Going from scrawny to brawny might seem like a myth, but don’t despair because the dream of building a muscular physique is still in the cards for even the skinniest of guys.
Keep in mind, with determination, a good diet, and a solid workout routine, building muscle may take 1-5 years.
But we know you basically want an aesthetic physique like… yesterday.
So let’s get into the details on how you can make it happen!
Table of Contents
- What Does It Mean For a Skinny Guy To Build Muscle?
- Can A Skinny Guy Really Build Muscle?
- How Long Does It Take a Skinny Guy to Build Muscle?
- How Much Muscle Can a Skinny Guy Gain & How Fast?
- How To Go From Skinny to Muscular
- What Should A Skinny Guy Eat to Build Muscle?
- Really! How Long Does It Take a Skinny Guy to Build Muscle?
What Does It Mean For a Skinny Guy To Build Muscle?
When can you finally call yourself muscular? Is it when you look like the next cast for Superman? Or do you need:
For argument’s sake, we’ll consider truly muscular people to have well-developed muscle groups throughout their bodies.
Examples of muscular guys are Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise, and Vin Diesel.
Can A Skinny Guy Really Build Muscle?
If you’re another scrawny guy buried deep within your shirt, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to go from skinny to aesthetic with noticeable muscle definition.
Well, there’s good news!
Even the skinniest guy in town can start packing some serious muscle mass if he wants to? B.S aside!
Being skinny isn’t a sickness or disease! Skinniness is just what happens when you never take fitness seriously combined with a low-calorie diet.
You may also be skinny because you’re an ectomorph! In that case, you’ll still be able to build big muscles, but your ectomorph genetics may get in your way.
Skinny or fat, you’ll always be able to build muscle if you do what’s necessary.
So if you’re looking for hope, you can rest assured that a skinny person can undoubtedly become muscular.
How Long Does It Take a Skinny Guy to Build Muscle?
By sheer guesstimation, it will take about 1-3 years to build muscle.
But the actual time it takes for a skinny guy to build muscle depends on a few factors we’ll discuss below.
A relatively low body fat % is always vital if you’re going for a muscular look. However, a skinny person should worry about bulking instead of cutting fat.
But don’t abuse your scrawny privileges by eating everything in sight, or else you’ll add too much body fat and ruin your slenderness.
There may be many reasons you’re not seeing any muscle gains (even noob gains). But a common culprit is usually your workout routine.
Without a well-programmed routine, you may wrongfully start calling yourself a hard-gainer.
For skinny guys looking for muscle, your exercises should involve resistance training such as hypertrophy training and calisthenics (bodyweight exercises).
You should also perform compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups. These should be your bread and butter in a full-body routine.
Diet and nutrition
If you’re trying to build muscle without enough calories, you may see little to no gains in mass.
To fix this, skinny people need a diet with a caloric surplus to put on mass for muscle building.
But don’t be so quick to go into binge-eating mode!
Your diet needs to be clean, healthy, high-calorie, and contain all essential nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Your genetics will determine how long it will take to build muscle. For example, ectomorphs have fast metabolisms which burn calories quickly, making it harder to gain weight than regular people.
If you eat like a pig but don’t bulk like one, you may bear an ectomorph’s genetic curse.
However, even ectomorphs can bulk and build muscle, but their genetics may affect the process a little bit.
If this is the case for you, you may not be able to grow into a monstrous hulk, but you still may be able to build a skinny ripped body type with chiseled abs and veiny biceps.
Are You A Noob?
Newbies are notorious for their ability to gain muscle mass quickly. This phenomenon is also known as “noob gains.”
Research shows that muscle protein synthesis peaks faster and lasts longer for newbies than for trained men.
How Much Muscle Can a Skinny Guy Gain & How Fast?
You’ll eventually go from skinny to muscular if you work hard enough. But how much muscle will you gain and how fast?
Like many things in our fitness world, it depends!
The speed and amount of muscle mass you’ll gain depends on a few factors like your diet, routine, genetics, and training experience.
