Do you believe that you’re cursed with the skinny fat physique?
Skinny fat is the physique where someone looks skinny with a shirt on but fat with a shirt off.
Here’s an example of the “skinnier” type of skinny fat:
As you can see, skinny fat is where you’re not overweight, but you hold a bit of fat on places that doesn’t show with clothes on.
Usually on the lower stomach and hips.
And as you can see in the picture above, this was the physique that I started my journey with.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering:
What did I actually do to go from skinny fat to ripped? And how can you do it too?
Well, let’s look at that now:
Here’s How to go From Skinny Fat to Ripped
To achieve a lean and muscular physique starting as skinny fat, you have two main objectives:
- Lose fat
- Build muscle
Seems obvious, right?
All you have to do is lose fat to get lean and reach certain strength standards to build muscle.
And you’ll look like this:
Well, unfortunately not…
Even though this is the way to do it, there’s still one huge problem a skinny fat individual often experiences.
And that problem is the “skinny fat dilemma”.
Even though it’s possible to both lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. If you’re skinny fat, it’s only effective if you’re also a complete beginner to strength training.
And even if you are, both fat loss and muscle growth will be slower than if you focused on doing one of them at a time.
So instead, here’s what you should do:
Following the information provided above is definitely the fastest way to completely transform your body from skinny fat to ripped. By following this advice, you’ll stay within the 8-15 % body fat range always, which with decent level of muscularity looks like this:
There’s a few benefits of doing this:
The first one is that you’ll look good always, which is very motivating for most people.
The second benefit is that you’ll stay within a healthy body fat range, where you’ll put on more muscle as opposed to fat during your lean-bulks.
This is true since staying below 15 % body fat allows you to have a better hormonal profile with better insulin sensitivity and testosterone to cortisol ratios etc.
*You can find out your body fat percentage here.
Okay great, let’s now look at how to achieve fat loss and muscle growth one by one:
How to Set up a Cut or Lean-Bulk:
Step 1 – Find Your Maintenance Calories
Here’s a Simple Maintenance Calories Formula that works exceptionally well:
- Body Weight in pounds x 14-17 = Estimated Daily Calorie Maintenance Level
- Body Weight in kilos x 31-37 = Estimated Daily Calorie Maintenance Level
You decide which number in the range you use to multiply with accordingly to your daily activity.
*If you’re mostly sedentary throughout your days, use the lower number.
*If you’re very active throughout your days, use the higher number.
*If you’re moderately active, pick a number in between.
This will just be a preliminary number, and it doesn’t need to be perfect.
You will have to adjust your caloric intake later anyways, as you make progress.
Step 2 – Set Your Caloric Deficit or Surplus
*If you choose to lose fat first then use a moderate caloric deficit of around:
- 15-20 % below your maintenance calories you just calculated.
- How to Diet to Get Ripped: The Complete Guide
- How to Set Up An Optimal Caloric Deficit for Fat Loss
- How to Diet for Fat Loss
*If you choose to gain muscle then use a slight caloric surplus of around:
- 10 % above your maintenance calories you just calculated.
Step 3 – Set Up Your Macros
Protein: To maximize muscle protein synthesis (the muscle building process) both when cutting and lean-bulking, I recommend:
- 1.8 grams per kg of body weight or 0.8 grams per lb of bw per day
This intake is enough, as this will allow you to have more room for fat and carbs.
Fat: In order to maintain good hormonal balance, and be able to have tastier meals, I recommend that you eat:
- 30-35 % of your total calories from fat
Carbs: To maximize strength training performance, testosterone production, and well-being a high intake of carbs are also very important. That’s why you want to keep the fat intake at 35 % max to give more room for carbs. I recommend that you eat:
- The remainder of your calories left after you’ve set protein and fat from carbs
Do the numbers look weird? Then make sure to read this article next:
Or watch this video:
Step 4 – Count Your Calories and Macros
To count your calories and macros, weigh each food you intend to eat.
Then input that quantity in an app called MyFitnessPal:
Your goal is to consistently hit your calorie and protein targets.
Carbs and fat can be within +/- 15-20 grams, as they’re not as important to hit perfectly.
Counting your calories and macros is also a terrific way to allow for some junk foods every now and then, while still seeing great results in the mean time.
And yes, eating a bit of junk food is totally fine as long as you don’t go overboard with it. In fact, including some things that you enjoy will probably make your journey towards a ripped physique a lot more enjoyable.
Step 5 – Find a Way to Make Being in a Caloric Deficit or Surplus Super Easy and Enjoyable
The final step when it comes to setting up your diet is to make it as enjoyable as possible.
Because here’s the thing:
The more enjoyable you can make your diet, the easier you’ll stick to it. And that’s the main key for success!
So, how can you make your diet more enjoyable?
Well, I’ve found that utilizing intermittent fasting is extremely beneficial for satiety and satisfaction during a cut. And it’s especially beneficial for skinny fat individuals.
And it’s also a great tool for controlling weight gain during a lean-bulk. To make sure most of your weight gaines is muscle and not fat.
Greg O’Gallagher, founder of kinobody, has used intermittent fasting for more than 10 years to build an outstanding physique…
…while staying lean in the process:
Want to learn more about intermittent fasting? Make sure to read these articles next:
- Get Ripped With Intermittent Fasting: The Complete Guide
- Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss – The 5 Big Benefits That Will Make You Ripped
- How to Set Up The Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule to Get Lean and Ripped
- Intermittent Fasting for Muscle Growth – Gains Killer or Gains Winner?
How to Set up Your Training to Gain Muscle
Here’s the deal:
If you really want to go from skinny fat to ripped, then you must improve in the gym over time.
And here’s where people screw up:
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work.
The reason is that muscle only grows for two reasons:
- To produce more force – by increasing the size of the contractile tissue so it can lift heavier weights.
