Subj: Advice for skinny guys on how to build muscle. Plus, my 60 pound weight gain transformation.
I used to be skinny.
You might not guess it if you saw me know but, I used to be long and lanky with arms and legs like twigs. In the photo of me in football gear, it looks like I have negative stomach fat.
As a teenager, I was 6’2″ and barely weighed 150 pounds
Since that photo was taken, I’ve gained over 60 pounds of muscle.
It was a long road that took A LOT of time but now I’m at a point where I’m happy with the muscular mass I’ve obtained.
It took a lot of hard work to pack on that 60 pounds. Over 10 years of work.
BUT, I could have got the same results in two years if I only knew what I know now, when I first started lifting weights.
This article is the ultimate guide for skinny guys that want to build muscle.
I’ve distilled over 10 years of personal experience and all the advice I wish I had when I started weight lifting as a skinny teenager.
My 60 Pound Weight Gain Transformation: Starting Out Skinny
Back when I was a skinny kid trying to build muscle without a clue as to what I was doing.
I workouts 3-4 times a week without any significant results.
How could this be?
I didn’t grow despite spending hours in the gym each week for three main reasons:
#1. I didn’t have a proper training program.
#2. I didn’t know how to eat to build muscle.
#3. I didn’t train with intensity
I thought going to the gym regularly was enough to turn me into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although a workout routine is necessary to build muscle, it’s only part of the formula.
Training is the easy part. Training with high enough intensity to build muscle and disciplined eating is where the magic happens.
But, before the magic can happen, you need the desire and the know how to make it happen.
The Benefits of Building Muscle
The benefits of having a muscular physique are numerous. If you’re reading this, you probably have something that personally motivates you to build muscle.
For me, it was to get stronger for sports and to get attention from the ladies.
In addition to that, you can expect the following benefits from bulking up:
- Increased athletic performance
- Increased libedo and better sex
- Improved overall health (better digestion, circulation, lung function, and much more)
- More energy and increased productivity
- Increased sense of Well Being
- Personal development and sense of accomplishment.
All these benefits can snowball into bigger and better things in every aspect of your life. Better job, better women, better friends, more money. You just need to learn how to channel these benefits to get what you want.
So, if you’re a skinny guy struggling to gain muscle, there is hope! In fact, the deck is stacked in your favor to build a muscular, chiseled physique.
The Secret Advantage to Starting Out Skinny
Most Skinny guys think they are doomed to be skinny forever. But, skinny guys can build the best physiques.
Most people that what to build muscle are either skinny, skinny-fat, or fat. If you’re a skinny guy, you have an advantage compared to these other two groups of guys.
When you’re skinny, You only have to worry about building muscle. When you are fat or skinny-fat, you need to build muscle and lose fat. Fat loss can be tricky, and requires calculated diet.
However, skinny guys can eat anything and everything they want without getting fat. Since food is fuel to build muscle, you can chow down on a ton of food without getting fat since all your calories will be used to build muscle.
Since we’re on the subject of food, now’s the perfect opportunity to introduce the single most important factor to building muscle – Eating!
Building Muscle for Skinny Guys Part 1: Food!
Eating is #1 when it comes to building muscle. The food you eat contains the building blocks for muscle. Therefore, the amount of food you eat will determine if you build muscle or stay skinny.
Skinny guys need to eat A LOT of food to gain weight. Most guys are skinny because they do not eat enough. Either because they have small appetites, fast metabolism or both.
You must be in a calorie surplus to ensure your body is in an anabolic state. Calories are energy contained in foods. Anabolic is a fancy word for muscle building. Keeping your body in and anabolic (muscle building) state requires a lot of calories.
To Gain weight you must eat more calories than you burn.
You burn calories just by living. You’re burning calories right now reading this article. You burn calories around the clock – 24/7/365, even when you’re asleep.
Your body require calories for energy in order to function. Repairing cells, building new tissues, etc.
For this reason, you constantly need to eat or else calories end up as metabolic fuel with nothing left over to build muscle.
How do you know if you’re in a calorie surplus?
Calorie tracking apps and a food journal are helpful but not necessary.
The only way to know for sure is to weigh yourself everyday. If you are gaining weight, you are in a calorie surplus (good!). If you’re losing weight or staying the same weight, you need to eat more.
It’s as simple as that.
Now that you know the importance of calories, you need to understand what’s in a calorie and why it matters.
The Three Macronutrients
There are three macronutrients that provide calories: Protein, carbohydrates and fats.
