How do skinny-fat guys get abs?

Skinny Fat To Six-Pack Abs

Skinny-fat and looking to get six-pack abs? You’re in the right place.

The Basic Formula For Abs

The formula for getting six-pack abs can be simplified down to:

  • Developing big and strong enough abs so that you can see them
  • Keeping a low body fat percentage, so there isn’t a layer of fat covering the abs
  • Being fit enough and avoiding inflammatory foods to prevent stubborn-belly fat from building up.

Overweight guys often already have fairly large abs. So their biggest challenge will be to burn some fat off while maintaining their current levels of strength and muscle mass. For shredded skinny guys (ectomorphs) who are already lean, their biggest challenge will be building up a good amount of muscle all over your body—including their abs—without gaining too much body fat.

But if you’re skinny-fat? You’re in a trickier spot to get six pack abs. You will need to:

  • Build up your ab size and strength
  • Burn off regular sub-cutaneous fat
  • Improve your fitness and lower your inflammation to burn off stubborn belly fat.

Your First challenge: building Enough muscle while burning fat

Skinny-fat guys can’t bulk like skinny guys. And they can’t cut like overweight guys.

Skinny-fat guys need to do a “body recomposition” where they change their muscle-to-fat ratio by simultaneously building muscle while burning fat.

You can do this by eating a lot of meat and bone broth, which will help to build muscle. And then eating less overall calories, which will help to burn fat. You can also increase your daily steps by doing walks outdoors which will improve your hormones, your sleep, and help to burn off stubborn belly fat.

How to build Muscle to see a six-pack while Losing body fat

Building muscle as a skinny-fat guy isn’t exactly easy, there are whole programs designed to help solve it (check our our programs), but some good foundational steps could be:

  • Eat 0.8–1g of protein per ideal body weight pound daily. If you’re 150 pounds (91kg), you’d eat 160g–150g of protein—your target bodyweight. (This is our “boosted” protein recommendation based on research that shows we tend to overestimate how much protein we eat.) Eating more protein will help you
  • Eat less energy than your body needs to burn fat. When you eat less calories than you burn every day, it’s called getting into a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit will make your body begin to burn fat.
  • Stack your calories around lifting weights. Eating most of your calories after your workout will improve nutrient partitioning. If you’re working out infrequently, say 3x a week, and your last workout was on Friday, you don’t need to be eating big, calorie-dense meals on Sunday evening and Monday morning.
  • Lift weights. Lifting weights will direct more energy to build muscle. This will raise your metabolism and prevent muscle loss as you eat less energy.
  • Get outside in the sunshine for a daily walk. Skinny-fat people typically are sedentary (under 7,500 daily steps), and that is correlated to diabetes, heart disease, etc. And it’s also associated with stubborn belly fat. This type of fat doesn’t respond to typical calorie deficits and will be burnt off through increased activity. Sunshine improves blood flow, vitamin D is correlated with testosterone, which helps you to build muscle and stay lean, and sunshine stimulates POMC—a pre-cursor hormone crucial for your body to work properly.
  • Get enough quality sleep—around 7–9 hours. Getting enough good sleep is crucial for general health, and it’s importance increases as you do body recomposition. This will help you improve your hormones to maximize muscle building and fat-burning. Melatonin is one hormone that is badly affected by artificial light at night (TV, bathroom lights, etc.), and you can protect it by wearing blue blockers so that artificial light at night doesn’t disrupt your hormones. See our super-guide here.

Building muscle can be really difficult to do, especially for skinny-fat guys. There are nuances to understand, and environmental and social pressures to fight against that will stand in your way. And each guy has to deal with his own unique situation (age, stress, experience, past injuries, etc.) Even though there are lots of things to learn, even by putting that short list into practice, you’ll already be in a great position.

The Best Ab Exercises

A muscle researcher wrote an article on T-Nation detailing his experiment trying to figure out the best exercises for the lower abs, internal obliques, external obliques, and the lumbar area of the back. Ab exercises were ranked based on their EMG score:

Top EMG Ab Exercises

  1. Bodyweight Chin-Up: 249
  2. Ab Wheel Rollout: 143
  3. RKC Plank: 115
  4. Hanging Leg Raise: 300
  5. Weighted Swiss Ball Crunch: 231

It’s important to realize that EMG isn’t perfect. This is because muscle has been found to grow quite well when being stretched, which the EMG tests don’t capture. So there’s a bit of art when it comes to picking the best exercises.

Best Upper Ab Exercises

The best upper ab exercises are when you bring your head down. These include:

  • Myotatic Crunch (great because you can weight it)
  • Abdominal Crunches
  • Cable Crunches

Best Lower Ab Exercises

The best lower ab exercises are when you bring your knees up to your chest or you are moving your legs. Most people really need to work on their lower abs more as they’ve done too many crunches. Lower ab exercises include:

  • Leg Raises Lying On A Bench
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Hanging Knee Raises
  • Hanging Leg Raises
  • Dragon Flags
  • Reverse Crunches
  • Mountain Climbers

Best Oblique Exercises

While working the abs, it’s common to work the obliques too. These muscles run down the sides of your abs.

  • Seated Barbell Twists (Frank Zane favourite)
  • Weighted Russian Twist
  • Side Bends

Starting Ab Exercises As A Total Beginner

However, depending on how skinny and how much of a beginner you are, you may find some of these exercises like the hanging leg raises and ab rollout too difficult (I know I did.) A good program will work you through the right progression. Many skinny guys might do well with a progression like this, moving onto the next exercise after a few sessions when they’re feeling confident:

  1. Dead bug
  2. Front plank
  3. Large Swiss ball rollout
  4. Small Or Deflated Swiss ball rollout
  5. Ab rollout from knees

Ab Workout For Skinny Fat Men

Frank Zane started training like Zabo Koszewski because he had the best abs on the beach.

Zabo Six Pack Abs

What was Zabo doing? Five hundred reps of abs in the morning and 500 reps in the afternoon. Frank Zane said his most extreme ab routine was getting into a trance and doing reps for 2.5 hours. That might be what it takes to get into shape for a Mr Olympia winner on a concoction of drugs.

For you, as a skinny fat guy, you don’t need to jump to 2.5 hours of ab workouts to challenge your abs to grow.

What you need to do is progressive overload. That means that you continually get stronger. Now, normally with weights, you can just add a tiny bit more weight. So if you’re dumbbell bench pressing 50 pounds in each hand, then you start pressing 52.5 pounds in each hand and rebuild your reps up again.

With ab work, which is harder to add weight to, you’ll want to increase the reps, and then once your reps get too high (beyond 30), then add sets.

Skinny Fat Guy Ab Workout Addon

Add this to the end of your workout:

  • Upper Abs—Abdominal Crunch: 20-25 reps
  • Lower Abs—Lying Leg Raise: 20-25 reps

When you first do the lying leg raise, you may only be able to do a few reps. Keep fighting. Do perfect form, and rest, and eat well, and you’ll get stronger.

When you can do 25 reps in a row, then add one more set and do two sets. Then rebuild. When you can do two sets of 25 reps of both, add one more set to do three sets of 25 reps. When you can do three sets of 25 reps, that’s pretty sweet. You should then switch to harder variations like the weighted myotatic crunch and the hanging knee raise.

Make sure you do some walking outside and fix your diet to work on the belly fat at the same time.

Dedicated Ab Workout For Skinny Fat Men

Get a free ab workout where we hit the abs first and with multiple exercises. Then we move onto a solid full-body routine for men to gain size.

Skinny Fat Workout

AB Workout For Men

  • Free 14-day full-body lifting workout that emphasizes the upper abs, lower abs, and the obliques (and cardio if needed for belly-fat)
  • Do it at the gym or with dumbbells at home
  • Workout spreadsheet
  • Exercise demonstration video links


Skinny Fat To Abs: Next Steps

If you want more help learning how to develop six-pack abs as a skinny fat guy, join our newsletter below or join one of our programs which will cover everything you need to know.

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