T Nation

Best Program for a Skinnyfat Person to Build Physique

Hey this is my first post here and I’m coming here asking for advice on what I should do next.

I think I have shit genetics. I’ve always been very weak, and whenever I gain weight it all goes right to my gut. Used to be skinnyfat. Now my body is pretty normal looking I suppose. Not built, but not skinnyfat either.

I started out doing stronglifts on and off about 2 years ago until last summer. Made some very basic strength gains, practiced my form in all the compound lifts and accessory workouts. Since last summer I’ve tried various new programs as the suggestion of my gym partner. Most of them were the advertised programs on Bodybuilding (this won’t go over well here I’m sure).

From day one I was skeptical of those programs and figured they were a front to sell supplements. But my gym partner made the point that just because they’re trying to sell supplements doesn’t mean they’re bad. The one I’m doing now is the Arnold Blueprint to Mass program, but it simply seems far too exhausting for me (6 days a week, 2 hours a day).

I have been working my ass off since last summer, but I still haven’t seen any major strength gains. My gym partner/friend, who is much more experienced, has gained a lot more strength than I have. I’ve constantly read that beginners (especially naturally weak people) can make massive strength/aesthetic gains when they start out. I had no such luck. I’ve been getting enough sleep, taking supplements, high protein diet. Chicken breast and lentils make up most of my meals.

I have some base strength and I know all the compound lifts fairly well. But at this point I only care about aesthetics. But I’m sick of working my ass off and seeing very little results. Every workout program I do either exhausts me to the point of constant fatigue, or doesn’t challenge me enough. And my body just looks very plain. Low fat, but still very soft and almost no definition at all.

I’m thinking of trying the Texas Method, Madcow, or GVT. Is this a good idea? Remember I’m only looking for aesthetics at this point. That’s why I tried the Arnold Program. I do want strength gains, of course, but
I’d prefer to stop looking like a skinny weakling.

For context, here are some of my 5/3/1 rep ranges.

Squat 5/3/1: - 265, 275, 285

Deadlift 5/3/1: 245, 255, 265

Bench Press: 150, 165, 180

Overhead/Incline Press: ~ 105, 115, 125 (never tested this, i’m approximating)

And here’s my diet

My diet is pretty simple. This is 99% of what I eat, roughly in order of how often. In the past 8 months since being srs about lifting, I’ve gained 15 lbs. I don’t calorie count or check macros, but I roughly eat about 3500 calories a day.

Chicken breast sandwiches (mayo, cheese, dijon/avocado)


Beef/chicken burritos (with eggs, refried beans, cheese, avocado)


Cheerios (whole milk)

Whole fat plain greek yogurt with sliced fruit

Tuna sandwiches (mayo + cheese)

Salmon fillets soaked in butter

Spaghetti with lots of cheese, butter, and meatballs

Steel cut oats/flapjacks with coconut oil

No mention of your nutrition or weight gain in this time.

“Aesthetics” is about having a certain base of muscle and then getting lean. Leanness is the primary factor for looking good at the beach or whatever.

If you’re serious about improving body composition, I recommend weighing yourself every morning and tracking your food intake carefully every day – you can do this either by counting macros/calories or by “layering” your portions and eating the same few foods all the time. Do this for a few weeks and you’ll know how much you need to eat to maintain/gain/lose weight. Then adjust according to your immediate goal. Alternate periods of surplus (gaining weight, slowly) with deficit (losing fat, slowly).

As far as programs, I have used Texas Method and Madcow multiple times over the years, and I even did the Arnold blueprint workout for like 6 weeks a year or so ago. Personally, I prefer programs with some kind of built-in progression system. Arnold doesn’t really have that, it’s basically just a bunch of volume with short rest periods. TM and Madcow are designed more as strength programs than “aesthetics”, but they work.

Google “12 ways to skin the texas method” and scroll down till you find the “bodybuilder” version. If you like the look of it, you could try that. Otherwise search this site’s programs – there are a lot to choose from. Check out Paul Carter’s stuff or CT’s.

Realize that building muscle is a slow process and you’re not going to make dramatic muscle gains in few months. Sorry. Aim for 10 lbs LBM in a year.

Don’t worry about easthetics. That is a waste of resources.

Focus on putting muscle on, keeping the fat in check.

Get on any program and be consistent for the next year.

Good luck.

Hard to go wrong with texas method.

These work very well also…


I don’t track my macros or calories, just seems like so much effort, plus I only really eat whole foods so I never know for sure how many calories I’m getting. Seems way too inprecise. But if I have to start doing this I will. I am doing a clean bulk and eat very healthy. In the past 8 months I’ve gone from 160 to about 175 lbs.

Yeah I understand the bulk and cut phase. I suppose my problem is that I seem to gain very little visible muscle and a lot of fat if I’m not careful.

And it hasn’t been a few months. I started out at 140lbs 2 years ago, and until last summer the changes were negligible. The past 8 months have been marginal at best. I’ve gained 15 lbs and I’d say less than 5 of that is muscle. Only my biceps look a little larger.

I’ll check out those programs though. Thanks

Look into big beyond belief or youtube 3DMJ Training (awesome coaches)

If you want to look like a physique athlete, bodybuilder, etc and look aesthetic, TRAIN FOR IT.

Strength programs will get you stronger and put on muscle but, whether it is in proportion/ balanced will depend on your body.

It isn’t that much effort if you use a decent app, and a big part of being able to control and manipulate anything is being able to quantify it. It’ll take a short while to get into the habit of logging what you eat, but IMO it is well worth it.