up and running every day, and because I do a lot of traveling for my work, it’s a form of exercise I can do no matter where I am. It is one of the few constants in my life, and the endorphin rush I get from running is unlike anything else. I ran my first half-marathon this year, and plan to train to complete a full-marathon by the end of next year. Running is my yoga

    In the last 16 months of maintaining this weight, I’ve noticed slow changes in my body composition. My skin is slowly starting to tighten, and the stubborn fat slowly starting to melt away, and even the appearance of abs buried under all of my excess skin. I’m still a stereotypical skinny fat though: thin wrists, narrow shoulders, and even love handles. Despite that, I’m happy and satisfied with my appearance, but am looking for ways to improve. I don’t have ambitions to beef up, become the next incredible hulk, or anything fantastical like that. I just want to be a healthier me (BOTH mentally and physically).

    I’ve lived most of this year out of hotels in several different cities, out of my suitcase, and have spent entire days in transit. I eat out a lot as well but try to be very cautious with my diet (I’ve eaten so much Tuna I might have mercury poisoning, haven’t had fast food once). I don’t see this changing in the near future as this is my living. I want to focus on ways to improve moving forward though given my circumstances. To make the most of the situation I’m in, and not put my health on the back-burner even though it would be very easy to do so. That’s why running is so ideal, because no matter where I am, I can put on my watch and take off and run whatever distance. If I had to (and I have had to several times), I can run back and forth on a short path 20 times to get my run in.

    What kinds of exercises would you recommend for someone who can’t go to a gym everyday or even every week (I’m currently in a position where I won’t have access to a gym until November) ? Things that I can do in a hotel room, airport, anywhere with some free space. I realize these aren’t optimal training conditions, but for now they are the best I have. I’m not averse to going to the gym or starting a program, I just feel like it’s an impossibility at this stage in my life. I’ve had no issues with consistency or dedication, just often times finding a place.

    Right now I’m doing SOME of the following: pushups, crunches, leg lifts, jumping jacks, and jump roping. I don’t do these with the same dedication as I do running though, I’m not even sure how effective these exercises are. I want to design a program where there is some anticipation of results that I know I will be able to do wherever I am at (as chaotic as my life is, once I’m able to form a routine I can stick with it.)

    What exercises would you suggest for me? Is it possible to cut down my BF % ? Is there a way to balance running 30+ miles a week with other exercises to taper skinny fat. I feel hopeful because I’ve seen a lot of change, but I realize it’s going to happen slower for me than others, and I’m fine with that. I also realize it’s going to be difficult, and I’ve accepted that. I just want to feel like I’m headed down the right path

    Thanks again for any help you might be able to give me

    Reply
    • If you like running, run. But you should absolutely supplement with some strength training. You just need to broaden your mind. Push-ups are good, but you need more difficult variations. Progress to one-arm push-ups. Might seem silly now, but that has to be the goal. It’s STRENGTH training, you have to get strong.

      Handstands working into handstand pushups.
      Do pull-ups and chin-ups in the stairwells at hotels. (I’ve done this before.)
      If the hotel has a gym, fiddle with their dumbbells.
      Do pistol squats. (Or learn how to do them.)

      Just get creative, my man.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony, enjoyed the article. There are some phrases i do not understand (skinny-fat). I believe I am an ectomorph because I am almost 5’11 weighing about 155 lbs. I have a few questions about my current weight lifting routine.
    First off, I have played soccer and lifted on and off through high school and college. I am naturally athletic, muscular build, but without broad shoulders. I have always weighed between 130-145 since senior year of high school and I am now 22. I have now been lowering my conditioning and playing soccer to about once a week, but i do ride a bicycle about 6 miles total to campus most days. For the past 2-3 months, I have been working out almost every day taking protein shakes post and recently trying some creatine. I have was around 143-145 lb when i started and am currently around 155-158 lb. My routine goes like this…chest/tricept day, leg day, back and bicept day….repeat and sometimes i take a day off in the middle of the week or after a soccer practice. I throw in shoulders on one of the upper body days depending on how I am feeling. Most of the time it is on Chest and tri day. I have been seeing results with 2 day recoveries…. but most of the time I experience no soreness. Leg days are the hardest because I go so heavy, but I basically try to lift heavy on all my days, making some slow but steady gains. I also do ab workouts every 2-3 days…15 min ab ripper x workout…works amazing for me. Am I over training? The past 2 weeks I have started to give myself 3 days of rest on occasion before hitting the particular muscle group again. I have also ate quite a lot, but sometimes I do not get enough sleep and eat too late at night. What do you think of my routine? If I were to try your workout, it would be the intermediate program. Sometimes I also do sprints and agility workouts one time a week.

    Reply
    • I’d need to see the exercises you’re doing. And I can’t tell you if you’re over training. Only you can do that. How do you feel? Are you still motivated? Are you still making progress?

      Reply
  • Anthony, great articles man. I have been on a 5 day split for around 5 months, typical routine. I havent made gains since forever.I now understand it’s not right for my body type. Ur Beginners program is what im trying next. My main concern is that I will be training my muscles less, I have been hitting each muscle with around 4 exercises. I’m 5’5 , 140, 20% body fat. What do u think

    Reply
    • I think that you shouldn’t be concerned with much of anything, especially if you haven’t made any progress. Since that’s the case, you should be willing to try something different. And I also think you need to focus on getting stronger in the 6-8 rep range.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony. First of all thanks a ton for your resourceful articles which means a lot to skinny-fat ectos like me. Great effort. Talking about myself, I’m a bit short for an ecto (just around 5’4″) and currently weighing 119 lbs. I started hitting gym 2 months back and to be frank I did gain some strength and muscle. But my belly fat is showing too much day after day that my gains aren’t noticeable at all. So I’m going to cut down until I reach that solid base that you were talking about and then start gaining some lean muscle mass from there.

    I’m planning to start with your beginner routine from next week onwards. But being a beginner literally, I do have some doubts (which may rather seem silly for experts reading this, but pardon me)

    1) By chin ups you mean pulling with palm facing towards you with a closer grip? Is it actually better than the wide grip pull ups for a wider upper back?

