3 Things Skinny Guys Must Do Differently to Build Muscle
Posted Feb 01 2013 6:07am
Skinny guys have enough of a hard time building muscle as it is. It doesn’t help that if you ask a question on a forum about the quickest way to build muscle you get about 7 different answers. Not that this advice is no good – a lot of it is – but the real concern is that most people tend to think that muscle building rules are strict among all body types.
Skinny guys (or ‘hardgainers’) have an ectomorph body shape, characterized by long limbs, skinny wrists and a low body fat percentage . On the opposite end of the body-type spectrum are endomorphs, which typically carry more fat easily. In the middle there are mesomorphs who are the athletic type – they can build muscle easily and get a great-looking appearance. However, they can also store fat quite easily.
Most successful bodybuilders tend to be naturally the latter two types of body shape. The endomorphs and mesomorphs then pass on their wisdom of what worked for them onto the hardgaining ectomorphs, assuming their advice is solid.
But, as I mentioned, skinny guys genetics are a bit different. Skinny guys do build muscle in a different way. In this article I’m going to outline 3 top things that skinny hardgainers need to do differently to other body types to build muscle. Here we go…
1. Train Heavy at Least 4 Times Per Week
The conventional advice you’ll usually hear is to split up body parts and train 5 or 6 times per week with moderate weights and high reps ( ‘high’ meaning between 8 – 20 repetitions).
But for a skinny guy this will only leave you frustrated and weak.
Ectomorphs need to build more strength than other body types so this requires heavier weights in the 5-8 rep range, at least 3 times per week. Another thing that the old-school bodybuilder routine leads to is training for too long each session. It’s better for a hardgainer to perform less work per session, and train more times each week, rather than trying to blast their muscles with 10 different exercises and spending 2 hours a day in the gym. Spread this workload out over multiple sessions that are shorter and more intense.
2. Move to Total Body Training or Upper / Lower Body Splits
The BIG mistake that skinny guys make is separating their workouts into body parts. “Chest & Arms” one day, “Back & Legs” the next day etc. For an ectomorph this is simply no good for building muscle. For one the amount of exercises you perform make it impossible to lift heavy weights with any intensity.
Secondly these marathon workouts take up too much recovery energy, so the hardgainer has to eat about 5000 calories a day to even maintain his weight!
Instead, moving to a full body or upper / lower split allows you to perform more large, multi-muscle compound exercises that build slabs of muscle and strength.
3. Skinny Guys DO Need to Do Some Conditioning
Many people mistakenly assume that hardgainers shouldn’t do any cardio conditioning work. There is a strange theory that if a skinny guy so much as thinks about elevating his heart rate above 80% he will instantly shrivel up and muscle mass will fall off him. Nonsense.
I am not recommending traditional, old-school running or cardio machines. No, what hardgainers need is some real at least once per week to stay ripped.
Some strategically placed metabolic work for 20 minutes will keep your abs on show whilst you build muscle, as well as improve your blood flow and recovery.
But don’t go overboard with this – for most skinny guys a 10-20 minute finisher once or at most twice per week will be sufficient. The best forms of conditioning are to perform sprints on an inclined treadmill or a hill. Otherwise, if you have access to the equipment, perform some sledgehammer swings, battling ropes, or even a bodyweight exercise Tabata or circuit with rest periods under 45 seconds.
Just because you are a hardgainer and you’ve been told you need to eat a million calories a day, that does NOT mean you should be out eating whatever junk you can find.
I’ll admit if you have very skinny genetics then you can get away with a bit more crap than most, but don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy.
You still need to be cycling your carbs to consume more starches from pumpkin, sweet potatoes and quinoa. Whats more important than the amount of calories is the hormonal effect certain foods have on your body. Whilst you may think some bread and juice won’t get stored immediately as fat, those foods will still sap you of energy and lower your mood – leading to a decreased performance in workouts, which eventually, somewhere down the line, will affect your waistline.
Author Bio: Justin Devonshire is a Men’s Fitness & Conditioning specialist. He is the author of the Alpha Body Blueprint Fat Loss & Muscle program and is dedicated to helping young guys sculpt a lean, athletic, ripped body that women love. For more information on the Alpha Body Blueprint workouts that will help you transform your body with short, fast and exciting sessions visit
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