Below is a chart to show how much muscle you can expect to build:
|In …(Time)||You Can Build …(Muscle)|
|One month||1.5–2 pounds|
|Three months||4.5–6 pounds|
|Six months||6–12 pounds|
|One year||20–25 pounds|
|Two years||30–37 pounds|
|Five years||38–48 pounds|
(Source: Lyle McDonald, a former athlete, fitness expert, and researcher)
A newbie’s first year of bodybuilding is where they will see their fastest muscle gains. This is because the speed of muscle growth will decline as your training experience increases.
How To Go From Skinny to Muscular
Now that you know the details of why it may be an uphill battle for you to bulk up (and how long it’ll take), you’re probably asking for a remedy to your skinniness.
Well, we’re finally getting to the good part. Let’s get into it.
Track Your Progress
It’s easy for precious noob gains to disappear under your radar when you don’t track progress. Without accurate tracking, you can spend the next two months pumping iron only to get minimal results (if any).
It’s always important to monitor your progress, especially when building muscle because every inch matters!
A couple of inches more on those biceps, and you could be arm-wrestling Arnold Schwarzenegger – Just kidding!
Your transition from skinny to muscular requires proper dieting and exercise to bulk up and build muscle. But you’ll need to observe your progress to notice gains.
A tape measure is also an excellent tool to track your progress. You can use tape to measure your upper arm, chest, forearm, calves, waist, hips, and upper legs.
The bulking stage of your skinny-muscular journey aims to increase muscle mass and strength. But how can a skinny guy bulk up? Guess!
If you were thinking of food, you’re almost right.
You’ll need a “caloric surplus,” which means your diet needs to contain more calories than your body burns to bulk up.
But food-lovers shouldn’t be fooled into thinking a caloric surplus is a code word for “eat lots of food.”
Because carelessly eating seems like dirty bulking, which is an easy way to pack the wrong type of mass (fat).
There are mainly two types of bulking, clean bulking and dirty bulking. Here are the details on each type.
Clean bulking is an excellent way to create a calorie surplus to build lean muscle mass with low body fat.
This diet involves eating high-calorie foods that are protein-rich with relatively low fat. Food in your diet should ideally fall under the categories below:
- Starchy vegetable
- Meats, poultry, and eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Oils and nut butter
- Beverages without added sugar
Also, you should avoid or limit the consumption of alcohol, sugar, or fried foods.
Dirty bulking sounds poisonous, but it’s just another method to pack on the pounds quickly.
A dirty bulk diet looks more like binge-eating everything that comes your way. No food is off-limits to most dirty bulkers!
And don’t get us wrong… a dirty bulk may be effective at gaining weight, but a lot of that may be fat.
We all want to see gains as soon as possible. But dirty bulking usually leads to so much excessive fat gain, that you need to spend time cutting the extra fat.
The three macronutrient musketeers (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) are crucial elements in building muscle.
Your diet should ideally be high in protein and carbohydrates. But take it easy with the fat!
So how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats should a skinny guy eat to build muscle?
A 2004 study suggests that an effective classic bodybuilding diet to build muscle should contain:
- 25-30% protein
- 55-60% carbohydrates
- 15-20% fat
Supplements may help
No super supplement will transform a skinny guy into Captain America. This isn’t a movie!
But below are a few safe supplements that can help you out:
- Protein Powder: this is helpful for guys having trouble meeting their daily protein requirements. Plus, the fast-digesting nature of whey protein supplements can help with muscle recovery post-workout.
- Creatine: is one of the most-researched sports supplements on the market and has been proven to improve muscle recovery (2009). Creatine has also been shown to enhance strength, endurance, and focus during workouts (2020).
- Pre-workout powder: can be used to enhance your power output and supply a boost in energy during strength training (2016).
- Mass gainers: are full of carbs and protein to help provide a high-calorie, nutrient-dense supplement if you’re having trouble meeting your daily caloric needs.
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For skinny guys, you need a targeted hypertrophy training routine to build larger, fuller muscles.