    2) By overhead press you mean standing military press right?

    3) For calf workout, standing/seated calf raises on a machine is enough? Or is there any free weight workout?

    4) For incline presses which one is better? Dumbbell or barbell?

    5) Can supersetting be done for all workouts with 2 reps? (viz. curls, calfs, hip thrust, dips, push ups & Romanian DL’s)

    6) And finally, there isn’t any suitable point for hill sprints in my area, can I do sprints on level ground? If so, for what distance and how many reps?

    Hope you’ll help me out with this soon buddy:)

    Reply
    • 1) Hits back fine. Hits arms more. Arms are good.
      2) Yes.
      3) Don’t really matter. Donkey calf raise is best exercise though. Use a weight belt.
      4) Neither is really “better.” I like the barbell version because it’s easier to program and overload. Dumbbell is fine as long as you take same progressive mentality.
      5) Two reps? Not sure what you mean by that. Supersets are done with exercises that don’t compete with each other. So if you can do two exercises back to back and they won’t gas you for each other, go for it.
      6) Flat sprints are fine. 50 yards. Get 8-10 good heats. Sprint the 50, walk back to the starting line, and then go again.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the prompt reply buddy:). BTW in point 5 I actually meant 2 SETS, sorry for the mistake. And one more question, anything to say about the ideal rest time between sets for an effective workout?

        Reply
        • Eh, rest time is individual. In between bigger lifts, 2-3 minutes. Smaller lifts, 1-2 minutes. It’s more of waiting until your fresh and yet not lounging around. I don’t tend to like watching a clock or anything like that.

          Reply
      • Hi Anthony.
        Just some newbie’s questions I don’t know you’ve answered before:

        1) – Are the exercises in the Beginner Program meant to be executed with dumbells or with a barbell?
        I have a Powertec Half Rack and both an olympic barbell and the Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells.
        Which is the best solution?

        2) – In my Powertec Half Rack I’ve no chance to do Dips.
        Could I substitute it with another exercise?

        3) – Re Farmers Walks, you said the distance would be 100 – 200 yards.
        Do you mean JUST ONE WALK? Or some walks (maybe 6 to 10) with some rest time in between, as with Sprints?

        Thank you.

        Reply
        • 1) Nothing compares to a barbell.

          2) Any press, but none will compare to dips.

          3) I’ve since changed my mind on farmers walks. When I was still for them, it was shorter distances (20ish) for reps. Rest in between.

          Reply
  • Pierre de Beaumarchais November 4, 2012 2:18 am

    Anthony, please help.

    After too many excuses, I started to lift weights on July 15, 2012. I’ve been consistently working out 3 times a week until today, with emphasis on compound exercises, chest-back-legs, 4 reps x 4 sets x at a weight that was liftable before I couldn’t anymore.

    My diet was 3 square meals with 6-8 oz of sunflower seeds and 6-8 oz of dried cranberries in between meals.

    So from July 15 to November 3, I went from an embarrassing 113 pounds to 128 pounds. I suspected that 15 pounds gain included a lot of fat as I could pinch my belly a bit. So I decided to finally use my caliper. According to online calculators, I have 23% fat, only 98 pounds lean body, rest is all fat.

    I was shocked at the numbers! I really thought I was doing good, I was really proud of working out week in, week out even if I really didn’t want to, really proud of eating healthy each day. Now…

    Did I eat too much fatty sunflower seeds during the past weeks??? Which mistakes did I do, please!

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Cranberries are usually sugared.

      And it’s not that cranberries (unsugaried kind) or sunflower seeds are UNHEALTHY, they’re just very CALORIE DENSE. They provide a lot of calorie per how much they fill you up. So you were probably eating too much of them.

      But I’d need to see your other meals too. That’s where I’d start though.

      Reply
      • Pierre de Beaumarchais November 5, 2012 5:28 pm

        Thanks for the reply.

        I really thought I could’ve supplemented my daily 2500+ calories with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. With them, I clocked over 1400 cal., and regular meals made up for the difference. Looks like it’s a big fat mistake (har har).

        The meals that I eat vary so much. I know I always start my morning with oatmeal, sometimes I put on it (gulp) sunflower seeds and cranberries, sometimes, lentils, sprouts, shredded dried chicken…

        For lunch, again much variety: white rice with chick peas, lentils, spaghetti, whole wheat sandwiches with sprouts, sautéed tofu/chicken/beef, etc.

        Dinner would be 3 scrambled eggs, white rice or quinoa, veggie spaghetti, more stir-fry, roasted chicken, broiled fish, more beans, etc…

        I don’t take any protein shakes, weight gainers, etc. Each day I take multi, vit C and Q10.

        Lately, I also juice a whole lot of fruits and veggies. It’s the first time of my life that I take over the recommended 5 to 10 portions, thanks to that juicer.

        My food intake varies too much. Is that bad?

        Thanks.

        Reply
        • Variance isn’t that bad if you can follow what you’re doing. By that I mean you know round about how much you’re eating.

          But I think you’re just carb and calorie heavy right now. Every meal has a rather dense source of starchy carbs.

          Reply
          • Pierre de Beaumarchais November 5, 2012 6:50 pm

            I must say that I was also trying to eat less animal protein and more of the plant kind. I see that I gotta cut back on carbs and eat more protein, right?

  • Im following your program but
    1.What about abs workouts? why aren’t they incorporated in the program
    2. what can i substitute for hip thrusts or can i leave them out?(don’t feel comfortable doing them)
    3. for sprints. can you explain a little more, how many sets and how long should each sprint take and rest time. *Note* I want to do sprints at the gym. can i do them on a thread mill or just stationary.

    Reply
    • 1) You can incorporate abs. Part of me didn’t just because I don’t want people to think crunches lose belly fat. That’s diet. Throw in whatever ab exercise you want on leg days. At the end.
      2) Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, or any other “posterior chain dominant exercise.” If you have a back extension machine, do those. Hold weights at your chest as your strength grows.
      3) If you’re on a treadmill, do them on an incline. Aim for 10-20 seconds of sprinting followed by 1-1.5 minutes of walking. Repeat for 20-30 minutes.

      Reply
  • Great article, man! On the intermediate program with the exercises that have a range of sets and reps (3-4×8-12) do you advise adding weight when 4×12 is completed, or do you recommend going to 5×12 before adding weight as recommended by Mike Guadango in his Getting Jacked For Dummies article?

    Reply
    • Yeah, you can do that.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply. For the intermediate program, on Sunday when you say to do Dumbbell Rows for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, does that mean I pick a set/rep scheme I like (say 3×8) and perform it every time I do Dumbbell Rows, adding weight each week? Or do I start with a weight I can perform 2 sets of 8 with and progress by adding volume each week until I can do that weight for 3 sets of 12, THEN add weight and start the cycle over with 2 sets of 8?

        Reply
        • I’d prefer the latter. I’d pick a weight you can get 2 sets of 8 reps with. And 3 reps with change. Work with it until you’re mastering the 3×12. Some days you’ll perform better than others.

          Reply
  • would the beginner workout be effective without farmers walks or sprints?
    I’m currentley doing starting strength and there’s not really a difference even thought it’s only been around 2 months so I don’t expect much.

    Reply
    • Also what do you mean by calfs 2×20

      Reply
    • Not as effective. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work.

      Reply
      • I’f I wanted to keep my routine of Starting Strength,
        “Monday”
        3×5 Squat
        3×5 Bench Press
        1×5 Deadlift
        ” Wednesday”
        3×5 Squat
        3×5 Press
        5×3 Power cleans
        “Friday”
        3×5 Squat
        3×5 Bench Press
        1×5 Deadlift
        It’s not that I’m in love with s.s. I just understand the exercises, and there do-able with my current situation.

        What accessory work could be added to battle skinny fatness?

        Also I’m afraid of doing calf exercises because I practice jujitsu and it would get in the way I’f I had big calfs.

        also Is there anyway I could directly message you instead of clogging up the comments section?

        Reply
        • Well if you’re “keeping” Starting Strength you aren’t going to be adding accessories.

          I’d throw in dips, chins, and curls into the routine when convenient. Dips only if your chest isn’t too imbalanced.

          My e-mail is littered all over this place. There’s even a nice little “contact” button at the top of the screen.

          Reply
  • you mentioned skinny fats tend to be longer or lanky can a skinny fat be shorter im 5″5 135 could i still be considered one.

    Reply
    • It’s about physiology. You can be any size.

      Reply
      • So if I still have the skinny fat traits I can be one no matter what my size is then right? I only have a couple tho, mostly the weak arms and wrists with some man boobs. Sorry for the dumb questions I love your site thanks for all the good articles you make.

        Reply
        • Well I mean, most skinny-fat people are undermuscled everywhere. If you have love handles, moobs, and zero arm muscles you’re a likely candidate.

          Reply
  • Anthony, I’m so happy to have found you. I thought I was the only one with this problem. People just don’t understand. I am female 5’6 115 pounds. Most people would tell me I need to gain weight. But if you see me in a bathing suit, you’d see a good amount of fat on stomach and hips. I know you say to lean out first, but I have tried that and I’m at a plateau, plus my arms are getting super skinny. What to do? How many calories a day should I eat? I have been lifting for YEARS and my muscles have never gotten much bigger. Any help you can give me is much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Leanette, honestly, I can’t say. From my working with females, there’s always some body image issues that go on. Sometimes wide hips are natural for someone’s frame and I can’t say without pictures.

      If you hit a stall it’s probably because you’re in a constant deficit of mega proportions (as most females tend to do).

      What kind of “lifting” do you do and do you ever get stronger?

      Reply
      • After years of doing machines only I started New Rules of Lifting for Women in September. I’m doing deadlifts, squats, step-ups, rows, bench press, etc. I’m starting to get stronger yes but I’m still kind of clueless. How many reps/ sets should I be doing and how many calories?

        Reply
        • There’s no set in stone answer to these questions, which is why you probably haven’t found a concrete answer. It all depends…I’d need some context.

          Reply
  • Hi Anthony! Just found your site and have plowed thru a lot of your posts. Thanks for a lot of great stuff!

    I’ve been going to the gym for two years now and experimenting with all kinds of programs and progression schemes and training frequency and learned a couple of things about my self:

    * Going to failure all the time affects my form and my recovery and increases my risk for injury
    * Adding weight to the bar constantly is seriously f***ing with my tendons since my “muscles” get stronger but the rest doesn’t keep up. My wrist and elbows hate me.
    * I can never make it to the gym more than twice a week because I have a million other things to do. I am religious about going those two times though.

    My “new” strategy will be to never go to failure and progress slowly with the simple progression method mentioned in this post (3×8, 3×10, 3×12, 4×8, 4×10, 4×12) and have 2 full body workouts each week.

    Going just twice a week to the gym, are there any particular exercises that you would recommend or something else you think sounds whacked with my approach?

    / Luis

    Reply
    • Well if you can only make it twice, I’d just condense everything down. It will be tough sledding but if you’re consistent you’ll find a way. Might not get as good of gains because of the reduced frequency, but it’s better than nothing.

      What matters most is progressing. So as long as you can do that you’re good. A lot of people progress better twice per week because they put forth more energy and effort.

      Reply
  • O.k. Anthony, I quit the Turbulence Training and started your Beginners workout today. Did Monday today and oh boy.. wow did I feel pumped when I left. Awesome. 2 quick questions.
    (1) We don’t have a squat rack at my tennis club (where I work out). I’m only 85lbs to start so I can lift the barbell over my head and lower it on my shoulders.. This isn’t going to cut it when the weight goes up. Should I just stick to dumbell squats? We have a bunch of machines (smith and press ect.) but I want to avoid them.
    (2) as far as the warm up sets, you say to do at least 5 sets of each exercise. So the lifts you have labeled as 2X8-12 I would do 3 warm up sets and then 2 full strength? and the ones with 4×6-8 I would end up doing 6 sets?
    Thanks again for your time and all your hard work on this site. I’m so glad I found it. J

    Reply
    • Yeah, I suppose. Goblet squats. Focus your attention on the deadlif.

      Warm up sets generally apply to the first “main” movement you’re doing for upper or lower body.

      Reply
  • Hello again, Anthony. I decided to ask a question right here where it belongs, not in newer articles. I began today the beginner program, with the addition of swings and hft pushups/chins. However, the 242 method also sounds good to me (I believe it arouse after this?).
    Do you believe this program or 242 is still good for someone in the “cutting” phase (getting the solid base)?
    I thought about that when I read your comment that you must be careful with the signals sent to the body. I also try to do some form of cardio (not intense outside the sprints) everyday, based on the Myth of HIIT book.
    Thank you, man.

    Reply
    • Either program is fine. 242 might be more suitable as only two days of training are really “demanding” so you can then manipulate nutrition accordingly and probably recover better.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    What’s you’r opinion about Paul’s Wade Convict Conditioning?

    Reply
    • Never read it.

      Reply
      • 6 Bodyweight Moves:

        Pullup – eventually doing 1 arm pullup for reps
        Handstand pushups – eventually doing 1 arm Handstand pushup for reps
        Pushups – eventually doing 1 arm pushup for reps
        Squats – eventually doing pistol squats for reps
        Hanging leg raises
        Bridges

        When it gets easier, adding weight vest

        Reply
  • Would u recommend adding isolation?
    how much?

    Reply
    • I wrote the programs because that’s what I recommend. So if I recommended something else, it woulda been there.

      Reply
      • Yeah, of course.

        I meant that if I’m following that program that I wrote how would you recommend mixing isolation in it?

        And BTW really greats posts you got here!

        Reply
        • Oh. Well, uh, I didn’t write that program heh. Like I said, I think a combo of BB and BW work is best. And I’d have my BB work be more than isolation. So I’d consider adding my eight staple exercises (PDF for free on front page) before I considered adding isolation.

          Reply
  • Cleg Burris here. As usual, another great article. Sounds like this progressive approach could solve my problems and get me back in the game.

    Reply
  • “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.”
    That applies too to a high frequency approach of chins and pushups, say greasing the groove or fighter routine to chins and 100 per day for pushups (on days you not train chest)?
    I´m struggling with this idea now, because I like to get good and elevate my reps on chins, and the added volume for pushups, but fat loss now is a real priority. Litle afraid of overtraining.
    Do not have sure if it is not best minimize my training to 3 days a week while losing fat.
    Ah, a question that I want to ask since I read “Myth of HIIT”: would be ok to do a aerobic session (20-30 min, with the recommendations of the book) right after training? Some people say that cardio would blunt muscle gain in this time.
    Thanks a lot, really.

    Reply
    • 1) You have to consider the goal. If you’re on a fat loss kick, then you shouldn’t be eating for growth every day. You’re going to have to make a sacrifice and see if you can get by with less on some days.

      2) You can get better without training daily.

      3) You can train however often you want, you just have to realize that not all days should be primed for muscle gain.

      4) You can do a small aerobic session, but I’d question the necessity. It can be good, it can be bad. Depends on your current level of progress, etc…

      Reply
  • Hi anthony. I´m gonna start the beginers one this week. Im a Skinny Fat Ect.
    1) if it´s tree day training and i think i should cut a bit first, should i eat below the seven days of the week or just the training days?
    2) How can mix playing tennis in this program? I should play on off days? Will it affect muscle growth?

    Thanks,
    Martin from Uruguay, South America

    Reply
    • I don’t know what tree day is.

      As for tennis – you can mix it in. You probably won’t be fresh doing it on off days, but do what ‘cha can. As for it effecting muscle – if you don’t adjust your nutrition for it, yeah.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony. Got 2 questions:-

    1) Any alternative to Farmers Walks? I am unable to take the dumbell outside the gym to walk & the gym is also too small to cover a good distance.

    2) ” 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.”

    Based on your above sentence,am i correct to say
    a) for ” 3x6x135″ means 3sets x 6 reps x 135weight?

    b) then what is 135x4x6?

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • No farmer sub. They aren’t NECESSARY. Useful, but you can get by without them.

      You are correct.

      I always go sets before reps. So the latter is weight x sets x reps. Former is sets x reps x weight.

      Reply
      • Thanks Anthony.

        Also What is a good alternative to the Hip Thrusts?

        Thanks

        Reply
        • Tell me why you can’t do them :)

          Reply
          • Such A New-b March 5, 2013 7:32 am

            Sorry I’m so confused but first a little about me: I’m 38, fem, 5’1, 115-120, 25% bf (says my biggest loser scale) I’ve never weighed more than 120 in my life other than pregnancies then right back down to 115-120. My body, in general, is slim except my belly, I have zero muscle, aaaaannd I’m top heavy. which is why I believe I fall into the skinny fat category!
            I’ve been reading ur stuff and find it pretty interesting. I do believe there is no 1 size fits all so we gotta find what works for us individually.
            I’d like to start with your beginner plan. But like I said I’m confused.
            When u say:
            1. For all exercises do at least 5 sets including warm up sets……. then u give an example. I still don’t understand that.
            2. Exercises can be supersetted…what does that mean?
            3. Chin-ups can’t do them to save my life got an alt?
            4. Hill sprints; the hill I’d use is a 10ish min drive. I workout in the AM. so option a) AM workout, 10 min intermission, then hill sprints. Option b) AM workout. Evening hill sprints. Which is preferred a 10 minute or 8 hour intermission?
            Sorry for being such a new-b
            Thank u for all the info, time, n work u put into it all!
            Thank u in advance!

          • 1) Means you do at least five sets. If there aren’t five sets listed, then you do at least as many warm-up up sets that’d it take for you to do five total sets. Warm-up sets are done with less weight and titrate up to work set weight.

            2) Superset is common, google it if you’re having trouble. Means you pair two exercises, alternate between them set for set.

            3) Inverted rows that are built into a solid chin-up progression.

            4) Many ways to go about things. Pick whichever is most sustainable.

          • Hi Anthony,

            1) Regarding the Hip thrust, to clarify, is it done with a barbell? If it is then it looks pretty awkward.
            If not, I am pretty cool with it.
            2) If that is also the case, how do i do progression with it?
            By increase the sets & reps following Guadango’s Getting Jacked for Dummies Article?
            What then would be a preferred range?
            3) My progression question also refers to the DIPS & CALFS RISES.

            Thanks

          • 1) Hip thrusts are done with a barbell.
            2) You add weight to the barbell. Or more reps. Or use any kind of progression, like the one mentioned.
            3) Same as above. Any form of progression.

            Hip thrusts aren’t ABSOLUTE. But they’re useful to strengthen the lower body while being less CNS intensive.

  • I’m so happy I found your website!

    I’m 6’9″ and have never ever seen my abs my whole life, despite the rest of my body being rail thin.

    I’ve been weightlifting for the past two years, but I have a shoulder injury that I constantly have to lift around, so my weight on bench and shoulder presses suffer. I’m OKAY with this — as you said, I’m never going to look like The Incredible Hulk.

    The biggest thing I got from this article is: Do what you love, do it consistently, don’t stress about, see the gains.

    I think my biggest problem is getting over psychological stressors. Like most skinny-fats, I get stressed easily, and I have anxiety issues . I’m seeing a therapist for the latter, but do you have any advice on how to limit the stressors most skinny-fats feel? Whether it’s emotional, physical, or body issues?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Become more philosophical, really. And I mean that. Try to understand things. People. The universe. It makes life much more beautiful.

      Reply
  • Such A New-b March 15, 2013 2:13 am

    Hi Anthony hope all is well!

    So I have a few more ?’s. My apologies in advanced for sounding dumb and asking stupid ?’s.

    I’m doing ur Friday beginner workout tomorrow. U say do sets as stated but include warm-up sets to complete a total of 5 sets for each exercise. My ?’s

    1)where do I start? I don’t know how much I can lift. So I’m gonna take a guess at what I would do: for incline press, deadlifts and hammer curls I’d do 2-3 warm-up sets with the bar only then increase each set by 5 lbs til I complete all 5 sets?

    2) When when the weight is increased by 5 lbs does that mean 5 lbs total or 5 lbs on each end of the bar?

    As for chin-ups and dips: how would I do warm-up sets and how do I increase weight since there’s no weight to increase?

    Again sorry for the stupid ?’s but I figured it’s better to ask….how else would I know!

    Thanks in advance

    Reply
    • 1) If you don’t how much you can lift, how can I tell you how much you should lift ;) ? Just gotta get in there and use a few days to get a feel for things.

      1.1) No, that’s not the progression. You start easy. Then you add 5 lbs to your last set every week. That only applies to the bigger exercises though. Not hammer curls.

      2) Total.

      For the chin-ups / dips – that all depends on your current level. Being able to do 0 will be different than being able to do 1-2 will be different than being able to do 4-5.

      How about you get some tangible information for me and I can help you out better.

      Reply
    • @Such A New-b

      If i may, referring to your question 1, this is what i did when starting on Anthony’s program.

      I basically spend 2 weeks, to get a feel for the weights i can carry.

      1st week – 1st set i did with bar alone to get the feel of the whole exercise movement.
      Next 4 sets i would add or subtract the weights till i find the right weight to do the required reps.

      2nd week – Again the 1st set i did with bar alone to get the feel of the whole exercise movement.
      2nd set i use only half of the weight i last determined. (This is also a warm-up set to get the blood flowing)
      Next 3 sets i did the full weight i last determine.
      This 3 set is also for me to fine tune the weights, meaning if i realized it is too heavy or too light after all, i will add or subtract accordingly to finalized the weight.

      So this is what i basically did, & hope it can help you.

      Anthony, if what i wrote is out of line please remove it.

      Thanks

      Reply
      • Such A New-b March 17, 2013 4:58 am

        @ctrlaltdelq

        Thank u so much for that bit of info. That’s what I was lookin for, how to go about finding out how much weight to start with!

        So let me ask this. What would I do if the bar alone is too much weight? I hope it’s not but I’d rather be prepared with plan b.

        My info jus in case: fem, 38, 115-120 lbs, massage therapist.

        Thanks in advance

        Reply
        • You have to use a substitute exercise — likely with dumbbells — until you’re strong enough. Some gyms have lighter bars. Most don’t though.

          Reply
      • Other’s experience is never out of line. Thanks for the reply!

        Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Thanks again for replying my previous queries.

    Would appreciate greatly if you could also clarify on the higher reps range on most compound exercises particularly, (but not limited to), in the “intermediate program”

    Had in the impression that 5-8 or 6-8 rep range is ideal for muscle growth (hypertrophy).
    Which is good for skinny fat like us. Right?
    Or is my impression a misconception?

    Thanks man

    Reply
    • “You need to do two things to get stronger: add weight and do more reps.”

      The program above has it’s main exercises which are done in that rep range. But everything else is more of an assistance tone with the sound progression. My view points on training have since changed though. I still back the rationale of this program though, as adding weight to the bar (or reps) is still king.

      Reply
  • What about in terms of calorie-burning?

    If you hate doing cardio, and you can only restrict so many calories, it might be hard to get leaner off of doing 5×5 squats. You might need to do more work to burn more calories.

    Reply
    • There are three issues with this mindset.

      First, you aren’t going to burn much calories during aerobic work. Maybe 200-300.

      Second, you’re going to burn calories during demanding strength training.

      Third, the “calorie burning” mindset neglects what happens to the body internally. IE: Use muscle glycogen and the body gets better at storing muscle glycogen over time. So what happens if you continually use body fat for energy?

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Thanks again for replying my previous question.

    Hope you can clarify the following questions that has been bugging me:-

    1) The rep range for some of the compound exercises seems higher especially, but not limited to, the intermediate program (example – Incline Press, Back Squat, Romanian Deadlift & Barbell Row are all 8-12 reps)

    I had the impression that 5 – 8 reps are more ideal for muscle growth (hypertrophy).
    So that would be better for skinny fats like us, Right?
    Or is my understanding a misconception?

    2) Would your designed program for skinny fat be STILL AS EFFECTIVE, IF i were to switch all the dumbbell exercises to barbell instead?
    Example – Dumbbell Incline Press to Barbell Incline Press, Dumbbell Overhead Press to Barbell Overhead Press

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • You can certainly use a barbell, but you should vary the movements.

