How to go from Fat & Weak to Lean & Muscular
In this article I’m going to show you how to get a model/hollywood actor type physique starting from a condition where you have a good amount of fat and also little muscle mass. I know this a discouraging position to start your fitness journey from but the good news is that you can make a staggering change in just a few months.
Starting from this point allows you to build muscle while losing fat for at least the first 3-6 months and when your waist becomes smaller, the proportion with your shoulders automatically improves and your chest, back and arms will actually look bigger.
Ready? Let’s do it!
Defining the Goal
Alright so first of all let’s define our goal. Knowing where you want to go and where you are now, shows you the changes that need to be made in your physique.
So I’m assuming your goal is to get a body that looks something like this:
slim waist, clearly defines abs, thick shoulders, wide upper back muscles, masculine square chest, well developed arms, and athletic legs.
Getting this type of physique is actually very simple. All you have to do is get lean to shrink the waist, improve muscle definition and get strong to develop your muscle mass.
You have to reach those standards of strength and waist measurement and you will have a body that looks like that. A waist that is so slim automatically means a very low body fat percentage and that kind of relative strength automatically means very well developed muscle mass.
It really is that simple. Now it’s not going to be easy to get there, because it takes time and dedication but it’s not complicated.
Ok, so this is the goal. I don’t know what your current condition is but you’re probably not close to these standards.
You probably need to lose a good amount of fat and weight and get a lot stronger than you are now. That’s ok. At least you now know what you need to do.
How your transformation will go down
1. Lose body fat until your waist reaches about 45% of your height (for example at 6 feet tall you’d want a waist that is 32 inches around the belly button). Depending on how much fat you have to lose, this cut can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months.
The reasons we start we a cutting phase first are explained in the article: Why Get Lean before Bulking
2. When your waist reaches ~45% of your height, move into a maintenance phase for 2-3 weeks.
3. After the maintenance phase, move into a lean bulking phase and gain the muscle mass needed to create awesome proportions. This bulk should be stretched over several months to maximize muscle gains and minimize fat gain.
4. Once you’re up to 14-15% body fat (waist is about ~48% of height) it’s time to cut back to the 9-11% range (waist is ~45% of height). Ideally, as you’re gaining size you’ll never go above 15% body fat again. Your cut and bulk cycles will be kept in the range of 8-15% body fat. This way you’ll have good muscle definition all the time (or at least a 4 pack) and your face will stay relatively chiseled.
5. Repeat this process until you’ve built enough size to not look small when you cut down to 9-11% body fat.
6. Enjoy life to the utmost.
How to lose weight
Losing body fat all comes down to nutrition. When you eat fewer calories than your body burns every day, that will lead to fat loss. Fat burning workouts, fancy diets, cardio, and all other methods of burning fat only work because of the calorie deficit they create. So to save time, it’s better to track calories directly. Whatever weight loss method you’d choose the reason for fat loss would still be the calorie deficit.
A pound of fat has approximately 3500 calories. That means that if you eat 500 calories under your current intake you’re probably going to lose a pound of fat per week. Losing fat is a numbers game – Calories in vs Calories Out.
Now, you’ll probably be able to lose fat faster than this for the first few weeks so here how you need to set up your calorie intake:
For fat loss you should eat between 9.5 and 13 kcal per pound of body weight everyday.
- Those that are very active (manual labor + weight training and sports) should use the top range of the interval (12-13 kcal x bw in lbs).
- Those who are very sedentary (only weight training at the gym and just sitting down the rest of the time) should use the lowest end of the interval (9.5-10.5 kcal x bw in lbs)
- Those who are mostly sedentary (only weight training at the gym and daily brief walks) should use the low end of the interval as well (10-11 kcal x bw in lbs)
- Those moderately active (weight training + walking and sports from time to time) should use the middle range of the interval (11-12 kcal x bw in lbs)
- Those who are significantly overweight should use the low end of the interval (9.5-11lbs) regardless of their activity level because in the beginning they can lose fat fast without negative effects. When they reach a “normal” weight, they will decrease their energy deficit.
