From non-athletic to athletic - Jump Lift Spirit

From non-athletic to athletic

Being in shape (the shape that you want) is hugely important to your self-image. It’s not shallow to acknowledge that. I’m a natural ectomorph, so when I get too skinny, I don’t like it. It definitely affects how I feel about myself.

I get questions from people all the time about ‘how to look like a boxer’, ‘how to get a six-pack’ etc, so I know other people feel the same way.

I’ve been meaning to write this guide for a while. From working closely with a number of clients, I’ve been able to see what works and what doesn’t.

Today I’m talking to guys with the following three body types:

– Skinny
– Skinny-fat
– Overweight

Skinny and overweight are self explanatory.

Skinny-fat might be a new one for you though. Skinny-fat people tend be naturally skinny with thin arms and legs, but weirdly, also have a fat stomach or ‘man boobs’. This body type is best described as awkward.

Body types can also be classified by ‘somatotype’ – ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. Some people fall between categories. I’m largely ectomorph, but have a little meso.

Adam pine somatotypes

Identify what your body type is, because I’m going to be making specific recommendations for you later in this article.

So, what are the main problems encountering people who want to get in to shape?

a) Impatience
b) Information overload (Instagram, friends, youtube etc)
c) Ego

Go to any commercial gym and you’ll see a small number of people who know what they’re doing. The rest barely have an idea.

The skinny guys stay skinny, the fat guys get fatter, and the skinny-fat guys melt like snowmen..

If you truly want to change, commit for a whole year. Only then can you say you actually gave the whole fitness thing a fair shake.

If you think one year is a long time, bear in mind the time is going to pass anyway.

Forget about quick fixes and the easy way out. There is no easy way out, apart from steroids or winning the genetic lottery.

Get a schedule and be consistent.

”80% of success is just showing up” – Woody Allen.

Routine is where the magic happens. The clients with the most success are the ones who show up to at least 90% of their workouts over the year.

These guys know what days they’re training, what they’ll be working on in each session, and what days they’re resting. Everything is planned out in advance and the training sessions are non-negotiable.

You might have legitimate reasons for not going to the gym, and trust me, I get it.

“It’s cold outside..” “The gym is packed..” “People at the gym stink” etc. These are all legit excuses (the last one can be all too real unfortunately =/)

The truth is, however, your body doesn’t care.

All your body responds to is effort.

I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t wanted to train. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve wanted  to turn around and go home. Especially when it involves cold weather and driving.

Yet each and every time, I came out feeling happy I didn’t listen to my bullshit excuses.

So now the specifics.


When it comes to cleaning up your diet, start slow. Very few people can make extreme changes in one go.

Research shows that changing one thing at a time is far more successful than trying to change two or three things at once.

‘All-or-nothing’ just doesn’t work for most people (especially when you are starting out and have no idea what you’re doing.

(I am, however, a fan of ‘going all in’ and being obsessed about things you have a passion for, but only if you have someone guiding you and/or a fair idea of what you’re doing.)

There are some major keys to remember when cleaning up your diet.

Internalise these keys and you’ll always be able to stay on point with your diet.

🔑 Drink lots of water.

🔑 Eat lots of protein.

🔑 Eat lots of veg.

🔑 Carbs can be your enemy or your friend.

I highly advise people who are new to eating healthy to log their food and drink for at least a few weeks.

This helps you become aware and make better choices. There’s no hiding from the truth when everything is written down. Being able to see your eating habits helps you make better choices

If you want a more relaxed but still very efficient method of controlling calories, the ‘hand method‘ is excellent (though probably not as accurate as calorie counting).

Before we start with specific recommendations, we first need to clarify a couple of things.

‘Maintenance calories’ – the amount of daily calories needed to maintain your current bodyweight.

So if you weigh 70 kg, your maintenance calories are the amount of calories that will keep you at 70 kg (without your weight going up or down).

Eating below maintenance = calorie deficit. You will lose weight.

Eating above maintenance = calorie surplus. You will gain weight.

The Precision Nutrition weight loss calculator is the best calculator I’ve found to work out what you should be eating calorie wise (depending on goals). The MyFitnessPal app also does the same job when you input your personal data.

Always integrate changes slowly. Don’t start with a massive calorie surplus or deficit straight away. A good rule of thumb is to go in 250 kcal increments (above or below your maintenance). Adjust as you go along.

