post Skinny Fat Workout (Ultimate Training Plan)

Skinny Fat Workout (Ultimate Training Plan)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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As a fitness expert, I frequently encounter clients determined to initiate a body transformation due to a common concern, "skinny fat".

So, I have dedicated weeks of research to create an effective 4-day workout plan specifically tailored for individuals grappling with the skinny fat physique.

Additionally, I will share insights about the root causes of this appearance, empowering you to prevent its onset proactively.

Quick Summary

  • My workout plan combines strength training exercises (deadlifts, bench presses, hack squats) with cardio to accomplish body recomposition (lose body fat percentage and gain muscle mass) to eliminate belly fat and that overall skinny fat look.
  • The skinny fat appearance stems from inadequate muscle mass, insufficient protein intake, unhealthy eating habits, inadequate sleep, and heightened stress levels.
  • According to Harvard Medical School, the recommended daily protein intake is around 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, crucial for muscle gain and fat loss in skinny fat individuals.
  • In my opinion, a 4-day workout plan focusing on strength and cardio, along with a protein-rich diet and stress management, is a comprehensive approach to overcoming the skinny fat dilemma.

4-Day Skinny Fat Workout Plan

Workout A

Person working out to lose skinny fat

Hack Squats

How to do this exercise:

  1. Position the back of your torso against the pad of the machine.
  2. Hook your shoulders under the shoulder pads.
  3. Place your legs on the platform, hip-width apart, with a slight outward toe angle.
  4. Place your arms on the machine's side handles and disengage the safety bars, which on most designs, is made by moving the side handles from a front-facing position to a diagonal position.
  5. Straighten your leg without locking the knees.
  6. Inhale as you slowly lower yourself by bending your knees and maintaining a straight posture with the head up and back against the pad.
  7. Continue until the angle between calves and upper legs becomes slightly less than ninety degrees.
  8. Exhale while driving through your heels to fully extend your legs and bring yourself back to the starting position.
  9. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve repetitions.

Dumbbell Lunges

Person working out to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise:

  1. This type of exercise requires grasping a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended close to your body. Keep your back straight and your core contracted.
  2. Take a long step forward so that your front knee is slightly bent. Your front foot should be flat, while the heel of your other foot should be raised off the floor.
  3. Inhale as you gradually lower your body until your front thigh aligns parallel to the floor and your other knee slightly touches the floor. Make sure your other knee doesn't extend beyond your toes.
  4. Exhale as you use your front leg to lift your body back to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve repetitions.

Related Articles:

Hip Thrusts

How to do this exercise:

  1. Grab a dumbbell and lay back on a bench, positioning it right on your upper back.
  2. Drive your hips up towards the ceiling, ensuring your abs are tight during the exercise.
  3. Place the dumbbell on your hips, allowing the weight to naturally sink your hips down as you lower yourself.
  4. Push through your heels to propel yourself back up to the starting position.
  5. Hold while squeezing your glutes for three seconds at the top of the movement.
  6. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve repetitions.

“If you are lifting too much weight, or if you have very tight hip flexors, it is possible to lift the hips partially but not to reach full extension with the hips in line with the shoulders and knees. This will shortchange you of the most effective part of this exercise. To reach full extension, lower the amount of weight slightly and see if you can get the hips fully extended.”

- Malia Frey, Certified Personal Trainer

Barbell Deadlifts

Person doing barbell deadlifts to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise:

  1. Begin by gripping the barbell using a hook grip (where your thumb is inside your closed fingers).
  2. Position yourself in a shoulder-width stance.
  3. Elevate the barbell off the floor while keeping a straight back and hinging at your hips. Focus on pushing through your heels until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Briefly pause before lowering the barbell back down.
  5. Repeat until you complete two to three sets of eight to twelve reps.

Planks

How to do this exercise:

  1. Assume a push-up position, placing your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower yourself onto your forearms while engaging your core muscles.
  3. Hold this position for thirty seconds.
  4. Slowly lower yourself down to the ground to release the plank position.
  5. Rest for thirty seconds and repeat.

Related: Does Planking Burn Fat

Hanging Leg Raises

Person doing leg raises to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise:

  1. Reach up to grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet together.
  2. Raise your legs in front of you as high as you can comfortably while keeping them straight.
  3. Pause for three seconds before slowly lowering your legs back to the starting position.
  4. Slowly lower your legs back to go back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you complete two to three sets of eight to twelve reps.

