Skinny-Fatness, Hardgainers, and High Frequency Training

You've surely heard the term “hardgainer” before.

Hardgainers have a difficult time gaining weight and making progress in the gym.

The prescription for their problem is almost always to train less frequently and to eat more food.

OK. I kinda get that. It kinda makes sense.


But the big question?

Are skinny-fat ectomorphs “hard gainers?”


From the beginning of my days, I've been telling skinny-fat ectomorphs that they should probably do some isolation exercises and include some higher repetition work into their training program. (And by that I mean 8ish reps.) See my evidence: Solutions for the Skinny-Fat Ectomorph Part III.

My rationale for such is that skinny-fat ectomorphs are “hardgainers” of muscle. But they aren't “hardgainers” of fat. 

The hardgainer prototype is a skinny guy that has trouble gaining weight. Period.

Hardgainers certainly exist. One of my readers flummoxed me when he asked if I had any suggestions for gaining weight. I told him to eat more (naturally), but he was already downing 7000 calories daily. Now that is a true hardgainer — someone that can't gain anything, be it muscle or fat.

So skinny-fat guys and gals aren't really hardgainers in that sense because they “gain” something rather easily. It just too bad that “something” happens to be fat. It's not so much that the body can't utilize and store extra calories (as a true hardgainer), it's just that the body doesn't store and utilize the extra calories in the name of muscle and looking “teh sexiness” naked.

This is a problem of partitioning, a concept that is touched on in Solutions for the Skinny-Fat Ectomorph Part IV. Needless to say, there's a bunch of factors that effect partitioning, all of which are explained in the upcoming skinny-fat resource I'm busting my tail to finish.

In the mean time, I wanted to talk about a “hunch” I have. This isn't something to be found in any research paper, so keep that in mind. It's a meandering thought backed up by my personal experience. But it must just cure your skinny-fatness.


The thing about skinny-fatness is that it never really goes away. Sure, I look a hell of a lot better than I used to. But the genetic factors that effect partitioning aren't really malleable. “Fixing” it is done through training and diet. This means anytime your training or diet slips, the skinny-fat shell gets exposed. (Increased fat accumulation in the lower chest, love handles, etc…).

The generalized advice to fix partitioning is to get stronger and eat more wholesome foods. But think it goes much deeper than that (probably why the resource I'm creating is already over 100 pages), specifically with training.

Typically, skinny-fat peeps' terrible genetics default their recovery capacity to, well, shady at best. This means they're often handed the typical hardgainer recommendation of training more intensely with less frequency.

The first problem with this, as we now know, is that skinny-fat ectomorphs aren't typical hardgainers. The second problem is that a generalization like this neglects the subtleties of stress and recovery.


I get a lot of question about my eleventh tip in the very first article I wrote on skinny-fatness.

11. Every. Damn. Day

I'm going to end on a crapshoot. Some skinny fats are soft because they're babied. From a biological standpoint, having muscle is an artifact of living a lifestyle that demands its creation. So it may be worthwhile to try training every day to provide a signal to the body that being a skinny fat just isn't going to cut it.

What? Is this blasphemy!? Train more ? How can that be? Isn't recovery an issue? How can training more be better?

Calm down. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Patrick Henry once said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” For whatever reason, I like the tone of this quote and I usually translate it into an athletic fitness ultimatum that goes something like, “Give me intensity or give me frequency.”

It's gotta' be one or the other. Can't be both unless you're a hand selected survivor of intense systems like the Soviet and Bulgarian athletes of the 70's. In other words: can't be both unless you're an Olympic caliber athlete.

Out of fear of underrecovery, this usually means skinny-fat people are told to train less frequently. But to understand why this might be a mistake, you have to go back to the premise of stress and recovery. Although this was touched on in Solutions for the Skinny Fat-Ectomorph Part I, I expanded on this concept in the resource I'm working on to make it clearer as it's the overriding tenant of training.

Basically, the body is nothing more than an adaptation from the signals it's receives from the environment. Keep in mind you're responsible for these “signals.” You choose what your body gets exposed to. Those 12 beers on Saturday? Yeah, your fault. (Forgiven if they were Guinness. Or Dragon's Milk.)

I'll repeat what I said before:

From a biological standpoint, having muscle is an artifact of living a lifestyle that demands its creation.

The more frequently you signal for the necessity of having muscle, being strong, and living lean, the better your chances are of  having muscle, being strong, and living lean. You just have to make sure you don't exceed your capacity to recover from the signals. So more is better unless more means a failure to adapt.

Think of it like a suntan. The more time you're in the sun, the more potential you have for tanning. You won't necessarily burn (overtrain) from high frequency unless you combine it with high intensity. If you're pale as sin, you have less leeway between the two (frequency and intensity).

Skinny-fats are the “pale” people of the training world, so teetering between the two has to be done diligently.

Now, let's compare training philosophies.

  • More frequent training sends signals more frequently, albeit at a lesser intensity. (It has to be of a lesser intensity. Remember Patrick Henry?)
  • Low frequency training send signals less frequently, albeit it at a higher intensity.

But should people with pale skin crisp in the sun for three hours straight a few days per week? Or should they use shorter, more frequent, less intense exposures?


High frequency sounds great, right? Skinny-fat ectomorphs, however, simply aren't strong enough to warrant frequent training. PLP and The 40 Day Program are for people that are kind of already “strong enough.” Personally, I don't think anyone should think about running The 40 Day Program until 60% of their 1RM for their big posterior chain movement (deadlift, for instance) is 225 lbs.

When you aren't “strong enough,” the signal simply isn't intense enough to produce a worthwhile adaptation. Going with the suntan analogy, strength is the sun's brightness.

  • Being strong is like having a high and bright sun in the sky. Under these circumstances, shorter, smaller, and frequent exposures can work.
  • Being weak is like having a bunch of cloud coverage. Shorter, smaller, and frequent exposures are all for naught. In this case, a longer duration would work better.

Therefore, skinny-fat people need to gain a baseline level of strength. Using a high frequency program to gain that level usually doesn't work because most high frequency programs aren't systematic in their progression. They're often used by advanced lifters because they know how to go by “feel.” Because of this, I don't like high frequency barbell training for anyone that is better off served on a more deliberate beginner progression.

I guess it's a good thing I advocate training methods that extend beyond the barbell.


I put a huge stock on bodyweight exercises. Huge. Back in February, when my little cousin started training under me, I told him he was going to hate to love chin-ups. (When he saw his arms growing, true love happened.) In a few months he went from doing three reps to eight reps per set, and he went from doing one tough-as-nails dip to ten dips per set. Progress was slow, but deliberate.

In my opinion, the chin-up is the master skinny-fat lift. You must get good at it. Must. Being good at chins represents all things anti-skinny-fat — precisely why we start out so bad at them.

Getting good at them means having a “decent” body composition and pretty good relative strength. The exercise itself sends all of the right signals. And remember: we want those signals sent as often as possible.

The chin-up, being a body weight exercise, is much easier to recover from than most barbell exercises. Since it's the skinny-fat antitheses, it's the prime candidate for high frequency training.

But, as usual, there's a problem. Skinny-fat ectormophs can usually only pull off one or two chin-ups (if not zero). Remember the whole brightness spiel above? Yeah, this is a problem.

Jumping into a high frequency program — even though that's the ultimate goal — at a sub-par strength level is suicide. Not only will your progression be derailed, but you will likely end up with elbow problems because the tissues simply aren't yet adapted enough.


While I can't back this up with any study, I'm willing to bet a lot of my progress to this point has come from doing chin-ups at a terribly high frequency. I do them every day I train during my warm-up.

The warm up is the workout. I never touch a barbell before doing a basic dynamic warm up, thirty chins, push-ups, squats, and copious jumping jacks. Yes, even on lower body days.

Beast Mode Training

Hell, I even do some on my off days. In my mind, they are that important for someone that's skinny-fat, especially when done at a high frequency. You want those delicious signals being sent as often as possible. You want to them to demand the creation of muscle and the necessity of less excess body-fat. So here's the plan:

1) Follow a program that yields slow and steady progress until you can do five or six chin-ups. This is not a high frequency program. (Yes, one will be included in the resource.)

2) You might as well throw push-ups into this mix too, so try to hit ten or twenty of those in one set. Honestly, dips would be a better choice as they are sister to chin-ups (with the entire body weight supported by the hands and all). But this could be a conflict of interest for a skinny-fat with a sub-par upper chest. For those kind of woes, check out The Best Damn Guide to Upper Chest Size and Strength.

Until you have the strength for the above two things, you simply don't have the strength to warrant high frequency training. Diving into it will likely derail your progress, and zap your recovery for a more deliberate progression.

After you can bang out a few reps though, consider the following options:

1) Do a few “grooved” sets as a warm-up. As I mentioned, I always do at least ten chin-ups for a warm-up. Sometimes it's twenty. Others, thirty. But never less than ten. No set is overly exhaustive either. You shouldn't kill yourself. So if you can do five, do one or two sets of two. Pretty soon, those two reps are going to feel pretty easy. When that happens, go for three. You get the idea.

2) Try greasing the groove. Set up an Iron/Door Gym and simply do one or two repetitions every time you walk in and out of the room or something silly like that.

3) Do a high frequency program that actually gets you stronger. This is the preferred technique. There are many out there, like Pavel's Fighter Pull-Up Routine for example.

All in all, just do something that equates to practice. For instance, after toying around on gymnastics rings, I found out just how bad my dipping strength was. So almost every day I'm just going in and doing something — not really to overly tax myself, but just enough to simply “get better” at them. That's what this high frequency is about — getting better through frequent “practice.”


There's often talk about progressive overload being the most important aspect of training. Most of us equate progressive overload, however, with either more weight on the bar or with more reps.

But simply doing “more” also is progressive overload. Consider adding one “easy” set of three chin-ups to your warm-up that's done four days per week. That's an extra 12 chin-ups per week, 48 chin-ups per month, and 576 chin-ups per year.

Now, consider not doing that warm-up. That's 0 reps.

576 reps.

0 reps.

That's progressive overload too.

So why is this ideal for a hardgainer of muscle?

Because more frequent, less intense training is easier to recover from, which is ideal for the limited recovery capacity of a typical hardgainer. You're also sending more signals more frequently to the body that demand the creation of muscle — you're essentially beating the fatness out of the skinny-fat because it's a constant hint for awesome relative strength.

Just know that there's a fine line to be walked. Upping the frequency without proper care can lead to tendonitis and other nasty problems. As with the suntan, unguided exposure will probably leave you burned.

So save the barbell stuff for those strong enough to worry about it. Chances are, that's not quite you yet. But once you hit the tipping point for some body weight exercises, consider a program that hinges progress on a high frequency. The results will surprise you.


Have any experience with high frequency training? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

P.S. Anfernee Hardaway was my favorite basketball player growing up. I love that jersey. I've probably had it since I was ten.



Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alex September 17, 2012, 5:05 am

    High frequency training, in the endurance world, is what allows for those harder sessions. Without the aerobic and muscoskeletal base, you can’t handle the harder paces needed to hammer out a decent interval session, and certainly not tempo runs or longer races. I think it’s possible that something similar is at work here. That is, you have to get the system used to performing consistently before you can ask it to perform especially hard.

    • Anthony September 18, 2012, 1:28 pm

      Alex, yeah, a boss aerobic system does allow for better recovery — an often underlooked aspect of aerobic training.

  • Siddharta September 17, 2012, 11:43 am

    1) What type of chin-up? Parallel grip? Wide? Close? Pull-up?
    2) I can do around 12 in one set, around 40, working my way up to 50 in 4-5 sets. What then? Should I add weight, or keep working on high reps?

    • Anthony September 18, 2012, 1:32 pm

      If you can do neutral grip, do neutral. If not, rotate between chin-ups and pull-ups.

      But I think you missed the point of the article. It’s about upping the frequency more so than absolute potential. Simply do ten every day somehow.

      • Siddharta September 26, 2012, 3:44 pm

        I’m doing the PAP program, so I certainly will do them everyday. And sorry for another silly question: neutral grip shoulder width or wider?
        Thanks, your posts and your reply help a lot.

        • Anthony October 1, 2012, 12:33 pm

          I like neutral grip shoulder width. Your elbows will thanks you.

          • Siddharta October 1, 2012, 2:17 pm

            Thank you so much for your help, patience, and availability. You rock.

          • Anthony October 5, 2012, 1:08 am

            Thanks. Really appreciate that. I try my hardest.

  • Nick September 18, 2012, 10:57 am

    Hey Anthony, another great article mate, and I’m looking forward to your skinny fat resource. Keep up the good work.

    • Anthony September 18, 2012, 1:32 pm

      Thanks Nick.

  • Drew September 18, 2012, 1:43 pm

    Awesome article. I’m not skinny-fat (just skinny, a typical hardgainer) but hearing your logic and reason applied to training is so refreshing and awesome. Keep up the good work.

    • Anthony September 19, 2012, 12:04 pm

      Thanks Drew.

  • Alexander September 18, 2012, 11:07 pm

    This is excellent Anthony! One thing that really stands out is the concepts of training intensity vs training frequency. I think physiologically people have different adaptive responses to the same stimulus. With hard gainers and skinny fats, the working answer is always “train harder, train less, recover more”. But this doesn’t take into account adaptive response. What if MORE training is needed to elicit adaptive response?

    Yours is the first serious examination Ive seen of this, I can’t wait to see what you have in store

    • Anthony September 19, 2012, 12:05 pm

      There are a few others that preach high frequency with high tension exercises that are easier to recover from. Just so happened to put it to practice and share my experience.

  • Traindom September 19, 2012, 1:10 am

    “576 reps.
    0 reps.
    That’s progressive overload too.”

    I really liked this bit. Subtle, powerful stuff. It’s not as immediately recognized as the more obvious kinds of progressive overload are. It’s so counterintuitive, I love it. These are bits that I really really like. The ones that challenge common knowledge. I love seeing things I didn’t before. Thanks! Keep them coming!

    Also, you’ve inspired me to indulge in a little bit of physical hygiene, as you once put it, lol. It’s one of those things that I’m like, “Why the hell not? Sounds good!” Actually, I think that performing pistol squats daily might be give me the chance I need to correct my form and hopefully ingrain a better motor pattern (I think I’m using this phrase right, feel free to correct me if necessary, lol). The balance aspect of my left leg pistol squat is a little off. I have a tendency to fall to the side. It’s weird, but, oh well.

    I am curious, though. You once wrote that high frequency training was good as a shock and had the potential to be overdone as the body would get used to it. Does that still apply here? It sounds like your perspective has shifted somewhat here.

    But I have to say, it’s really interesting to see how your perspective on this topic has evolved. I remember when you would write about how sending frequent signals could be a way to being lean and muscled.

    I did enjoy high frequency training. The PLP program was very refreshing. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was going to be a pain, but I would always feel damn good. I think the word I’m looking for is “capable.” It also gave me a lot of confidence because I would indulge in more and more volume as time went on. I think high frequency bodyweight programs could be hitting two birds with one stone here: training and confidence. It’s equally important to sculpt one’s mindset and progressively increase one’s expectations. I think these programs would be a good first step with that after one is able to meet those two strength requirements you wrote about.

    • Anthony September 19, 2012, 12:07 pm

      I think high frequency BARBELL training should be rotated through. But something like bodyweight exercises can be done fairly regularly. There really is no goal with them, it’s just to accumulate more and more over time. Whereas barbells tend to need a bit more direction. High frequency CAN work, but perhaps only for those smart enough to balance progression, frequency, and intensity.

      • Traindom September 20, 2012, 1:05 am

        I see. Thanks for replying!

  • Jeremy Smith September 19, 2012, 12:33 pm

    Another solid article Anthony. I know quite a few people who would really benefit from taking action on the content you put out. When I was younger, every time I was heading up or down my spiral staircase, I would head underneath, grip onto one of the stairs and rip out a few pullups. This may have been me understanding the concept of high frequency, low intensity training at a young age…or perhaps me being a punk 14 year old trying to get big for the ladies 😉
    Looking forward to the massive skinny fat resource coming up!
    Penny FTW!

  • brett September 19, 2012, 7:54 pm

    Congrats on another great article in the “skinny-fat” series. Lots of good info in them…thanks!

    I have done Chad Waterbury’s PLP and another of his HFT programs. On the other one you did as many reps as possible, for a few sets, of a couple exercises (I did push-ups and chins) 5-6 days per week. You did this for a month. Both programs were enjoyable. Of course, w/ PLP I added a rep per day. On the other program I gained and lost reps through the month, but ended up gaining reps by the end of the month. I guess since I gained reps by the end of the month something was working even though I was going to the edge on each set. I did not keep up w/ it after a month, so do not know if it would have been good for muscle gain or if it would be a sustainable program. I did like pushing for reps even though it might not be the best way for me to train skinny-fat wise

    I thought you might be interested in this site. The guy trains Tom Hardy of Bronson, Warrior, and Batman fame. His training philosophy is HFT w/o training to failure. What you wrote above,

    “So why is this ideal for a hardgainer of muscle?
    Because more frequent, less intense training is easier to recover from, which is ideal for the limited recovery capacity of a typical hardgainer. You’re also sending more signals more frequently to the body that demand the creation of muscle — you’re essentially beating the fatness out of the skinny-fat because it’s a constant hint for awesome relative strength.”

    reminded me of him:

    Thanks for all the great info.

    P.S. My daughter’s knee keeps popping out of place. The doc said it is because of age related hormones causing her tendons/ligaments to loosen. Do you think the info in your knee book would be helpful to her?

    • Anthony September 20, 2012, 1:21 am

      Thanks for the reply!

      The book is mainly for chronic issues, not so much knees that pop out of place. It might help take slack off the knee, but I’m not so sure it would fix that specific issue.

    • Naomi Most September 24, 2012, 7:50 pm

      Brett, I am not all that familiar with Anthony’s materials (this is the first article I’ve read by him, in fact), but I wanted to comment on your daughter’s issue, because I specialize in understanding how hormone surges affect women’s bodies.

      You didn’t say what age she is, but if she’s just gone through puberty, then what your doctor says is true — there are hormones circulating that are allowing her joints a lot more flexibility than any of the boys in her age group. The ligaments are loosening to allow the widening of her hips.

      Girls absolutely benefit from strength training, building good muscle around joints and especially the spine. It’s a shame that weight training is generally a feature only of boys’ PE (if at all), because there are huge drawbacks to girls not being encouraged to engage in feats of strength.

      Far more women than men end up with scoliosis to some degree and this is generally because without regular resistance training, the spine can permanently jut to one side during puberty if there is not good muscle around it. This doesn’t happen in boys because they don’t get the hormonally induced ligament flexibility.

      I’m not a knee expert, but my hunch (as Anthony here would probably say) is that building good strong muscle around the joint couldn’t hurt and could probably help a lot, whether right now or years from now after her ligaments have settled down again.

      • Anthony September 25, 2012, 10:15 pm

        Thanks for chiming in, Naomi!

  • Eddie September 20, 2012, 5:23 am

    Several months ago I could not do not one single chinup; I did not realize the importance of this exercise prior to that time. Having come to my senses, I went to the store and purchased an Iron Gym. Set it up, tried to complete one and…nothing.

    I did this for a few days to no avail and decided to do some research in progressing. I tried doing negatives, holds, etc but I was too impatient about it (ironically enough I’m one of the most patient people you’ll ever meet) and decided to go all out failure for 100 deadhang partial reps with “controlled” contractions and releases.

    Once I started my new plan I pulled myself as high as I could, which was really a miniscule movement, on every rep. I started with standard grip chinup, then standard grip pullup, close grip chinup, close grip pullup, neutral (parallel) grip and finally wide grip pullup. The total was 102 pulls with variations; one variation right after the next, one minute break between each set of six, 17 times.

    My arms were sore for a whole week but when I recovered, I got on that bar again and was able to muster enough strength for one single chinup. Now I can do 10 deadhangs without letting go. I should be able to do more by now but I was concentrating on full body workouts in a day (I currently do upper and lower two day splits for frequency since I *think* I have a decent foundation now) and if I fixated myself on pulls I probably wouldn’t have had the energy to evenly workout the rest of my body. I was a weakling from head to toe… I’m a skinnyfat.

    • Anthony September 22, 2012, 1:43 am

      Awesome story, Eddie. Keep on trucking. Anyone with the will to do 100 pull-ups has what it takes in this old fitness world.

      • Eddie September 22, 2012, 6:27 am

        Thanks for your words of encouragement. I haven’t and won’t make the mistake of working out to failure any more, haha. But it was a good lesson to learn.

        • Anthony September 25, 2012, 10:06 pm

          Failure is overrated.

  • Jason September 20, 2012, 11:34 am

    I LOVE ANTHONY!!! XP Also just a quick statement. Im hitting around 5-6 chins per set now but my pull-ups is horrendous hehe. at 3 per set after my 1st set of 5. Anyways just saying. Thanks also for answering Siddharta because i thought we actually just do neutral grip chins and chins. Keep up do good work mate, and i know im gonna love the further series.

    • Anthony September 22, 2012, 1:44 am

      Thanks Jason. Pull-ups will always be a little behind chins for most people, so don’t worry about that.

  • Toby September 20, 2012, 1:24 pm

    This definitely rings true for me. I was going through a period of frustration, so took on DJ’s 40 Day Challenge along with the PLP. I was incline benching and doing handstand pushups every day. I am not very strong. Now two months later I am dealing with a shoulder impingement that seems to be taking an age to recover from. Basically I hit too much too soon, and now cannot do any upper body work while it heals. So learning to restrain yourself and allow your body to adapt to a higher frequency of training is definitely solid advice for those who are not yet blessed with supreme strength or the ‘armour’ that extra muscle provides.

    • Anthony September 22, 2012, 1:45 am

      Yeah, it’s definitely something that has to be approached with care. I’m not sure rest will cure a shoulder impingement though. What are you doing for it?

      • Toby September 22, 2012, 8:09 am

        Not true rest…but rest from pressing. Lots of stretching, soft tissue work and a ton of band pullaparts. Progress is slow. Any suggestions welcome Anthony!

        • Anthony September 25, 2012, 10:08 pm

          Fixing an impingement, outside of calming down any inflammation, is more about fixing technique so it doesn’t happen. So I’d have to see things.

  • Dale September 21, 2012, 5:13 pm

    Anthony –
    I think I’m starting to get the hint on HFT. Question: how would this accord with, say, planche and front lever progressions ? I do find them arduous and that I need my recovery. Would HFT look more like throwing in some pullups and dips off-days ? I must confess that I’ve feared that even that might impede recovery. Perhaps start VERY gingerly ?

    • Anthony September 22, 2012, 1:46 am

      Yeah. Can be as simple as doing one “easy” set every day. At the beginning they will hinder recovery, but as with all things, the body adapts and lower intensity things can actually promote recovery in the long run.

  • Rodzilla (@RodzillaReviews) September 22, 2012, 11:37 am

    Great article. The training/tanning analogy was particularly good. The only exceptions I’ve seen that can go about train or tan however they want and still get similar results are black athletes.

    Real question though – this is a protocol for the skinny-fat type, but also hardgainers in general. Are there any major changes you would make to the training itself for either group?

    • Anthony September 25, 2012, 10:09 pm

      Depends. If the hardgainer tends to be one of the stronger, more muscled types then you can be a bit more aggressive with the training.

  • Rajat Desikan September 25, 2012, 2:54 pm

    Hi Anthony,
    Excellent article. Love the concept.
    Thanks to your ‘Best warmup’ article, I have included daily pushups as a part of my warmup regime. And I am experiencing the benefits from it, specifically growth in that sweet spot below my shoulder blades and delts.
    Excellent work. I am eagerly awaiting your skinny fat resource. Work hard and make it your best work yet. I hope it turns out to be a masterpiece.
    I am backpacking through Europe with my brother (in Rome right now). I saw a painting in the Louvre, which might be the earliest recorded painting of a muscular nude chap (probably a god from olympus) performing a trick. I will send a pic of it to you as soon as I get home.

    • Anthony September 25, 2012, 10:16 pm

      Hah, awesome! Yes, send me it definitely.

  • brett September 26, 2012, 12:38 am



  • Mercury October 1, 2012, 8:26 pm

    I’m not “skinny-fat”, I don’t gain too much muscle mass or fat but I know I can damn well gain strength, and as a non-bodybuilder I consider this a blessing

    • Anthony October 5, 2012, 1:09 am

      Yeah, being good at “something” is better than nothing. And strength certainly helps most people out.

  • Jonathan October 8, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Anthony, this article was truly inspiring to me, impelling me to face one of my deepest and humbling weaknesses: the bar. Negatives, here I go! I already passed from 0 to 1 chinup, I believe as a consequence of my gripper plate swings (cool substitute to kettlebells).
    Do you think that BW squats do some good to body recomposition of skinny-fats? I heard they can at least aid in fat loss, especially “greased the groove” through the day the same manner as chinups (20 reps at a time, for example). With all the fuss about the value of barbell squats, curious to know how the BW stands. I can tell that 20-40 BW squats seen pretty hard to me!

    • Anthony October 9, 2012, 1:40 pm

      They burn calories, but won’t do much in terms of muscle growth outside of small initial burst if you’re relatively untrained.

      There’s a fine line between intensity, volume, and muscle growth. Perhaps it’s time for a post on this.

  • Dale October 11, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Anthony –
    Quick followup if I might: as I understand it, your recommendation for HFT is: (A) get strong (B) then add in extra days.

    Question: do you hold that HFT is so critical, for the skinny-fat, that higher-intensity days should be dialed back, so as to allow for HFT (while staving off repetitive strain injuries) ?

    Where I’m at: I’m in the strong category. I can do-say, 10 or more pullups. However, I find that the mere inclusion of a, say, five-rep set the next day, has my soft tissue sending me angry texts.

    • Anthony October 12, 2012, 12:59 pm

      Well it depends on how intensively you’re used to training. I’m not a big training-to-failure guy. But you can keep the intensity in mind. So if you do weighted chin-ups, the next day can be maybe a few sets of one rep to encourage blood flow and stretch the tissues. This can get you used to doing something on that normal off day.

      So if you’re used to blowing your load, it can be tough. You can also do something like an inverted row or a substitute which will help your body adapt to the extra workload at first.

  • Fotis October 23, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Kinda late for the party but Anthony,have you read Chad’s new book,High Frequency Training? Great principles and so many tips for every muscle group

    For lats and chest he uses lots of chin ups and push ups and I though of you when I read it 😉

    Great article,so original!

    • Anthony October 25, 2012, 1:53 am

      Fotis, welcome and hello my friend! Yes, I’m familiar with Chad’s work. We just chatted over e-mail a bit. Good man.

  • Kyle March 8, 2013, 7:33 pm

    Love this sight, I am the perfect definition of skinny-fat. I have been trying traditional bodybuilding for the last 1.5 years and gained tons of fat but significant strength gains. I can’t seem to find something to tell me body to grow… I have done A TON of research on Hypertrophy Specific Training. How do you feel about this?

    • Anthony March 11, 2013, 2:00 pm

      Not a huge fan of most splits, but it’s better than a lot of stuff out there.

  • Jonathan April 6, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Starting with 1 in October 8, I bought an Iron Gym and now I can do 10 chin-ups! It’s funny how the process is more or less linear and subtle – I thought I was not going so fast out of 5, for example. Now I look at how many months actually passed and stand amazed. I have to thank you for that.

    I’m thinking now, as you suggested, in swith to a more strenght oriented plan – Considering Armstrong, along with 70-100 push-ups a day. But I have doubts about the way to combine this with the gym: I could do the beginner workout in Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part III, for example, or maybe 242, without burning out? Perhaps trading rows for chins. As long as set schemes goes, because of my personality and available time, I am more inclined towards something in the RPT side, without total failure however.

    Looking forward for the skinny-fat resource. There is already an estimated date?

    • Anthony April 7, 2013, 11:02 pm

      One to two weeks on the Skinny-Fat Resource.

      As for your question, not sure I understand. What makes you think you’re going to burn out?

      • Jonathan April 7, 2013, 11:13 pm

        Oh, because of the high frequency daily component of Armstrong (and the pushups). I can´t understand yet how this relates to the component of rest needed for the less frequently programs in the gym.

        • Anthony April 8, 2013, 2:45 pm

          I don’t know what Armstrong is, so perhaps that’s the issue.

  • Jonathan April 8, 2013, 2:49 pm

    Sorry, it´s a program of pullups… But the question is equally valid for The Fighter Pullup, for example. But, yes, perhaps is a silly question. I will stick to my program and trade chins for rows.

  • Jonathan April 17, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Congratulations for the Skinny-Fat Solution! I´m sure it is awesome.
    I remembered you yesterday, when I see this transformation:

    Check it out if you have the time. It´s the most detailed experimentation with pullups I´ve ever seen, and I found the before/after pics pretty impressive, in a first look, for a guy that was doing nothing more than pullups and pushups for 6 weeks (3 pushups to failure daily). He uses the “Armstrong program” that I mentioned. 🙂
    I don´t know if the “before” pic is somewhat misleading (the guy is very thin for the start, and have some arms), but the change in pecs is hard to deny. Perhaps more upper chest… Considering reproduce it and see what I get.
    Another thing that occurred to me: do you think that training in general should be adapted to a taller guy like me? I´m about 6.1 feet. Deadlifts, for example, always seem to be a problem for my back.

    • Anthony April 17, 2013, 11:29 pm

      Looks sweet. Pull-ups work magic. He was lean and rather un-trained looking before hand. And the important part from there is that he’d probably have to increase the difficulty of the exercises.

  • Max May 27, 2013, 9:04 pm

    Love your tips and I’m going to start to add more bodyweight exercises to my warmup, in limited fashion. Especially chins ’cause that’s a lift I desperately want to improve.

    Question then is, how to program chins in a beginner routine. Elsewhere I’ve seen you suggest 25 chins but I’m not sure I can do that many in a workout. I can do about 6 in my first set but I lose reps dramatically afterwards. I could probably complete 25 total but unlikely in a full body workout, on regular basis, without compromising recovery.

    So how do I program chins in a way that is sufficiently challenging without over-taxing myself, to maximize progression? Thoughts?

    • Anthony May 28, 2013, 4:22 pm

      Sounds like you need my “Perfecting the Pull-up Guide” that’s in The Skinny-Fat Solution.

      If you can only manage six per set, you need to always be working submaximally. Be carefully with daily training. It can be done, but you need to keep your eye on PROGRESSION and not just caught up in doing them for the sake of doing.

  • Daniel Owens June 24, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Is power to the people one of those programs that you wouldn’t recommend for beginner hard gainers

    you know 2×5 in the dead lift, 2×5 in the overhead press, performed five days a week, adding 2.5 lbs each workout and cycling every 8-16 workouts?

    • Daniel Owens June 24, 2013, 2:52 pm

      I meant hardgainer/skinnyfats.

      • Anthony June 25, 2013, 12:55 am

        Yeah, like I said, depends on what you wanna do.

    • Daniel Owens June 24, 2013, 3:51 pm

      I thought power to the people might be one of the exceptions because it has a very definite progression (add 5 lbs) and it recommends that you cycle every 2-3 weeks.

    • Anthony June 25, 2013, 12:53 am

      I don’t know because I haven’t read the book. Based on what you wrote, I wouldn’t do that as a beginner. Could work. But it all depends on where you want to head.

      • Daniel Owens June 25, 2013, 10:29 am

        I can do six chin ups and six dips. My goal is to lean out enough to get to 10% BF. To do that I will be doing cardio running/swimming/cycling every day and alternating short sprint sessions with longer interval sessions. The aim of the barbell training is to maintain/improve strength and I will add the pull ups and chins/pushups as a warmup.

        Do you think that this program would help me reach my goals?

        • Anthony June 25, 2013, 3:10 pm

          I think you need to strength train. The most important factor in your weight loss is nutrition.

          • Daniel Owens June 25, 2013, 3:34 pm

            Ok thanks for your advice, I have been following Eat Stop Eat for nutrition. I will look for a good strength training program.

            I will buy the skinny fat solution as soon as I can. Love your articles.

          • Anthony June 28, 2013, 5:48 pm

            Thanks man. ESE is good stuff.

  • Anonymous July 9, 2013, 8:17 pm

    Cleg Burris here again. I’ve dropped 26 pounds since last time and I feel great. My secret has been to do the inversion chair 6 minutes before each workout. It really helps too and could be a great compliment to the “chin-up technique” that you have pioneered.

    • Anthony July 12, 2013, 2:11 am

      Chin-up technique?

  • P August 14, 2013, 2:19 pm

    i recently gave up the 40 day program/ PLP with the slow realization that i didnt have the strength for it and was feeling exhausted all the time.

    since then, i have been doing lots of pull ups / dips / push ups and have made AWL KINDA GAINZ

    • Anthony August 14, 2013, 7:38 pm

      Too simple for it to work. Where are the steroids?

      • Clean P August 14, 2013, 8:19 pm

        * weighted pull ups / dips / push ups

        • Anthony August 17, 2013, 3:47 pm

          Not quite sure I know what this is in reply to.

  • Nate November 16, 2013, 8:34 am


    How would you program HFT for someone who wants to improve both their chin-up (my current max is 10 reps with a supinated grip) and dip (my current max is 5 below parallel) rep counts at the same time? Should I be doing 1 set of chin-ups and 1 set of dips everyday for say, 5 days a week?

    My short term goal is to build up to 12-15 straight BW chin-ups, and 10-12 straight BW dips before March of 2014.

    • Anthony November 19, 2013, 12:15 am

      I’d do some weighted work one day, at least.

      As for HFT, you’d probably benefit from 5-8 reps daily on chins and 2-3 dips daily. But in all, I don’t think you should be looking to HFT just yet. You can likely push those numbers without it.

  • Adam December 25, 2013, 5:30 am

    I have returned to this page more than any other on your site, along with the diet page. Essential stuff, on both. This page has been key to setting my starting goals, esp. under the “plan of attack” header.

    Thus I wanted to share my story thus far, but didn’t know where, so figured here’s as good as any…

    In short: I surprised myself (and whoever reads this, you can and will, too!)

    This summer, I weighed around 235-240 lbs at 6’4″ and could do 0 chinups. Goal: lose fat, lose fat, and be a badass of chin-uppery.

    In July, Started IF style eating, hit strength training as close as I could to 8 essential exercises (without a barbell – I’m naughty/lazy/poor and still need to buy one!!)

    Then I read about PLP, high-frequency stuff, etc. Mid-Sept: did my version of PLP: started with 10 “assisted” (used a chair) pullups/chins with 10 lunges and pushups. In only 10 days, at 10:45 AM, I did my first chin-up. Awesomeness. Did one a few days later. Mid-Oct: I replaced assisted chins by starting and failing with the Russian Pullup Program by Pavel (I know…jumped the gun ‘cuz it had “Russian” in the title… ). Mid-Nov: I stayed with it anyway and could do 5 chin-ups. That’s 0 to 5 in 2 months.

    Then I stopped caring even more by experimenting with PLP with 40 Day Ch. for a few weeks up until now. Did 10 chin-ups the other days. 10! After 3 months from zero. I never imagined I would be able to do 10! This summer it had literally hurt my arms just to hang from a bar!! I lost 30 lbs. which helped. And I can do 10 dips. Definitely at least maintained strength, and especially gained skill with practice, but I am truly learning perseverance (to quote Anthony: “I never remember giving up.”) It gives one the feeling of taking a step at a time, then looking back and realizing you climbed a mountain.

    P.S. I’m not proud that I went against advice by being cheap and going through the beginner phase without a barbell. I surely would have had more substantial results up to this point with one. But I am very satisfied with the progress I’ve made climbing out of this pit known as being a skinny-fat ectomorph. Now: buy a freakin’ barbell and climb the next mountain…. Thanks, Anthony.

    • Anthony December 26, 2013, 5:56 pm

      Nice stuff, thanks for sharing!

  • Matthew January 20, 2014, 4:35 am

    Great articles!

    Three Questions:

    1. Am I right that no matter how strong I get at BW moves (pullups, chins, dips, pushups), I should continue to do them every day or almost every day? for muscle building benefits or is there a point at which you say.. it’s better to now add weight and only do them 2 times a week etc… I get from this article that you’re saying: keep doing them daily (sub max) but go heavy once a week?

    2. If I can do 15 chin-ups absolute max, Should I be doing a harder variation daily that gets me no more than 8 reps? (pullup grip for me cuts its down!) or for instance pushups to feet-raised pushups..

    3. Soreness: If I do pullups every day (sub-max, not close to failure) and then one day a week, I do them weighted and get sore for a few days. Is it ok to still do them daily? even though I’m sore from the weighted versions?

    • Anthony January 22, 2014, 12:09 am

      1. Depends on what you want to accomplish.

      2. Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

      3. Yes.

      • Matthew February 9, 2014, 1:35 am

        Trying to accomplish more muscle, particularly on my chest/shoulders/arms.

        • Anthony February 11, 2014, 5:38 pm

          Daily work is nice, but you still have to have your eyes set on bigger things. If you’re expecting daily work to be the vehicle I think a two month period of increased concentration works well. Otherwise, daily stuff just accumulates work over time and shouldn’t be done in a way that interferes your other pursuits. Part of this is letting your body adapt to it, which is why it’s tough to give random advice.

          • Mike March 9, 2014, 1:42 am

            Hey man I have been on the 40 day challenge and the PLP routine for about almost three weeks now and it’s been really eye opening! I really like the idea of HFT vs low frequency super intense failure programs. My question is are there any programs out there you could suggest to that are High frequency that I can incorporate your essential moves for the x physique into? Something I can look forward to as PLP and 40 day challenge come to an end. Thanks a lot my good man. (Also I am doing the IF nutrition lifestyple like you suggested and wow! it has been amazing I am losing fat finally!

          • Anthony March 10, 2014, 4:29 pm

            I don’t know of any, no, save for the one I’m working on now hah. But I will also caution to know when to dial back from HFT.

  • bryan April 21, 2014, 6:51 am

    This is awesome,

    reminds me of my journey so far. Although the body fat is another topic I do have gained lots of strength and surprisingly a bit of muscle on my larger muscle groups such as (lats, traps, chest, quads, glutes) using high frequency and low to intermediate intensity with body weight exercises. very informative article BTW

    Last week I challenged myself to do 1000 pushups within 7 days because I was deloading somehow, and still managed to get light plyos and maybe 200-300 pullups within the same week too 🙂

    • Anthony April 21, 2014, 2:07 pm

      Sounds terribly not like a deload, but good stuff.

  • Joe May 18, 2014, 8:45 am

    Hi Anthony,

    I am so grateful to have found your website. I am a skinny fat and I have tried a lot of exercise program but were not really so effective, I went for a one on one training with a gym trainor and yes, i did gain some weight muscle + fats. Although my muscle mass increased, my fat level increased from already 18% to 22%. My trainor gave me a program that is low frequency, high intensity and each session is really very exhausting for me to the point that I can feel that I haven”t recovered yet until the next session. I only train twice a week.

    I decided to stop training for about six months and decided to discontinue my gym membership / gym instructor.

    Now, just recently i was doing some internet research for the most effective training for skinny fats like me. I happen to find your website and decided to start following your advise. To my surprise it really worked well for me. I just do nothing but chin ups and push ups. When I started my chin ups, I can barely do 1 repetition now after one month 1 can do 3 sets of 2 repetions. I am glad I am now making progress. Push ups is relatively easy for me but I am really poor in my chin ups. My physique has never looked better than when I started doing pull ups everyday. I can feel that I am getting leaner and stronger now. My friends starts to notice that I have become toned now and slightly muscular than when i was before, even the period when i went to the gym.

    So to sum up, I can conclude that your program really works for skinny fats! That is, HIGH FREQUENCY, LOW INTENSITY work out and CHIN UPS is a must! Thank you so much Anthony for your website. You have helped so many skinny fats like me.

    • Anthony May 21, 2014, 3:09 pm

      Glad to hear about your success. Keep going.

  • Dominick June 5, 2015, 4:30 pm

    I once trained a guy who was 5’10” 160 lbs to start with. I had him train 3x/week on four basic lifts – Clean & Press, Deadlift, Barbell Row and Squats – then he topped off his workout with a couple of abdominal planks. He wasn’t strong at first; he started out doing 3 x 5 reps at 75 lbs on the Press, 135 lbs 3 x 5 for Deadlift, 75 lbs 3 x 5 on Rows and 95 lbs 3 x 5 on Squats. He was able to perform all of his reps and added 5 lbs (10 lbs for lowerbody lifts) the next week when it was doable; I told him to resist the temptation to add too much weight too soon. He reaped his newbie gains: three months later, he weighed 172 lbs and he was pressing 125 lbs 3 x 5, deadlifting 235 lbs 3 x 5, rowing 135 3 x 5 and squatting 205 lbs for reps. Again, he resisted the temptation to change his workout. Gains kept coming, albeit a little slower. His deadlift sets went all the way up to 295, at which points I reduced this lift’s frequency to 2x/week and replaced Deadlift bu Power Cleans on Wednesday. Everything else stayed the same. At the end of year one, he weighed 185 lbs and was pressing 155 lbs for reps, deadlifting 315 lbs for 5’s, rowing 160-ish lbs for his sets and squatting with 275. He could also do planks with a 35-lb plate on his loins and he could mash the CoC #2 gripper for reps. He was starting to get strong. That was a few years back. He now weighs about 220, trains 5-6 days a week and compete in strongman. He is now stronger than myself on all lifts but the deadlift (and I compete in strongman too – I’m a stronger deadlifter mainly because I’m heavier, not because I’m older)!

    • Anthony July 16, 2015, 11:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing.