Sometimes when I forget to just row my own boat and forget about other people and what they might be saying, I wish I could go back to my youth, show certain people this photo and say “If you don’t get off my back, this dude is going to come and kick your ass in 15 years time”.
It might have changed things! But then, it wouldn’t have made me as mentally tough as I am today.
As you can see, is possible for skinny hard gainers to build muscle.
Largely it comes down to following certain undeniable rules of muscle building, but sometimes you will have to experiment and find what works.
Here’s 15 things to install in your life of lifting if you just want to pack on muscle.
I always think it’s important to point out that if you are trying to become a fighter or improve at certain sports then some of these WON’T be the right route to take because you will be trying to achieve two or more goals at different ends of the spectrum with different requirements. You’ll end up in ‘no man’s land’ where you don’t really put on any muscle and you don’t improve at your sport.
If your sole aim is to ‘get big’, this shit works.
1) Lift some big weights
Legendary body builder Ronnie Coleman is famed for saying “Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weight!”
This sounds obvious yet most guys just don’t do it.
Obviously it’s all relative and needs to stay safe, but most of the time we bottle out earlier and go with what we know we can do for sure rather than pushing it.
Heavy weights come in many different shapes and are accompanied with various principles but few guys get further than 3 sets of 10 or maybe push towards 4 sets of 8.
Hit squats for 5 sets of 5.
Learn to clean and jerk weight you can lift well and fast for 3 reps.
Deadlift for sets of 4-6
If you can do pull ups for more than 10 dead hang, clean reps, get a dipping belt put it on with 5kg and start building up your 5-10 rep max pull up numbers with added weight.
Do the same with dips.
Both can be done with chains as well.
Lift HEAVY logs.
Pull prowlers with at least your bodyweight on.
Do heavy lunges for 50m.
Farmer walk the heaviest dumbbells you can manage without losing your grip for 50-100m (this can be done as a shuttle). Fuck it, if you lose your grip, pick them up and go again until you can complete the course without putting the weight down.
Then get a heavier weight.
This is heavy weight training.
These exercises not only target certain areas but also significantly increase stress on your entire system causing a reaction, and increase anabolic hormones so EVERY muscle benefits, not just your legs and glutes on squats for example.
2) Do things that sound horrible
Do 8 heavy squats with your 10RM then run 200-400m.
Do zercher squats (you can see the video in the Members Only Video Section)
Do strip sets. Do 5 rep T-bar rows with a weight you can do for 8 reps, preferably loaded with 10kg plates or 5kg’s depending on strength.
Immediately strip a plate off each side and do another 5.
Keep doing this until 5 reps with the empty bar feels like you’re pulling 20 stone Aunt Betty out the swimming pool. Even better, have some training partners to strip for you.
Hold on that sounds a bit gay.
Lift rocks over your head. These will be weird shapes and sizes and the uneven weight distribution will challenge muscles you never knew you had and help build strength on more typically exercises in straight line, even plans of motion such as the military press.
Find out what weight you can squat for 10-12 reps.
Do 20 squats taking a deep breath in-between each rep. Take your time and get the 20 done. One set will be enough.
Do prowler sprints over 20-40m FAST.
Push a loaded wheelbarrow up a hill and go back down. The downwards bit may well be the worst and hit your calves, hamstrings and quads HARD.
Run back up when you get to the bottom.
And back down.
Carry heavy stuff for distance, holding it in front of you.
Do different variations of deadlifts on a regular basis.
3) Bring inertia into play
Use a squat rack for pin squats, pin presses and pin bench presses.
Control the weight down to the rack, pause for a second so you lose elastic potential in the muscles, then drive back up.
Do 3-5 reps focussing on a slow eccentric lowering phase and a powerful concentric lifting phase. REALLY powerful. Like a sprint start.
Remember to maintain a tight core but release the tension in your legs so you have to overcome inertia without losing technique and the correct posture.
This will improve strength and power and enable you to lift heavier in your next session of 5-20 reps.
4) Understand and use tempo’s
Banging out reps fast may make you look and feel cool, but it won’t build muscle fast.
Control the lowering phase taking 4 seconds to get the extreme of the range of motion, then take either 1 or 2 seconds to return to the start.
I say 1 or 2 because I think 2 seconds works better for muscle building because of increased tension on the muscle in each set, but you risk losing the ability to move the weight quickly. This can lead to reduced performance when sprinting and playing sport.
Decide what is a priority.
So your squat will take 4 seconds to go down, 1 second pause and 2 seconds to rise, with a 1 second pause at the top before continuing.
5) Eat more but not necessarily 6 times per day
If you want to grow you need calories and lots of them.
The problem is that whilst 6 meals a day works it can be a pain in the ass and doesn’t give your body much time to digest and process food.
Trial eating 1 big meal with snacks all day, 3 meals per day like your Mum said and 6 meals per day. All have worked for me and it is more important to find something that fits your lifestyle for long term results.
6) Eat more fat
Eat more cholesterol because it’s a precursor to natural steroid hormone production.
More testosterone = More muscle building potential.
7) Get pre and post-workout nutrition right
Take amino acids before training to flip the anabolic switch before you even start, take 10-20g of maltodextrin during training with some more amino’s and take a protein, carbohydrate, creatine shake 15-30 minutes after training to optimise the recovery process.
8) Have a drink or two but don’t expect much growth if you’re out on the piss every weekend.
Alcohol is catabolic and will lead to muscle breakdown.
If you drink a lot of beer you are also boosting your estrogen levels which is the exact opposite of what you want. Stick to clear spirits and keep the amounts down to a minimum for the best results.
9) Hang out and train with bigger people.
You will naturally want to be lifting closer to what they are.
This will push you to lift more, just make sure you still maintain excellent technique and and range of motion.
10) Keep it simple at first.
If you start surfing the internet for training ideas you will end up creating a mess.
If you are new to heavy lifting and muscle building, a simple density program will work.
By density, we mean, the amount / volume you lift in each session must be more than the total volume lifted the last time you did that session.
Non-competing pairs work well for this.
For instance I will pair squats (using a weight I could lift for 12 reps) with chin ups.
I’ll do as many reps as I can on the squats (leaving 1-2 in the tank for the first couple of sets) then do maximum chin ups.
I’ll rest briefly between exercises and keep switching until 15-20 minutes has passed.
Note your total reps, and do more next week.
11) Go to the gym to tear yourself a part and nothing else.
Leave the phone in the locker room, get your headphones and fuck off anything else happening in the gym.
Even the girl on the treadmill. She will be more impressed to see you grow each week than to watch you shout and scream whilst pushing 50kg on the bench press.
Be present in what you are doing.
Do the reps required and squeeze out one more if you can.
Rest for the required time and go again.
Get into a monotonous rhythm and don’t talk to anyone unless you have a training partner you need to ask to put more weight on your squat bar.
12) Don’t turn muscle building into a fat loss conditioning session.
If you are dropping reps because you’re blowing out your arse from 20 seconds rest, rest for 60 seconds and make sure you can give it everything for the required reps.
If you need more than a minute take more than a minute.
When you’re training for fat loss or doing a conditioning session, keep the rest down.
13) Don’t assume ‘bodybuilding’ methods’ are the only way to grow.
There are some guys with amazing bodies in the gymnastics and Olympic lifting worlds and they don’t spend their days doing concentration curls and leg extensions.
They have mastered tension, have a high training volume and lift HEAVY weights for low reps.
Combining methods are an exciting and effective way to train.
Do Olympic lifting, master your body weight, hit some sets of 3×10 and do strongman work lifting, throwing, pulling, pushing and carrying heavy shit!
14) Play the mental game.
I use to the opposite of what fat people do.
I’d look in the mirror and note how skinny I was.
All this did was program my brain to accept I was skinny and encourage me to do things that skinny people do like loads of running and high rep training.
Tell yourself your a muscular beast and start acting like it.
Act ‘as if’.
Even if it’s not true yet.
It soon will be.
15) Drink water and eat lots of quality food.
Yes you can have a cheat meal and go nuts after a big session.
But just because your goal isn’t fat loss doesn’t change the fact that you are a human and a human needs food which reduces inflammation (especially when you lift like a beast), provides vitamins and minerals in bucket loads, provides lots of lean protein and aids effective digestion and absorption.
If you are a skinny guy like me, you can have 2 cheat meals per week to up those calories but most of the time must get in copious amounts of the good fats, protein and vegetables with carbs after training sessions to aid with the insulin spike.