Skinny To Big
Do you find yourself looking in the mirror and puffing out your chest to look bigger? Do you get nervous when the temperature goes up and it’s time to show some more skin? Well, I know what that feeling is like because I was obsessed with gaining weight and getting bigger.
I’m a skinny guy but I wanted that ideal body proportion. You know, the wide chest with round biceps and the beefy legs. I used to get so frustrated because I would workout like crazy, but I just couldn’t see the results that I wanted.
After a change in strategy, I was able to add about 10 pounds of muscle to my skinny frame. Here’s how I did it.
Understanding Your Body Type
There are three different body types. They are called somatotypes. The concept was developed back in the 1940s by a psychologist named Dr. W.H. Sheldon. People with large body mass and rounded features are called endomorphs. People who are typically in the middle of the pack with well-proportioned muscle mass and fat are called mesomorphs. Just think about a football quarterback and you’ve got the look.
Then, there are ectomorphs. Men with an ectomorphic body type are tall and lanky with skinny arms and legs. Ectomorphic men have almost no body fat, but they’re also low on muscle mass. The muscles that ectomorphs do have tend to be long and thin. That doesn’t mean you can’t be athletic. Just look at any long-distance runner and you can see how the ectomorphic body type has its strengths.
I have struggled with being an ectomorph because my skinny image didn’t match up with societal norms of masculinity. Early in life I wasn’t very coordinated or athletic. When I turned 30, I decided that I would find a way to become stronger, healthier and build a more attractive physique. I found myself in martial arts and parkour. It was a natural fit for me, and I started exercising every week in those disciplines.
However, I still struggled to gain weight and muscle mass. Ectomorphs are also called “hard-gainers” because there’s a difficult road ahead if you’re trying to gain weight. It wasn’t until I learned about the ectomorphic body type that I realized that I couldn’t workout like everybody else and expect to get big. I couldn’t eat a small meal and expect to keep those calories. After I made some significant changes to my fitness routine and diet, I was finally able to gain nearly 10 pounds.
I was so happy, and I wanted to share my experience with other men that have the ectomorphic body type. I know you probably have a similar struggle with your self-image. So, here are some helpful tips on the type of actions that I took to achieve my goal of getting bigger.
Which Exercises Should Skinny Guys Do?
Men with the ectomorphic body type have an extremely high metabolism. That means you burn through calories quicker than other types of men. For that reason, you shouldn’t prioritize cardio workouts if you’re trying to gain body mass.
I love parkour and martial arts. However, I struggled to gain any weight because I was spending three to four days a week training in these sports disciplines. I just couldn’t say no to cardio. It was so frustrating to step on the scale and see my weight drop down even though I was always working out.
According to a University of Rochester calorie burning calculator, a person of 140 lbs. (my weight) was burning an average of 720 calories an hour. Once I realized this, I made some changes to my workout plan. So, I switched from parkour and kickboxing to light gymnastics and tai chi kung twice a week. On average, I burned just 288 calories an hour.
That helped slow down my rate of weight loss. However, it didn’t help to broaden my frame or add any muscle mass. For that I needed to do some weightlifting. Typically, there are three types of weight-lifting plans. There’s the general approach, a lightweight/ high repetition approach, and a heavyweight/low repetition approach.
Conventional fitness trainers will tell you that skinny guys who want to bulk up should go for heavy weights and low repetitions. However, there was a study out of McMaster University in 2016 that seemed to prove otherwise. There were two groups in the study – men who lifted at 30–50% of their one-rep max for 20–25 reps a set and men who lifted at 75–90% of their one-rep max for 8–12 reps a set.
As long as both groups lifted until failure or peak fatigue, their gains in strength and size were virtually equal. Stuart Phillips, Ph.D. was the lead author of the story and he noted in the findings that “Fatigue is the great equalizer here. Lift to the point of exhaustion and it doesn’t matter whether the weights are heavy or light.”
The only exception to that rule was the bench press. In the case of that particular exercise, heavier weights and fewer repetitions produced a greater result. So, definitely keep that in mind when doing your weightlifting exercises.
Here are the exercises that I did to gain upper body muscle mass.
For the upper body I chose exercises that produce a broad V-shaped physique. Skinny guys sometimes focus on the wrong areas or focus too much on the chest. These exercises will widen your back and put peaks on your shoulders. Try to perform each exercise to fatigue with medium to heavy weights. Then, rest for awhile and do another set of these same exercises.
- Incline Bench Press with Barbell – 2 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell Squeeze Press – 2 sets of 12 reps
- Pull-ups with a Weighted Vest – 2 sets of 12 reps
- Seated Cable Row – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Preacher Curl – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Dumbbell Curl – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Parallel Bar Dips – 2 sets of 20 reps
Here are the exercises that I did to gain lower body muscle mass.
For the lower body I chose to do mostly lightweight and bodyweight exercises. This was a personal choice because I do a lot of martial arts, tumbling and free-running and I already had some weaknesses with my joints and tendons. For the bodyweight exercises I did as many repetitions as I could before losing my form. For the weighted exercises I used medium to heavy weights. Do at least two sets of each exercise.
- Box Jumps – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Standing Long Jumps – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Dumbbell Lunges – 2 sets of 15 reps
- Leg Press – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Calf Raises – 2 sets of 30 reps
Skinny Guy Nutrition Tips to Gain Mass
The most important component to this guide is nutrition. You can lift all the weights that you want but you won’t see results if you don’t pay close attention to what goes into your body. As hard-gainers, skinny guys tend to eat smaller meals and the calories don’t stay with you long enough to build muscle or get stored on your body as fat.
You need to take in more calories. The first thing you need to do is track how many calories you eat on a daily basis. This might seem tedious, but it’s very important if you want to gain mass. Once you have an idea of how many calories you’re taking in, try to find ways to get more. In my case, I used to eat a very simple breakfast of jam on toast with a cup of coffee. Not a lot of calories, right?
I added another slice of jam and toast. I also ate a bowl of oatmeal with bananas. I did similar things with every meal, looking for more calories. I added protein to every meal. My goal was to have 15 grams of protein for my lunch and dinner. You can add tuna or chicken to just about anything to reach this goal.
Sugary treats, sweets and fatty foods won’t help you much. That includes super sweet protein shakes. Ectomorphs shed calories quickly but if you’re adding fatty foods to your diet then you won’t gain much mass. Fat weighs less than muscle. So, there’s no use in trying to pack on the calories with sugary, fatty foods.
If you’re a skinny guy trying to get big it can be a long, frustrating journey. You should always keep in mind that your fitness and overall health is far more important than your body image. If you have an ectomorphic body type, then it’s best to accept your genetics and accentuate your strengths.
You’ll have chiseled abs without much effort and simple bodyweight exercises will give you well defined arms and shoulders. Yet, it is possible to widen your upper torso and add size to your legs. Cut down on the cardio and increase your weightlifting regimen.
Nutrition is so important for gaining muscle mass. Spend a week studying your diet and try to be creative about ways to add calories and protein. Protein powders can help, but you shouldn’t rely on them for a quick fix.
I was able to add about 10 pounds of muscle over a period of 2 to 3 months. I added inches to my chest measurements and my things were noticeably larger. Ironically, once I achieved my goal it didn’t seem to matter as much. I was nearly obsessed with my physical image, but I was mostly concerned with what other people thought of me.
It’s okay to focus on your image, but you shouldn’t want it just to impress other people. There are guys with other body types that were envious of my naturally trimmed physique. So, remember that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Your body type is someone else’s ideal so you might as well embrace your image. Self-love is sexy in any form that it takes.