How to Build Muscle When Skinny

Updated November 21, 2016

Skinny people, also known as "hard gainers," often have a tough time packing on muscle. Some people are genetically gifted and are able to pack on muscle quickly and easily, while most skinny people just don't have this luxury. When you're skinny, you can build muscle by doing two things: eating the right foods and lifting weights. There are certain foods you can eat and certain exercises you can do to help you build muscle faster.

Set goals. Before you start a new diet and exercise plan, write down what you hope to accomplish after one, three, six and 12 months. Be sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T., which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham introduced S.M.A.R.T. goals in 1981 in an issue of the Management Review journal. Write down exactly how many pounds of muscle you want to gain over each of these time periods.

Determine the number of calories you need to eat each day. Use the Mayo Clinic's calorie calculator resource below to find out this number. This tool determines the number of calories you should eat each day using the Harris-Benedict equation, which takes your height, weight, age, sex and activity level into account. The number you see will be the calories you should eat each day to maintain your current weight. If you're a skinny person trying to build muscle, you'll want to eat more calories than this. Aim for 400-500 additional calories per day to help you pack on muscle.

Eat the right foods at the right times. To build muscle, Men's Health magazine recommends the TNT Diet, which helps you build muscle by feeding your body the appropriate macronutrients at the right times. Five days per week, eat a low carb diet consisting of foods like eggs, nuts, chicken, broccoli, salad and steak. The other two days, eat a high carb diet consisting of quality proteins like chicken, beef and fish, as well as nutrient-dense carbohydrates like beans, oats, pasta and cereal. On workout days, drink a protein shake with 40 grams of protein after your workout.

Hit the weights. Do compound, multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows, bench presses, push-ups, pull-ups and shoulder presses. Do a total body workout three times per week on alternating days, with 12 or so sets per workout. For example, Monday you can do four sets of squats, four sets of bench presses and four sets of lunges. Wednesday you can do four sets of deadlifts, four sets of shoulder presses and four sets of rows. Fridays you can do four sets of push-ups, four sets of pull-ups and four sets of crunches. Do a combination of light and heavy lifting, alternating weeks in the six to 10 range and 10 to 15 range. According to a 2010 study conducted by researchers at McMaster University, using light and heavy weights can both result in muscle growth. Do each set until you can't do another repetition, which is called training "to failure."

Things You'll Need

  • Weight set or gym membership
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