The Skinny Guys Guide To Muscle Mass

No skinny guy has ever walked into a consult with me and said they wanted to be skinnier. Every single time they’ve said they want to pack more muscle on or get bigger. This article is for all the skinny guys out there chasing that elusive muscle building formula… but it’s not going to be easy.

Body Type & Mindset

I am a big fan of an underdog story, and a skinny guy chasing muscle mass is one of those stories because the odds are stacked against them. To expand on this, I need to outline the different body types people predominantly fit into;


  • Endomorph: large frame and can carry a lot of mass. Made for strength sports but can gain weight quickly and lose conditioning quickly if training stops.
  • Mesomorph: has a medium sized frame but can gain strength and muscle easily, making them very adaptable to athletic situations. Can have naturally low levels of fat and can gain/lose weight easily.
  • Ectomorph (skinny guy): long and thin build leading to difficulties in adding muscle and weight to their frame. Can sustain low levels of body fat and are naturally lean.

After reading those descriptions, I think it’s clear that the cards are always going to be stacked against a skinny guy. However, like with anything in life, if you work hard for something, you’ll eventually get your rewards. This is where mindset comes into play.

With each body type, there are certain personality traits that come along with that. For example, fellas with a mesomorph body type are more likely to be confident and loud. Think of a jock from an American teen movie. Whereas the ectomorph body type, are usually stereotyped as the geeky, computer and nervous type. This isn’t a bad thing, but to make any changes in life, you need to take that leap of faith to try something different.

As skinny guys are usually more self-conscious and nervous about starting their gym journey, I always ask them to visualise how their life would be better if they had more muscle or were stronger. More confidence in their own body? Being able to ask the girl they fancy out? It doesn’t matter what it is, but keep that in mind. That’s the motivation and the why/reason for making this change.


How and What To Do (Eat) To Gain Muscle

Now I’ve got a skinny guy into the mindset of wanting to change, let’s get stuck into actually putting muscle onto their body. The training part is the easy bit, but we’ll get to that later. To really pack muscle on, the focus should be on things outside of the gym, mainly nutrition.

As outlined before, skinny guys always have an uphill challenge because they naturally find it hard to gain size. Put simply, to gain size and put muscle on, you need to be in a positive calorie balance (eat more than you already are), and not be burning energy through other methods of exercise, such as going on a ridiculously long run on the days you’re not weight training. This doesn’t mean a ‘dirty bulk’ and just eating anything and everything as you’ll gain size, but not necessarily the size you want ↓


So what should skinny guys eat then?

Skinny guys tolerate carbs very well and have a fast metabolism. This is due to a thing called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which basically means things like tapping your foot or walking around. Skinny guys are usually more fidgety and so burn extra calories through this. Alongside this, when it comes to weight training, the extra carbs will help with muscle building as it will provide much needed energy for high intensity, heavy lifting. Around half of skinny guy’s calories should be carbs.

This doesn’t mean fat should be cut out however. Keeping good fats in such as avocados, nuts and coconut oil will help with the production of testosterone and help with recovery. Two pretty important aspects of building muscle.

Finally we can talk about the only thing that people are concerned about which is protein. Protein is needed to help repair and grow muscles as a result of damage caused by weight training. Lack of protein can lead to loss of muscle, so get plenty of it in you and from various sources. I’m talking steak, beef, fish, a whole chicken, go crazy. Two boiled eggs won’t cut it.

A point to note aswell, because skinny guys struggle to put weight on, they are more likely to be able to get away with a cheat meal. They need the calories, but shouldn’t solely rely on KFC to meet their muscle building goals.

The main tip I use when training skinny guys is get three meals in a day. Once that’s comfortable, add another meal in. Then once that’s easy add another in. Then, when you’re around where you want to be size wise, then we can look at supplements.



What I’m about to say may shock people, but the training programme doesn’t actually matter. As long as the training principles of progressive overload and specific adaptation are followed, you will see results. This means tracking the weight lifted by always adding a little extra to the bar and using rep ranges for strength and muscle mass (ideally 5-10 reps per set). There’s no point doing a million reps at a low weight because that’s only going to develop muscular endurance and not the muscle mass you’re after.

An absolute no no for skinny guys is heading over to the dumbbell rack and smashing out an hour of bicep curls. That will come with time or if you really want to do some, add them in at the end of a workout. To start with, skinny guys need to be doing the big lifts, working larger muscle groups to pack some muscle on. So, get benching, get deadlifting and get squatting. Everything else is just exercises to bulk up your workout.

Summing Up

Bringing this article to a conclusion then, the formula for skinny guys to get big in a nutshell is the following;

  • Find your why, your reason for wanting more muscle and be brave enough to take those first steps into the gym
  • Don’t be frightened of carbs and eat more than what you’re eating now. If you’re getting three meals in a day, add one more in
  • Bicep curls aren’t the answer, get lifting some serious weight by benching, squatting and deadlifting.

I hope this article has made the skinny guys amongst you think that it’s not an impossible dream to pack some muscle on after all. It can be done with the right mindset and structures in place regarding nutrition and training. For programming or coaching, drop me an email at

Thanks for reading,

Coach Steve

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