Skinny Not difficult
It’s becoming a speciality of mine to take 50-something kilo men and getting them to a ‘normal’ weight for their height, with a lot of that mass coming in the form of muscle!
These guys often get a bad rap for being a ‘bad’ or ‘difficult’ client but I don’t feel this is the case if you adopt a few sensible strategies.
Here are some of the mistakes I see other Personal Trainers making:
- Making extreme changes to their diet
“YOU NEED TO EAT 5000 CALORIES A DAY BRAH!”
- Not looking at the person’s physiology before selecting exercises
- Not taking psychology into account
How can we address this?
Today I’ll cover the first bullet point.
Making Extreme Changes to Their Diet Becomes Make Small Changes Over the Long Term
If someone is underweight you know they under eat.
This doesn’t mean they suddenly need to double their calorific intake because they are going to hate it and probably just feel fat and bloated.
You need to make gradual changes to keep the person as comfortable as possible but still in a calorific surplus or calories in > calories out most of the time.
In order to do this, I’ll usually start by asking where the client feels they should or could eat a little bit more.
With some people, they’ll forget to eat breakfast (but it could be any other traditional mealtime) every day because they tend to be people who’ll skip meals at the drop of a hat because…well, it’s what they’ve always done hence their skinny frame.
- If they tell me they always miss breakfast, I’ll get them to try and eat breakfast 3 times a week for a couple of weeks.
- If they manage that then you can increase that by one day a week until they are eating breakfast every day.
By doing this they are increasing their calorific intake by a couple of thousand calories a week without making much of a change to their lifestyle.
Some people just won’t eat breakfast (or another meal during the day.)
You just need to adopt some of the other strategies we’ll talk about in the remainder of this article in order for this not to be a problem.
Another common theme I’ve seen (with my client Matt James for example) is just forgetting to eat on days off or when in the house.
If anyone is going to skip a meal it is someone preoccupied by computer games or hacking or forums or geek places that are unknown to me.
Many skinny guys do this!
With Matt James, his problem was not eating on a weekend.
Just forgetting to eat!
Having all the intention in the world but getting to the end of the day or realising the next day that
“oh shit, I didn’t eat!”
Together we came up with the action plan of eating 3 meals a day on both weekend days.
Other issues Matt and I came up against –
- at work food often wasn’t to hand or
- he’d forget to prep or
- not want to prep or
- forgot to buy food so he’d end up not eating.
I’m not sure these issues are fully resolved yet with Matt but often a good solution is to get a protein shake that doesn’t make the person feel ill to keep at work (maybe in combination with some ground oats) that the person can have immediately without having to interrupt his work too much.
It’s not ideal.
We’d love all the food to actually need chewing but having the 200-400 calories rather than nothing a couple of days a week might be the thing that gets them over 60kg and feeling strong for the first time in their life.
Another recent success I’ve had with other guys who can’t stomach protein shakes or just don’t like them is having a box of Grenade Carb Killas or Quest Bars at work so they can snack on those as often as is required.
Matt’s work resulted in these changes:
Pretty good going!
Another client who started being far too skinny for his liking is a guy called Ian Redfern.
We started with a similar process to Matt by looking at areas where he was under eating and it got to a point where we just had to look at foods that he could eat a lot of.
In Ian’s case it is tuna and pasta.
He can eat a ton of the stuff so he does just that!
The combination of eating plus his muscle building training plan has resulted in the following changes:
Ian started training earlier than this so his increase in weight has been even more dramatic than this appears.
He is now large and in charge.
I’m so proud to call them both my clients.
When training a skinny guy, you can run into problems with eating speed or just the person finding it extremely uncomfortable eating very large quantities of food.
This sucks for the person but the solution lies in eating very calorie dense foods so the stomach isn’t stretched to the point of discomfort.
Some of the best calorie dense foods are:
- Chocolate Milk
- Ice Cream
- Peanut Butter
Recently I’ve had a few skinny guys come to me who are already tracking their food on Myfitness pal.
Two of the best places to look for further information on successful macro tracking are Gains Glutes & Glitter and here on Propane Fitness.
Getting the most out of calorie tracking is a must if you are to make it work for you. These two sites will help you do just that.
How can you make skinny guys not so skinny anymore?
- Increase meal frequency on days where they don’t eat
- Place meals where they’d normally forget to eat
- Have emergency food stores at work or somewhere where a lack of food prep could be an issue
- Increase the quantities of foods that the person actually likes and can tolerate in larger amounts
- Have calorie dense foods
Put these strategies into place and as long as they are turning up you’ll make progress eventually.
Keep looking for easy ways to help them increase their calories and hopefully they’ll begin putting on weight.
Remember you aren’t a psychologist so if you suspect any kind of eating disorder you simply have to refer them to a qualified professional or you risk making their condition worse.
Check back soon for parts 2 and 3!
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Chris Kershaw is a Leeds/Wakefield based Personal Trainer who specialises in bringing shy, skinny guys into the gym for the first time to build confidence, muscle and strength.
He currently works for Gains Glutes & Glitter, Primal Health, and has a blog at Chris Kershaw Strength.
He is a former Natural Bodybuilder and currently a national level powerlifter.
3 replies on “A PT’s Guide to Training Skinny Guys, Part 1 – Guest Post By Chris Kershaw”
[…] In Part 1 we concluded that there are a few common mistakes made by Personal Trainers when coaching their hard-gainer clients. […]
I’m 47, 5′ 11″ and weigh 125 lbs. Always been skinny, but in 2018, I noticed I dropped down to 134 so I started efforts to gain again. In April 2005, at 31 years old and 138 lbs, I got motivation after leaving my girlfriend who needed anger mgt and I started downing MetRx shakes and working out. By December, I was 173 lbs and still have pictures of it to bother/motivate me. Too much protein caused blood in my urine so I backed off more than I should have and lost some weight. Got a very bad flu in 2011 and lost 15 lbs in a few days and the rest melted off over the next few years.
I’ve tried the same routines, shakes and vitamins. Different types of shakes all upset my digestion. I can down any disgusting tasting shake (tried plenty of flavors and 5-6 brands), but I can’t handle what it does to me. I’ve tried different routines etc. Been to the Gastro a few times along with other doctors, blood tests are all good. They say I’m healthy but have no cause for my inability to gain and show little interest in helping figure things out.
I suffered a groin injury in 2016 that makes squats painful. I can do them, but days that follow are unbearable. That was the exercise that helped me gain the most in 2005. Now, I do bench presses, curls, chin-ups. I stretch my legs regularly and while I work at a desk, I’ve always been pretty active otherwise.
I refuse to believe I can’t do this, but I’m having a tough time finding the path to success on this one. I’m getting concerned about organ issues due to the low weight and my family history puts me at risk for cancer in the next 15 years or so. I have to cushion weight to lose if I get sick sometime. Morbid way to think, yes, but I like to prepare when possible and I’d like to stop banging my bones on the corner of the ottoman.
Any suggestions to help me gain? Or to find someone who might be curious about helping me beat this?
Thank for the article and for any advice you have to offer.
Hi Steve – there’s a lot of issues that you’ve listed in that comment and more than could be solved with a single solution unfortunately. I would absolutely recommend hiring a coach to help you work through these difficulties and get you on the right track. I would recommend looking at this article re: recovering from your flu: https://propanefitness.com/projectswole/
There are also a few signs from your message that suggest it would be worth seeing somebody about potential health anxiety. If you can get on top of that, it will help with your overall wellbeing and progress.