If you are a skinny guy trying to gain some size in the gym for awhile, you’ve picked up on some experiences being a lot different than your friends or family. The biggest thing you’ll have noticed is that you just don’t put on size as easy as it seems to be with everyone else.
The first piece of advice I’d like to give off the bat is to not compare yourself or rate of progress to others even if you put on size easily. This is our own individual journey, and as long as we are doing the big things right, we will make progress on our own time. Definitely don’t compare yourself to bodybuilders who genetically have a predisposition to putting muscle quickly, and therefore may not have the same advice of what it would take to add size for someone in your situation.
You don’t have the bone structure they have, and your needs to get bigger are just different. Today I’d like to go over some tips on what it takes to build the best workouts to help skinny guys pack on muscle.
The biggest thing you have that is a double edged sword is a super fast metabolism. On the plus side, unlike the rest of us, you get to eat insane amounts of food and you’ll almost never put on any fat. The downside, is you have to eat that insane amount just to put on any weight and thus, muscle.
You should be focusing on bulking more than everyone else. Because you’ll not likely put on much fat, you can stay in a surplus longer, leaving you in an anabolic state to focus on growing year round (where as slower metabolisms have to cycle between fat loss, and muscle gain phases).
Optimizing the Muscle Building Signal
When we workout we send a muscle building signal to our bodies that maxes out. This is obviously ideal, because it is telling our bodies to adapt and repair our muscle tissue into bigger, stronger muscle. This signal drops down pretty quickly after 48-72 hours. If we know this to be true, then ideally we’d want to bring that signal right back up after it drops to continually place us in an anabolic state.
With skinny guys in particular, their signal potentially drops a lot quicker than most, which also plays into why the muscle building may be harder. This isn’t a bad thing in itself. Where the issue lies, we most of us enter lifting weights by doing body part splits. That is, hitting each muscle for 3-4 exercises on its own day, once a week, giving you the rest of the week to recover. While you can grow on this, given what we now know about the signal dropping, wouldn’t it make more sense to spread that workout over 2-3 days to spark that signal back up for each muscle?
Instead of a body part split, take your weekly volume and divide it over 3 full body days. So that might look like doing 3 sets per body part, 3 times a week. This allows you to still hit all your muscles with the same weekly volume you were doing before, but now you get to maximize that signal throughout the week versus letting it sit idle. You also get the added benefit of coming at those exercises fresher and thus, being able to move more weight (which equals more muscle growth), instead of trying to hit the same muscle and being exhausted in a single day.
Focus On Strength
When it comes to your workout, strength is key, especially if you are starting out. You will gain way more muscle adding 20lbs to your squat, than adding 20lbs to your leg extension. Adding strength doesn’t ALWAYS translate to bigger muscles, but if you consistently push heavier and heavier weight on the compound lifts, you will gain size. It’s about slowly progressing over time. That’s why you might only add a rep or two each month and not see any big change, but by the end of 6 months notice you look a lot bigger.
Make sure to focus on the compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, and overhead press. These not only allow you to load the most amount of weight (causing a high stimulus), but they hit the most muscles in one single movement. Doing a deadlift for example, hits your back, glutes, hamstrings, and erectors. Doing a leg curl only hits your hamstrings. That’s not to say you can’t do isolation exercises like curls to help bring lagging parts up, but the focus should be primarly on the big movements first. Later on, as you see those lagging areas falling behind, then start throwing in more isolated movements to bring up those areas.
Get Enough Sleep
Last but certainly not least, is to make sure you are getting your 8-9 hours of sleep! There have been studies done showing when individuals got less than 6 hours of sleep for 5 nights or more in a row, they started holding onto more fat and burning through muscle. This is the opposite of what we want. We want to keep you anabolic. It’s already hard enough with your metabolism to get the muscle gain going, don’t give your body any other reasons to not add size.
When we get enough sleep our growth hormone is optimized and our testosterone levels spike. We need sleep for consolidating memory, and letting your body cleanse all the dead cells and proteins. Sleep is good.
If you follow the tips above I promise you will see size on your frame in the next 6 months. The key is to stick to the above advice CONSISTENTLY for those 6 months. You must be in a surplus in order to add weight, and you must be progressively pushing the compound lifts in a way that adds more weight and/or reps as those 6 months go on.
If you want more help on how to build the best routine, check out my article on the Best Lifting Routine for Skinny Guys where I take what we’ve learned here today and help put together a sample program.