If a normal diet plan doesn’t work for your skinny-fat genetics do you think any random workout program you pulled off the internet will?
You may have tried many routines and exercise programs in the past but did you get the results you wanted? Probably not.
There are a million workout routines out there. Most designed in the West and for Western body types and genetics.
Did you ever consider that maybe these programs were never designed to be used by you?
Remember, as South Asians, we are built differently.
Our training strategy should reflect this.
Why are we going to add exercise into the mix?
Remember, we are eating to control insulin levels in order to minimize fat storage.
Diet alone will go a long way to improve the way your body handles the food you eat. You will most likely end up eating less which will lead to significant weight/fat loss and a better looking and functioning body.
However, this is only half of the picture.
If we are no longer going to be sending as many of the carbs you eat to your fat cells then where do we send them?
Your muscle of course(and other tissue).
The problem is, South Asians display a high degree of Insulin Resistance in their muscle cells. Meaning the carbohydrates you eat don’t get stored there as much as they should and instead get diverted to your adipose tissue(fat). This is why you have that lower belly fat(men), or you have flabby legs/thighs(women) even at low body fat levels.
We are going to change that.
This is the stimulus your body needs to change the way it partitions the nutrients you consume (muscle>fat).
But we aren’t going to just pick any of the popular workout programs out there.
We need a plan that takes into account our unique genetic makeup and fixes our disadvantages towards muscle building.
If you don’t care about why most other programs/plans don’t work and just want the workouts then you can skip ahead to the “How” section.
Most strength training plans will not work for South Asian’s, especially beginners, because of the following problems:
- Too much volume (high rep ranges, sets)
- Too high frequency, 4+ days/week
- Are muscle-based rather than movement
- Focus on the wrong muscles/movements
- Focus on Cardio
- Lack of focus on Recovery
- Lack of focus on Mobility
Remember, South Asians typically have https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405820/ :
- Higher Inflammation levels
- Higher Cortisol levels
- Small wrists
- Fat around the lower chest and belly/hips(men), glutes/thighs(women)
- Difficulty Gaining Muscle
- Sedentary lives
- A low protein diet
Combine these two lists and you have a recipe for disaster.
For example, a typical bodybuilding program geared towards fat-loss looks like this:
High volume workouts, 4+days per week, split into body parts (Chest, Back, Arms, Legs etc.) along with steady state cardio(jogging, elliptical etc.)
Combine this with our naturally high inflammation/cortisol levels and small joints and what you’ll eventually get is:
- Nervous System Fatigue
- Over-training (messed up hormones, energy, performance etc.)
- Joint Pain
- Less muscle mass preserved
Sound like fun?
You’ll end up like poor Sisyphus above, forever spinning his wheels and going nowhere.
Instead, we need a transformation plan that is intelligently designed to:
- Not raise cortisol/inflammation higher than necessary.
- Takes into account our recovery capabilities.
- Targets our weak spots while avoiding certain movements/muscles to balance out our physique (chest, abdomen, legs/hips).
- Focuses on movement quality instead of overloading and muscles.
There are many ways to program this and any good personal trainer/strength coach will be able to figure out 2-3/4 of these points. However, almost none will check all four with a South Asian client.
The following is a sample training program I customize for each client during Phase 1 of the Transformation Plan to fix South Asian/Indian Skinny-Fat Syndrome.
These are the training principles* we will follow in order to avoid over-training, balance our bodies, and build/maintain muscle while losing bodyfat:
- On Upper Body days, no more than 10-12 working sets
- On Lower Body days, 8-10 working sets
- Working/stimulating each muscle group once directly and once indirectly every 7-8 days
- No training to failure, always 1-2 reps in reserve/“left in the tank”, especially with heavy compound lifts
- No Cardio other than walking(to begin with)
- Focus on compound movements with some isolation work
- Avoid Max-effort work(>90% 1 rep max)
- Focus on Upper Back, Upper Chest and Lats to balance physique(for men)
*These principles were hard-won from over a decade of personal experience and experimentation. I have tried nearly every popular protocol out there so that you don’t have to and I have found by adhering to these principles, I was able to maximize my muscle growth, balance my body and obtain optimal results. Furthermore, they are also adapted from many other renowned coaches1http://johnalvino.com/skinny-fat-solution/https://anthonymychal.com/11-training-tips-for-the-skinny-fat-ectomorph-revisited/ who have transformed many skinny-fat clients (albeit not South Asian/Indian).
Whether you are brand new to strength training or have some experience, this is routine I recommend* for the first 4-6 weeks:
Day 1 – Horizontal Push/Pull
|DB Low Incline(15-30°) Bench Press||3||8-12|
|DB Single Arm Row||3||8-12|
|Band Pull-Apart Pronated grip||3||8-12|
Day 2 – Lower Body (Posterior focus)
|Deadlift (or regression)||3||8-12|
|Ab Circuit, 2-4 exercises back to back||2||10-20|
Day 3 – Vertical Push/Pull
|DB Neutral Grip OH Press||3||8-12|
|DB Upright Row or Lateral Flyes||3||8-12|
Day 4 – Lower Body (Anterior focus)
|Front/Back Squat (or regression)||3||8-10|
|Seated Calf Raise||2||15-20|
|Hanging Leg/Knee Raises with slight posterior pelvic tilt||2||10-15|
Legend: DB = Dumbbell, KB = Kettlebell, BB = Barbell, OH = Overhead
The workouts should be done 2-3x/week for beginners and 3-4x/week for more experienced lifters. These days can be spaced apart as follows:
3 days(2-week sample):
|Day 1||off||Day 2||off||Day 3||off||off|
|Day 4||off||Day 1||off||Day 2||off||off|
and so forth.
|Day 1||Day 2||off||Day 3||off||Day 4||off|
|Day 1||off||Day 2||off||Day 3||Day 4||off|
*Obviously this is a sample training split and for optimal results, this would be further customized to each client. However, it is a great plan to get started.
If any of these exercises sound unfamiliar, or you need warmup suggestions Google them!
There are plenty of free resources (videos/articles) out there that will teach you how to correctly perform each movement and avoid injury while doing so.
Feel free to design your own workout program based on most or all of the principles above.
We’ve now covered the Why, What and How of our Strength Training Plan. All that’s left is the Who, When and Where. The first two elements would be further customized to the individual and are beyond the scope of this article (see my upcoming ecourse or online coaching). However, I have intentionally generalized for South Asians as a whole and provided a plan that is far more customized than any other program on the internet or from your local trainer.
As for the Where?
Get to the Gym and see for yourself.
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