How do I go from skinny to kinda buff?
December 11, 2006 7:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I go from newly skinny to kinda buff?

I've lost roughly 60 pounds in 2006. I'm 5'9 and weigh in at 145 lbs.

Now that I'm skinny, I want to look a little toned. Not ripped, not, "Wow, look at that dude," not bulging muscles, just some definition on (1) my abs (not a six-pack), (2) my chest, (3) my biceps. Those are the only three areas I care about.

I'm willing to work out every day of the week, but I refuse to go to a gym. Thus, the only equipment I have is dumbbells and an exercise ball.

What are my options for a weekly routine? And be as specific as possible, I know almost nothing about this stuff.

Follow-up Question: I have around a 19-20% body fat ratio. I have the most fat around my stomach. It's flat, but clearly made up of fat, not lean muscle. Can this area be toned? Can I turn this fat into muscle?

(I asked a similar question awhile back. I had different goals then than I do now.)
posted by JPowers to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Mind detailing your method for such drastic weight loss? ow long have you held it off.
posted by SirStan at 7:31 PM on December 11, 2006

Response by poster: Mind detailing your method for such drastic weight loss? ow long have you held it off.

I used Atkins to lose the bulk of it. Eventually I got to the point where Atkins no longer worked (around 165).

I then started counting calories. Here is a look at my Diet & Fitness log (note: I weigh in at 148.5 right now -- I asked this question in preparation for 145; also, this chart is only for my final push to get down to 145 by 1/1/07, I find it is better to break up big goals into lots of little goals).

I only eat at places that publish their nutritional data (which severely limits your choices).

I'm hardcore about it. I obssess over every calorie. I update this spreadsheet daily.

I spent the entire year (starting January 1) working on my weight.
posted by JPowers at 7:40 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: Without trying to sound like a jerk, abs/chest/biceps is a vain fratguy workout. Dumbells and an exercise ball is plenty to give you a thorough core, shoulder, back, chest, arms, and legs workout, and you'll look all-around better for it.

I do a lot of these on the balls at the gym. If you have something you can lay on (an ottoman, for example), you can use the dumbells for flys, chest presses, shoulder presses, and bent-over rows. Add a set of bicycle crunches and push-ups between sets and you've got a killer workout, all in your living room.
posted by brozek at 7:41 PM on December 11, 2006 [5 favorites]

If you want nice abs, then you need to burn the fat on your stomach. That means cardio work. Don't do hundreds of sit-ups thinking you'll clean that fat off of there, it takes running/swimming/biking types of exercise to get rid of tummy fat.

Once you burn that fat off, then you can expect to see results of ab-workouts like crunches and sit-ups.
posted by farmersckn at 7:43 PM on December 11, 2006

Find a workout DVD, lame as it seems. They're pretty helpful, because you can really see the sets that you're (not) doing and keep you focused. By yourself, you might just wimp out if you're just starting. Netflix has a pretty good collection.
posted by lilithim at 8:06 PM on December 11, 2006

I know you're a dude, but what about a dance class? To break up the monotony at least.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:13 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: farmersckn is right, cardio is key to definition. I suggest the Couch-to-5k if you've never run before. Also check out runner's websites for core strengthening exercises, they'll pull fat off of your torso.
posted by tylermoody at 8:27 PM on December 11, 2006

My advice is to find an activity you like that is healthy and stick with it. If you like lifting weights, do that. If you like running, do that. I have tried several things to get into shape (I didn't need to lose weight but I definitely needed a healthier lifetsyle) from yoga to weight lifting to swimming to running to hiking. Friends had been asking me to join their all-girl tae kwon do class for a year and when I finally decided in May to try it to get them off my backs I was totally blown away by how much fun it was. That is the main reason I've stuck with it, and since then, I've noticed a significant change in the *shape* of my body (in terms of tone and posture) even though I haven't lost a single pound.

Something like TKD is good for me too because I'm working toward an ultimate goal — my black belt. Running is good for this too (races) but it is so so hard on your body.

In other words — find something fun and stick with it.
posted by Brittanie at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2006

"Also check out runner's websites for core strengthening exercises, they'll pull fat off of your torso"

While any exercise increases calories burned, no exercise will target fat in a specific area of the body. Cardio is generally considered the most efficient form of exercise to burn fat. Core exercises are extremely useful in preparing your body for activity however, and building muscle in an area does improve the appearance, even if you are carrying a bit of leftover flab or loose skin. BTW, don't sweat a little leftover tummy, it looks a lot bigger to you looking down at it than it does to others.

You have all you need to work abs (ball crunches), chest (pushups, dumbell flys, bench), and biceps (dumbell curls). However, I strongly recommend a more well rounded workout, both for health and appearance considerations. It is a really bad idea to develop muscles without exercising the antagonists (chest-back, biceps-triceps). Add a pull-up bar to your gear, and you'll have enough to get a pretty well rounded workout (assuming your dumbells are adjustable-weight). There are myriad sites out there that outline the possible exercises. Dr. Squat is one I used when starting out. Mix it up as much as possible, and don't neglect the smaller muscles such as those in your shoulders and forearms.

I agree wholeheartedly with Brittanie about finding a fun activity for exercise, but I also think a resistance training program is key, to prepare your body for this activity and in preventing injury. You might even rethink your aversion to gyms as I finally did, when you find how much easier and more efficient it is to have a wide selection of equipment and a dedicated space for it.

You cannot "turn fat into muscle". The tried and true technique for improving body fat ratio is to spend some time developing muscle (don't focus so much on caloric restriction during this period), then focus on cardio while dieting. When losing weight, you are losing both muscle and fat. High fat diets increase the amount of muscle loss in this period, low fat diets preserve muscle tissue. Repeating this cycle will gradually improve the ratio.
posted by Manjusri at 12:37 AM on December 12, 2006

Best answer: This is not right. I am a half inch shorter than you, though perhaps I may be a bit broader than average, and currently around 20% bf. I am a little tubby around the middle but I can deadlift 300lb for reps without too much worry. I am however a shade over 180 lb. You are damned skinny my friend, but you sound like what they call "skinny-fat."

Normally if you want visible muscle you have to lose body fat, which means being in calorie deficit, while retaining muscle mass. However you can't retain the muscle you have if you don't lift weights or at least do body weight exercises (squats, pressups, hand stand push ups, etc) that are focussed on strength.

I suggest you rethink your aversion to gyms, or buy some weights. They are the single best way to build or retain muscle mass. That is what they are for. "I refuse to go to gym". Well, at best you will look wiry.

"Toning" is bullshit. People who use the word are either patronising you or ignorant. There is growing muscle, and revealing muscle through fat loss. That is all you can do. What people call "toned" is having visible muscle mass. If you want to look "toned" you must lose fat and or gain muscle. Since most people find it very hard to gain significant muscle without gaining fat as well, the usual way is bulk - eating lots while lifting - and then cut - eat less and do cardio while lifting. This is usual, because frankly it is the only way that is effective for most people. There is no royal road, only eating and lifting and cycling your diet.

If you absolutely refuse to lift, I would suggest martial arts or rock-climbing or some other pursuit where strength is advantageous, and you might grow a little muscle to meet the new demands. brozek's advice seems very sound, but there are limits to how far you can go with dumbells (unless you're going to invest in a set that goes up to 50lb each or so).

I would also stop obsessing about my weight and start obsessing about my body-fat percentage.

Oh, and body fat is lost all over. There is no such thing as spot reduction. Therefore wanting to reveal specific areas is a wrong-headed goal. At best, you can grow the muscles in those areas while reducing bodyfat generally.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:43 AM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify: I understand you have dumbbells. When I say "buy some weights" I mean get a barbell, a bench and stands, and a couple of hundred pounds of plates. When I say "lift", I mean squat, deadlift, military press, and similar large compound exercises.

On the improvised low-tech front: do chins/pullups in a doorway, and hang weights from your belt. Likewise do dips between two chairs, with added weight.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:47 AM on December 12, 2006

i'm curious, how did you lose the weight; i've realized for a while how overweight I am, and would love to loose a good bit; my email is on my profile page (i think). Thanks
posted by uncballzer at 5:34 AM on December 12, 2006

I second i_am_joe's_spleen on everything he said.

Looking ripped involves having muscle to show.

Having muscle to show involves gaining weight. Do this by compound exercises using free weights, and increasing food intake.

It is not your weight that determines how you look (and feel), it is your body fat percentage.

Congrats on losing your weight, but now you've got bigger fish to fry. It's time for a paradigm change in the way you think about your body. You have demolished the old building that was your overweight self, and now you want to build up a new building that is a healthy, fit, lean you. I wish you luck on your journey.
posted by zhivota at 6:03 AM on December 12, 2006

Squats! Seriously, squats builds the most muscle mass and is key in developing other areas of the body. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, dumbell rows and curls and you should be fine.
posted by electroboy at 6:46 AM on December 12, 2006

I'll third i_am_joe's_spleen. It's not exactly palatable advice, but he's right.
There's a few other things that may help motivate you, though:

Lean muscle mass burns calories. Seriously. You sit there, and your quads take care of that plate of french toast you had for breakfast. I'm roughly your height and weight with a decelerating late-twenties metabolism, but I can and do eat damn near anything I please...the trick is that the muscle I built up a few years ago takes care of all the extra calories I take in.

If you're weight training properly, you don't need to be in the gym (garage/basement/so forth) every day. If you split your routine into two or three different work outs, you can get away with going every second day and still make good progress. Where you're at right now, I'd probably say that you could go with Back, Biceps, Chest, and Triceps for Day 1, then Legs and Shoulders for Day 2. After about six months or so, you could probably split Back and Biceps off into their own Day. You could do abs with all of the workouts.

On a less positive note, if you just work your biceps, chest and abs, you'll wind up looking like crap. Your newly super-charged pecs will pull your shoulders forward if you don't strengthen your back, making it look like you slouch, and your giant new guns will like small because there's no triceps there to fill out the back of your arms. Do your whole'll help get rid of your stomach fat, and it'll look better.

If you're serious about this (and judging by your diaries and so on, I suspect you are), you'll either need to join a gym, or buy a couple more basic peices of equipment. If you're really looking to minize your expenditure, you could likely just buy an adjustable squat rack and a barbell.

Good luck with it.
posted by Kreiger at 6:56 AM on December 12, 2006

Damn it. '...will look small...'
posted by Kreiger at 7:00 AM on December 12, 2006

You really need to understand some basic facts here. I'm with everyone that has said that you need an all-over workout and that you cannot spot-train. If you want to get in shape you need to do cardio and to lift weights (as others have said). The largest muscle-mass is in the legs and in the core so you need to target those areas to get looking good, even if you only care about your abs, pecs and biceps. Please don't start training some muscle groups whilst ignoring others, you'll make a whole world of trouble for yourself later on. I would seriously recommend you re-thinking your gym aversion. Gyms aren't that bad and, if you don't get stiffed on membership then it'll probably be a better option then blowing your money on a load of equipment. At the very least start reading up about strength-training.
posted by ob at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2006

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