Overcoming Skinniness For Men
I know first hand how much it sucks to be weak and skinny. Growing up, I wasn’t very athletic. Although I enjoyed certain sports, being smaller meant I would be one of the last picked on teams. I also got teased for my size and although I was never seriously bullied, my friends and classmates wouldn’t hesitate to push me around knowing they could get away with it. I can still recall getting thrown around on the playground by a classmate (who later actually became a friend) in grade school and feeling helpless.
Throughout most of high school, I weighed a massive 118lbs. But before going into senior year, I studied the secrets to building muscle naturally. I was determined to figure out how to not be skinny and maximize my muscular potential. Once I knew these simple steps, I was able to pack on over 25 pounds in a matter of a few short months – all without adding extra fat and maintaining a six pack.
Later, I built upon my foundation with some more advanced techniques. I have at one point benched press 345 pounds at a bodyweight of just over 165 making it just over twice my bodyweight. At another point, I hit a bodyweight of 176 pounds while maintaining a six pack. All of this done without illegal drugs, steroids, or even legal pro-hormones. Needless to say, I figured out a few tricks to packing on muscle and you’re about to discover some of these same methods so you can go from skinny to huge fast.
Tip 1: Eat More High Quality Nutrient And Calorie Dense Foods
Eating more is essential if you want to not be skinny anymore. This was and still to this day is the hardest part for myself when it comes to building muscle. The reason a guy is usually skinny is that he either has a fast metabolism and/or a small appetite. If you want to get big, you’re going to need to eat big.
While this is obvious, where some people screw up is they eat a lot of the wrong kinds of foods. This best foods for building muscle are those high in both calories and nutrients. This is because, given a limited appetite, you’ll want to maximize the amount of calories and nutrition you take in.
A plate full of broccoli is healthy, but it will fill you up before giving you the calories you need to grow. On the flip side, sugary drinks and desserts will add a ton of calories, but not a lot of nutrients. They’ll also mostly be calories from sugars and unhealthy fats rather than from healthy fats, slow digesting carbohydrates, and quality protein. We want to get big from muscle, not adding fat.
Examples of a nutrient and calorie dense foods that are great for bodybuilding would be nuts, eggs, meats, fish, sweet potatoes, organic potatoes, hemp seeds, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, wheat germ, avocado, coconut oil, macadamia oil, olive oil, whey protein, and others.
These foods should of course still be balanced with other foods that are high in nutrients even if not high in calories such as fiberous vegetables.
One problem is that many skinnier guys, as much as they may want to build muscle, fear they’re going to add too much fat. This is particularly an issue for guys that are “skinny-fat” who have little muscle but still carry extra fat. By choosing the right kinds of foods and avoiding too much junk, this can largely be avoided.
But a big part of it is psychological. Remember, it is a lot easier to lose 10 pounds of fat than to gain 10 pounds of muscle. My favorite method for keeping fat gains low while building muscle is by following a lean gains type of intermittent fasting approach. See more details here.
Tip 2: Follow A Proven Hypertrophy Workout Program
I’m thankful that when I started out I had a great workout routine to follow designed specifically from a former skinny guy to help hardgainers build muscle. I’ve found over the years however there is no “one size fits all” program. Skinny “hard gainer” guys in particular need a routine that takes into account their unique body type.
For those who don’t have a solid foundation of muscle, I’ve found training splits that workout muscle groups more frequently such as HST to be very beneficial. The frequent training sessions allows the nervous system to quickly learn the proper movement pattern for each workout.
As I progressed, I’ve found upper and lower body splits as well as “traditional” one body part per week style training can be effective. I don’t recommend body part splits as much for beginners though as I feel more frequent hitting of each muscle group results in quicker gains for newbies.
See my recommended routines for a variety of good routines to suit your needs.
The most progress I ever made was following what some would consider extreme overtraining. It was a routine in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Natural Bodybuilding. I was supplementing heavily with branch chained amino acids to aid in recovery and it worked extremely well.
Even if you don’t have access to a gym, you can still get huge. Doing a combination of gymnastics style bodyweight training with a set of rings and a pullup bar allowed me to get insanely strong while still packing on muscle in my own home. Water jugs can also be used as inexpensive dumbbell replacements along with a set of affordable resistance bands.
Tip 3: Change Exercise Routines That Aren’t Working
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Having worked out in a variety of gyms over the past 9 years, I can see a lot of guys doing the same routine month in and out without any changes in their body. There is no shame in quitting if you’re quitting something that doesn’t work.
The caveat here is that you don’t simply change something every single week because of not seeing progress. But if you’ve been doing the same routine for a while and have little to no gains for it, assuming your diet is in check, it’s time to switch things up. The body will adapt to whatever demands are placed on it.
The best strategies that people often overlook for maximizing muscle gains are found in this free report on utilizing various muscle building factors in your training. Things to try are one or more of the following:
- Go to an entirely new workout style.
- Change the order of the exercises.
- Change the rest period.
- Incorporate heavier weights and power lifting style exercises.
- Incorporate lighter weights and high rep “pump” training.
- Utilize explosive movements like high jumps, medicine ball slams, and “clapping” pushups.
- Targeting a weak muscle and training it more frequently.
- Follow a routine that incorporates all of these elements over several months.
Tip 4: Get Adequate Rest And Recovery
Your body grows when you’re resting, not in the gym. I credit a lot of the gains I made early on to making sure I was getting enough sleep and not getting to stressed out in my life. While a solid program will make sure your muscles are rested up enough between workouts, it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and managing stress for total body recovery.
There are a few things that can be done to enhance recovery such as:
- Get enough sleep.
- Use a grounding mat.
- Drink chamomile tea to relax nerves after a workout.
- Alternating hot and cold water in the shower to enhance recovery.
- Practice meditation.
- Utilize the stress reduction techniques from Heartmath.
Tip 5: Know Your Supplements
I know I got really caught up in the whole magic pill idea of a supplement that’s going to build a ton of muscle for me. The hyped up adds create a false illusion that a pill is going to get you jacked and be the answer for how to not be skinny.
Just the other day, I was walking down the street and a guy out of the blue goes “creatine?” He was asking if my big muscles were built by creatine.
While I have used creatine in the past and do recommend it, it is just a supplement. It’s easier for him to think that my results came from creatine or even protein powder than from hours in the gym and a strict diet. There are many times nowadays where I don’t take any particular supplements (including protein powder) outside of a few herbs for general health.
The truth is, you don’t need supplements to get big, and most of them are a waste of money. Not because they don’t ever work (though they usually don’t), but because spending $50-$100 on something that may add an extra pound or two of muscle per month isn’t as economical as investing that money into quality food.
The supplements I do recommend for building muscle naturally as well as general health (without breaking the bank) are:
- Hemp, Whey, and/or Rice Protein from TrueNutrition.com (use coupon code DKD714 to save money)
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin D
- Astaxanthin (for general health and recovery)
- Magnesium or magnesium oil
- Digestive enzymes (good for skinny guys who have trouble digesting and absorbing food properly)
- Chaga and/or reishi mushroom for keeping immune system strong and total health.
- Creatine (proven) Creatine is not needed, but it does help.
- Beta Alanine (Debatable effectiveness)
- BCAA (Debatable effectiveness) I only use BCAA if I’m training really hard and want an extra edge. Otherwise your diet and protein powders supply enough branch chained amino acids.
Reader Comments: What Challenges Have You Faced Building Muscle Naturally As A Skinny Guy?
By: Derek Doepker