Back in high school I used to be the skinny kid. I felt pretty weak because other than my martial arts training, I couldn’t push, pull, or really impose any strength on anybody. It wasn’t until university when I began to weight train, and try protein supplements in an effort to gain mass and strength. Fast forward to the present; now I’ve added grappling training to my arsenal and have been able to build some practical strength and a stronger physique. Here’s what I’ve been able to find on how to build muscle mass for the skinny guy.
Disclaimer: This is just an account of personal experiences, methods that worked for me, and should generally work for any skinny guy looking to build muscle mass. It is not meant to replace the advice from a personal trainer or nutritionist. Seek professional opinion as needed.
1. LIFT HEAVY
This really is the cornerstone concept in building muscle mass for the skinny people. If you want to get big and strong, there is only one way: Lift heavy! Don’t say to yourself “it’s okay, I’ll do these light 20lbs. dumbbells first and build my way towards it”, that’s a bunch of BS, and you’ll never get there. Choose a heavy, but safe weight, and start lifting. You shouldn’t be able to do more than 4-5 reps if you are lifting heavy, and that’s exactly what you want. Finish it up with 3 sets of these 4-5 heavy lifts and you’re finished for that exercise. Your total strength training workout shouldn’t exceed 30-45 minutes because of the low reps you’re doing, or else you’re doing too many reps and/or resting for way too long.
2. USE FREE WEIGHTS
There are many benefits of using free weights. Firstly, using free weights such as dumbbells instead of a machine or bar means you are building strength for your individual limbs, instead of causing an imbalance because one limb is already stronger than the other, therefore making it compensate for your weaker limb when you are lifting. Secondly, using a free weight means you will have to balance your lifting motion on your own without the help of the machine or bar, which builds all your tiny stabilizer muscles as well as your big muscles, improving your coordination and practical strength. There’s a huge difference between benching some weights and trying to lift a couch or push a big man off of you in a confrontation; you’ll need all the little muscles to work with your big muscles for maximum effectiveness. Thirdly, there is less chance of injury when using free weights. If you tire on your last few reps, you can just let go and drop the weights to your side. If you’re using a bar, you’ll need a spotter, and if you don’t have one, then you risk the bar falling and smashing you, causing serious injury or death.
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE
If you are just starting out, you are probably wondering which exercises you should be focusing on. Here’s my personal bare-bones routine and if you can follow it you’ll already be in pretty good shape (for a 150lb.-ish guy). Feel free to modify it to suit your needs / as you get stronger. All exercises are 3 sets of 5 reps unless otherwise stated.
-Bench Press, 2x65lb. dumbbells
-Shoulder Press, 2x50lbs. dumbbells
-Bicep Curls, 2x30lbs. dumbbells
-Squat Machine or Dead Lifts (At least your own weight, I suggest you start with the machine as it’s safer)
-Pull-Ups (10x front grip, 10x reverse grip, 10x wide grip, do more sets as you get stronger)
-Fly Machine (Adjust accordingly, usually 135lbs. and above)
If you have a super fast metabolism like me and have a hard time gaining weight, a protein supplement will do wonders. You don’t have to buy a shelf full of supplements, just starting with a 10lb. bucket of any kind of protein powder will do. The key is the actual workout and lifting heavy. Recover by drinking your protein shake within 30 minutes and you’ll gain wonderfully. Back in 2008 I tried QuickMass for a few months, and it worked well, but I have personally found that it actually made me fat around the edges (not what I was looking for). I’ve stopped using supplements after that, and still maintained my mass and strength (while cutting the fat). Now in 2011, after recovering from a virus that took 15lbs. of my mass away, I needed to go on a supplement again. This time I chose Precision Big Time, a protein supplement with HALF the sugar and fat as QuickMass, yet with even a larger amount of protein. It’s working beautifully and I’m definitely feeling the difference in how fat I am now vs. how fat I was while I was taking the previous supplement.
As long as you follow this routine and do it at least 4 times a week, you should see results in a month! Pretty soon you won’t be known as the skinny kid no more, but the “athletic guy” or the “holy sh*t you’re strong” guy! I know because that’s what they call me now!