A lot of bodybuilding advice written by people who find it easy to build bigger muscles. Unfortunately, that advice is usually no good at all for the average skinny guy. Skinny guys lack the genetics to build muscle easily and the wrong training advice could completely derail any progress. Skinny guys don’t just need to just train hard, they need to train smart too.

If you are genetically blessed, you can follow even a terrible program and still gain muscle whereas the skinny guy just isn’t that lucky. Skinny guys CAN build muscle – but only if they follow the rules! 

Rule 1. Use compound exercises

There is no need to do a bunch of “shaping” isolation exercises until you have actually built some muscle! And even then, don’t expect isolation exercises to actually change the shape of your muscles much if at all.

Exercises like cable crossovers and preacher curls might give you a good pump but you need more than that to get bigger and stronger. Focus on compound or multi-joint exercises 90-percent of the time and use isolation exercises as finishers if you use them at all. Deadlifts, barbell bench press, bent over rows, pull-ups, dips, and overhead presses should be the cornerstone of your workouts.

Rule 2. Get stronger

If you want to get bigger, you need to get stronger and that means adding weight to the bar or otherwise making your workouts more intense. You can reduce your rest periods, add a few more reps, do more sets too. Whichever way you slice it, if you want to grow, you have got to work a little harder from one week to the next. Strong muscles are big muscles.

Rule 3. Eat

The main reason that skinny guys fail to build muscle is not their training but their diet – or lack of it. You have to eat big to get big. This doesn’t mean you have free licence to eat lots of junk. No, instead you need to eat lots of healthy food and maybe a little junk just to boost your calorie intake.

Commit to eating three meals and three snacks a day that all contain decent amounts of protein, carbs, and healthy fats and accept that it’s okay to gain a little body fat too.

You can’t build a house without bricks and you can’t build muscle without food. You are going to have to eat like you mean it!

Rule 4. Work your legs

Fifty percent of your muscle mass is in your legs and yet most exercisers only devote 25-30 percent of their time to leg training.

If you are serious about “bulking up” you MUST work your legs with at least the same exercise volume and workout frequency as your upper body and this is especially true for skinny guys.

Very few people ever manage to build impressive amounts of muscle without serious leg training so go and make friends with the squat rack, leg press, and deadlift platform if you want to get bigger and stronger throughout the rest of your body.

Rule 5. Sleep like a baby

Amazingly, doing literally nothing can help you gain muscle. Sleep is when your body flips the anabolic switch and repairs the damage of your workouts. Too little sleep can significantly impair muscle growth.

You need a good 7-9 hours of sleep per night so make sure you go to bed early enough and turn off the TV so you actually sleep soundly and aren’t kept awake by whatever dull movie you are drowsing through.

If you can, also spike your days with 15-30 minute powernaps which can further enhance muscle growth.

Rule 6. Save your energy

Sports, lots of cardio, late night partying, and otherwise being very active can rob your body of energy it could otherwise be using for muscle growth. If you really want to add muscle mass, try and conserve energy by becoming almost lazy…

  • Don’t walk – ride
  • Don’t stand – sit
  • Don’t sit – lie down
  • Don’t lie down – sleep

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking more exercise will help you build muscle faster; it won’t. Skinny guys should try and keep their training sessions to one hour or less and limit themselves to four hours of training a week. Any more may well produce worse rather than better results.

Rule 7. Be consistent

Building muscle doesn’t take a week or a month – it takes years of consistent effort. Every time you take a break from training, skip a workout, miss a good night of sleep, or fail to eat properly, you are undermining your potential for success. You need to commit to the process if you want to get results.

As a skinny guy, you are not genetically blessed to build muscle easily. That doesn’t mean you can’t – you’ll just have to work harder and longer to do it. Knuckle down, stick to the plan, and you will gain muscle. It’s just not going to happen overnight.

Skinny guys really can build impressive physiques but it often takes more time and requires lots of attention to detail. Naturally muscular guys can do everything wrong and still make progress! Don’t follow workouts designed for genetically-blessed easy gainers – they won’t work for you. Instead, stick to these seven rules and you WILL make progress.