Skinny Guy Problems
Putting on serious mass, without the fat, can be a difficult journey to embark on, and most guys reading this will know that it is not a smooth sailing ship. Many people underestimate how difficult it really can be.
“Eat more and lift?! What the hell are you complaining about?!”
It really isn’t that simple unfortunately.
Every person out there who wants to lose body fat says they’d die to be in the skinny guy’s shoes and many times the skinny guy begs to differ. Well lucky for you, the reader, I’ve been in both shoes.
Growing up, I was the chubby kid, and then sports helped me to lean out. But then my soccer injuries came along and after having surgery, it’s safe to say I got lazy and went a little further than just ‘chubby’. So, I did what any 19 year old filled with testosterone would do, I turned to muscle mags in the hope of getting ripped and impressing some chicks.
The result? I got skinny, which was not what the monsters in the magazines looked like at all. Why? Because they had slabs of muscle and I… I definitely did not have that going on for me. So I set myself on a mission to pack on some size.
That mission turned into a change in my college degree, a mentorship, a career, and most importantly my passion. It helped me get on stage, it helped me put others on stage, and it helped me transform client after client – no matter what their goal was.
But today I’m going to show you that mission for mass, step-by-step, so you can learn exactly how to get big – without sacrificing performance, compromising joint integrity, taking illegal supplements, and of course without getting fat in the process.
Step #1 – train like you’re jacked
There are specific components we need to consider when we want to get jacked and unfortunately many of them are forgotten, over looked, or underrated. Things like the big 3, for an easy example.
Many times we see guys in the big box gyms doing cable flies, reverse curls, lat pull downs, and shrugs – but they’ve completely forgetting to bench, squat and deadlift.
Not one guy who has serious muscle on his body skips those 3 lifts, nor do they skip the boring exercises like pull-ups, overhead presses, and bent over rows. So many people are flooding instagram with crazy variations of isolation exercises that people truly believe THOSE are the keys to getting jacked – They’re wrong guys!
So now that I’ve hopefully gotten my point across, let me explain a bit more on how to program for yourself when your goal is getting big. First things first, you have got to lift often enough – I suggest 4 days per week and for the elite guys who have been training 3+ years, adding a 5th specialization day for your weak body parts would be smart.
Here’s how it’ll look:
- Day 1 – Upper (Nobody like’s starting Monday with squats, so it’s bench day.)
- Day 2 – Lower (Ok we got in our favorite, time to hit your legs – because jacked dudes NEVER skip leg day and you’re not going to either)
- Day 3 – 2nd Upper (Since we already hit the bench on Monday, today we’ll be starting with an overhead press for the compound lift)
- Day 4 – 2nd Lower (Sorry bro, but we gotta hit those legs again if we want them to actually grow)
As you can see, we’re doing an upper lower split. This is going to be ideal for a couple reasons. First being that it gives you enough frequency throughout the week to optimize your full growth potential. Second being that if we’re performing full body training it may not allow us to actually hit enough volume each day and if we did, we’d be at the gym for a long ass time! Plus lets be real guys, we all love having days dedicated to training just upper or just legs – that is going to build adherence and adherence is the first major key to achieving any result.
So how do these days actually look?
Glad you asked!
- Day 1 – Max Effort (This means you’re focusing on pushing some serious weight, we need to build some strength if we want to get jacked. Rep ranges should stay in the 5-10 rep range and no higher on these days.)
- Day 2 – Repetition Effort (The max effort days will be the most fatiguing on our central nervous system, therefore we’ll need to hit a repetition day to give the CNS a bit of a break. Reps should stay within the 8-20 rep range, rarely the 8 unless it’s the first compound lift.)
- Rest Day – You need to recover and if you don’t feel like you do, you’re probably just not training hard enough or with enough volume to really grow.
- Day 3 – Repetition Effort (Since we already hit the max upper body day, today will be dedicated to getting some reps in and it’s the ideal day to do it because it’s overhead press day. I say that because from experience personally and from many other great coaches, shoulders tend to grow best from more time under tension and higher rep training. Again, reps should stay within 8-20 but mainly the 12-20 range.)
- Day 4 – Max Effort (We’ll save the best for last… Well actually, it’s the worse because it’s max effort leg day. This is ideal here because you’ll get 1-2 days of rest, for sure, after this day and it will probably be your most taxing day.)
Now we know exactly what each day should be focused on and where it falls within the week, but what about the actually workout itself?
To be honest, that truly is impossible to lay out in detail in a single article. When it comes to program design there are so many variables that change depending on the individual, time-frame of workout, training experience, movement patterns, injuries, etc. That’s why having a coach to work with is truly a vital key for success here.
But for the sake of the article and my attempt to give you as much possible info for you to be able do it yourself, I’ll give you the main template.
|Warm Up||Don’t skip this; it’s absolutely necessary. If it’s upper body, focus on thoracic and shoulder mobility. If it’s lower body, focus on ankle and hip mobility along with dynamic stretching.|
|This would be something explosive – could be a short burst sprint, a throw, a slam, a jump, etc. The point here is to fire the central nervous system up, because when we do this – we perform better and can recruit better for strength.|
|This is where we hit our squat, deadlift, bench or overhead press. It’s the big component of training that should not be left out and we’ll likely need the most energy for, therefore it’s at the beginning.|
|Main Accessory Exercise(s)||This could be 1-3 different movements, but usually are things like rows, lunges, splits squats, chin-ups, presses, etc. Anything that supplements the compound lift, we can still go decently heavy with, and has high priority.|
|This is where the isolation movements come in! (The fun stuff) Things like lateral raises, flies, curls, leg extensions, hip thrusts, etc.|
This is the stuff we need less energy to perform, yet is still vital to build muscle in the lagging areas and places we want to grow more in.
This could be anywhere from 1-5 exercises, but putting a true number to this is impossible – depends on the day, the goal, and the individual.
Wow! That was a lot!
I know, that’s what I was thinking too! But it’s exactly what you need if you expect to get jacked in your hopefully near future. Now we’re going to cover a topic that needs way less consideration, way less specifics, and in the position you’re in right now – way less focus overall.
Step #2 – Cardio
I see WAY too many guys at the gym who are trying to get big, yet they are finishing their workouts with a 30 minute walk on the tread mill. So first rule of thumb when on a mission to get big – Never step on a treadmill.
Cardio creates a deficit and the main caloric principle when trying to get big is that we need to be in a surplus. Now that doesn’t mean you should never do cardio, in fact I suggest it to anyone who wants to get big without getting fat – well, almost anyone.
If you’re literally brand new to lifting, 1 year or less, and are extremely skinny, you should solely focus on building muscle – but for everyone else, there are strict rules to abide by if you want to seriously pack on size.
- Leave your cardio to separate days or times, NOT pre or post training. Pre training will leave you fatigued before the lifting even begins and remember, lifting is what gets us jacked. Cardio post training will lower the muscle protein signal which is the anabolic signal in our bodies that we WANT to be going on as long as possible.
- Do HIIT instead. HIIT cardio will not sacrifice muscle, doesn’t keep you in a catabolic state for a long period of time (like LISS) does, and most importantly it can actually boost that anabolic signal I spoke of in #1 – in fact, this is the only cardio that can be done post training, because of this anabolic effect it has.
- Do Metabolic Enhancing Cardio. This just adds to #2 – HIIT can help increase metabolism, rather than decrease it, and that means we may increase appetite and as we know – we need to eat to grow.
- Leisurely walks, just like Gramps. If you can just increase your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) then you can keep fat at bay without sacrificing muscle. But this literally means walking the dog, taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting… You get the point. Don’t plan on walking for more than 20 minutes for the purpose of burning calories
- Don’t do fasted cardio (or training). For the most part, science has debunked this whole fasted cardio crap – neither fasted nor fed is better, whatever suites you and your lifestyle best. But at the end of the day, if you’re trying to grow you should be eating first thing in the morning… Which means when you wake, you eat – not do cardio!
Ok that’s all for the topics of training and cardio guys. To be honest, I didn’t think this guide was going to be so in depth – but the truth is, when I got to writing this for you guys I got more and more fired up!
So it kept going… Stay tuned for Part 2 where I cover Supplements, Nutrition, and the most simple, yet most important, step of it all…
Cody ‘Boom Boom’ McBroom is a Strength and Nutrition Coach from Seattle, USA, who’s primary focus of work is complete body composition and lifestyle transformations. He also writes blogs weekly on his personal site, posts daily on instagram and Facebook, and even has a free podcast that comes out multiple times per week – On top of his coaching, clearly his passion and focus is also on providing free content!