All three macronutrients are important for building muscle and overall health.
Building muscle requires protein.
Protein literally means “most important”. It was named by Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, because of it’s critical role in building healthy body tissue.
When you eat protein it breaks down into amino acids which are used to produce crucial molecules within your body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies to boost your immune system and create blood cells.
Daily protein intake must be high enough to sustain all these critical body functions to keep you healthy and strong. Plus have enough left over to build muscle.
Make sure you get a large serving of protein with each meal. (we will discuss meal plans later in this post.)
Good sources of protein are beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, nuts and beans.
Carbohydrates are a great source of energy. They are easy to consume in large quantities and are necessary to bulk up.
Carbs bring water into your cells and provided efficient nutrient delivery to muscle. Carbohydrates digest quickly and are an easy way to add extra calories to your diet.
Carbohydrate rich sources are rice, oatmeal, break, grains, and potatoes.
You need dietary fats for hormone production. Hormones determine how much muscle and fat on your frame.
The ‘male’ hormone, testosterone is the key component in developing masculine features, strong bones, reduced body fat and building muscle.
Dietary fat is necessary for your body to produce testosterone naturally and ensure healthy levels to build muscle mass. Don’t shy away from fat because it’s ‘fat’. You need it!
Processed foods and refined carbs make you fat, but as a skinny guy, you don’t need to worry about getting fat. So just eat whatever you can get your hands on.
Healthy fat sources are Grass fed dairy products, whole milk and butter, olive oil, coconuts and whole eggs.
Building Muscle For Skinny Guys: Skinny Guy Meal Plan
How many calories should you eat if you’re skinny and trying to build muscle? All of them. Every single one you can get your hands on.
You should be eating constantly. Anything and everything in sight, just put it in your pie hole.
Skinny guys in general are not big eaters. So stuffing your stomach to max capacity might be difficult, even uncomfortable in the beginning.
When I started trying, I barely made any gains because I didn’t get enough calories and protein to build muscle. I should have been eating double, even triple what I was.
Do these two things and I guarantee you will gain size: Get at least 1 gram of quality protein per pound of body weight. And, get enough calories every day. How many calories? I would take your bodyweight and multiply it by 25. The result is your daily calories intake. So if you’re 120 pounds, eat at least 3000 calories a day.
You should eat a meal every 3-4 hours. You should eat 4-6 solid food meals each and every day if you want to bulk up. Drink a high-calorie protein shake for additional calories.
Meal 1: Eggs, Bacon, oatmeal, strong black coffee.
Meal 2: Protein shake, homemade meal replacement shake and protein bar
Meal 3: Two Turkey or roast beef sandwiches, pasta salad, steamed greens.
Meal 4: Protein Shake and greek yogurt
Meal 5: Steak and eggs with steamed greens and baked potato
Meal 6: Cottage cheese and peanut butter jelly sandwich
You can even eat more than that if you can stomach it. You want to ensure a constant stream of calories to keep your body anabolic.
Weight yourself every single morning and if you’re not gaining weight in a week you need to eat more.
Add 10-20 grams of protein a day and 400-500+ calories. Eat a donut. That’s 450ish calories. Track your weight every morning in a notebook and keeping adding protein and calories until you gain weight.
How fast can you bulk up? Gaining 1-2 pounds a week is a reasonable goal.
Bulking Up for Skinny Guys: Don’t Make My Mistake!
You cannot build muscle without eating the right stuff. Nutrients are the brick and mortar for constructing your physique. Make sure you get plenty of foods from many different sources.
Eat nutritious and fulfilling meals to ensure all your nutritional bases are covered. Make sure you’re getting quality meats, like beef chicken and fish. Eat Pasta, cheese, yogurt, fruits and vegetables in unlimited amounts.
Then splurge and eat and drink what every you want in addition to the ‘good’ food you eat. Eat pizza, ice cream, whatever – Just get those extra calories in and make sure you leave room for the good stuff.
You will burn off most of the ‘bad’ stuff you might have heard about, and if for some crazy reason you start to get fat, you can just reduce your food intake and you’ll stop adding body fat.
Even if you lift weights constantly, you won’t gain any muscle if you don’t eat. I wasted years in the gym because I didn’t understand the importance of nutrition. My growth was stunted and progress was slow.
I should have been eating two or three times the amount of protein and calories.
A day of eating for me was a bowel of cereal, school lunch (pizza, bread stick and chocolate milk or whatever trash was served that day), and whatever my mom made for dinner on a given night.
