muscle for skinny guys

How to Gain Muscle for Skinny Guys | What You Need to Know Right Now

Muscle building for skinny guys is a mindset of its own.

It truly takes TIME to build rock-hard solid gains, ladies and gents!

And it’s easy to feel discouraged when you have been putting in hard work in the gym but see no actual difference in your physical appearance.

I consider this a longer journey than the weight loss (all depending on how much weight you have to lose).

If you’ve been feeling very discouraged about your muscle-building progress…

Then you’re in the right place!

I’m going to put your mind at ease by breaking down some of the reasons why you’re not seeing results as quickly as you’d like and what you can do to get on the right track for faster results.

The Journey to Building Muscle for Skinny Guys

Multiple variables contribute to why you’re not seeing results in the timeline you expected…

Although women can be slightly disadvantaged in building muscle at the same rate as men (usually due to men having higher testosterone and hormone levels), it’s not too far off. Men and women will initially gain more muscle mass within the first few months of lean bulking. Take note that…

Men gain on average 2 pounds of muscle per month when starting hypertrophy

Women gain on average 1 pound of muscle per month when starting hypertrophy

And these numbers actually decrease as time goes on, and you continue to grow even more muscle!

Skinny vs. Skinny Fat

When you’re skinny – I usually recommend lean bulking 8 months to a year

When I started lean bulking, I had just finished a successful weight loss cut. Before that, I was classified as skinny fat

Skinny fat means you look skinny across all angles with a shirt on, day today

But when that shirt comes off… you actually notice that you’re not as lean you thought. You cannot see any abs or muscle definition, which makes you feel stronger about wanting to lose the weight BEFORE trying to add more muscle

If you are skinny fat – consider a cut first. a “Cut” means eating to lose weight. So instead of being in a caloric surplus to add muscle and minimize fat gain, you are eating in a caloric deficit to lose fat while maintaining current muscle mass.

You could consider The Body Re-Composition Method... where you gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. But I don’t always recommend this approach for beginners, so check it out here to see if this would be right for you.

Lose weight down to 10% body fat for men

Lose weight down to 20% body fat for women

But let’s digress!

When to Lean Bulk vs Cut

Once I reached 10% body fat on my cut (from 15% body fat), I knew it was time to add MORE muscle before getting any leaner.

My weight loss (cutting) journey lasted 9 months.

My muscle-building (lean bulking) journey lasted 11 months

During both journeys…

Some days I felt like I was making dramatic improvements

Other days I felt like I was making NO improvements – it’s so easy to get into this mindset and very important that YOU DO NOT

With progression pictures over time… I realized that I had gained a sufficient amount of muscle after all!

Especially in my BACK AND SHOULDERS

Once I returned to 15% body fat from an 11-month lean bulk (with more muscle this time!) I realized that it was time to take a break and go back to cutting until was around 10% body fat again (or lower) with more muscle exposure this time around.

From there, I can decide to go back into a lean bulk and add even MORE MUSCLE.

My point being is that fitness is NOT a linear journey. It’s actually very volatile.

Depending on your goals and your current weight… you’re not going to reach the end goal with weight loss or muscle building in just one phase.

It takes a couple of phases to reach the end goal, but I promise you that with a fitness routine, you enjoy + consistency… YOU WILL GET THERE!

This primarily applies to those who are skinny fat. You may just be skinny with abdominal exposure but no muscle mass, in which you really just need to focus on lean bulking. Know the difference between the two scenarios to make the best decision for yourself

Why You’re Not Seeing Results

As I mentioned – there is a multitude of variables that come into play. It could be

  • Your training style
  • Your current nutrition plan
  • Your current lifestyle (this one’s a hard pill to swallow)
  • Maybe you’re just not as far as you think you are in the journey (because, like I always say – it takes TIME)

Let’s Break down some of these variables in more detail.

Consider Your Training Style

Your training style matters a lot.

This is because you want to focus on hypertrophy.

Now I’m not here to say that all workout styles are bad…

I’m saying that whatever your training style is, make sure you’re focusing on hypertrophy

Which literally means the growth of muscle (growth of the organs and tissues)

Furthermore, don’t just focus on lifting as HEAVY as possible. Definitely lift heavy, but focus on more exercises that include



  • Usually, the last 3-5 workouts 
  • 12-15 reps
  • 3-4 sets
  • 85% of 1RM since you’re doing time under-tension workouts

Your Nutrition Plan

First & foremost, I’m going to say to prioritize foods in their whole natural form that fuel your body and are good for you.

But furthermore, when you need to build solid muscle…


This is really important for skinny guys to build muscle!

Nutrition matters equally as much as your workouts!

When you start your muscle-building journey, you are most likely underestimating how much you’re eating to build muscle. It’s surprising but true!

Tracking your calories and protein intake makes a difference because it helps you keep track of how much you’re eating to reach your muscle-building goals in the appropriate surplus range (200-400) and without being in a high surplus that leads to excess fat gain

Your Lifestyle

Your lifestyle plays another significant role in your muscle-building journey.

How much are you partying?

You know I’m not going to tell you not to, BUT are you partying too much to the point where it’s getting in the way of your muscle-building journey?

Taking care of your body matters just as much during this journey because…

 less stress + more rest = more powerful workout

Are you Sleeping Enough?

Not to keep sounding like a broken record… but sleep is a non-negotiable. You should be aiming for 7-8 hours per night, so your body can recover from lifting, activity, and just life in general!

With an adequate amount of sleep, we can recover much quicker and perform much better on lifting.

How are your stress levels?

This can affect the process. Your body needs recovery to build muscle, and if your stress levels are high, this can slow down your recovery.

Are you hydrated regularly?

It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Especially if you’re taking creatine… which pulls water mass into your muscles, hence helping them grow.

But regardless if you are or aren’t – stay hydrated with water throughout the day.

Are you skipping gym days?

You should be lifting 3-4 times per week for muscle building, and missing a workout should be non-negotiable for skinny guys building muscle.

Even with some off days on your nutrition, the best thing you can do is SHOW UP and get the workout done.

Trust me, it’s better than doing nothing!

How Many Calories Should You Really Be Consuming?

The average fitness professional will tell you to eat in a surplus of 200-500 calories.

I usually recommend a range of 200-400 but even more specifically, 400 caloric surplus

Also, listen to your body for fuel and energy

When it comes to building muscle – I recommend setting up the following two:

  1. Overall Surplus Calories
  2. Protein Macro Target

Keeping track of these two daily + eyeballing your Carb and fat macro-nutrients while working out will help you build muscle much quicker than when you’re not keeping track.

Track your workouts

And speaking of tracking…

It’s vital to track your workouts!!

Tracking workouts really build solid muscle for skinny guys

This truly makes a difference in your lifting progressions because you want to be moving up the weight ladder sooner rather than later

And even when we’re strong enough, it’s still easy to lose track of our reps, sets, and weight progress, leaving us to underestimate how much strength potential we TRULY have when we get to the next workout

Recovery Matters Just As Much As Lifting

Just as the title says…

You shouldn’t be in the gym lifting every day of the week

You only need to be lifting 3-4x a week. Non-consecutive days if 3x a week

Your body needs to recover from muscle tear and 48 hours is the appropriate amount of time

If you’re lifting 4x a week, you obviously can’t always give yourself 48 hours of rest with 4 workouts in one week…

But make the next workout a lower body, if you did upper body the previous day – or vice versa.

Spend the other days with a non-lifting-related activity (biking, walking, running, rock climbing)

And give yourself 1 day per week of total rest from activity


Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Make it non-negotiable

And control your stress levels – add things and people into your life that you enjoy and give you an ease of mind.

How Long Should You Be Building Muscle For?

It really depends on where you’re at right now.

If you’re brand-spankin’ new and are super skinny, 8 months to 1 year.

If you start after finishing a cut, you could lose a bit more fat… but want to start focusing strictly on building muscle mass; 6 months to 1 year.

This also depends on your lifestyle and how much time you dedicate each day, week, and month.

My first bulk lasted 11 months before I went back into a cut

I will definitely be going back into lean bulk within the next 6 months from when I started cutting again

But also remember to take your happiness into consideration

Whenever you feel that you’re at your desired level of gains but more importantly feel that you’re not seeing yourself lean enough, you could benefit from going back into a cut again to look more shredded – keep this in mind and use your best judgment!

Because another thing to consider is you may actually be looking bigger and more muscular than you think, but you’ve probably gained a little fat in the process that’s covering those results

Because you’re eating in a surplus for a period of time, it’s going to happen!

So going back into a cut will expose more definition.

What Should You Do Right Now?

Furthermore, to the above –

 If you’re just getting started. Consider the following on building muscle for skinny guys

  • How much muscle do I actually
  • want to put on in X amount of time?
  • What’s my ideal body weight? (i.e., going from 130lbs to 150lbs)
  • Are my surplus calories set up correctly for my goals?
  • Are my macros set up correctly for my goals (protein, carbs, fats)
  • Am I taking progress pictures, starting at the beginning?
  • Does my current lifestyle support my muscle-building goals? Or do I need to re-adapt?

If you’ve been at it for a bit then consider the following here

  • How long has it been?
  • How do I feel when I take my progress pics?
  • What does the measuring tape say?
  • How far have I come on my lifts? Am I tracking them?
  • Am I tracking my protein and surplus calories properly?
  • Does my lifestyle support my muscle-building journey? Or is it getting in the way?

Remember, fitness is NOT supposed to take over your life. It’s supposed to be adapted into your life.

Don’t give up the things you love BUT don’t give up taking care of your body and doing what you need to do for your OWN personal goals.

Muscle building or Weight Loss… The same rules apply!

If you resonate with one (or more) of the above bullet points, check out my free guide on building rock-solid muscle gains.

This free guide addresses all the above and will help you ensure that you’re on the right track to reaching your goal in NO TIME!

As they say – the time is going to pass… might as well pass it with something that’s going to benefit you SONNER rather than LATER! 😊

What are your current struggles when it comes to your personal muscle-building journey?

Share in the comments below!

Similar Posts