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Workout Routine: Skinny-Fat Muscle Building Plan (Part 1 of 3)

August 3, 2020

Skinny Fat Muscle Building part 1 - workout

The most undesirable body type is skinny-fat.

The typical look is skinny arms and legs with a big belly. And there’s hardly any muscular development in the chest and shoulders with some added back-fat.

I know what you’re thinking… ‘It sucks to be me!’

You may have tried working out but you just didn’t get the results you wanted. It seemed hopeless. So you gave up and went back to a bag of Doritos in one hand and a TV remote in the other.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can change your body from skinny-fat to jacked and muscular.

And even if you don’t care to look like a bodybuilder, what I’m about to show you will still get you in awesome shape if you follow the plan.

My ‘Skinny-Fat Muscle Building Plan’ is a 3-part series.

This is Part 1, and I’m going to take you through an entire workout routine that you can start doing today.

**If you’re brand new to weight training, then read post Fundamentals of Weight Training first, and then come back and read this.

Why You Are Skinny-Fat

Skinny-fat may sound like a genetic disposition. And many chock it up to ‘body type’ and leave it at that, thinking they have no control over how they look.

But here are the real reasons why people get skinny-fat, and some of these may surprise you…

  • Not eating enough (protein and the right foods)
  • Magic pill syndrome – relying on supplements to achieve your goals while neglecting discipline in the important areas
  • Too much focus on cardio
  • Not enough (or no) weight training

This post is going to focus on weight training and workout aspects. This is the first and most simple change you can make immediately.

Whereas genetics do play a role in how you look, you can alter the shape of your body and muscles.

The specific types of workouts you will be doing will help you build muscle and burn more fat all over, not just in certain areas.

The Skinny-Fat Workout Routine

dumbbell rows back exercise

I must warn you that these workouts are not going to be easy. And that’s the point. So you need to develop a strong mind and discipline.

Do these things right now…

  • Make a personal commitment that you will stick with this program
  • Adopt a ‘no excuses’ mentality
  • Get a small notebook to take to the gym to document your workouts – write down the workouts below in this post in your notebook and keep tracks of things like sets, reps, and weight used
  • Have someone that you hold yourself accountable to and that will be honest with you
  • Did I mention adopt a ‘no excuses’ mentality? That’s going to be your most crucial weapon!

Also, the scale will not be your friend during this program. You can weigh yourself before you start the program. But after that, ditch it and don’t worry about your body weight until at least eight weeks.

Instead, measure your progress by these 2 things:

  1. How your close fit
  2. How you look in the mirror, naked

Those 2 things will tell you the true story. Because depending on where you are currently, it’s possible that your weight may not change. In other words, you may gain more lean muscle while burning body fat during this time.

It’s also possible that you could end up weighing more if you didn’t have that much body fat to begin with and you ended up packing on a lot of muscle. That’s okay, because you’re going to look awesome.

Remember, it’s not about just losing weight. If that’s your goal, you’re still going to be skinny-fat. You have to build up some muscle tissue because having more lean muscle is also going to help your body naturally burn more fat, more efficiently.

When you exercise, you use muscle. This helps build muscle mass, and muscle tissue burns more calories — even when you’re at rest — than body fat. According to Wharton, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories.

‘8 Ways to Burn Calories and Fight Fat’ by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, webmd.com

Training Split

This is a 5-day-a-week program. However, I recommend that you do some sort of activity on your ‘rest days’ and I’ll cover that below after the workouts.

Here’s your training schedule:

  • Monday: Back and Biceps
  • Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Shoulders and Light Back
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Rest

You can rearrange the workout days based on your schedule.

And yes, you’re going to be training legs twice a week, and also hitting back for a 2nd time each week. These concepts are a huge part of helping you transform your body from skinny-fat to jacked and muscular.

Structure of Your Workouts

The best way to eliminate a skinny-fat body is to make building muscle your #1 priority.

You’ll be starting out with a compound exercise. This builds the most strength by working more muscles. And these multijoint (compound) exercises also require more effort, which means you will burn more calories and boost metabolism.

From there, you’ll get more into isolation exercises. These are exercises that target particular muscles more directly. This will help build and shape those muscles.

Training Methods

You’ll notice some training methods in the workouts below, so I want briefly explain those.

  • Drop Sets: This means doing a set then immediately decreasing the weight by about 30% and doing another set (no rest between other than how long it takes to reduce the weight – these are typically done on machines)
  • Rest-Pause Sets: Do a set, rest 15 seconds, and do another set with the same weight. This is a brutal yet extremely effective technique to gain muscle and burn more calories.

These methods increase your workout intensity, which is important for building lean muscle and burning fat.

If you’d like to learn more about the weightlifting methods and more methods like these, you can read my post: 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity

Back and Biceps Workout

Barbell Rows back exercises for bodybuilding mass
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows4 x 8
Dumbbell Rows4 x 10
Lat Pulldowns3 x 10*
Seated Rows3 x 10**
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 10*
Preacher Curls3 x 10**

*Drop set on the final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set

Chest and Triceps Workout

cable flyes crossovers for shredded chest
ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Bench Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Press4 x 10
Cable Flyes3 x 10*
Machine Bench Press3 x 10**
Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions3 x 10*
Cable Pressdowns3 x 10**

*Drop set on the final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set

Leg Workout

Legs - Squats for mass
ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats4 x 10
Leg Press4 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 15*
Lying Leg Curls4 x 10*
Standing Calve Raises7 x 15**

*Drop set on the final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set

– That’s not a type for calves (7 sets). Calves have a better chance of growing with more volume.

Shoulders and Light Back Workout

Shoulders - seated dumbbell press
ExerciseSets x Reps
Seated Overhead Barbell Press4 x 8
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 10
Lateral Raises3 x 10*
Bent-over Raises3 x 10*
Close-grip Pulldowns3 x 12**
Wide-grip Seated Rows3 x 12**

*Drop set on the final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set

– Take note that the methods used are slightly different from your other upper body workouts.

Leg Workout II

Stiff Leg Deadlifts back and hamstrings workout
ExerciseSets x Reps
Stiff-leg Deadlifts4 x 10
Leg Press (close foot-stance)4 x 12
Single-leg Extensions4 x 15*
Seated Leg Curls4 x 10*
Seated Calve Raises7 x 15**

*Drop set on the final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set

In addition, there are some things that can help push to that next level. Given that you have more body fat than you desire, there’s a good chance that your testosterone levels are low.

If that’s the case, and you feel drained and unmotivated, it’s important to make sure you’re body is getting the adequate nutrients to maintain healthy testosterone levels.

For my recommended test booster, read my post: Jason’s TestoFierce Muscle Builder.

What About Cardio?

Cardio is important but it’s probably not as important as you might think. In fact, too much focus on cardio is one of the reasons many get skinny-fat instead of lean and muscular. Because cardio does not build muscle.

Here’s what I recommend:

If you’re on the heavier side and need to lose a lot of weight…

  • Do 30 minutes of cardio 4-5x a week after your weight training workouts, or on your rest days

If you’re more on the skinny side with a pot belly…

  • Do 20-30 minutes of cardio 2-3x week

Whatever you do, do not skip your weight training workouts. And certainly don’t put cardio before those workouts.

As mentioned above, if you’re short on time, just use your rest days for cardio. You can also do some core (abdominal) work on your rest days, too.

Why Train Legs and Back Twice a Week

You may be wondering why you’re training back and legs twice a week but not your other body parts.

Back and legs are the largest muscles of your body. They also require more effort and energy to train. Putting more effort into these body parts (training twice a week) will give you more results, faster.

I have 2 other posts that go in more depth about training back and legs twice a week below:

Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Get Bigger Legs

Train Back Twice a Week to Build a Ripped Back a Ripped Back

Transform Your Skinny-Fat Body to Jacked and Muscular

I ‘strongly’ encourage you to stick with this workout routine for at least 8 weeks. At that point, you can make some changes to the program if you want.

I hope you enjoy this workout. I’m confident that this will change your physique and your life!

READ NEXT: Now it’s time to dial in your nutrition. And that’s what Part 2 of this series is all about: Part 2: The Skinny-Fat Meal Plan

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!