- To improve endurance – by increasing the capacity to store glycogen around the muscle fibers.
As you can see, both training that increases strength and training that increases muscular endurance will lead to growth. As long as you’re improving overtime!
The first reason is that you’ll do more effective reps in less total time. Training within the 4-10 rep range has been shown in research to be way more effective than both the lower and higher rep ranges.
The second reason the 4-10 rep range is a good choice is because the most common struggle a skinny fat individual phases is appetite. And guess what, higher rep pump training usually leads to much higher appetite than what more strength oriented training do. Training in the 4-10 rep range will simply lead to easier fat loss.
Lastly, the 4-10 rep range is very easy to make progressive overload and get stronger overtime in. And this is key for muscle growth! In the 4-10 rep range you can make larger leaps in weight that are easier to track, making it a great rep range for fast strength progression.
Now, exactly how strong you need to be to look a certain way is hard to pin down exactly. But, we can get pretty darn close.
So, with that said, here are the beginner to intermediate strength standards and their respective physiques:
On average, by reaching these strength standards on these 5 exercises, while also having a low body fat percentage. You will rock a physique similar to the ones in the pictures. (I’ve written more about these strength standards and the whole journey towards building an aesthetic physique in this guide).
Now, in order to reach these strength levels you must have an effective training routine.
So, let’s look at that now:
If you’re a complete beginner, here’s the training routine I recommend that you use for the first 3-6 months (this routine should still be used if you’ve been training for longer than 3-6 months, but mostly done “pump” work with isolation exercises):
And here’s how to progress and get stronger over time with this routine:
For beginner trainees there’s one more reason not mentioned above to why we’re using mostly low to medium rep training, in the 4-10 rep range. And that is that we need to use weights that are heavy enough to cause growth.
Because here’s the deal:
In the beginning you’re far too weak to get a good training stimulus from high rep training, as the weights you would be using is going to be very light.
By doing sets in the 4-8 rep range on the other hand, you’re getting full muscle fiber recruitment, mechanical tension, and enough volume per set to effectively spark muscle growth at your stage.
Furthermore, in order to build muscle as effectively as possible, you must match the amount of training you do with your recovery capacity.
That’s why the number of sets per muscle group might seem low.
But, here’s the thing:
In the beginning, your muscles has the potential to grow very rapidly, but their recovery capacity is very low.
Because of this, it’s best to train each muscle group frequently, but with fewer sets each time.
And with this routine you train each muscle group twice per week.
By doing so you take advantage of the fact that your muscles adapt quickly and you’ll find yourself stronger each time you hit the gym.
Remember though, this only works by doing a few sets per session in order to match your work capacity. In fact, if you don’t match your work capacity, you will reach a plateau in your lifting.
After a few months (around 3-6) you will adapt and be able to handle more training. So to keep making fast progress we increase training volume a bit.
And we do so by using this novice to early intermediate routine (which will usually work for another 6-12 months on average):
And here’s how to progress and get stronger over time with this routine:
This routine is mainly created to build a strong and proportional looking upper body.
So focus lies on building your chest, upper back, shoulders, and arms. However, this routine is not optimal for leg growth, since legs will be targeted only once per week.
If your goal is to get a set of powerful legs to go with that upper body, all you have to do is add another leg day to your regimen, and make it a 4 day upper/lower routine.
Which would look like this:
This routine will develop your entire body better.
With that said though, it will require more energy and time spent both training and recovering to be effective. So, it’s a bit more “hardcore” in that aspect as it requires more dedication.
There we go, these routines will work well for up to 1.5-2 years on average, after that you will have adapted even more and are going to need a more advanced program, which is outside the scope of this post.
*If you don’t have access to a gym, bodyweight training can be very effective as well!
What About Cardio?
If your goal is to lose body fat and get ripped I recommend taking it very easy on cardio, especially if you’re starting out skinny fat.
First of all, cardio is very ineffective at burning calories. To burn 250 calories you need to do roughly 30 minutes of medium intensity cardio, so in my opinion it’s much better to let the diet take care of fat loss not cardio.
Secondly, doing cardio is very stressful on your recovery which will negatively affect your strength training. And your MAIN goal is to get stronger. The fact is that a slight calorie deficit is a much better way to lose body fat than using cardio. If you want to get a ripped physique, you’ll need all your recovery to go towards getting stronger.
Lastly, as a skinny fat individual you can’t handle stress as well. Cardio in combination with a calorie deficit creates a huge stress for the body, which can make you store more body fat around your waist line instead of getting rid of it.
I’ve written extensively about whether or not you should do cardio as skinny fat in this post.
Conclusion – How to go from Skinny Fat to Ripped
Okay so there you have it:
The step by step process that will have you go from skinny fat to ripped.
It comes down to focusing on cutting if you’re a bit on the fatter side and lean-bulking if you’re a bit on the skinnier side. Then cycling these by staying within 8-15 % body fat.
And in the meantime you should have an optimal strength training program suited for skinny fat individuals set up. This is to consistently get stronger in the gym without doing too much volume, which will ensure you put on a lot of high quality muscle mass in the long-run.
Still feel a bit lost and want to learn more about getting rid of the skinny fat physique? If so I recommend that you get your hands on a high quality course. This is what I did in the beginning of my fitness journey and it’s the number one reason I was able to undergo my physique transformation sooner rather than later.
Having access to a step by step course and just following it to the T is the only real “shortcut” to building a ripped physique. You basically take what someone else learned over a time course of five to ten years and bring it down to a one, two or three year process depending on your goal and starting point.
Do yourself a favor and don’t wait ten years to build the physique of your dreams, get a guide and you’ll get there a LOT quicker. I use and recommend the Kinobody courses, you can read more why I do so here: