A Few Tips On How To Get Lean And Not Look Skinny

If you’ve ever been on a cutting phase or managed to get fairly lean then chances are that you noticed one thing in particular … you have to get awfully “skinny” and drop a considerable amount of weight to make any type of drastic change. Unfortunately this really isn’t much of a secret or new thought either … it’s not easy to get lean and not skinny. There are, however, ways to look bigger even with your shirt on, giving the perception that you are not as small as someone might think.

How to Get Toned Not Skinny

Probably you have heard of the shirt on vs shirt off theory?

Basically, you can look impressive with your shirt on or you can look impressive with your shirt off. Of course, if you’ve been lifting long enough and have stuck to a good diet you can certainly pull off a bit of both. But for the majority it’s a matter of choosing one look and really focusing on getting to that point.

Where the pitfall lies in getting lean is that you usually end up getting “skinny” as well.

In the past I’ve received comments from some of my friends along the lines of “Man, are you sick? You look skinny!” (exaggeration) While that certainly doesn’t feel great to hear, it can be fairly easy to handle if you know you can take your shirt off and impress the heck out of them.

On the other hand, I’ve heard comments from friends along the lines of “Man, you must be working out like a mad man. You look like Arnold” (even bigger exaggeration). What is funny is that when I’ve gotten comments like that it was mainly due to the fact that I had gained some weight from not eating as well as I should have … NOT because I had packed on a bunch of muscle!

Since after I first started cutting and received the skinny remarks I’ve been focusing on ways to avoid this problem. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to get ripped and toned you do (more often than not) have to lose body fat and get quite a bit smaller … even “skinny” in some people’s eyes.

What really helps though, is to add size where it matters mostwhere people can see even while you have your shirt on.

How To Get Lean Without Looking Skinny

The first thing that we need to consider in order to get lean, not skinny is the muscles that you are going to focus on building. What are these muscles? These are the ones that create a larger looking frame … and can be seen with your shirt on.

No quads … no hamstrings … heck, not even pecs or lats, but hear me out.

Yes, quads, hamstrings, pecs and lats are the 4 muscles that give you your most size. If someone asked me how to add a ton of muscle in as short of a time period as possible these are the muscles I would focus on. And yes, one of the most visually important muscle groups to looking good with your shirt off (other than your abs) is your pecs but they have little effect on making you look bigger with your shirt on.

Of course, there are guys walking around with huge pecs busting out of their shirts and they look “buff” but trust me, once their shirts come off they are not going to have visible abs and their pecs are going to look a bit like man boobs. These guys are going to be a far cry from lean!

The point is, if you are lean and toned then your pecs are going to look good with your shirt off. If they don’t, work on building your upper pecs first.

So focus on building these other muscles and you will create the perception of being bigger… even with your shirt on.

In the end, yes you are going to be lighter than normal if you want to get lean but you don’t have to look as light as you really are.

Admittedly, it sounds easy …

“Just add muscle to your shoulders and arms to make your upper body look bigger and add muscle to your calves to make your legs look bigger.”

But instead of simply building larger shoulders, bigger biceps and killer calves it makes more sense to build the part of the muscle that will give you the most drastic change in appearance. <- Tweet this

Typically I focus on building my outer shoulders, outer & lower biceps, outer & upper triceps, inner forearms and inner calves. These areas are what create the most distinct lines and give your muscles a bit of a pop.

Why not just the whole muscle? Honestly, that’s fine (and good long term) but if you can grow just the most noticeable area of the muscle first you will pull off the perception of being bigger, sooner.

Take for example the relationship that the bicep and shoulder have and how these work together to give your upper body the perception of size.

If you work your lower bicep and outer shoulder this creates more of a noticeable and distinct transition from the shoulder to arm. When you flex your bicep you may not have as big of a pop vertically, but when your arms are at your side (which is typically going to be the majority of the time) your biceps look larger because they are full where your upper arm meets your elbow. This creates a more distinct line from your bicep to your elbow … giving the appearance of it being larger.

Also, this carries over to making your shoulders look bigger. Since the “line” where your shoulder meets your upper arm is more distinct your shoulders are going to appear to be bigger than they really are.

Now don’t go to the extreme and completely eliminate working the back of your shoulders. You still need a degree of balance since there is more to your shoulder than just looking bigger, but you get the idea.

Once you’ve figured out how to get lean you know you look good with your shirt off. Now all you have to do is start building the size of your visible muscles and focusing on what will make them pop the most and you won’t look too skinny with your shirt on.

How about you … have you found that getting lean often goes hand-in-hand with “skinny” remarks? Do you have a plan of attack to combat this? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your take!