Do you struggle to build an impressive physique? Are you also a skinny hardgainer? This guide will show you the four most common mistakes you are making..
Being A ‘hardgainer’ sucks!
You train hard..
You eat right..
But despite all this you are stuck with twigs for arms!
As a teenager I was skinny-fat and know how frustrating it can be.
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be this way forever.
With the right training and nutrition you can build a great physique!
You don’t need any expensive supplements or drugs either.
Step# 1: Start Strength Training
Want to know the number one reason why you are skinny?
You are weak.
You see muscle growth is a byproduct of strength gains.
And if you are lifting the same weight as you did a year ago you won’t look any different!
The key mechanism behind this is progressive overload.
This is the process of increasing intensity and volume over time.
The story of Milo of Croton explains this very well.
Milo was a renowned wrestler in Greece (6th Century Bc) who carried around a calf until it was a fully grown ox. As the animal grew, Milo gained strength and size.
As a novice lifter you can make significant increases in both strength and size in just a few months.
I would suggest a program that prioritises heavy compound lifting.
Frequency is also an important factor, the more you can practise the main lifts the better.
I have written my own full body novice program which can be found here.
You could also run any of the programs listed below:
Step# 2: Eat In A Surplus
The next point you need to consider is your nutrition.
To build muscle as efficiently as possible you need to provide the body with more calories than it burns.
This is known a caloric surplus.
Following a workout there is a 24-48 hour window where protein synthesis takes place.
This is the process whereby amino acids are synthesised into muscle tissue.
Eating enough calories during this window will allow your muscles to recover.
Your body will also undergo adaptations so that it is stronger the next time you attempt the same weight.
The fastest way to determine how many calories you need to eat is by finding your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).
After you have your TDEE, simply add 200-500 calories to that number.
You should be aiming for 0.5lb to 1lb of weight gain per week.
As a skinny guy you have a low appetite..period.
You may think you have a high metabolism but this simply isn’t the case.
Studies have shown that people tend to drastically under report their caloric intake.
The easiest solution for this is to track your daily intake with one of the two methods below:
- Using a food journal
- Tracking with a digital app, e.g. myfitnesspal
Calorie Dense Foods
If you are still struggling to reach your daily calorie requirements you should include some calorie dense foods in your diet.
These are typically foods higher in fat.
For every gram of fat there is 9 calories, double that of carbohydrates and protein. This is perfect for gaining weight!
Here are some examples of calorie dense foods:
- Nut Butters
- Nuts and Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
- Dried Fruit
The Intermediate Stage
After a year of eating in a surplus and strength training consistently, you should be 20-30 pounds heavier than when you started.
Unfortunately this won’t all be muscle mass, you will also gain a fair amount of fat in the process.
Once you are at this stage you can chose to diet the excess fat off or perform a recomposition.
If you are still fairly lean (15% and under) I would recomp and carry on building your strength foundation.
Step# 3: Focus On The Right Muscles
In order to look as big as possible drug free you should specialise your training to build certain muscle groups.
NO, I’m not talking about the chest, biceps and abs!
I’m referring to the shoulders, upper back, traps and triceps.
These muscles will give you the most ‘bang for your buck’.
Having wide 3D delts make your physique infinitely more impressive.
Not only do big shoulders make you appear broader they also provide depth to your physique.
If you have well developed rear delts you will look big from all angles, the front, side and back.
The best way to build big shoulders is to get strong at vertical pressing movements.
If you take your overhead press from 62.5kg to 102.5kg I guarantee your shoulders won’t be lagging anymore!
I would also recommend isolating the side and rear delts with face pulls and lateral raises.
The Upper Back
A well developed upper back can greatly complement your physique.
Most people make the mistake of prioritising vertical pulls (e.g. pullups) rather than rows.
Whilst Pull ups are a great exercise for the lats, they won’t do much for your upper back development.
Cheat rows are far superior for developing the upper back because they allow you to use more weight.
You should be including many different variations of rows to build general strength.
My favourite variations are the Yates row, t-bar row and pendlay row.
A pencil neck and underdeveloped traps can completely ruin a physique!
If you build impressive traps they will accentuate the shoulders and make your upper body appear much larger.
In my opinion, the two best exercises for traps are cheat shrugs and rack pulls.
Step# 4: Cut Out Excessive Cardio
Research has shown that excessive cardio can interfere with strength training.
Doing too much cardio can also be counterproductive if you have difficulty gaining weight because it increases TDEE.
This isn’t to say that you should stop doing cardio, after all it has many health benefits.
It can also increase work capacity/endurance, which is important for muscle growth.
I would recommend performing LISS cardio 2-4x week at the most to avoid the negative effects.
It should also be noted that you need to eat back the calories you burn from performing extra activity.
Building a muscular physique is down to intelligent training and consistent nutrition.
Follow the four step guide and you WILL make progress!
If you have any further questions I will answer them down below.
About the Author
Marcus has been training for 6 years and has developed an extensive knowledge of strength and conditioning as well as weight loss. He runs www.mindtomusclefitness.com and offers online training services, specializing mainly in muscle building and weight loss.