Attention all skinny guys: You don’t have to remain that way. There are solutions. Stop beating your head against the wall and get busy with the right plan of action; one that will pack on real, solid muscle once and for all. Today I’m going to break down the common beliefs, myths, and outright falsehoods about adding muscle. Then I’ll get down to brass tacks with some advice for the mass-challenged. I want to take you through a more logical approach for the natural, drug-free lifter who struggles with putting on even a single pound of muscle.
The first thing we need to work on is your mindset. What does it mean to call yourself a hard gainer? Are you submitting to the label and giving up hope of progress before you’ve even started? You may have the self-image of always being the skinny guy, for whom the task of gaining muscle is insurmountable. You look at others as genetically gifted, figuring they have the easy road when it comes to building their physiques. You feel you’ve been given a bad hand in the iron game and will struggle forever.
Your very first task is to stop cultivating this mindset and stop the vicious thought process that paints you as a helpless victim. It’s time to shake off the hardgainer label, and start rethinking your training approach. So let’s wipe the slate clean and get to work.
Bad Advice From the Past
Let’s take a look at some of the more traditional methods given for all skinny guys to follow. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is some of the more common beliefs.
- Train infrequently. You might have heard that you should only do two full-body workouts per week, or train only one body part per day, per week. Any more, they tell you, will only bury you under overtraining. The thought is that you are weak and fragile and shouldn’t push too much or too often.
- Train with low reps. Someone might have told you that higher reps ranges are counterproductive, and should be reserved for the more gifted lifter. Go heavy all the time, they say.
- Avoid any extracurricular activity. Your gym bro might have said that any activity outside of the gym will only hurt your potential to build muscle. You will essentially burn up any progress you made in the gym, and put your body into a caloric downward spiral, leaving little or no energy for muscle protein synthesis.
- Eat as much as possible. Everybody knows that stuffing your gullet with as many calories as possible is the only surefire way to gain any weight at all, right? The hardgainer diet is basically a see-food plan, where you eat anything and everything in sight.
The list above is what most hardgainer training gurus tout as gospel. But there is a better way, and a more effective way to approach training to add size. Now that we’ve looked to the past for what not to do, let’s look forward with a new attitude, an open mind and a renewed sense of purpose.
A Dose of Common Sense
Think about your excuses for a moment. You blame your inability to add muscle on your fast metabolism. You may also blame bad genetics, the inability to gain strength, or your lack of consistency due to other life obligations.
A fast metabolism is actually an advantage. If you constantly burn calories and stay lean, then you will have no problem being muscular without added body fat. A faster metabolism also equates to a faster protein turnover rate, enabling you to train more often and giving you more opportunity to grow.
The genetics topic is one of perception. You can’t do anything about your genes. So why worry about them? Instead, make a plan to work with what assets you have. Keep a positive attitude. Your progress is up to you.
Do you keep a journal of sets, reps, weights, etc.? Are you consistently reviewing your progress and adjusting where necessary? Are you staying faithful to one program for a significant amount of time, instead of hopping around from plan to plan? Pick a program, work your tail off and give it enough time.
The Basics of Hypertrophy
Now it’s time to get to a plan of action that will put muscle on even the hardest of gainers. Below are a set of principles when building out your new training plan.
- Up your frequency. Since you claim to have a metabolism that works against you, you will now train more frequently. This will create more opportunities for growth. A long as you support your training with proper nutrition, you can train as often as you like.
- Go to failure. No matter what rep range you use, the key to stimulating muscle growth is to challenge the muscle so it has a reason to change—in your case, to grow larger in size and increase strength.
- Keep track. Journaling your training, especially for those who find gaining muscle challenging, is a requirement. Would you build a house without a blueprint and a close eye on the construction process?
- Mix up your moves. Yes, compound moves are a must, but don’t ignore all single-joint exercises. The key is to keep them simple and basic: barbell curls, lying triceps extensions, etc.
- Stay active. If you play a pick-up game of hoops, it’s not as if you’ll somehow halt or reverse the muscle-building process. Run, hike, bike, play ball, or whatever else you truly enjoy doing. Life is too short to be a slave to the fear of not gaining muscle.
The Muscle Size for Skinny Guys Program
Now for the brass tacks. Below is a sample training plan to get you started down the muscle-building road. If you move ahead with it, keep a few things in mind:
- Pay close attention to rest periods
- Always warm up properly
- Keep track of your workouts
- Give it plenty of time—at least four weeks
Perform each training day below once per week. After four weeks, either take the fifth week completely off, or shift your intensity down and train only for two nonconsecutive days.
On the other end of the scale? There’s hope for you, too: