Top 5 Muscle Building Tips for Skinny Guys

Jun 11, 2020 mindpump

Throughout my years as a trainer, every client has their issues when it comes to hitting their goals. While we are all unique and have to be treated on a case by case basis, there are definitely commonalities I’ve seen among certain groups of people. When it comes to skinnier guys trying to put on size, I have noticed some trends as to why they aren’t able to achieve their goals. Below is the list of top 5 tips for guys struggling to put on size.

Progression on Training

I don’t care what workout program you have chosen, what influencer you follow, or how strong you think you are. You need to make sure you are progressing! Are you tracking a single thing when it comes to your workout? Some guys may get away with not having to track, and still making progress. But guess what? They probably aren’t struggling to put on weight! YOU are. If your car wasn’t working properly would you diagnose what is going wrong or just guess, and hope you’re right?

Start tracking down each workout. It can be on a spreadsheet, on your notes, a weightlifting app, whatever you feel most comfortable with. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You just need to be able to see week to week, are you making progression in some form: 

  • 5lbs more than week before
  • More reps than the week before
  • More sets than the week before 

Muscle is built through adaptation against stress. If you want your muscle to be BIGGER than the week before, than you need to be DOING more than the week before. The weight or volume NEEDS to go up. Start tracking. The first thing you’ll probably notice is you’ve probably hovered at the same weight for too long because you didn’t think you were ready to push it. Use one of the methods above to ensure progress.

Eat More!

For a skinny guy this is probably the biggest thing I see clients not doing. I get it. In most cases, it’s not that they aren’t eating a lot. What I’ve learned through the years is that skinny guys need substantially more calories than the average person. Like….a lot. Let’s use me as an example. I’m pretty average, and I’ll start putting on weight if I eat more than 2500 calories. Not terrible, not great. If I think back to my last 6 skinny clients, across the board they needed MINIMUM 3500 calories. And that’s being conservative. Most ended up needing 4000-4500 calories just to see the scale move up ½ a pound. That’s double the amount of calories I eat in a day. 

Most of you in my position would go “God, that’s the dream I could easily eat 4500 calories today.” You probably can. But how about every single day, 7 days a week? Also, try keeping the quality of food high. It’s exhausting. Oh, and on top of that, most of my skinnier clients don’t have as big of an appetite as us average folk, and already get full off 2500 calories.

That’s the harsh truth – you absolutely need to eat more if your weight or strength isn’t increasing. And not just a couple days a week. All my most successful clients said they were able to put on size when they ate high calories consistently. When they stopped, even for a couple days to a week, their weight dropped back down 5 pounds. Find how many calories you need to put on weight, and keep at it. While I definitely push eating higher quality foods, if you are struggling to get calories because of hunger, feel free to eat more calorie dense items in conjunction to help hit that goal.

Compound Lifts

More often than not, I see too many 150 pound guys in the gym spending all their time doing curls, side raises, and overall hanging out at the machines. What you NEED to be doing is spending more time on bigger lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press). You are already struggling to put on size. Spending all your time trying to hit small muscle groups isn’t going to get you to your goal. You need to be focusing on these bigger bang for your buck movements that stimulate as much muscle as possible. You want your body priming itself for BUILDING muscle and having compound movements as staples in your program is a must. Hell, that’s a must for any body type.

Focus on the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, rows, and pull-ups before starting to include smaller muscles like shoulders, biceps and triceps.  


Alright so you got the compound lifts in your program. Do you know how to properly lift? When you do the bench, your chest should actually feel a burn (not your shoulders), otherwise you are wasting time. If you mess up a deadlift with heavy weight, you’ll be out of the gym for a couple weeks, further removing you from achieving your goals. You’ll have worked too hard planning and eating to be stopped because you got arrogant. Check your ego at the door, and focus on hitting the muscle you want to work. Change the exercise if you find some exercises work better than others. It’s about experimentation and finding what works for your body. Sure you might not be that guy (at the moment) squatting 3 plates grunting out loud. But if you focus on a form each day, while your numbers go up with full depth, you’ll find that guy quarter repping 315 still looks the same.


The four tips above are great, but at the end of the day, you need to consistently be doing all of them if you want to get big. You can’t come in 5 days one week, and 2 days the next, because you were busy. What you want isn’t common, which means you need to be willing to do uncommon things to achieve it. Ask any person who had any type of fitness goals what was the biggest piece that attributed to their success. They’ll all tell you “Man, I was just so consistent all the time.” Which brings up the bigger point that if you need consistency, you need a bigger reason for wanting this than simply just getting bigger otherwise you won’t last. Don’t do it for the goal. Figure out

  • What the goal allows you to do.
  • Who it allows you to become.
  • How it will change your behavior for the better

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