(The major keys outlined earlier apply to all body types)

– Only have starchy carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread etc) within 1-2 hours after working out
– Small amount of sugary carbs such as Lucozade before/during sessions is acceptable
– Drop sugar out of your diet as much as possible (fizzy drinks, fruit juice)
– Eat at a calorie deficit


– Only have starchy carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread etc) within 1-2 hours after working out
– Small amount of sugary carbs such as Lucozade before/during sessions is acceptable
– Drop sugar out of your diet as much as possible (fizzy drinks, fruit juice)
– Eat at a calorie deficit
Intermittent fasting


– Can eat starchy carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread etc) at every meal
– Small amount of sugary carbs such as Lucozade before/during sessions is acceptable
– Eat at a calorie surplus

Training guidelines

The major key to changing any physique is always WEIGHT TRAINING.

This can change the most under-developed or sloppy physique into one that is rock solid.

3-5 days is fine for most people, 4 is usually the best. It just depends on what you can feasibly fit in and recover from.

Always start with the minimum number of days you can handle. Once you get comfortable, build it up.

If you are the type of person who likes to go balls deep, go for it, but just make sure you have a plan.

If you can only commit to three days, full body routines can work. This way you hit most of your muscle groups more than once throughout the week. Frequency is a great way to grow muscles.

It’s also a very good way to burn excess calories, so good for overweight people.

If doing 4 days, I love an upper/lower split. I use this type of split myself.

Again, you can hit the same muscle group more than once a week – high frequency helps muscles grow.

Upper/lower splits also help you build muscle better than full body as you can focus in on the target muscles better, so it’s better for skinny guys.

I don’t really recommend ‘bro-splits’ for beginners as they require more total time spent in the gym and you can’t really hit your muscle groups more than once a week.

Then we come to cardio. Skinny guys LOVE doing cardio for some reason. In particular, they love running a lot. Stop it!

Overweight guys, on the other hand, don’t like doing cardio.

The skinny guys need to drastically reduce the amount of cardio they do, while the bigger guys need to do more.

Cardio is an important part of being healthy, but if you are skinny and trying to gain weight, you need to do less cardio for a while.

What exercises to do?

The basic exercises ALWAYS work best, especially at the beginning of your lifting career.
(Note: you don’t have to use all of them).

Sled pushes/pulls/drags
Squats (goblet, barbell)
Bench press
Rows (barbell, cable, inverted, TRX)
Split squats
Kettlebell swings
Rack pulls
Military press
Landmine press

These exercises use large amounts of muscle mass across multiple joints (compound lifts). Compound lifts should be the foundation of your training. They will get you stronger and bigger quickly.

Once you have a strong foundation, you can add in smaller movements such as bicep curls, leg extensions etc (isolation exercises).

Too many guys skip the tough compound exercises and only focus on isolation exercises because they’re easier. They never get results. Don’t be like them.

Get good at bodyweight exercises. Whether you’re fat, skinny, or in between, bodyweight exercises will help you achieve a lean, athletic physique. Plus they can be done anywhere, so no excuses.

Ego lifting is the death of all progress. Realising this changed everything for me.

Once I focused on feeling my muscles work (as opposed to just trying to lift heavy all the time), I started to see actual muscle growth.

There is a time and a place for heavy lifting, but it’s not on every set and every exercise. Lift with smooth form and a good range of motion. Forget the half squats and life-or-death bench presses.

Log your workouts. As time goes on, try to lift more weight or do more reps with the same weight (always making sure your form is on point).

A mix of rep ranges works well, from 5-15. It is very hard to give blanket recommendations because everyone responds differently to different rep ranges.

Once you have a programme in place, make sure you know how to do the exercises properly. Hire someone to teach you if you have to.

You will save yourself plenty of time and probably a lot of injuries. Being coached will significantly speed up your progress. (I myself pay a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor once weekly and have seen significant improvements in my game, as well as being trained in the gym for a while myself).

(If you need help, I offer online coaching as well as in-person training if you’re close enough.)


– Lift weights 3-5 times a week
– Full body or upper/lower
– Use a mix of rep ranges (5-15 reps)
– Sweat every day (cardio, sports etc)


– Lift weights 3-5 times a week
– Full body or upper/lower
– Use a mix of rep ranges (5-15 reps), can usually tolerate more heavy lifting (i.e. bench pressing, deadlifting, squats)
– Sweat every day


– Lift weights 3-5 times a week
– Upper/lower preferred
– Use a mix of rep ranges (5-15 reps)
– Reduce cardio to max 1-2 short sessions a week

Good diet and lifting will sort anybody out. Add some quality sleep to that and you will be a different person in a years time.

There is so much more I could write on this issue, but doing so would make it well over 2000 words, and I don’t think anyone is trying to read a thesis!

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About the Author Mustafa

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