“Your core muscles work hard during the lowering phase of this exercise. If you rush this phase and try to lower them too fast, you will miss this benefit. Keep the descent of your legs slow and controlled, again, avoiding any swaying or swinging while retaining good form.”

- Paul Rogers, Personal Trainer

Workout B

Person working out to lose skinny fat

DB Bent-Over Row

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet positioned at a shoulder-width distance and knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells using an overhand grip.
  3. Hinge your hips backward at a 45-degree angle, maintaining a neutral back throughout the movement.
  4. Pull the dumbbells towards your chest and pause at the top of the movement while contracting your shoulder blades.
  5. Slowly lower the weights to go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat this exercise for three sets of twelve repetitions.

Lat Pull-Downs

How to do this exercise:

  1. Sit on the lat pull-down machine and adjust the thigh rest for stability.
  2. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, positioning your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull the bar down towards your chest, focusing on maintaining your elbows close to your body throughout the exercise.
  4. Hold the bar in the pulled-down position for a few seconds, engaging your targeted muscles.
  5. Slowly release the bar back and repeat for three sets of twelve repetitions.

Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Person working out to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand shoulder width-apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward.
  2. Exhale as you slowly raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders while keeping your spine and engaging your core muscles.
  3. Hold when your forearms are vertical for a brief pause.
  4. Inhale as you return the weights to their starting position.
  5. Repeat the exercise for three sets of twelve repetitions.

Incline Bench Press

How to do this exercise:

  1. Lay on an incline bench and place a dumbbell at your torso level.
  2. Raise the dumbbell in front of you, ensuring your elbows stay close to your body.
  3. Lower the dumbbell back and repeat until you complete three sets of eight to twelve reps.

“Cocking your wrists backward while holding the dumbbells—forming a 90-degree angle between the back of your hand and forearm—may not seem like a big issue, but holding the dumbbells this way puts a lot of strain on your wrists. Focus on keeping your wrists straight so that they're perpendicular to the ground throughout the exercise to prevent wrist injury.”

- Laura Williams

Cardiovascular Exercise

Conclude your resistance training workout by engaging in thirty minutes of cardio activity, such as:

  • Running on the treadmill
  • Cycling
  • Using the rowing machine

Workout C

Person working out to lose skinny fat

Leg Extension

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Sit down on the machine and grab the handles for stability.
  2. Extend your legs to lift the padded bar.
  3. Briefly hold this position before lowering the padded bar to go back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for three sets of twelve reps.

Also Read: Best Leg Extension Alternatives

Hack squats

I've provided the instructions for performing the Hack Squats exercise above.

Standing Machine Calf Raises

How to do this exercise:

  1. Position your shoulders under the pads and stand upright with your feet hip-width apart on the footplate and toes facing forward.
  2. This workout also requires you to contract your calf muscles while slowly elevate your heels.
  3. Briefly hold while standing on tiptoes.
  4. Slowly lower your heels down to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you complete three sets of eight to twelve reps.

“To stay properly balanced while performing calf raises, keep your chest up and stand tall. Leaning too far forward redistributes your body weight (and the weight of your dumbbells, if you're using them), which can cause back pain and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.”

- Chelsea Evers

Hamstring Curl

Person working out to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise:

  1. Lie face down on the fitness bench with your feet locked under the pad and hands holding onto the handles for stability.
  2. Pull your legs towards your glutes, and during this exercise, focus on contracting your hamstring muscles while keeping your hips in contact with the machine.
  3. Lower your legs back to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve reps.

Workout D

Person working out to lose skinny fat

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press

How to do this exercise:

  1. Grip a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench.
  2. Place the dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing forward.
  3. Push the dumbbells over your head while keeping a neutral back and your body stationary.
  4. Briefly hold before lowering the dumbbells back to your shoulder level.
  5. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve reps.

Pull-Up

How to do this exercise:

  1. During this exercise, grasp a pull-up bar, positioning your hands slightly beyond shoulder-width apart.
  2. Elevate your feet off the floor or step to hang from the bar.
  3. Flex your elbows to pull your body upwards until your chin reaches the pull-up bar while contracting your core muscles.
  4. Briefly hold before slowly extending your arms to return to the starting position.
  5. Continue performing this movement for as many repetitions as you are able to.

“You will get the most out of doing a full extension of the arms at the bottom and bringing your chin to bar level at the top. If you have built enough strength for this full range of motion, don't cheat yourself and just do partial raises.”

- Elizabeth Quinn, Exercise Physiologist

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Person doing dumbbell hammer curls to lose skinny fat

How to do the hammer curl:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, then stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders.
  3. Hold for three seconds, then lower the dumbbells to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve reps.