I was maybe eating 2000-2500 calories a day. While I was physically active in sports practice for two hours a day and lifting weights and training 4 days a week. I should have been eating 5000-6000 calories a day to grow.
I was hungry every morning around 10 a.m. and hungry again before school ended to the point my stomach growled. I’d go through a good part of the day, foolishly, on an empty stomach. This will kill your progress in the gym.
My muscles were literally starving. I could have built 20-30 pounds of quality muscle my first year of lifting. But instead I gained 5, maybe 10 pounds in two years.
I trained hard 3 – 4 times a week, but because I didn’t eat enough, I didn’t grow and my energy was low all day. I wasted years, literally years, in the gym all because I didn’t understand the importance of nutrition.
If your stomach is growling as a skinny kid, you can kiss your gains goodbye. You should be ‘full’ constantly.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Eat BIG to get BIG!
Muscle Building Diet Tips For Skinny Guys
Stuffing yourself to the max all day can be challenging. Some days are harder than others.
I’ve picked up a few tips over the years that will help you get all your daily calorie needs to build muscle!
Snack on Snack on Snacks
If you’re hungry between meals, you need to snack. High-calorie snacks like bagels and peanut butter are perfect because they have a lot of protein, carbs and fat.
Just carry a bag of bagels and peanut butter around with you and try to finish all the bagels each day.
Front Load your Day
Eat 50 grams of protein with 30 minutes of waking up. Eat 100 grams before noon. This will make it easier to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient demands.
Old School Weight Gaining Secrets
These three methods were used by old school trainers to build muscle fast!
Heavy Cream and Ginger Ale
Elite European athletes drank a mixture of heavy creme and ginger ale to make incredible muscle gains in record time. This was a popular technique used in the 1940′ and 50’s to increase muscle and strength quickly.
Mix of 6oz of heavy cream and 6oz of ginger ale in a glass and drink 2-3 times a day. Legendary bodybuilding coach Vince GiRonda had his clients drink it at 10, 2 and 4 in between meals as a “pick me up”.
Eating one hard boiled egg every hour you are awake keeps your body anabolic all day. Boiling and peeling dozens of eggs a week is a pain in the ass so get yourself an egg cooker.
Liver is thought to harbor animalism power and primal force. Ancient warriors would eat the Liver of a fresh kill for power.
Today you can have that same power with Liver Tabs. Old time strong men would take 100 liver pills a day to build raw strength.
I recommend taking 5 with every meal and gradually bumping it up to 10 per meal.
Building Muscle for Skinny Guys Part 2: Weight Training
Weight training is required to build muscle.
Weight training works by overloading your muscles with more stress than they are used to. This stress actually damages your muscles.
But your body, being the resilient bastard it is, rebuilds muscle larger and strong to sustain the same stress next time.
there’s a right and wrong way to build muscle. The wrong way leaves you tired, worn out with no gains to show for it.
The right way build muscle fast and you will notice weekly or monthly improvements in your physique.
Weight Training for Skinny Guys 101
Skinny guys need to train using compound movements with a barbell.
Compound movements are exercises where more than one joint must bend in order to perform the lift.
Examples of compound movements are Squat, Barbell Row, Bench Press, Deadlift, Military Shoulder Press, Power Cleans, Upright Row, Machine Pull Downs.
Barbells allow you to lift more weight compared to dumbbells, thus activating a great neuro-muscular response when lifting. Engaging more muscle fibers and working them harder. This results in more intense workouts and more muscle growth.
In addition to compound movements, there are Isolation exercises.
Isolation exercises require only one joint to bend during the exercises. Examples of Isolation exercises are barbell curls, tricep extensions. leg extensions, lateral shoulder raises and leg curl.
Isolation exercises are secondary priority to compound lifts. They are not necessary but can be added into your workouts as needed, but only AFTER you completed all your compound lifts.
Compound exercise are the Holy Grail for building muscle. They are efficient, powerful muscle builders because they allow you to lift the most weight and engage the most muscle fibers.
How to Train to Build Muscle
Skinny Guys need a unique combination of strength and hypertrophy training.
Strength training conditions your muscles and nervous system to move heavy weight.
Hypertrophy training puts you muscles under tension long enough to build muscle.
Strength training means you lift as heavy as you can for 1-5 reps each set.
Hypertrophy requires 6-12 reps is best.
