How Do Bodybuilders Achieve Their Paper Thin Skin?

One of the attributes that make bodybuilders appear freaky beyond belief is their transparent paper thin skin through which you can see. In order to imagine how thin it is, pull the skin at the back of your palm. This is how thin is the skin of professional bodybuilders prior to a contest. To achieve something similar, however, there are many conditions which must be met and some them are without a doubt dangerous.

Frank McGrath showing his paper thin skin; image source: drwannabe.tumblr.com;

IFBB Pro Frank McGrath showing his paper thin skin; image source: drwannabe.tumblr.com;

1. Low body fat levels

Obviously, bodybuilders need to have really low body fat levels in order to have definition and do well in contests. The standard body fat for a male bodybuilder ready for a competition is about 5-8%. If you are any fatter than that, you won’t do well against the rest of the guys who will have ‘better conditioning’ as it’s said in bodybuilding circles.


The way to achieve low body fat is through dieting. We won’t go into details which diet is the best since this is a controversial topic. Whatever the case, your diet will require strict caloric deficit in order to lose body fat.

Unfortunately, having low body fat is not enough to make you look as transparent as a bodybuilder. Bodybuilders also rely heavily on drug usage to achieve such Photoshop like effect.

2. The Anabolic Steroid Factor & Growth Hormone

Believe it or not drugs have impact even on that. There are different steroids that can make your skin feel, look and taste like silk. If you were to observe a drugged bodybuilder, you will notice that their envelope {skin} looks different and has a 3D eye popping effect.

Bodybuilders on drugs also use Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), clenbuterol and dangerous substances such as DNP in order to achieve similar condition. Needless to say that this can result in serious injuries and even death.

3. Water Retention And The Use Diuretics

In order to achieve even better definition bodybuilders lose water weight prior to competitions. Of course, they do it with the use of dangerous substances known as diuretics which can cause sudden death as in the case of the legendary IFBB Pro Mohammed Benaziza.

Mohammed Benaziza’s death was largely due to misuse of diuretics. His body went into shock and severe cramping and vomiting occurred, which made him lose even more body fluids. By the time a physician was called he had gone into cardiac arrest. It was said that so much liquid had been flushed from Benaziza’s system at the time of his death that his blood had almost congealed.

Regardless of the dangers and the accidents, prior to contest bodybuilders still pop them diuretics in order to reveal the muscle striations and appear even more separated and shredded. Truth be told, diuretics are often more dangerous than steroids.

4. Manipulation of sodium levels

Excessive amount of sodium can cause water retention under the skin which can mask definition. That’s why bodybuilders make sure they keep their sodium levels in check prior to contest in order to be dry shredded and separated.

5. Drinking more water

By drinking more water you’re preventing your body from storing water. The way it works is simple. When your water intake is low, the body tends to store more water for survival needs. To fix that bodybuilders consume tons and tons of water and cut it all prior to a contest. This is also quite unhealthy since there are bodybuilders who don’t consume water for days prior to a contest. It’s crazy, but it’s true.

6. Tanning and oils 

The reason bodybuilders tan is to increase their muscular definition. In addition, tanning makes you sweat and sort of dries up the excess water. However, excessive exposure can cause issues as well.

Prior to a contest bodybuilders also use tons of posing body oil in order to increase definition even further. Everything they do is meant to optimize the way they look on stage, even though it could be quite comical to say the least. This is also one of the reasons bodybuilding is a beauty contest and not a real sport.

7. The genetic factor

Some people are naturally born with thinner skin which is considered a gift for bodybuilding. At the same time there are individuals who have really thick skin and even with all the tricks in the book they can’t quite get it. Of course, the usage of drugs sort of balances things out. A good example would be Dorian Yates who in his initial years as a bodybuilder obviously had quite thicker skin which was working against him. As the years went by Dorian became known as one of the most conditioned freaks out there. Needless to say that the main reason weren’t sodium manipulations.

Can natural bodybuilders attain the paper thin skin look?

Well, you can but obviously it’s not going to be as freaky as the look of professional bodybuilders. If you have low body fat levels, your skin will look thin no matter what. However, reaching that insane transparency is not going to happen. It just ain’t natural, nor healthy to attain, and the body simply does not want to do it.

8 comments

  1. Suman Ghosh

    sir,
    I’m not so bulked. but my belly skin is too much thick that I can’t achieve my abs yet. What special should I do.

    1. Ilma

      You are not bulky indeed but your body fat levels are high
      And men usually have belly fat more compared to women as they have around legs and butt usually
      You should do high intensity cardio along with strength training and some functional training, just targeting abs won’t make any difference fat goes from the entire body

      P.s.
      I am a girl and into fitness from the past 4 years
      A certified fitness professional from california

    1. Ilma

      Don’t be un natural in any way
      Just eat right, nutrition is the key
      Eat right 6days a week and workout like a beast enjoy the 7th day of the week,don’t torture yourself.. Atleast that is how i have achieved and being an indian girl i have a six pack

    1. Ilma

      If you have lost your weight and you are skinny doesn’t mean you have muscle mass try lifting more and training with heavier weights so that your muscles get some definition and start popping up

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