Chest Fly

How to do this exercise:

  1. Sit on the fly machine with your back pressing against the padded backrest.
  2. Grasp the handles while keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Slowly bring your arms forward and towards each other, keeping our elbows slightly bent throughout the entire range of motion.
  4. Pause when the handles almost touch and slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve reps.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Person doing dumbbell lateral raises to lose skinny fat

How to do this exercise: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, maintaining a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Get a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your thighs.
  3. Raise the dumbbells outward to the sides, ensuring your palms face the ground.
  4. Continue lifting the dumbbells until they reach approximately shoulder height, with your elbows slightly bent.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat until you complete three sets of twelve reps.

What Causes The Skinny Fat Look?

Woman measuring belly fat

As a personal trainer, I've observed that the skinny fat appearance often results from inadequate muscle mass, insufficient protein intake, an improper calorie deficit diet, elevated stress levels, inadequate sleep, or hormone imbalances.

  • Little muscle mass - Weight training can aid in weight management and promote an improved muscle-to-fat ratio. As you gain muscle, your body becomes more efficient at burning calories, even during periods of rest.
  • Low protein intake - High protein diet is crucial to gain muscle mass and lose fat. According to a study by the Harvard Medical School, the Food and Nutrition Board's recommended daily allowances (RDA) suggest consuming around 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day [1].
  • Inadequate caloric deficit diet - According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), to achieve a weight loss of 1 lb in a week, a person would require a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories, which equates to maintaining a daily deficit of 500 calories throughout that period [2].
  • Elevated stress - According to NIH, excess stress can contribute to abdominal obesity because of high cortisol levels [3].
  • Low sleep quality - As noted by NIH, poor sleeping patterns can be the reason you aren’t losing weight, as they can negatively affect your eating habits, metabolic rate, and the hormones regulating metabolism [4].
  • Health conditions - A skinny fat woman may also face challenges regarding her appearance influenced by health conditions, such as gut health issues, contraceptive pills intake, hormone imbalances, or underactive thyroid. According to NIH, in the case of men, conditions such as hypogonadism and growth hormone deficiencies can potentially lead to abdominal obesity [5].

Supplementation for Skinny Fat Individuals

Certain supplements can be beneficial as part of a broader strategy that includes diet and exercise. Here are some supplements that might be helpful:

  1. Protein Powders (Whey, Casein, or Plant-Based): Protein is crucial for muscle building and repair. For skinny fat individuals, increasing protein intake can help in gaining lean muscle mass while potentially reducing body fat. Protein powders are a convenient way to increase protein intake, especially post-workout.
  2. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): BCAAs, particularly leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are essential amino acids that play a key role in muscle protein synthesis. Supplementing with BCAAs can support muscle growth and reduce muscle soreness after workouts.
  3. Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine is one of the most researched supplements for muscle growth and strength. It can help increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance, which is beneficial for skinny fat individuals looking to build muscle.
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): Omega-3s are beneficial for overall health, including heart health and inflammation reduction. They may also play a role in body composition by potentially aiding in fat loss and muscle preservation.
  5. Vitamin D and Calcium: These are important for bone health. Since exercise and muscle strengthening are crucial for skinny fat individuals, maintaining strong bones is essential. Vitamin D also plays a role in muscle function and metabolism.
  6. Green Tea Extract: Known for its metabolism-boosting properties, green tea extract can aid in fat loss. It contains antioxidants called catechins, which, along with caffeine, can help in increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
  7. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): CLA is a type of fat that may help reduce body fat. Some studies suggest it can aid in the reduction of body fat mass in humans, making it a potential supplement for those with a skinny fat physique.
  8. Multivitamins: To ensure all micronutrient needs are met, especially if the diet lacks in certain vitamins and minerals. A balanced micronutrient intake is crucial for overall health and can indirectly support fitness goals.

FAQs

Should Skinny Fat People Do High-Intensity Interval Training?

Yes, skinny fat people should do high-intensity interval training as it can optimize body recomposition and burn more calories in a short duration. Additionally, the body continues to experience an elevated calorie burn after completing a HIIT workout.

Should I Do Cardio to Lose Skinny Fat?

Yes, you should do cardio to lose skinny fat. Cardio exercises like running, cycling, or swimming can improve cardiovascular health, boost endurance, and can help you get rid of your skinny fat appearance. However, it is crucial to combine cardio with strength training exercises to build muscle while losing fat.


References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035446/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16353426/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9031614/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279053/
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