Hypertrophy training involves performing resistance exercises in a slow and controlled manner in moderate to high rep ranges (8-15 reps) in order to stimulate a sarcoplasmic muscular response.
Use a Mix of Both Compound & Isolation Exercises
A muscle-building workout routine isn’t about blindly picking any exercise based on “what you feel like doing” that day.
The exercises you select need to be effective at developing major and minor muscle groups. This is where compound and isolation exercises come in.
A compound exercise is a type of exercise that trains multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These can be performed using weights, machines, calisthenics, or really anything that provides adequate resistance.
Some exercise examples are:
- Barbell squats
- Dumbbell bench presses
- Barbell shoulder presses
In contrast, isolation exercises target one specific muscle group at a time.
A few examples are:
- Dumbbell concentration curls
- Triceps pull-downs with a rope attachment
- Dumbbell wrist curls
- Machine calf raises
- Machine leg curls
There are literally hundreds of exercises to choose from, but what’s important is choosing exercises that you can perform correctly and enjoy.
Rest and Recovery
Hard work is essential to building muscle, but the time spent doing nothing and resting is also essential.
Training your muscles every day may seem like a quick way to build your muscle, but research shows that training each muscle group about three times a week is ideal, especially for beginners.
A three-day-a-week full-body workout routine can help you pack precious noob gains. And you’ll still have 4 days to rest in the week!
You can also risk injuring your muscles when they don’t have enough time to rest and recover between workouts.
A 2008 study showed that training the same muscles for three days straight may lead to weakness of the muscles for the next three days.
So avoid overtraining your muscles to prevent problems like strains, sprains, rhabdomyolysis, severe dehydration, weakened immunity, or plummeting testosterone levels.
Principle of progressive overload
As the name suggests, progressive overload requires you to gradually increase the resistance on each exercise in order to force muscular adaptation.
For example, if you can lift a 20-pound dumbbell for the max reps in each set then you should attempt to increase the resistance the next time you perform this exercise in a separate session.
By following this simple principle, progressive overload helps maintain the tear-repair cycle needed to force muscles to get bigger and stronger.
Cut cardio till it’s time to cut body fat
I have some advice I think you’ll like. Cut cardio! But let’s understand why before you start celebrating.
Cardio is a fantastic way to cut body fat and help reveal the badass muscles you’ve worked hard for.
But the calorie-burning nature of cardio may lead to a calorie deficit which can slow your muscle gains, especially if you’re skinny.
So you should pause or limit cardio to three 20-30 minute sessions a week until you’re ready to cut body fat.
What Should A Skinny Guy Eat to Build Muscle?
If you know a thing or two about food, then you’re aware that not all fruits or foods are suitable for bodybuilding.
So what should a skinny guy eat to bulk up?
Here’s the general breakdown of foods that make up a healthy diet and spur muscle growth:
- Poultry like chicken and turkey
- Red meat like steak and pork
- Fish like salmon and cod
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Nuts like peanuts, almonds, and cashews
- Beans like black beans and kidney beans
- Seeds like pumpkin seeds
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- Whole grains like oatmeal, rice, cereal, quinoa, or popcorn
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes
- Fruits like apples, bananas, and oranges
- Vegetables like broccoli, cucumbers, squash, and other leafy greens
- Other grains like bread and pasta
- Coconut butter
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fish oil
- Krill oil
Don’t feel like you have to keep your diet completely clean either. Try to incorporate healthy foods 80% of the time and then fill the rest with your guilty pleasures.
Really! How Long Does It Take a Skinny Guy to Build Muscle?
The time it takes to go from skinny to ripped can take as little as 1 year or as much as 3 or even 5 years. It really depends on a few factors like your diet, workout routine, and how much muscle you want to build.
The most important things you can do to ensure success is to maintain a caloric surplus and keep showing up to the gym consistently.
Going from scrawny to brawny isn’t a simple walk in the park, but even someone as skinny as a skeleton can build muscle.