A guy weighing 165 lbs who trains 3 times a week, walks to work or school and plays sports in the weekend would set up his calorie intake like this: 165 x 11 = 1815 kcal a day. (he is moderately active so he goes with 11 kcal)
A guy weighing 240 lbs who has a desk job and does little to no physical activity would set up his calorie intake like this: 240 x 9.5 = 2280 kcal a day. (he has a lot of fat to lose so he goes with the lowest number)
A guy weighing 170 lbs who works in constructions and goes to the gym 3 times a week would set up his calorie intake like this: 170 x 13 = 2210 kcal (he burns a lot of calories due to his work therefore he must eat more)
How do you create the calorie deficit?
The calorie deficit should be created primarily through the diet and not cardio. That is because excessive cardio interferes with weightlifting performance.
The caloric deficit already has negative effects of the anabolic hormones and decreases protein synthesis therefore creating most of your deficit through cardio would only serve to increase the risk of muscle and performance loss.
A good rule of thumb is to create 80% of your deficit through diet modifications and only 20% of it through cardio.
To improve results
All you have to do for weight loss is consistently hit the number of calories you got as a result of this equation. Don’t worry about the glycemic index, eating before going to sleep, heart rate for fat burning, that stuff is minutia. I’m giving you the things that will bring you 80% of the results.
The calorie deficit is all that matters for weight loss, but if you want to lose fat not muscle, it’s important to get a good ratio of protein, fats and carbs. To learn how to set up your protein, fats and carbs, get my free ebook – The Master of Macros. It’s completely free, it’s yours click here to get it.
That ebook will also show you how to count your calories and macros which is very important.
So by being in a caloric deficit and getting about 1g of protein per pound and a good balance of fats and carbs, you will be able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time for at least a few months.
If you want to see what foods I eat and how I plan my meals for fat loss, after you finish reading this article, check out: How I cut for Summer.
Now let’s talk about training.
How to gain Strength and Muscle
When you want to build muscle, the main goal of your workouts should actually be getting stronger.
Most people don’t understand this, but we can’t train for size. Muscle grows either to produce more force (increasing the size of the contractile tissue so it can lift heavier weights) or to improve endurance (increasing the capacity to store fuel known as glycogen around the muscle fibers).
However, most of the muscle mass a natural lifter can gain will come from getting stronger in a medium rep range. That is because lifting heavier and heavier weights over time increases the actual size of the muscle fibers. Increasing the amount of fuel you can store inside the muscle only accounts for a small percentage of the overall muscle growth. That’s because there is only so much glycogen you can store before you are maxed out.
What this means for you is that the routine that will get you stronger in a medium rep range the fastest will also be the routine that will give you the largest increase in muscle mass.
The fastest way to make strength and muscle gains as a beginner is to train a few key exercises very often, about 2-3 times a week. There are two main reasons for this:
- The vast majority of the initial strength gains a person makes are neurological in nature. When a person starts lifting weights they are weak not only because their muscles are small, but mainly because their nervous system is not trained to recruit the muscle fibers properly. Training each main exercise 2-3 times a week gives you a lot of opportunities to practice the movement. That helps you make the neurological adaptations as fast as possible and get to the point where muscle fibers have to increase in size to contribute to strength.
- Because initially you don’t lift heavy weights, you don’t create much muscle damage and therefore you don’t need much recovery after training. Two days of rest are usually enough to allow you to recover and be able to replicate or surpass your previous performance.
You’ve probably noticed this yourself. In the first weeks of lifting you set a PR every time you go the gym. So it make sense to train an exercise more often and progress as fast as possible.
And because you’ll be training each muscle group 2 or 3 times a week with high intensity, the number of exercises, sets and reps done each session must be low. Otherwise you won’t be able to recover optimally.
So here’s how your first workout routine might look like:
- Incline Bench Press – 5 x 5
- Barbell Row – 5 x 5 (You do these until you can do body weight chin-ups)
- Dips – 3 x 8
- Biceps Curls – 3 x 10-12
- Squat / Sumo Deadlift – 5 x 5
- Reverse Dumbbell Lunges: 3 x 6-8 reps per leg
- Standing One Leg DB Calf Raises: 3 x 10-15 reps
- Abs Wheel Roll Outs: 3 sets x 10 reps
Training is done three days per week, on non-consecutive days, alternating between Workout A and Workout B, like this: Monday: Workout A, Wednesday: Workout B, Friday: Workout A, Monday: Workout B, Wednesday: Workout A, and so on.
Rest three minutes between sets for the compound movements. Rest 60-90 seconds for the assistance exercises.
When you hit the required reps for all sets, increase the weight on all sets the following workout. This will probably cause you to lose 1 or 2 reps in the last 2 sets. That’s normal and the goal for the following workout is to add back the reps in those last sets so you can increase the weight again.
After 3-6 months on this routine you can probably upgrade to a more advanced level.
This nutrition and training plan will get you started and will give you amazing results for the first few months. After that, you’ll need to make some adjustments.
What those adjustments are, well I can’t possibly tell you everything in one article so I created the Path to your Goal Physique for you. It’s another ebook that’s completely free and it’s like a detailed road map guiding you from your current condition to your goal physique.
Click here, get it for free, read it, and if you have any questions leave a comment below. I read and answer all comments.
Is your goal the lean & ripped “Hollywood”actor physique like Henry Cavill in Immortals?
If you so, you could use an advanced training and nutrition program.
The Warrior Shredding Program is the definitive program for dropping fat while building hard, dense muscles.
I am learning a lot on your website… How many you felt the change of your body becoming more ripped or lean?
Great! Glad it helps Felex!
You should see that you’re getting leaner after 2-3 weeks.
Almost at Warrior status!
– Waist to height ratio at 41%
– Bicep Curls 5 reps – 0.6 x BW
– Standing Shoulder Press 5 reps – 0.8 x BW
– Weighted Chin Ups 4 reps – 0.5 x BW
– Incline Dumbbell Curls 5 reps – 0.45 x BW
Just one question, I’ve been doing Incline Dumbbell Curls instead of Incline Barbell Curls. Is there a way to compare the two? Thanks!
That’s great Jason!
Hmm, I’ve never done Incline Dumbbell Curls. I don’t know how they compare with Barbell Curls.
I am 5ft 10in and weigh 155 pounds. I think i have a skinny fat body. My waiste is 36 inches. I started training and have been maintaining my weight as i thought i should just weight train as i don’t want to lose weight.my body fat is 18.9%.
Should i be cutting my calories and reducing my waist down to 31inches and training hard. My worries is if i lose any weight i will look thin.
In your article you say cut down and then bulk up. Would that principle apply to me.
Please can you advise me.
Yes cut down to around 10-12% body fat and only then start lean bulking.
Im 5’9 at 190lbs. Working out 2-3 times a week for about a month now and tracking my calories. I am not sure how much caloric deficit I should maintain in order to lose fat. My BMR is about 1850 calories.
It’s best to have a 20-25% deficit.
If your BMR is 1850 then your maintenance is probably around 2400kcal. To create the deficit reduce that number by 20-25%
I don’t think the waist measurements really is accurate for everyone, it may be accurate for most, but personally I still can’t see my abs even at 41~42% waist measurement to height ratio, and it feels like I still have some abdominal subcutaneous fat (29 inch waist 70 inches in height).
My strength is up there too, not as high as the benchmarks in this article, but up there.
Incline Press- 85kg/5reps
Overhead Press- 65kg/4reps
Chinups- 15kg added/6reps
Yet despite my strength, I really still feel small and my abs just still have fat covering them even when I cut down to 29 inches. Again, at 70 inches in height.
You’re right Chris.
It doesn’t work well for everyone. You naturally have a slim waist which is great, you must have really good proportions.
Warm up with jumping jacks.3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exrciese.30 Second rest between sets and 60 second rest between exrcieses.EXERCISES1. 0:38 Warm-up: Jumping Jacks2. 0:54 Back: Pull Ups3. 1:03 Quads: Lunges4. 1:14 Biceps: Bicep Curls5. 1:27 Abs: Reverse Crunches6. 1:41 Chest: Push-Ups7. 1:51 Butt, Hamstrings: Reverse Lunges8. 2:07 Triceps: Close Grip Push-Ups9. 2:20 Abs: Cross Crunch10. 2:31 Shoulders: Pike Shoulder PressHope this helps
1) Is eating too much protein a problem if it doesn’t upset the deficit
2) I don’t have access to a gym or any weight training equipment, what body weight exercises would you recommend to be as close to the workouts that you described?
1. Eating high amounts of protein lowers the amount of fat and carbs that you can eat. This lowers testosterone a little. If you’re fine with that, then no problem.
2. Check out this program. I’m really not good with bodyweight training but people have been getting great results from Greg’s program.
Excellent job bro!! It will really help me to achieve my body goals.
Thank you David!
Hi Radu, i’ve been following your workout routines for beginners by basically increasing the weights for the 5 key lifts 3x a week. Can I see results within a few months if I take enough proteins? On certain days my calorie intake might be over and on certain days they’re below maintenance but I still take minimum 22grams of protein daily from WHEY and try to get in some protein from food. Would this impair my transformation alot? or is it alright that i’m eating this way?
You can build muscle with a protein intake lower than optimal. As a beginner you will see results very fast.
Ur articles r always gr8. I’ve been cutting for a while now and I’ve reached around 13% bf. Sumhw I still have fat rolls when I sit. Is this normal? I’m around 76kilos at 6’3″ and I think losing another 6 kilos should get me in the 10% range.
Pls let me know.
I am really glad i have found this blog.
Its really gonna help me to achieve my body goals. Mainly i use this supplements for fitness – Fitness supplements
I’m a beginner and have been working out for over a month. I’m a fatter side of a skinny fat (66kgs, 179cm) at 19 years old. I’m following your beginners workout of 4sets of 9 for Incline and flat bench press + squats + assisted pull ups(57kg) + lat pulldowns 3 times a week for over 40days now but my weight has been the same since i started going to the gym, so is the inches around my belly button and chest. My lifts increased from 15kg to 20kg for incline and flat bench and from 18kg to 30kg for lat pull downs but maintained for the other workouts. I don’t see much change physically as I still have saggy lower chest and lower abs fat. Am I doing something wrong with my routine? I can’t seem to gain strength and increase my lifts any faster. I really need help Radu, am I doing something wrong?
Hi Radu, my lifts for bench press, rows, lat pull downs have all gone up by 10-20 kgs each in the past 30 days but my weight and the inches around my waist have been stagnant. i dont see much change in my body either. Does the increase in lifts mean i’m making progress? Do I just keep at it for a few more months? I’m a beginner by the way.
Since I’ve discovered your channel I decided to keep track of my calories intake and..I feel like I’m eating more than I should.
So I’m 183 cm, 88kg.
To lose weight I should eat around 2000 kcal. Right?
Here’s one day meal plan:
– 5 eggs
– ~250g chicken breast + some salad with walnuts and avocado
– 5 eggs
– milk + oatmeal
Is it too much? because is certainly more than I was eating before.
I’ve only been tracking kcals for the last week so I can’t really tell if it’s working…
I’ll weight myself again after 2weeks and if I lose about half kg I’ll be very happy.
So. Too questions:
– seems like too much food?
– Im already at minimum protein intake with a 40%carb 30%prot 30%fat split..if I do have to cut down calories even more..how should I do it? cut down all three? carbs/prot/fats?
How often should one change the formula for caloric intake? Every lb of fat loss? Every 5 lbs? For example I am 185 LBS so 185 x 9.5 = 1757.5 calories which I would consume. Once I get down to 184 LBS should I implement the formula (184 x 9.5 = 1748 cals) and then eat these calories? Do I be this neurotic and change the formula every LB of weight loss?
Thanks a lot for this encouraging post. You really inspire me to get me to the gym.
I would like to ask one question though.
You mention that one should target a waist to length ratio of 45% initially. My question is, should I immediately start doing the workouts A and B, or do I need to first hit that 45% ratio through weight loss?
Thank you very much!
Great video! I learned a lot! Could you give some tips on what needs to be done when you hit plateau? I’ve been on a caloric deficit for 3 months but noticed that my weight loss slowed down. My waistline is 4 inches away from being 45% of my height. Thanks and more power!
[…] Here’s the process that I followed to get lean and still follow to further improve my physique. I got this recommendation from my mentor Radu, which he mentions in this post: […]