Weight Training for Skinny Guys: 7 Tips to Help You Bulk Up

Men who are weight training on the floor of a gym.

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Weight training for skinny guys can be extremely intimidating. It’s not easy to go to the gym when almost everyone there is bigger and stronger than you. Many skinny guys also jeopardize their health by eating too much food or lifting dangerously heavy weights. These mistakes inhibit your progress and can lead to injuries.

So, what can skinny guys do to accelerate their progress? These seven tips will help you bulk up fast and reach your physique goals.

1. Focus on Compound Movements

Compound exercises — movements that involve more than one joint or muscle group — should make up the majority of your workout routine. These exercises are the most effective at building strength, developing muscle mass and burning calories. Here are the main compound movements for each muscle group:

  • Chest and triceps: flat bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press
  • Back and biceps: barbell rows, dumbbell rows, deadlifts
  • Shoulders: standing or sitting military press, Arnold press
  • Quads: back squat, goblet squat, close stance leg press
  • Hamstrings: stiff-leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts
  • Glutes: front squat, lunges, wide stance leg press

Compound movements will maximize your time in the gym and train your muscles to work together instead of separately. Isolation movements have their own benefits, but they’re not quite as challenging. Weight training for skinny guys needs to be intense.

2. Stay in a Lower Rep Range

In addition to focusing on compound exercises, skinny guys should stay in lower rep ranges to build their strength. Three to eight reps is the range that most powerlifters use to get stronger at essential exercises like the bench press, deadlift and squat. Moving heavier weights will also help you build confidence in the gym.

However, you must do each exercise with proper form. If your technique starts to fall apart near the end of each set, lower the weight. Nobody in the gym cares how weak or strong you are. Other patrons are more likely to give you friendly advice than to make fun of you.

3. Eat in a Slight Caloric Surplus

Many skinny guys gorge themselves to gain weight, but there’s no need to be so extreme. You only have to eat in a 300-500 calorie surplus to steadily gain weight and promote muscle growth. Your specific number could be anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 calories depending on your height and weight.

If you want an exact number, you can use a free calorie calculator to determine how many daily maintenance calories you need. For most skinny guys, eating three or four large meals a day should be more than enough.

4. Only Train 4-5 Times Per Week

A lot of beginners also make the mistake of training every day. You don’t need this kind of volume to see results. In fact, you could only exercise two or three times a week and still see moderate progress. The ideal training split is four to five days a week — more than enough volume, but also plenty of time for recovery.

5. Pay Attention to Progressive Overload

Weight training for skinny guys is extremely simple compared to other people. Men can gain strength and muscle more easily than women, and since you’re at a low body fat percentage, you will see small visual results after just a few weeks of training. However, since you’re still relatively weak, strength isn’t the best way to track your progress.

You need to pay attention to progressive overload in other ways — number of reps, reduced rest time between sets, and better form. These three categories are just as important as adding weight to the bar or machine.

6. Prioritize Your Sleep

Your diet and weight training routine are just two pieces of the puzzle. The third piece is sleep. You need to get 7-9 hours of sleep to maximize your recovery and muscle growth. This advice is especially important for skinny guys because of your high metabolism. Since you burn calories more easily than other people, you need to spend more time resting to balance things out.

7. Stick to the Same Program for At Least 12 Weeks

Weight training for skinny guys is a long, arduous process. You won’t reach your physique goals in a few months, or even a few years. You need to be patient. Stick to the same training program — the same exercises, dietary restrictions and sleep habits — for at least 12 weeks before trying to change things up. 

Skinny Guys Have an Advantage

It’s easy to think you’ll never gain weight or muscle as a skinny guy. However, despite your insecurities, you actually have an advantage. Your body is a clean slate. You’re not overweight. You have high energy levels. You are in the perfect position to start weight training. All you need to do is put in the work. These seven tips will significantly help you along the way.

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