      So if you BB OP first in the workout, you’d pick a complimentary BB overheadish movement for the 2nd. Not just do lighter BB inclines.

      Reply
      • Hi Anthony,

        Please elaborate as i don’t quite understand your following statment:-

        “So if you BB OP first in the workout, you’d pick a complimentary BB overheadish movement for the 2nd. Not just do lighter BB inclines.”

        Thanks

        Reply
        • Don’t do

          Incline press for 5′s

          then

          Incline press for 12′s

          Do

          Incline presses for 5′s

          then

          another exercise for 12′s thats kinda like the first exercise

          Reply
  • So this is a basic 3 day split is this for clean bulking ? and do we add isolation exercises in the end ?

    Reply
    • The program is the program. You don’t add anything that isn’t there.

      It’s just a basic split. There’s no “specific” clean bulking routine. That comes down to nutrition, not training.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony

    It me again tun-tun-tuuuun. Lol

    So I thot I’d updat on my progress. I decided to woman up and go to the gym to explore and experiment. I’ve done 1 week of ur beginner workout plan. And I’m glad I did! I do have a few ?’s.

    1. U said to do inverted rows instead of chin-ups but they kinda seem like backward incline press’s. Are they similar?

    2. I’ve followed ur plan to a T (3×8, 4×6-8, etc.) with the same weight from beginning to end. When I start to increase the weight is it every set, or jus the last set? 2.a. And is it every time I do the exercise, even if I do it 2 times a week?

    3. The gym I go to doesn’t have a barbell, jus a curvy one, dumbbells and machines. The closest barbell they have is on the smith machine. Is that what I use for all barbell related exercises?

    Thank u so much for answering all my ?’s as best as u could I really appreciate it!!

    Thanks in Advance

    Reply
    • 1. What the hell is a backwards incline press? The row is a row. A press is a press.

      2. You don’t increase the weight until you climb the volume ladder. So you don’t add weight for a few weeks, you add reps.

      3. Switch gyms.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Is Rib-cage expansion possible? What are your thoughts on this?

    If possible, any exercises you would greatly recommend?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • I want to say yes, but my heart says no. I mean, a lot of the dudes of the older gen could do it, so perhaps there’s something to it. And they always recommended deep breathing pullovers, so that’s where I’d start.

      Reply
      • Hi Anthony,
        Regarding the Rib-cage expansion, if i am following your four day intermediate programme, which day should i incorporate the deep breathing pullovers & how many days?

        Thanks

        Reply
  • Thanks Anthony

    Reply
  • So do I follow the program and progress up to intermediate and being consistent on the training you provided plus eating clean will get me out of the skinny fat look?

    ps. I look just like you when you first started, just a weak skinny-fat.
    Great article by the way.

    Reply
  • Hi, i ve been in the beginner program for 6 weeks.
    Three questions
    1)Is there an alternative for deadlifts?, i Know you said it s the second most important but i think that s not the best for harmstring tightness. I ve tried them and the back of my legs hurts for two three days… I stretch quite often
    2)When you say chin ups you mean any kind of pull up or you say the one with supinated hands and a shoulder width grip?
    3)I can not squat much more than the barbell and few more because of my knee pain. Shoould i keep doing it or it s just too ligth? My lower body is full of issues
    Thanks!!

    Reply
    • 1) If you’re complaining about soreness, perhaps you don’t have what it takes. Man up. If it’s a serious problem, then fix the problem.

      2) Chin-ups, supinated. Pull-ups, pronated.

      3) Fix your knee pain, then squat. Squat in any way possible until then. Box, front, zercher, bulgarian — any methods that doesn’t cause pain, if possible. And if there is none, sub a deadlift.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    I am now at week 6 of your intermediate programme, training 4 days a week, following Mike Guadango’s 6 weeks progression.

    Now, would it be to early to take a 1 week break from training before starting week 1 again or should i continue on with the training.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Great article Anthony! Thanks for taking your time to write it and sharing it with us. I’ve read a bunch of your other articles and I really appreciate your dedication to educate our genetically unfortunate breed known as the “skinny-fats”.

    A little history on my journey so far. I started with the usual split routine for my first two months and then switched to a three day full body routine similar to your beginners for the following six months. After, I switched to a four day upper/lower routine similar to your intermediate routine which I’ve been doing for four months now. I’d like to start following the same rep scheme you recommend in this article.

    I have a question on what weight I should use? I find if I use a weight where I can get exactly 8 reps and fail after that I usually can’t get 8 reps again with the same weight on the next set. I usually lose a rep for each extra set I do with that certain weight. Do I lower the weight on each set to keep it at 8 reps or do I use one certain weight that I can get 8 reps on all sets?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • You want to complete every set with the prescribed reps. So you’ll likely have to drop down and build yourself into the program if you aren’t used to doing straight sets.

      Reply
  • ctrlaltdelq May 9, 2013 2:04 pm

    Hi Anthony,

    What’s your opinion regards to the Arnold press? Would it be acceptable to do that instead of the Dumbbell Overhead Press? Or i should just stick to Dumbbell Overhead Press?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • I’m curious why you chose 25 chins for the beginner routine. I’d think that would be a bit much, and possibly too taxing to be realistic considering the amount of weight you’re asking a beginner to move for just one exercise.

    Maybe I have poor recovery or/and endurance, but if I complete 25 chins (which takes me 5 sets, at least, because I’ll start at 8 reps but lose at least one if not two reps each additional set) then I’m pretty fried for the rest of the workout, and beyond.

    So I’m just wondering whether 25 chins is actually a good starting point (hell, plenty of beginners can barely do a single chin!), and what might be an alternative starting point for chins that would be challenging while not too taxing that it is potentially counter-productive?

    For example, is doing 5 sets of chins probably just too much for many/most beginners to strive for? If none of the lifts in the beginner workout call for more than 4 sets, does it not make sense to cap chins at 4, if not 3 sets?

    I do really want to improve my chin performance, and I’ve struggled to add more to what I can currently do, but I’m also wary of doing too much (I’m now in my 30s and recovering from workouts has been an issue in recent years when I lift heavy and rep ranges stray below 6).

