Being a skinny guy sucks. You may be tall, you may have a handsome face, you may even have the hint of a sixpack. But your shoulders are narrow and your arms look like twigs. Your biceps is as small as your wrists. When you go to the beach you look like a skeleton. Does this sound like you?
Then keep reading because we are going to cover EVERYTHING you need to know to go from tiny Steve Rogers to impressive Captain America in short amount of time.
Since you are skinny the main goal is to build muscle without gaining too much fat. As a skinny guy the conditions are PERFECT for muscle building. It won´t be easy, though.
Simple, yes, but not easy.
First, ask yourself about your own activity level. If you play a sport is it a sport that requires a lot of endurance work (like swimming, jogging, etc.)? Or does it mix endurance and high intensity exercise (like climbing or Muay Thai)?
If you find yourself in the first category – quit it! Or at least dial down the frequency to a maximum of three times a week. Endurance work is NOT going to help you achieving the body of a superhero. It will only make you skinnier.
For the next 24 months (yes, we are talking about two YEARS!) reduce the cardio to a minimum. Once or twice a week is fine, three times if you are worried about keeping your heart healthy.
If the second category applies to you you are allowed to continue. High intensity exercise is great for cardiovascular health and can help with building muscle. You may perform it two to four days a week if you want to.
Don´t worry if you haven´t exercised at all until now. As long as you can perform a basic bodyweight squat you will be fine. Even push ups can be learned over time.
Second, you need to implement a weightlifting routine. As a total beginner you will make small gains by training three times a week but if you want to look like a superhero anytime soon you need to be at the gym AT LEAST four days a week.
Don´t worry about overtraining. As a beginner it is almost impossible to overtrain. You will not ruin your body by training four to five hours a week, I promise. You will overtrain if you exercise four to five hours a DAY.
So forget about training too much for the moment.
For beginners I recommend an upper body/lower body split. If you don´t like splits you can of course only do full body workouts or perform a full body circuit with only your bodyweight in addition to your split training.
The first two to four weeks should be dedicated to learning the proper form of each exercise. Watch YouTube tutorials, talk to a personal trainer or ask your friends to rate your form while you perform the exercise with a weight that feels light to you.
Getting injured during the first weeks will throw you off the wagon and it may take months for you to regain the motivation to start. Plus, learning proper form will help you prevent injuries even years from now.
I know you want to start right now but you need to take care of your body first. Dedicate at least two weeks (or eight workout sessions) to learning.
After you mastered the form of the main lifts you can start with the following workout:
5×5 Flat Barbell Bench Press
5×8 Bent Over Rows
3×5 Chin Ups/Pull Ups
3×12 Dumbbell Curls
3×12 Rope Pushdowns
3×8 Barbell Squats
3×8 Kettlebell Lunges
3×30 Bicycle Crunches
Rest or do some light cardio
Repeat Day 1
Repeat Day 2
Repeat Day 3
Yeah, you get the picture.
If you can not do 3×5 Pull Ups yet just do as many as you can. Or use a Chin Up machine if your gym has one. You will become stronger over time. Don´t worry about it.
Perform squats and lunges with a lighter weight and higher reps. The legs respond easily and you don´t want them to grow too fast. It will become hard to find fitting pants if you overdo it.
Focus on getting stronger during the first two years of training. You don´t have to worry about pyramid training, slow reps or German Volume Training, yet. Leave that to the more advanced guy you will become in the future.
You need to add weight to your main lifts (Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, Row) at least once a week. If you can go up with the weight with every workout that´s even better.
After a few weeks you may become bored with this workout. Feel free to switch to another workout plan. As long as you are consistently getting stronger you continue to build muscle.
After we have covered what to do to your body we will know talk about what to put into your body to build muscle.
Since you are a skinny guy you are very likely not eating enough at the moment. Track your calories for a week or two. Weigh your food and write everything down to get an overview about what you are eating in a day. It is probably not a lot of food.
Here comes the bad news: if you are serious about building muscle you will need to overeat every single day from now on.
Great!, you think, I love eating!
That´s what I thought before starting my first bulk. But believe me: overeating is only fun for the first three days. After that it becomes a chore.
Multiply your current bodyweight in pounds with 20 if you can see your abs. If you have small love handles multiply with 18.
If you are a 160 pound skinny guy you will have to eat 3.200 calories if you can see your abs or about 2.900 calories a day if you have a bit of body fat. Plus the calories you burn on training days.
3.200 calories is equal to four pizzas and two portions of ice cream a day (I´m NOT saying you should bulk up with only pizza and ice cream! That´s just an example of just how much food you are going to consume).
You should consume about 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. The skinny guy from the example above needs to eat 128 grams of protein every day.
There are many people on the internet talking about the benefits of clean eating but as a skinny guy who wants to gain weight you need to be deaf to them. Do whatever it takes to get your calories in without missing a day.
You can eat clean 50% of the time and eat sugary, fatty foods high in calories the rest of the time. If you are worried about gaining fat too fast lower your caloric intake for a week (don´t go below 17x your current bodyweight).
Protein shakes are a great way to meet your goal of eating 0.8 grams per pound a day. But don´t get more than 40% of your protein from protein shakes. Chicken, beef and milk are better sources of protein.
Do not drink more than once in a week. Once a month is even better. Alcohol is poison for your body and will slow down your progress tremendously.
If you are a young guy you probably haven´t considered the importance of sleep for your overall wellbeing. But for gaining muscle sleep is from utmost importance.
Think of your dream body as 30% training, 30% nutrition, 30% rest and 10% genetics.
Do NOT sacrifice your sleep for anything! I don´t care that you have to get up early in the morning, just go to bed earlier! Take a nap in the afternoon if you have to.
Just make sure you let your body rest. Your muscles will only grow while you rest.
Aim for eight to ten hours of sleep per night. Exercise will make you tired so sleeping a little longer than you are used to may be necessary. If your body doesn´t require a lot of sleep you can maybe get away with sleeping only seven hours a night but don´t go below that.
Make your room as dark as possible during nighttime or wear something like a blindfold to trick your body into sleeping. Use a blue light filter like f.lux when working on your laptop in the evening. Don´t consume caffeine within six hours before going to bed.
You are now armed with the knowledge necessary to build your dream body. But there is another key component: Consistency.
You need to stay consistent for two years at a time. If you miss more than one workout a month your progress will slow down. If you make excuses you will NEVER reach your goal.
Just put in the work. It is not difficult. You just need patience.
Consistency is the reason why only 1% of humanity has a great body. Going to the gym day in and day out is not as fun as watching TV or partying all night. But that´s what it takes, fellow superhero.