Skinny Guys Should Lift Heavy
‘Heavy’ is a relative term. Heavy weight to you might not be heavy to me and vise vera.
A heavy weight is an amount of weight you struggle completing the desired number of reps with during a set. If you can only do 5 or 6 reps and couldn’t possibly do another rep then that is a heavy weight.
Lifting heavy can be intimidating, but use a weight that’s right for you and you will gradually increase you confidence and strength and be able to lift more weight.
You typically want to allow 48-72 hours between training the same muscle group.
Lift 4 days a week. Total body workouts to maximize growth hormone production and response. You need training frequency as a beginner because you will recover quickly. Take advantage of your youth and recovery power by lifting frequently. You’ll be glad you did.
That means training hard, with heavier weight and different exercises to keep your muscles guessing. Your muscles will adapt to the new stimuli by growing to endure it next time.
You have to push your body to grow muscles and it will out of necessity. But you need to stay one step ahead. always pushing a little further than the day before. and your body will catch up.
Skinny Guy Workout Plan: The Muscle Building Program
Skinny guys should workout 4 times a week. A 4-day split like Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday works well for most people.
It gives you a rest day Wednesday and weekends off to enjoy.
Monday Workout = Squat/Bent Over Barbell Row/Bench Press.
Tuesday Workout = Deadlift / Standing Shoulder Press/ Dips (add weight if you can do more than 8 dips with just your bodyweight)
Thursday Workout = Squat / Pull Up (or Pull down)/ Bench Press
Friday Workout = Deadlift / Bent Over Barbell Row / Lunges
Perform 3 sets of 8 reps for each exercise.
Do 2-3 warm up sets for each exercise. Then perform 3 heavy working sets for each exercise (working sets are the sets that count. What counts is pushing your muscles harder than they’ve been pushed before.
Rest 2-3 minutes between sets. Take 5 deep breaths to fill your lungs with oxygen. Breathing is important when lifting.
Oxygen fuels your muscles and every body function realize on ample oxygen. Focus on taking big deep breaths before each rep and in between sets.
Remember, when training to focus on perfecting your form and improving each and every day.
Increase the weight used each workout. if you bench pressed 125 pounds for 3 sets of 8 reps on Monday, then add 5-10 pounds when you bench on Thursday.
This is called linear progression, and it’s how you constantly make progress and build muscle. Keep increasing the weight in this fashion until you can no longer physically do so.
Continue this workout for 12 -16 weeks without missing a day.
Skinny Guy Workout Plan: Find Your Starting Weight
You’re probably wondering, “If I’ve never lifted weight before, how much should I lift?”.
Use your first workout to establish your starting weight. To find your starting weight, perform and exercise, the squat for example, with just an empty barbell.
Squat with the empty barbell for 5 reps. If that was easy, add 10 pounds and do 5 more reps. Keep adding 10 pounds and doing 5 reps until you can barely do 5 reps.
This is your starting weight. Congratulations – you just finished set one of your first workout. Keep this weight on the bar and do another 2 sets. take 2-3 minutes rest in-between sets to catch your breath.
Do this same method to find your starting weight with the other exercises in this program.
Spend time perfecting your form. Make sure every rep you do is in full range of motion. ALWAYS lift in a sturdy squat rack and you the safety bars.
The Simple Magic of Linear Progression
Linear progression is the steady increase of weight used each workout. Make it a goal to add 5-10 pounds each workout for each exercise.
You’re body adapts quickly to stressors. When you lift, you damage your muscles and little micro tears are created in your muscle fibers.
Your body doesn’t like this and goes into survival mode by rebuilding the muscle and making it stronger so next time that stressor is encountered, no damage will be done to the muscles by increasing the size and number of muscles.
This is why you MUST continualy increase the weight lifted. To ensure your body is constantly repairing your muscles and making them stronger (and bigger) than before.
Your work capacity goes up because of your strengthened muscles and you’re able to lift heavier weight. You’ll also notice your body start to transform from skinny to muscular.
As you progress your ability to increase the weight will slowly diminish. Try to push through without compromising form. Linear Progression is how you get bigger and build muscle.
As you train and recover your need to increase the intensity in order to continue to grow.
If you are unable to lift heavier that the previous workout you need to get more sleep and eat more. Rest and nutrition are super important to building muscle and repairing damaged muscle after tough workouts.
Rest and Recovery
8-10 hours of sleep. your body repairs and grows when sleeping. Recovery is important. You must sleep and eat enough to fully recover from workouts.
If you don’t you will wear yourself down and lose your will to continue because your energy will be so depleted.
Always train safely. Set backs and injuries suck. They can derail your progress and keep you out of the gym.
Avoid injury by lifting in a safety rack, using proper form AT ALL TIMES and be fully present when lifting anything.
Being unfocused and distracted can be disastrous. you need complete focus when training.
Build Mind-Muscle Connection
Mind-muscle connection is how you build the rock-hard, chiseled look.
When you can focus solely on a muscle and control it completely with your mind. to feel it working to feel it flexing and stretching.
Mind-Muscle connection will take your training to another level. One way to build mind-muscle connection organically is to lift more and build muscle.
Your body and your muscles are an extension of your brain.
The more mass and nerve ending you have the more sensation and control you will have over that muscle. This is why you need to focus on contracting your muscles HARD when lifting. It teaches you to control your muscles at will and will elevate your gain potential.
Train often using the same basic barbell exercises. This will build mind muscle connection with is absolutely critical to gaining size and density.
Track Your Workouts
“Everything that measures grows.”
I don’t know who said that but they are absolutely right.
Track Your Body Weight Daily
Data is how you should make decisions. Track your weight and you’ll know how your body responds to your diet and workout.
Tracking your progress is important because you may need to make adjustment to your diet.
Step on the scale every week to make sure you are gaining weight. If the number isn’t higher than the day before, then you need to eat more.
Weight yourself at the same time every day. First thing in the morning is best. Jot down your weight and compare it to last week. Minimizes the variance or inaccurate weight measures.
Your bodyweight fluctuates throughout the day due to multiple factors. Water retention, hormone levels, and food in your belly could change your weight significantly. It’s not uncommon for my weight to fluctuate 5-6 pounds from morning to night.
Don’t rely on the mirror to track your progress. It can be deceiving. You’ll notice a post workout pump where you’ll looker bigger and more ripped then if you were to take a day off.
The caveat here is that you don’t need to track calories macros or anything really. just make sure you get enough protein and then eat a bunch of other stuff to get in extra calories.
Muscle Building Supplements for Skinny Guys
Supplement companies are out for one thing and one thing only, Your money.
They will take advantage of your inexperience and sell you garbage.
The muscle building supplement industry preys on skinny guys especially. They know most are naive so they make promises of quick gains and impressive results if you just buy their product.
Don’t be fooled by the hype.
The muscle industry is build to make you desire something you cannot have with what they give you. The result is you keep consuming what they give you but will never quite get the results they promise.
Supplements can help but ONLY if the base of your results will come from consistent and intense training, eating a lot of natural, whole foods and getting adequate recovery. Then, and only then,will supplements help you build muscle.
Not all supplements are created equal. In fact only a few reputable companies exist and actually make good supplements. Stick to the time tested muscle building supplements proven to work with decades of results.
Protein Powder – Get extra quality protein in your diet with protein shakes. get a quality protein powder like Naturally Flavored Optimum Nutrition protein powder.
Liver Tables – An old school secret. Liver is full of vitamins, minerals, protein and ‘anti-fatigue factor’ that will aid in building muscle and give you energy and endurance for workouts. I wrote a full article about liver tablets here or you can just go get some Uni-Liver tablets from amazon.
Words of Wisdom From a Former Skinny Guy
I made a ton of training mistakes. As a result, it took me a long time to build the body I want. I could have built a great body much faster if I knew what I know now.
Tracking my progress never occurred to me. I didn’t research proper form or programming. I lifted haphazardly – I just started doing a lot of dumbbell curls and bench press, like most beginners do.
If I had known better I would have taken advantage of the fact total body workouts release growth hormone. I would have eaten a lot more and learned about nutrition and simple biology.
I thought I could lift and muscle would just appear. I was naive and had no knowledge of proper training for muscle growth that was crucial for bodybuilding.
As a young man you have a muscle-building powercore inside of you. When you start training properly, you tap into the power core and your body goes into overdrive. Do everything right and you will reap major benefits. You’ll be able to do in 2 years what I did in 10.
When you start training, you body releases a rush of natural hormones that flood your system and build many pounds of muscle that you will keep for life.
Focus on making gradual progress week after week. Track your weight and workouts. Eat more or less as necessary.
You now know everything you need to to build muscle. Go get a gym member ship or build you own home gym and get started now!
Or hire me for as your coach and I’ll make sure you get the results you want!
‘Til next time,