Here’s a question that was asked recently in The Renegade Strength Club Forum, followed by my response. I’m posting it here because it could help a lot of people suffering through a similar plight.
I’m coming back from multiple injuries. I recently got my bloodwork done because I just felt like something was off. And I was right. My estrogen levels are higher than my testosterone, which is low.
My cortisol is high as well.
I’m 5’10, 168 pounds. I am skinny fat!
A guy I hired put me on six meals a day and I followed something called a 4x4x4 workout. Basically it was 4 exercises for 4 sets and you took :04 seconds to raise the weight and :04 seconds to lower it. I did smaller muscles groups (bi’s, tri’s, shoulders) twice a week and larger muscle groups once a week.
My body temperature is only 96.5.
I just keep getting smaller and fatter.
Welcome back, brother. You’re the prototypical skinny-fat, injury prone, low-testosterone-high-estrogen/cortisol-having, hardgainer. I can totally relate.
Here are the top 7 things you need to do right now.
1) Reduce Training Volume
Train three days per week and do about 6-10 total work sets per training session. That’s plenty right now.
2) “Stimulate. Don’t annihilate.”
That’s a quote from 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney. In the day and age where every workout is a competition to be posted on social media, most people train too hard.
You can’t go all Ultimate Warrior on shit and expect to get the results you want and remedy your situation. No extreme psyche up or anything like that.
And definitely don’t train to failure.
3) Master Technique
Only train with weights you absolutely master with perfect form and constant tension. Right of the top I can tell you that you’ll need to reduce the weight you do on every exercise by at least 20%.
Most skinny-fat guys always stay that way, and never look like they train because they constantly go too heavy. They train their egos but never the actual muscle they want to build.
Look, I’ve been telling people for years now that the key to building muscle is to get stronger and set PR’s but you have to do so with great form.
You should NEVER feel an exercise in your shoulders, elbows, knees, hips or lower back. Belly of the muscle only.
Lower the weight in a very controlled two count. Stretch under load (but only to full range of the muscle, NOT the exercise. There’s a big difference and most people have no clue), then contract and squeeze the target muscle as hard as you can.
4) Stop Doing Cardio
Do zero medium intensity cardio. Do something high intensity for ten minutes at the end of two of the workouts. Sled sprints, battling ropes, Air Assault bike, etc. in short burst intervals of twenty seconds. That’s it for now. Spend an hour doing mobility, yoga and walking on your off days.
When you get healthy we’ll talk about how to add some more conditioning back in.
5) Eat for Hormone Optimization & Reduced Stress
Skinny-fat guys only get “more skinny-fat” when following a low carb/ high fat diet. Don’t do that. Keep your carbs up and your fat intake moderate. Definitely never more than 30% of your total calories, max.
No intermittent fasting right now. You don’t need any additional stress and you need to get your body temperature up.
Just eat. Wake up and have breakfast. Protein and fruit. Do that again a few hours later whenever you get hungry.
One cup of high quality coffee per day is fine. I’d limit it to that for now.
Have 30-50 grams of starch with protein 90-120 minutes before training. So oatmeal, rice or potatoes with some cottage cheese, chicken, fish, protein powder or eggs.
Have a similar meal 30 minutes or so after your workout. Eat a decent sized dinner with protein, greens and starch. This will be your biggest meal of the day but don’t stuff yourself. Just eat until you’re content.
6) Make Sleep Your #1 Priority
It’s the single most important thing you can do to improve muscle growth, fat loss, recovery, cognitive function, immune function, sex drive and testosterone levels.
Get to bed earlier and stay there for a non-negotiable eight hours every single night.
7) Chill the F Out
You absolutely CAN’T go a day without meditating for at least 12-15 minutes, minimum.
You also need to spend at least ten minutes per day practicing deep breathing.
I would definitely recommend you take yoga twice per week. Or get some of Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up DVD’s and do them at home.
You need a calming hobby as well. Trust me. Take up an instrument and/or an art class. Book it on the calendar every week.
Read the Tao Te Ching every morning and spend five minutes writing in a gratitude journal.
Lastly, go see a good doc in the city, get a full blood panel and work with him to get everything else where it needs to be.