    Reply
    • “beginner” is an ambiguous term, and one of the drawbacks of writing a mass program. The Skinny-Fat Solution dissects the movement from the ground up, and gives progression/volume based upon current abilities.

      As for it taking 5 sets to complete 25 reps, that’s totally fine and normal. Actually, I’d say that’s the perfect range for you.

      Maybe you want to just work sub-max and slowly add volume over time. Start with 5×5 and add one rep per week or something. I have a rule about chins: never to failure. Unless you want to burn out quick. (This is actually my universal rule.)

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply. I think the key for me might be in your last paragraph – not going to failure.

        I think the problem recently – with all my training possibly – is that I’ve gone to failure too often. For the first time in my life I was focusing on high intensity training (5 reps or less), often going to failure, and I’m thinking I just kept frying my CNS. I’m a classic skinny-fat – very thin-boned with 10-15 lbs around the middle to lose – and I think a moderate approach might be best.

        After several months off, I think this time around I’m really going to focus on the slow and steady wins the race approach.

        Thanks for the insight.

        Reply
        • No failure for me, at least. Just my opinion. Unless it happens out of no where, but that’s rare.

          Reply
      • Anthony, sorry but I have one more question if you don’t mind. Do you have a temporary alternative to the deadlift for a beginner program?

        I want to DL but 1) I’ve never learned the lift; 2) currently I don’t have the money to invest in a trainer for proper instruction; and 3) I have doubts as to whether I have the necessary flexibility at the moment.

        So do you suggest that I just suck it up, be cautious, and try to learn on my own, or might it be best that I try to substitute for the time being with something like rack pulls, RDLs, or something else, until my flexibility is such that I feel more comfortable giving it a go on my own?

        I’m tempted to go for it but at the same time I’m not especially enamored with the idea of injuring myself.

        Gracias

        Reply
        • If you can squat, you can deadlift. You can substitute it if you want, but I wouldn’t neglect it. You can learn on your own. Take videos, post them online. Read some stuff. Watch YouTube videos. Honestly, if you’re doing rack DLs you have just as good chance for injury as you still need a solid back angle and you’re probably handling MORE weight. Just my opinion.

          Reply
  • Hey Ant,

    Do you think a Reverse Pyramid Progression using the sample rep ranges would also be a viable option ( so for a 6-8 rep range exercise working up to a top set that 6 reps is almost failure and not increasing that weight until the upper rep range is achieve, in this case 8 reps) I’m sure I didn’t need to explain RPT to you but just in case others were curious.

    If RPT is alright, would you also do the “back off” sets reducing the weight by 10% and getting 1 or 2 more reps for a few sets?

    Thanks friend

    Reply
  • Great article!
    What are your thoughts about adding weight to dips and chins? I have a relative low bench, squat and dead, but I can do bodyweight stuff all day.

    Reply
  • Daniel Owens June 24, 2013 2:32 pm

    What do you think of the Rite of Passage in Enter the Kettlebell for beginners?

    Reply
  • Hey, i think the beginner routine is too much for me. Should i start with lower sets or with lower weight?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Hey Ant,

    Quick question – how would you go about adding in some gymnastics/oly lifting-ish movements to the intermediate program? I’ve always liked to dabble in these two as you do and would like to keep them in my training. I was thinking handstand / handstand push ups and planche / planche push ups in place of the DB OHP and incline. And perhaps high pulls instead of deadlifts and power cleans in the 4-6 rep range in place of bb or db rows. Also some l-sits and front levers at the end of lower body days for core work. Let me know what you think. I would do a mix of those two daily, but I feel like the 4 DAW approach might be better for bulking, especially with the chaos bulk. Plus getting to the gym everyday is a pain in the ass.

    Reply
    • Man, you’re essentially asking me to recreate the program hah. I will say this: tomorrow I release Myomutant Beta for a short time period. It will answer all of your questions, and I suggest you consider investing in it. If you aren’t on the acro-athletic list, get there.

      Reply
  • I’ve been following the beginner’s program for awhile now and I’ve been wanting to lose fat at the same time. I’m 6’1 193 at around 20% body fat. I did the program on less calories than my tdee for a month or so and then experimented and went to maintenance for two weeks and all of my lifts went up. Should I continue at maintenance if ultimately my goal is to get to 10-12% body fat?

    Reply
    • Your goal should be your goal. If you want to lose fat, you have to make sure you’re losing fat…

      Reply
  • Hey man, good read!

    Interested in starting the beginner’s program you have listed. I’m a skinny-fat ectomorph, 22, vegetarian. I have been f’cking around in the gym since 17. But I have a question…what if I can’t do chin ups? I mean no matter what, I do not know why, I have never been able to do a chin-up, that is…without assistance. I look ridiculous trying. Should I stick to lat pull downs, maybe until I can lift my body weight, then try chin ups?

    Reply
    • First, I don’t really help vegetarians because I don’t know how to adjust training based on nutrition.

      Second, you have to develop the strength. That can be done many ways. Negatives. Pull-up machine. Inverted rows. Pull downs.

      Reply
  • So for the exercises that don’t have a rep range, like barbell curls (which is written as 2×15 in the beginner program), will weight be added weekly (as opposed to increasing rep size) ?

    Reply
  • Man awesome article Anthony just as all ways , but This may be a silly question
    but what should a Skinny fat do when he doesn’t have access to or enough room for some of these exercises ? Chin ups especially My house is dreadfully small but I’ve got all the dedication
    in the world to do This , I’ve just run out of ideas on ways to do these exercises with what I got .

    Reply
    • You buy a chin-up bar (or door frame one) and get to work. You walk or jog to a local park with monkey bars and get to work. You find a way to get to a gym and get to work. If you’re asking this, I question your supposed dedication. You can always get things done. Hopefully this lights the path for how, and you can use your dedication for the good of mankind.

      Reply
  • Shivendra Rana November 14, 2013 6:20 am

    After the beginner’s program you have mentioned ‘For all exercises do at least five sets, including warm-up sets’ does this also apply to the intermediate program? If so how would I do warm up sets on the dips and back extension exercises?

    Reply
  • So I started your beginners program a few months back but had to stop blah blah blah, now I’m back at it. I started your beginners program again a few weeks ago but I’m not exactly sure how the progression goes. I did change it up a bit, the sets and reps, to follow the Getting Jacked For Dummies progression. I thought it would be easier to follow but I’m still lost. Guess I’m a bigger dummy than I thought. Anyway how do I progress when I’m only doing the major exercises once a week? I hope u can still help me out even though that’s not how u wrote the program, please!

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Step one: do something easy.
      Step two: next time, do just a little bit more than last time.

      I don’t know what else to give you that isn’t written there.

      Reply
      • My apologies…

        So I add 2 reps to the major lifts each week for 3 weeks then start with 8 reps again while adding another set until I reach 5×12? Even if I only do those exercises once a week?

        I swear I’m not trying to drive u crazy!

        Thank u

        Reply
        • Like this:

          100 lbs 3 x 8
          100 lbs 3 x 10
          100 lbs 3 x 12
          100 lbs 4 x 8
          100 lbs 4 x 10
          100 lbs 4 x 12 …………….

          Reply
          • I must be the biggest dummy alive! After your last response I went back and reread it and there it was in black n white. Don’t know how I missed it. I’ve read it numerous times, just like I read yours numerous times. How embarrassing. I think I’ll read them a few more times before I ask another stupid question.

            I greatly appreciate you taking the time to respond to all my stupid questions!

            I also think it’s cool that even though you posted this over a year and a half ago you still answer peoples questions in a timely manner, much respect for that!

          • You’re welcome.

  • Hello Anthony,

    Thanks for awesome posts here. I’m new to your site. I have a question concerning the strength training protocol recommended for a typical skinny fat sufferer like myself. Is the Reverse Pyramid (RPM) protocol suitable for us or we are best served with something else. From what I gather, RPM mainly dabbles with max weight to lift for the 1st set with the other set weights dropping off accordingly so the progression rests with adding weights successively. I’m just confused with the optimal type of progression to target for a skinny fat sufferer? Hope I can have some pointers from you man and many thanks!

    Reply
    • Anything that helps you make progress. RPT is fine, as are many other methods. There is no “optimal” progress, just best for you at a particular time. Whatever you think you’d enjoy that also has you getting better, use.

      Reply
  • Can I replace Front Squats on Friday’s workout session with Back Squats? Or will I be missing out on something?

    Reply
    • You’ll be missing out on the fact that front squats are hard, and in that respect you’re missing out on pushing through the suck. To answer your question it would depend on WHY you want to switch.

      Reply
  • On the starting weights for the intermediate program. For example: 3×8, 3×10 then 3×12 on the third week.

    For the first week (3×8), is the starting weight your 8RM or your 12RM max?

    P.S. Dragonball GT never happened

    Reply
    • Whatever weight you want it to be so long as you aren’t busting an adrenal on the 3×8. Little room for improvement, but not a push over.

      Reply
  • I’ve been following your guides for 3 weeks now and I’m already seeing great results. I’m having trouble with my squat though and was wondering if I can get some advise? I’m 6 foot 3 and I squat decent weight but cant reach parallel. When I use smith press I get almost perfect but can barley do any weight. Which one should I keep doing? Thank you.

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    I am a female with a skinny-fat shape. The rest of me is skinny but I have an alarming amount of fat on my stomach and waist. I would like to bulk out my legs and butt more, whilst loosing the fat.

    Would you recommend I do a more ‘legs’ focused workout or can I still follow the program you listed above to achieve these goals?

    Thanks,
    Jini

    Reply
    • I don’t think you should try to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, as it usually doesn’t end well. It happens sometimes, but generally haphazardly and surprisingly.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    I am a female, quite skinny with most of my body fat on my stomach and waist. I am naturally top heavy & would ideally like to build muscle on my legs, would I need a different set of excersises to what you’ve detailed above?

    Thanks
    Jini

    Reply
    • This is not a buns’ n’ thighs’ focused routine. If that’s what you want, then you should get specific in that area. Do more leg stuff. Hip thrusts. Etc.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony, I was wondering what you think of the beach body, body beast routine? It largely consists of dropsets and progressive sets 15, 12, 8, 8, 12, 15 and some timed sets like counting 6 secs eccentric and concentric. I get some awesome pumps with it but after an hour my arms, shoulders etc as just as bony as ever.

    I’ve been doing this programme for almost a year with some recorded strength gains but no noticeable mass. Started at 10.5 stone, now 11 stone but I think that could be fat around my belly due to calorie intake.

    I am 6.2 foot,
    11 stone,
    30 years old,
    3200 calories per day,
    No white flour or refine sugars,
    25% protein, 25% fats, 50% carbs

    I completed p90x before this which got me in good shape but very slim

    Reply
    • I don’t know of that routine, but I can tell you by the title one thing: I hate it already and wouldn’t do it.

      Reply
  • Matthew Nall April 28, 2014 6:15 pm

    Awesome article! I wanted to ask what your thoughts are regarding German Volume Training. I am thinking of using this when I go on more of a muscle-adding phase and was wondering if it would be worth considering.

    Also, how many HIIT sessions would you recommend each week throughout the continuation of a cutting phase vs. the muscle gain phase?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • GVT is for someone ready to eat and eat to support their training. It’s not for those skinny-fat, nor do I think it’s ideal for anyone skinny-fat UNTIL they reach a point where they aren’t prone to fat gain. (IE: outside of the immediate period post fat loss).

      Two HIIT. Three max.

      No HIIT during muscle.

      Reply
  • I’d like to start by saying great article; it’s like this article was written perfectly for me and every other skinny fat person out there… However, I got 2 questions:

    1) Can I replace Hip Thrusts with HyperExtensions?
    2) Can I do steady state cardio on a treadmill after workout sessions instead of farmers walks/sprints?

    Reply
    • 1) Sure. Do them weighted, progress them. Don’t just mope around.
      2) I usually recommend both, but yeah if you need to make the swap i’d rather have you moving than rotting away into your couch.

      Reply
  • Can I replace the Incline Press with Flat Dumbbell Bench Press? Or would I be missing out on something? Btw this was a great read, you pretty much described me lol

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Next Post:

Previous Post: