You're here because you want to go from skinny fat to ripped.
I've done it.
And now I'm going to show you how YOU can do it, too.
Today, you'll discover what it really takes to transform your skinny-fat body into a strong and muscular physique... as fast as possible.
So enough with the chit chat...
What Does Skinny Fat Look Like?
Unlike a fat person who can't hide his rotund belly and bloated face underneath a layer of baggy clothing, a skinny-fat dude looks normal or slim in a t-shirt and shorts.
When that t-shirt comes off, however...
A whole different story!
Some universal giveaways you're dealing with that dreaded skinny-fat physique include:
- Soft chest
- Narrow shoulders
- Chubby belly
- Cheerio wrists
- Wide waist
- Zero arm mass
Since a picture says more than a thousand words, I'll just leave this right here...
A really out of shape skinny guy!
Can You Fix Skinny Fat?
Unlike diabetes or Ebola, skinny-fat isn't some deadly disease with no cure in sight.
It's a self-caused condition that results from HORRIBLE lifestyle choices:
Limited (or misguided) physical activity, lousy nutrition, lack of quality sleep, low testosterone, and chronically elevated stress levels.
This is why you're skinny fat
So how do you fix skinny fat?
The big picture overview:
- Lift weights 3-5 times per week (more on this later in the workout section)
- Cut out all processed junk from your diet and go with more nutritious choices (again, you'll discover the exact details in the diet part of this article)
- Get at least 9 hours of uninterrupted shuteye every night
- Bring your cortisol (stress hormone) levels down by cutting negativity out of your life and learning to unwind
Doing all this will raise your testosterone:cortisol ratio (higher testosterone/lower cortisol), improve your strength in the gym, and provide endless energy throughout the day.
Now you can finally start building muscle and torching body fat.
So you'll be well on your way from skinny fat to ripped.
Can You Turn Skinny Fat Into Muscle?
Let's clear up a persistent misconception:
You can't turn body fat into muscle any more than you can turn an apple into a banana...
It's physiologically impossible since fat and muscle (just like apples and bananas) are two separate things made up of different cells.
You can only increase or decrease the amount of body fat you carry. Ditto for muscle tissue.
That said, you can definitely turn a skinny-fat man into a lean and muscular one.
Just like my clients have...
The Truth About Body Transformations: Timeline & Examples
I'm sure you've seen a bunch of impressive fitness transformation pictures online...
Some Hollywood heartthrob with a bulging gut and noodle arms supposedly got shredded in only 90 days...
Let's face it:
It's hard to tell what's real and what's fake...
Are you looking at a legit skinny fat to fit transformation?
Or falling prey to a deceptive supplement ad mesmerizing you with Photoshop magic?
To help you distinguish between the two, let's address one of the most common questions I get about building an eye-catching physique:
"How long does it take to get from skinny fat to ripped?"
It all depends on your starting point...
How much muscle do you want to pack on and how much body fat are you looking to lose?
An undersized 21-year-old athlete at 15% body fat will transform their body faster than an overweight 41-year-old pencil pusher at 25% body fat.
So I can't tell you it's going to take EXACTLY 97 days and 13 hours to transform your skinny-fat body into a ripped physique.
But what I can do for you is show some client transformations to give you an idea of what to expect...
Skinny Fat to Ripped in 3 Months
Here's one of my pro ice hockey players, Bastien from France, who just completed another tremendous off-season following my plan.
Bastien's squat improved by 17.5 kg and he hit a HUGE 50 kg (110 pounds!) weighted chin-up despite following a calorie restricted fat loss diet...
Which MELTED fat off his body and got him the leanest he has EVER been during his athletic career.
To cap it off...
He achieved it all in just 11 weeks, not a full three months.
Skinny Fat To Ripped In 6 Months
Kari from Finland was one of my early online coaching clients back in 2012.
I first met him while training gen pop members in a gym in downtown Helsinki.
We'd chat about lifting and nutrition for muscle growth (no surprise given our location!) when I wasn't busy training myself or clients.
Kari struck me as someone who, if given the right tools and guidance, would do the work needed to go from skinny fat to ripped...
He didn't disappoint.
The pictures were taken five months apart, whereas the before/after measurements span six months.
Kari lost over 10 kilograms of fat, shaved 20+ centimeters off his belly, and transformed his skinny-fat body into a lean, athletic physique.
Almost a decade later, we still stay in touch and Kari shares his training updates once in a while.
I'm happy to tell you that Kari looks even better now at 40 than after his first skinny fat to fit transformation in 2012.
Skinny Fat To Ripped Workout Plan
Let's make this clear from the start:
You MUST lift weights to go from skinny fat to muscular.
Jogging, biking, playing tennis, or doing any other type of cardiovascular activity will NOT get you there on its own.
So with that settled, let's talk about what you should do in the gym...
How to Lift Weights to Get Jacked
Most guys ask:
"How many reps should I do to build muscle?"
Completely wrong mindset!
Although important to consider, sets and reps are just one variable behind effective program design.
So before you even think about how many reps you should do, take a step back.
To create an effective strength routine, we must first nail these three key elements:
1. Training frequency
2. Training split
3. Exercise selection
After I walk you through these three elements, you'll discover how to put it all together in a sample muscle building workout plan (complete with sets and reps!) later in this section.
Starting with training frequency:
Three hard lifting sessions per week is the absolute MINIMUM.
Anything less won't produce the results you want.
I know everyone wants 6-minute abs and 14-day body transformations...
But I'm here to tell you the truth...
And the truth is:
Short and easy doesn't work!
In fact, the longer I've been training gen pop clients and professional athletes, the more I have moved from three strength workouts to 4-5 weekly sessions for everyone.
I believe this is the sweet spot for the genetically average guy who wants to look great with his shirt off and push his big lifts well beyond what most people can imagine.
If you have 100% control of your schedule (time and location freedom) and can't wait to get back to the gym (like me!), then six low-volume workouts per week works well.
I've been following such a plan for the past three years and have made excellent progress.
I don't recommend 6x/week for a beginner, but it's an option once you become more advanced. Stick to 3-5 workouts for now.
A huge mistake skinny-fat men make is to follow high-volume bodybuilding workouts where you split the body in parts and train each muscle group only 1x/week.
That's a fast track to nowhere!
I know all this because I rode the high-volume, low-frequency train long enough... and got nothing out of it.
Yes, the pumps are awesome...
But more than skin-splitting pumps, we want spectacular progress.
And body part splits don't produce great results in drug-free, average dudes.
If they did, every guy you see at your gym would be a lot bigger and stronger than they are right now.
After all, they get their workouts from this month's issue of Muscle & Fitness or on Bodybuilding.com – filled with five-day splits where you train chest, legs, shoulders, back, and arms in separate sessions.
Yet, how many look any different than 10 months ago?
How many have gained 10+ kilograms on their squat and bench press over the last year?
That's all the proof you need their training is ineffective!
So what's the best training split, then?
You have two options:
Full-body or upper/lower workouts.
Both allow you to hit each major body part at least twice per week – an absolute must for weak skinny-fat men.
With training frequency and split squared away, let's cover something too many guys fail to grasp...
You MUST get stronger to build muscle.
But getting stronger alone won't build much muscle.
I know that sounds contradictory.
So let's take a moment to flesh this important point out...
You have to push up your maximal strength in the 1-5 rep range, so you can handle heavier loads in ALL rep ranges in the future.
That's the essence of progressive overloading which is required to build muscle. Either go heavier or perform an extra rep over what you did last time.
But chasing ever-increasing low-rep PRs on the squat, bench press and deadlift will NOT automatically translate into a more muscular physique.
Because early strength gains are primarily neural.
You can add dozens of pounds to your maxes by boosting the interplay between your brain, nervous system and muscles, and improving your lifting technique...
Without seeing a corresponding increase in muscle size.
Another important thing to keep in mind?
Sets of ≤5 reps produce little mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage (the three main factors behind muscle growth).
Case in point:
I get tons of messages from guys running some variation of 5x5 (the most popular beginner workout program online)...
They report getting plenty stronger...
But fail to add the lean mass they expected to come following those strength gains.
Typical guy on 5x5... makes decent strength gains, hits a hard plateau, then wonders why that extra strength didn't turn into bigger muscles.
That's because 5x5 is a decent STRENGTH program...
But it sucks for building muscle!
You'll want to get stronger in MULTIPLE rep ranges to maximize muscle growth.
This means consistently setting new personal bests across the board...
Not just new 1RMs, 3RMs or 5RMs...
But 8RMs, 12RMs, even 15-20RMs (depending on the exercise) as well.
Include these exercises in your routine to build a balanced physique that not only looks strong but also performs the part:
- Chest & Shoulders: DB Bench Press, Dip, Ring Push-Up
- Lats: Chin-Up, 1 Arm DB Row
- Upper Back: Batwing Row, Seated Cable Row, Landmine Row, Face Pull
- Quads: Squat, Bulgarian Split Squat, Front-Foot Elevated Split Squat
- Glutes, Hamstrings & Lower Back: Deadlift, Glute Ham Raise, 45 Degree Back Extension, Hip Thrust
- Biceps: Close-Grip Chin-Up, EZ Bar Curl, Hammer Curl
- Triceps: Close-Grip Bench Press, Close-Grip Dip, EZ Bar Triceps Extension
Now that we have our main movements jotted down, let's put together a sample week of training.
In this scenario, you're following a 4x/week upper-lower split.
Since we're after rapid gains in lean mass and work capacity (aka general fitness levels... can't get winded fifteen minutes into your workout!), the plan includes higher volumes and longer time under tension (TUT).
Note: Pay attention to the tempos listed after sets x reps; very important you stick to them!
Day 1 – Upper Body
1a) DB Bench Press 3-4x8-10 4010 90s.
1b) Seated Cable Row 3-4x12-15 2011 90s.
2a) 30 Degree Batwing Row 3-4x15-20 60s.
2b) Close-Grip Dip 3-4x8-12 60s.
2c) Ab Wheel 3-4x8-12 60s.
Day 2 – Lower Body
1) Squat 3-4x8-10 4010 180-240s.
2a) Split Squat 3-4x8-10 4010 75s.
2b) Romanian Deadlift 3-4x8-10 3110 75s.
2c) DB Hammer Curl 3-4x8-10 4010 75s.
Day 3 – Upper Body
1a) Chin-Up 3-4x6-8 90s.
(Weighted if possible)
1b) Seated Neutral Grip DB Press 3-4x10-12 3110 90s.
2a) 1 Arm DB Row 3-4x10-12 60s.
2b) Push-Up 3-4x8-10 3110 60s.
2c) Hanging Leg Raise 3-4x10-15 60s.
Day 4 – Lower Body
1) Snatch-Grip Deadlift off Blocks 3-4x6-8 5010 180-240s.
2a) Front-Foot Elevated Bulgarian Split Squat 3-4x6-8 5210 75s.
2b) 45 Degree Back Extension 3-4x8-10 3110 75s.
2c) EZ Bar Curl 3-4x8-10 4010 75s.
- Lifting Monday-Tuesday & Thursday-Friday is the standard way to run this plan. But you can train any four days that fit your schedule.
- Don't let the low number of exercises and total sets per workout fool you. You don't need more junk volume that's only going to trash you. You need enough QUALITY volume to grow. This program provides it.
- Working opposing muscle groups saves valuable workout time without hampering performance. That's why you super-/tri-set A), B) and C) exercises instead of doing them as stand-alone movements.
- The upper back responds best to higher reps/longer TUT. So rows are done for 10+ reps.
- Skinny-fat guys have a notoriously hard time building their biceps. By hitting them directly with curls on lower body days and indirectly with chins and rows on upper body days, you ramp up frequency. Which adds arm mass in a hurry.
I'll repeat the key points because they're so important...
Lift 3-5 times per week.
Hit each muscle group 2-3 times.
Perform every exercise with pristine form and feel the right muscle(s) do the work.
Beat your numbers from last week!
Those cover the basics and will be enough to let you move you forward right now.
Be on the lookout for another, longer article soon where I lay out how you should lift to go from skinny fat to muscular in even more detail.
I'll post the link here once it goes live.
Skinny Fat To Ripped Diet
Make no mistake...
Even if you trained hard and heavy twice a day, six days per week...
You can forget about developing a physique that stands out if your diet isn't on point!
Poor nutrition is the #1 reason you become or remain skinny-fat.
Make these changes today to get on the right track:
- Eat adequate protein every day. Shoot for around 2 grams per kg of body weight.
- Nix all processed carbs (bread, pasta, cookies, and so on).
- Consume most of your carbs from fresh fruits, vegetables and berries.
- Bump up your quality fat intake. Around 1 gram per kg of body weight works well, although it will depend on your calorie target and macro breakdown. Which leads us to...
- Track calories and macros daily. Without tracking, you're just guessing. And guessing is the reason you're skinny fat to begin with.
So what would that look like in action?
Here's a sample workout day meal plan I follow right now:
- Meal #1 (Pre-Workout): 4 eggs, tomato, bell pepper, red cabbage
- Meal #2 (Post-Workout): 250g chicken breast or ground beef/lamb, banana, plum, kiwi, grapes, cherries/strawberries/blueberries
- Meal #3 (Dinner): 8 eggs, banana, plum, peach, tomato, bell pepper, red cabbage, cherries/strawberries/blueberries
But oh so boring, right?
That's because nothing beats basic, boring, healthy foods for getting bigger and leaner!
Every meal includes a quality protein source with plenty of fruits, vegetables and berries thrown in.
This plan puts me right around 2000 calories, which serves as a good starting point when I'm leaning out.
If I'm in a mass gaining phase, I add a fourth similar meal to bump the calories up.
Sometimes I also throw some Greek yoghurt in there... though not that often since dairy doesn't sit well with me.
My body doesn't handle starches well (even when I'm lean), so I eat bread/rice/pasta/potatoes only once or twice per week.
Follow the guidelines in this skinny fat diet article where I go deeper into making smart food choices, setting your macros based on your goals, and everything else you need to revamp your nutrition.
We covered a lot here.
Your head may spin from all this new info.
- Lift weights 3-5 times per week
- Follow a full-body or upper/lower split, so you hit each muscle group at least 2x per week
- Use excellent technique and focus on feeling the right muscle(s) contract
- Set rep PRs (in multiple rep ranges!) as often as possible
- Plan your meals in advance
- Track calories and macros
- Eat nutritious foods, not processed junk
- Sleep at least 9 hours every night
That's it! There are no secrets or shortcuts.
Now you know what it takes to go from skinny fat to ripped.
Put this plan into action.
Change your body and life.
Just like I did.