Are you skinny fat, and interested in building muscle but unsure what training plan to follow? If so, you’ve come to the right place because we’ll be going over everything you need to know about training for muscle growth.
I’ve also shared a skinny fat workout plan you can start following to build muscle and get stronger.
Why Skinny Fat People Need to Weight Train
Most skinny fat people make the crucial mistake of trying to get fit through cardio, often failing to make any progress. A big issue with most exercise approaches is the inability to cause the growth stimulus necessary for maintaining and building muscle.
Weight training is the most practical approach because you can train all major muscle groups, forcing them to grow. As a result, you improve how your physique looks, even at a higher body fat percentage.
Consider the following photo:
The above is your traditional skinny fat guy. Now, take a look at this:
As you can see, he isn’t shredded or ready to step on a bodybuilding stage, but he looks great, especially compared to the average person. All of that is thanks to his above-average muscular development, which comes from dedicated and structured weight training.
The Skinny Fat to Muscular Workout Plan You Need
The following is a 4-day program designed for muscle growth. It includes some strength-specific training to promote progressive overload, but most exercises are done in a higher repetition range.
Day 1 (e.g., Monday) - Upper
Flat barbell bench press - 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Bent-over barbell row - 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Seated dumbbell overhead press - 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Lat pulldowns - 2-3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Low-to-high cable chest fly - 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Dumbbell lateral raise - 2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Cable rope triceps extensions - 2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Standing dumbbell hammer curl - 2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Day 2 (e.g., Tuesday) - Lower
Barbell back squat - 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Lying hamstring curl - 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Leg extensions - 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Standing machine calf raises - 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Day 3 (e.g., Thursday) - Upper
Inverted rows - 3 sets of 5 to 15 reps
Incline dumbbell bench press - 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Upright rows - 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Machine chest press - 2-3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Seated cable rows - 2-3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Dumbbell tricep kickback - 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Cable rope bicep curls - 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Cable rope face pulls - 2-3 sets of 15 to 25 reps
Day 4 (e.g., Friday) - Lower
Barbell hip thrust - 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Goblet squat - 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift - 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Bulgarian split squat - 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps (per leg)
Seated machine calf raise - 2-3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
You can also download a free PDF version of the skinny fat to muscular workout plan below:
Some Notes On The Training Plan
Increasing the workload over time is crucial for stimulating your muscles and promoting growth. A simple linear approach can work, especially for beginners. Pick weights that allow you to perform each exercise correctly and for the recommended reps. Once you reach the top of repetition ranges, increase the load by the smallest amount possible and start progressing again.
Here is an example of goblet squats:
Week 1 - 3 sets with 45-lb dumbbell for 8, 8, and 9 reps
Week 2 - 3 sets with 45-lb dumbbell for 9, 9, and 11 reps
Week 3 - 3 sets with 45-lb dumbbell for 10, 11, and 12 reps
Week 4 - 3 sets with 45-lb dumbbell for 12, 12, and 14 reps
Week 5 - 3 sets with 50-lb dumbbell for 8, 9, and 9 reps
2. Exercise Selection
The above exercises are great, but you can change some of them if you cannot perform them safely or your gym doesn’t have the necessary machine. Here are a few simple exercise swaps, but know that there is no actual limit here:
- Leg extensions ⇒ Bodyweight squats
- Split squats ⇒ Lunges
- Barbell bench press ⇒ Dumbbell bench press
- Lat pulldowns ⇒ Band-assisted pull-ups
You should put enough effort into each set but not to the point of muscle failure. Leaving one to three reps in the tank is the sweet spot for most people. You will still be working hard without unnecessarily putting yourself at risk of overtraining or injuries.
It might be challenging to gauge how many reps you have in the tank initially, but you will get better over time.
Proper technique and feeling the correct muscles activating are two crucial components of hypertrophy training. Prioritize proper form and never increase the resistance unless you’re 100 percent confident in your technique with current loads.
5. Rest Periods
Resting between sets is vital for maintaining your performance and doing as many reps as possible without using momentum (jerking the weight, swinging your body, etc.). Here are some general guidelines:
- 2 to 6 reps per set - 3 to 5 minutes of rest
- 6 to 10 reps per set - 2.5 to 3 minutes of rest
- 10 to 15 reps per set - 1.5 to 2.5 minutes of rest
- 15-25 reps per set - 1 to 2 minutes of rest
- 25+ reps per set - 30 to 60 seconds of rest
6. Deload Weeks
Deload weeks are schedule periods where you do easier training for up to seven days. The objective is to keep working out but give your body time to recover from the stress accumulated over the previous weeks.
The simplest way to implement a deload week is to take your training and reduce the number of sets you do and the loads you lift. I recommend taking a deload week for every six to eight weeks of serious weight training.
Once finished, go back to your regular training.
It’s best to perform the above workouts in pairs (upper-lower) and rest for at least a day in-between. Recovery days are essential for giving your body the time it needs to repair the damage to the muscles, joints, connective tissues, and bones.
Four weekly workouts provide enough flexibility to move around sessions and recover well even if things pop up and you cannot stick with your usual schedule. You can also add some cardio to the mix for its health benefits.
How to Approach Your Diet For Optimal Muscle Gain as a Skinny Fat Guy or Gal
1. Calculate Your Calories
The first step to starting a bulk is calculating your calorie needs and adding a 200 to 250-calorie surplus. Doing so is necessary to build muscle optimally while minimizing fat gain. You can also read about the importance of G-flux and its relation to fitness.
2. Determine Your Macronutrients
Diet composition matters, too, which is why you need to calculate how many grams of carbs, fats, and protein you should eat daily.
3. Start Tracking
The final step is to start tracking what you eat. You should get a simple kitchen scale to weigh your food and an app like MyFitnessPal to log it. Alternatively, you can log your food intake in a simple notebook, but you must do all the calculations manually.
You can read a lot more about bulking successfully as a skinny fat person here.
Which Category of Skinny Fat People Should Bulk?
The above training plan works best when increasing your calorie intake and gaining weight steadily. So, who is in a good position for weight gain?
Take a look at the following photo:
This is an example of a skinny fat person with almost no muscle mass. While he can attempt a body recomposition (build muscle and lose fat simultaneously) or a straight fat loss phase, he would be better off doing a bulk and focusing on steady muscle growth. He lacks muscle, and either approach wouldn’t bring desirable results. The fat loss phase will leave him skinny and weak. Similarly, the body recomp phase will bring some results but make him look even skinnier.
The same goes for skinny fat individuals who have just ended a weight loss phase and are wondering what to do. Being in a surplus and gaining weight might seem like the last thing to do, but it is beneficial because it helps normalize the hormones that were depressed from the weight loss. Plus, it raises your metabolic rate, allowing you to eat more food without gaining weight.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle As a Skinny Fat Person?
People new to training often wonder how long it will take until they see good results from their training. The truth is that muscle growth varies from person to person, and there is no single answer that works great for everyone. You can read more about my thoughts in this article.
Do Other Training Approaches Work For Skinny Fat Folks?
The 5x5 Program for Skinny Fat Folks
The 5x5 program is an excellent training approach for muscle and strength gain. The objective is to train three times per week, alternating between two similar workouts. Your training is based on barbell exercises, such as the bench press and back squat.
A 5x5 program is beneficial for skinny fat people because it provides the necessary growth stimulus, allowing you to build muscle and maintain it when dieting. You can read more about the program and how you can apply it here.
The 5/3/1 Program for Muscle and Strength Gain
The 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1 programs are two excellent training approaches designed to maximize your time at the gym. Unlike the 5x5 program, 5/3/1 offers a lot more flexibility regarding your training schedule, workout structure, training structure, and exercise selection.
It’s a good option for skinny fat people, but it would be best to pick an approach where you train no more than three or four times per week.