Genetics can be a bummer. Skinny guys the world over know the struggle – you go to the gym, you eat sensibly and the results are always the same. Though fit and healthy, your body is thin, wiry and thoroughly unmuscular.
Fear not! These days, personal trainers and gym buffs know that our genes are not the be all and end all. In fact, most skinny guys could easily build more muscle by simply amending their current workout routine and diet, re-balancing both in ways that increase overall bodyweight and muscle mass.
Below, we take you through 10 easy and clear steps to muscle building success, paying special attention to the little habits that make all the difference. Let us know your ideas and suggestions in the comment section below!
Step one in any new routine is to get into the headspace of what you’re trying to achieve. To succeed on the journey of building muscle requires commitment and time, so make sure you’ve fully set aside time and space in which to do new strength routines. Getting quality advice and support is also a great way to ensure that you don’t get discouraged in the coming months. Consider setting up a new account on the “Bodyspace” section of bodybuilding.com – here, you can record your starting weight and progress, receive great support from others following the same path, and get a few cheers as you start to clear some hurdles. If you feel like you’re not the sort to enjoy interacting with others online, try at least to follow some blogs or stories written by others who have/are trying to bulk up – a few great success stories might be enough to keep you on target when things get tough.
A big part of building confidence is also keeping your chin up at the gym. A skinny guy starting up a new routine is naturally going to be starting on some relatively low weights compared to those used by the tanks who have been doing this for years! Try and go in with the drive to simply get started and try not to compare yourself to others. Within weeks, you’ll be on some heavier weights anyway!
Now let’s get practical. Muscle building requires protein and lots of it. This is because the process of building new muscle involves protein synthesis, meaning that bodybuilders need to be consuming more in protein than their body is breaking down in order to keep building muscle.
There are tonnes of foods out there that are packed with protein (including eggs, chicken, soy, and nuts), but the most important of all is red meat. Lean red meat contains a huge dose of protein (27g per 100g of beef) and is also rich in creatine, iron, zinc, and b-vitamins, all of which help to build and maintain healthy muscles. Start by examining your diet and look for ways to increase your daily doses of protein and red meat wherever possible, with the aim of making it so that 35% of your daily calorie intake comes from proteins.
Ultimately, the process of building muscle is still a different way of achieving one simple aim: weight gain. A big part of this is to simply consume more calories a day, packed with nutrients that come from carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Working out the precise number of calories you should be aiming for per day is a surprisingly complicated process, and should factor in your current bodyweight and current gym activity in order to be accurate (check out this link (https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calorie-know-how-get-equation-right-to-get-results.htm) for a handy calculator!) As with anything however, a few rules of thumb can make things a lot easier to manage. Start off by aiming to eat roughly every 3 hours, with around 6 daily meals. Each meal should ideally contain a source of protein, and each should be substantial enough to ensure that you have a source of energy throughout the day.
Building muscle is all about strength training, and thankfully there are dozens of resources out there for beginners (http://bonytobeastly.com/, http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/skinny-man-transformation-plan, https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/a-skinny-guys-guide-to-building-muscle-and-bulking-up/, https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/vinced3.htm). You’re going to want to swap out cardio and endurance workouts for strength training routines, focusing especially on squats, pull-ups, deadlifts, dips and bicep curls. Pick a routine that works for you, and try to ensure that you’re targeting all of your body’s muscles as evenly as possible.
When deciding which weight to begin on, try testing out a few to find the one that’s right for you. You want to be able to do 8-12 reps in each set, with the last few reps being very difficult (though not impossible) to achieve. Expect to have muscles that are sore and feeling the pressure, although try not to go so hard that they ache terribly or become injured – this could end up limiting how often you can realistically do your routines, which is never good.
If routines like these are entirely unfamiliar to you, always check with a member of staff or friendly fellow gym member at your local gym before trying out the equipment. Form is key to most of these exercises, and the focus should really be on doing the movements smoothly and correctly instead of giving yourself a nasty injury!
Having a gym buddy is also a great way to ensure that you keep a regular schedule, as partners can help with motivation and support. A partner can also spot you whilst you push yourself onto heavier and heavier weights, which is vital for avoiding injury and accidents. Never be afraid to ask for help when pushing yourself!
This step is especially important for those who feel like they may struggle to consume the calories needed to build muscle. If you’ve been to a gym, you’ve seen those huge tubs of protein powder. They’re ubiquitous because they ultimately work, and many brands can give you huge doses of essential amino acids and other muscle-building compounds in a quick and easy drink.
Perhaps the main advantage of trying out protein shakes is their portability and ease of consumption. To ensure that the protein you consume is used most efficiently, it’s best to take it 30 to 60 minutes before you work out. Protein shakes are easily absorbed and can be taken shortly before a workout without you feeling queasy at the gym, so consider giving them a try once you’ve gotten a feel for your new routine/diet.
Another trick you can do to maximise gains is to tactically divide your food groups so as to help the process of muscle building along. Consuming more carbohydrates after a workout, or on days when you’re resting, can help to spike the body’s insulin levels, which limits and slows the rate at which protein is broken down. Overall, this will help to rebuild muscle faster and ensure that your protein stores are used as effectively as possible!
One final diet trick is to ensure that your body is fully fuelled before sleep. Contrary to popular belief, the body’s metabolism works around the clock, and observant athletes can always take steps to ensure that their food intake is delivering optimal results.
A good pre-bed snack should involve slow-release proteins, to ensure that the muscles have a constant store of amino acids from which to draw on. The classic muscle-building late night snack is something like cottage cheese, which contains huge doses of casein protein that releases slowly into the body. Sensible and disciplined food consumption during the day, followed by some pre-sleep cottage cheese in the evening, will ensure that your muscles are always getting the fuel they need to rebuild and grow.
Let’s get this straight: supplements are perhaps the least important factor on this list, and it’s far more important to ensure that you have your fundamentals sorted in terms of diet and exercise before you even think about them.
That being said, the right kind of supplements can help to optimize your gains. Creatine is the most obvious substance to try supplementing, as it has been proven to increase the power of your muscles during workouts. This extra power can help you push harder during workouts, increasing the amount that you can expect to achieve in a single session (and the muscles you will grow as a result).
Other simple supplements can give you a useful boost of nutrients, vitamins and minerals as needed. Whatever you do though, steer clear of anything resembling a steroid (legal or otherwise) – these expensive wastes of time will give you as many side effects and problems as benefits!
Success is guaranteed if you keep at it. To build muscle, athletes need to keep plugging away at their routines at least 3 times a week, although visiting the gym every other day would arguably be even more useful. The important thing is to ensure that the strength-training routines happen regularly, and that time is always made to allow the body to rest, recover and actually build the muscle that has been earned.
Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! Programs like these may take time to show benefits but they will absolutely deliver the desired effects if followed properly. Giving up and starting again will waste time and energy and take a big emotional toll – if you fight through the hard times and stick to your routine, you’ll be thanking yourself a year down the line. Good luck!