Top Ten Muscle Building Training Tips For Skinny Guys

Building muscle doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s hard, brutal and takes a long time, but it’s simple.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 11 Sep 2017

Training Beginner
10 Mins


The two most common reasons I see skinny guys stay skinny are:

  1. They overthink everything
  2. They’re impatient

Most skinny guys never make any progress because they drive themselves nuts over meaningless minutia, like:

  • Should I train chest with back or shoulders?
  • Should I supinate my hands at the top of the curl?
  • Should I eat 30 or 35g protein per meal?

All this second-guessing only serves to stress you out, raise cortisol and halts muscle growth.

Building muscle doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s hard, brutal and takes a hell of along time, but it’s simple.

Here are my top ten muscle building tips for skinny guys…

1. Train 4 Days A Week

Most skinny guys train too much.

For the average guy with normal lives and genetics, I’ve found four workouts a week to be the perfect sweet spot for muscle growth and recovery.

Some guys do better on three days a week. Especially if they’re really busy and stressed out, or just need the extra recovery.

The only time I like five days a week is during the tail end of a dieting phase, or in guys who live super chilled lives (and not many of those are skinny!).

When your goal is building muscle, you need to prioritise recovery time just as much as your training time.

You grow when you are out of the gym, not inside.

2. Focus On Big, Compound Exercises

The meat and potatoes of your training should be based on compound exercises like squats, chin-ups, dips, presses, rows and deadlift variations.

These are the exercises that will allow the greatest loading potential and provide the most bang for your buck in your training.

The compound exercises you choose to focus on should fulfil three important criteria:

  • Suit your mechanics
  • Be pain-free
  • Allow you to feel the muscle at all times

From this you should have 2-4 exercises per movement pattern that you can rotate between and strive to set PRs on.

Utilising this rotation means you’ll have less muscle imbalances and overuse injuries that come with focusing on only one exercise.

If you fill 80% of your training with these exercises, you can fill the remaining 20% with isolation exercises like curls, abs, lateral raise variations etc.

3. Pay Attention to Progressive Overload

Most skinny guys stay skinny because they never focus on actually getting stronger.

They just mindlessly pump away on the latest Flex Magazine workout with no thought to progression over time.

The body doesn’t like building muscle – it’s not efficient.

If you’re naturally skinny, this applies even more. Which is why you need to force your muscles to adapt with increased overload.

You need to focus on either adding weight or doing more reps with the same weight.

I can guarantee that if you’re squatting 60kg for 10 reps now, when you can squat 100kg for 10 reps you’ll be a bigger person.

It’s easy to get distracted, but getting stronger over a wide range of rep ranges is still the single most important factor in building muscle.

4. Use Perfect Form

Progressive overload always comes with a caveat.

It only counts if you maintain perform form, execution and muscular tension.

If you increase your squat from 60kg to 100kg, but your depth has gone from below parallel to a 20-degree knee bend, you’ve made zero progression.

Form always comes first.

Most skinny guys are in a rush, so will add weight at all costs and forget about form.

This doesn’t work. You’ll only get beat up and injured. And your muscles will receive no overload.

So perhaps I should rephrase the single most important factor as progressive overload WITH perfect form.

5. Train Each Muscle Group At Least Twice A Week

If you’re really weak and skinny, you don’t need body part splits.

You need to train on a full body system 3-4 days a week.

The weights you’ll be lifting won’t be heavy, so there won’t be much toll on the nervous system or joint.

You’re also in the learning phase of your training where you need the frequent exposure to similar movement patterns.

As you get stronger, you’ll want to start thinking about splitting your workouts up.

My favourite split for guys who’ve been training at least a year and want to build size is the upper / lower split, or variations of it.

This allows each muscle to be trained twice a week, which seems to be the sweet spot for muscle growth in the long term.

6. Use A Low to Moderate Amount of Volume

If you’re a skinny guy who’s been following the muscle mag workouts, you’ve probably been hammering way too much volume.

Your workouts have most likely been along the lines of…

30 sets of chest on Monday

30 sets of back on Tuesday

And so on and so on.

Not only are you now going to train each body parts twice a week, but you’re also going to slash the volume in half. Probably more.

While it’s tough to give specifics, somewhere in the region of 12 to 18 total sets per workout works pretty well.

Some people can get away with less if they really know how to apply intensity. But this is usually best saved for advanced trainees.

There’s rarely a place for more though, not if you’re training hard.

Per body part, I like to give skinny guys 1 to 2 exercises done for 2 to 3 sets each.

Of all the advice in this article, this will be the one tip that throw skinny guys off. Yet it’ll probably be the one that reaps the most rewards.

By keeping the volume lower, you’re able to 1) train more frequently and 2) allow the body to recover to continuously get stronger.

Remember, if you’re lifting the same weights as you were 3 years ago, chances are you look exactly the same.

7. Use The Right Rep Ranges

The magic rep range for skinny guys looking to build muscle is 6 to 8 reps.

Just like you should be spending 80% of your time doing big, compound lifts. I believe 80% of your sets should be spent working in the 6 to 8 rep range.

This rep range works so well because it allows the perfect blend of maximal muscle recruitment / tension as well as metabolic stimulus.

Skinny guys are typically also weak, which means working excessively in the 8 to 12 rep range won’t provide much muscle recruitment / tensions.

Until you’ve built a foundation of strength and muscle, staying in the 6 to 8 rep range is best.

When you’re a little more advanced, that’s when 8+ reps provide the most benefit.

And that’s when utilising heavy/light splits where you vary the rep ranges through the week can really accelerate your muscle building.

8. Don’t Abuse Training To Failure

If you want to stay healthy and make progress over a long period of time, you need to train hard, but also smart.

That’s why you need to be careful with how you approach training to failure.

For the most part, you want to train at around 90%.

This means most of your sets should finish just shy of technical failure. Clean, crisp sets.

This doesn’t mean you can’t train to balls out failure from time to time. You need those sets too to know what hard is, as well as to test your limits.

But these should be used sparingly and strategically.

Most skinny guys do this everyday. And so they end up struggling to recover, always sore and eventually injured.

9. Stick With ONE Program For At Least 12 Weeks

Muscle building is a marathon, not a sprint.

In the age of information overload we now live in, program ADD is at an all time high.

Which means people are jumping from program to program every week.

One week it’s 10×10, the following week is 5×5, then it’s DC training, followed by Jay Cutler’s Olympia routine.

If there’s one thing you take from this, it’s that you need to ‘buy in’ to ONE program that fits your personality, and then stick with it for AT LEAST 12 weeks.

Unlike what the magazines have duped you into thinking, you can’t gain 10 pounds of muscle in 4 weeks with one magical program.

The body craves consistency and time for progression to occur, not confusion.

10. Maximise Recovery

Coming back in full circle..

If your goal is muscle building, you need to maximise your recovery ability.

Your body grows when you’re resting. Your time in the gym is only a signal for growth. Once stimulated, your body needs food, sleep and plenty of rest to be able to grow.

If you’re up partying all night, sleeping 4 hours a night, stressed out all day and under eating, you’re not going to get any bigger.

Start prioritising high quality sleep every night. Eat in a consistent calorie surplus with the right foods. Reduce stress. Get massages and stay on top of soft tissue work.

All these things will add up to allow you recover faster between workouts, get stronger and ultimately build more muscle.

Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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