How To Transform Your Physique From “Skinny To Muscular” In Less Than 3-Months. Build Up Muscle Unexpectedly

Most skinny guys are eager to gain muscle fast and build strength. I don’t blame them at all. I was the same way. When I weighed 130 pounds, with a Body mass index (BMI) of 17, all I wanted was to not be skinny anymore. The best way to build muscle, of course, is to lift weights.

The problem was that I had just graduated with a degree in graphic design, I had never been active, and I didn’t know a single person who lifted. Well, I knew one person who shoplifted, but I didn’t want any part of that. And when you’re that far outside of a subculture, it can be hard to know where to start or what to do.

Since then, I’ve gained 70 pounds, going from a 65-pound bench press to a 315-pound bench press. My business partner, Bigflex Dogg, has helped college, professional, and Olympic athletes bulk up. Together, we’ve spent over a decade helping millions of readers and over 10,000 skinny clients build muscle (naturally).

Fortunately, once skinny guys start following a good workout routine and eating a proper bulking diet, we can gain muscle faster than any other body type. Our frames are empty and eager for muscle growth. Most of us are able to gain 25 pounds within our first 6 months of working out. Some of our clients have gained 40.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of training for muscle growth. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do.

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The Best Workouts For Building Muscle 

General Fitness Workouts 

“General fitness workouts are great, but they aren’t great for building muscle. Insofar as you challenge your muscles, you can stimulate a bit of muscle growth, but these workouts are mainly designed to challenge your aerobic system”. Your heart will grow fitter, you’ll build more blood vessels, and your body will use oxygen more efficiently, giving you greater endurance.

These adaptations are fantastic. Cardio is an important part of a good fitness routine. But it isn’t the best way to stimulate muscle growth. Not even close.

Strength Training Workouts

At the other end of the spectrum, we have strength training. This one is tricky. Some people use “strength training” to refer to any type of resistance training. In that sense, every workout routine is strength training. That isn’t wrong, but it’s confusing, and it’s not how lifters talk.

Among lifters, strength training is the type of training designed to increase how much you can lift for one all-out repetition. It’s designed to increase your 1-rep max. Think of sports like powerlifting, where you’re judged by how much you can squat, bench, and deadlift for a single repetition”. The stronger you are for your weight, the better your score is.

Strength training absolutely stimulates muscle growth, but the main purpose is to make you stronger for your size. The main adaptation is neurological. Your muscles prefer to pace themselves, rationing out their effort over several repetitions. Strength training helps you override that instinct, contracting all your muscle fibres at once.

Bodybuilding Workouts

Bodybuilding is another word with a few different definitions. Some people use “bodybuilding” to refer to any type of training that stimulates muscle growth. By that definition, bodybuilding lines up perfectly with our goal.

Among lifters, bodybuilding usually means training for aesthetics. That can mean training for muscle growth, but it can also mean dieting down to very low body-fat percentages, getting spray tans, and learning posing routines.

You might hear that bodybuilders are big but weak. That isn’t quite true. Bodybuilding is halfway between training for fitness and training for strength. It’s actually a surprisingly versatile, safe, and healthy way to work out.

“The unhealthy side of professional bodybuilding comes from drug abuse. The unhealthy side of natural bodybuilding comes from the obsession with extreme leanness. Neither of those things has anything to do with bodybuilding workouts.

Still, bodybuilding isn’t quite synonymous with training for muscle growth. It’s possible to bulk up without focusing solely on aesthetics. We can get even more specific.

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Powerbuilding Workouts

PowerBuilding is a combination of competitive powerlifting and competitive bodybuilding. Neither of those styles of training is perfect for stimulating muscle growth, and combining them both together doesn’t help.

This style of training drew me in. I wanted to be big, strong, and look good. That desire still lingers. I’ve worked up to a 315-pound bench press. I’m working on a 500-pound deadlift. I want to hit those strength benchmarks. I do sometimes train to improve my 1-rep max on the big compound lifts.

Still, there’s a better way to train for muscle growth. And besides, PowerBuilding is for intermediate and advanced lifters. You shouldn’t start with it.

Hypertrophy Training 

Hypertrophy training means training for muscle growth. Bodybuilders do hypertrophy training when they’re bulking up, building bigger muscles. Powerlifters do hypertrophy training when they’re trying to get bigger and stronger. Marco’s specialty was helping top athletes use hypertrophy training to improve their athletic performance.

Here are the hypertrophy training principles that will help you build more muscle:

  • Challenge your muscles. Your muscles grow when you bring them to the brink of failure. Get within 1–2 reps of failure. The only way to learn how to stop just shy of failure is to fail sometimes. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, especially on isolation exercises.
  • Train every muscle 3x per week. A rigorous workout stimulates 2–3 days of muscle growth, so you can keep your muscles growing steadily all week long by training them every second or third day. The simplest way to do that is with 3 full-body workouts per week (research breakdown).
  • Always try to outlift yourself. Every workout, try to lift more than the last workout, whether that’s lifting more weight, doing more reps, or lifting with better technique. Fighting for improvement drives muscle growth.
  • Focus on the big compound exercises. Think of goblet squats, push-ups, Romanian deadlifts, and chin-ups. Those four movements train all the major muscle groups in your body. You can build a tremendous amount of muscle with them.
  • Fill in the gaps with isolation lifts. Some muscles aren’t trained properly by compound exercises. Some of those muscles are tremendously important. For example, your biceps can’t engage properly during pulling movement. You need biceps curls. Similarly, your triceps need triceps extensions, and your shoulders need lateral raises.
  • Do 6–20 reps per set most of the time. You can occasionally drop to 4 reps per set or climb as high as 40. But spend most of your time lifting in a moderate rep range. Doing 6–20 reps stimulates the most muscle growth per set (research breakdown).
  • Do 2–4 sets per exercise. If you’re following the rest of these principles, that should be just enough to maximize your rate of muscle growth (research breakdown).

Let’s go through these principles one by one. Then we can assemble them into a workout routine.

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How To Train For Muscle Size And Strength 

Rest, Recover And Outlift Yourself 

A rigorous workout stresses your muscles, provoking an adaption. Then you’ll need to wait as your muscles recover and grow. During that period, you’ll feel sore, and your muscles will be weaker. But within 2–3 days, they’ll grow back a bit bigger and stronger than they were before.

That cycle of rest, recovery, and growth gives our training a cadence:

  • Monday: Lift
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Lift more
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Lift even more
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

This is why weights were invented. They allow you to lift progressively heavier as you grow gradually stronger. Every workout, you can increase the load by a couple of pounds, keeping your workouts challenging enough to continue stimulating muscle growth.

Another form of progressive overload is adding extra repetitions. If you get 11, 10, and 9 repetitions (30 reps), try to lift 31 or more repetitions next time. That, too, will encourage your muscles to continue growing.

Barbellsdumbbells, and exercise machines are all great for this. Some bodyweight exercises are great, too. Whatever you’re using, the important thing is to always strive to outlift yourself.

Keep Your Muscles Growing Up All The Entire Week 

A rigorous workout stimulates 2–3 days of muscle growth in the muscles you train. When your muscles recover, you can stimulate a new wave of muscle growth (study). This is why doing full-body workouts three times per week tends to be the quickest and most reliable way to build muscle, especially for beginners.

  • Monday: Full-body workout
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full-body workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Full-body workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

There are other ways to organize your workouts. You could do a workout split, where you split your body up into different body parts, training a portion of your body every day. Beginners tend to benefit from full rest days, though. Better to use full-body workouts for now.

If you’re skinny and desperate to build muscle, I know it can be tempting to do more. The best way to build muscle, though, is to put your full effort into your workouts, take a full day of rest, and then do it again, focusing on outlifting yourself.

Beginners can build muscle incredibly fast. 3 full-body workouts per week is enough to maximize your rate of muscle growth. Invest the rest of your effort into eating a good bulking diet, getting to bed on time, and living a healthy lifestyle. That’s how you’ll get the best bulking results.

The 4 Big Compound Lifts 

Most strength training programs focus on the Big 3: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. There’s wisdom in that. These exercises do an incredible job of stimulating muscle growth and measuring strength. We can do even better.

If you’re already good at lifting weights, we have an article about the big compound lifts here. If you’re a beginner, it helps to start at the beginning, with simpler exercises that encourage better form and help you build muscle faster.

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There are the best exercises for gaining your first 20–30 pounds:

  • Goblet squats: where you squat while holding a dumbbell in front of you. These work your quads, glutes, core, and upper body. Holding a dumbbell in front of you shifts your centre of gravity forward, keeping your torso more upright and allowing you to squat much deeper. These are amazing for building muscle until you can do sets of 12+ reps with the heaviest dumbbell.
  • Romanian Deadlifts: where you start in a standing position, keep your knees stiff, and focus on bending at the hips, lowering the weight until you feel a deep stretch on your hamstrings. These work your hips, hamstrings, and all the muscles in your back.
  • Push-ups (or the bench press): where you push your body away from the ground while keeping your torso rigid. Push-ups are famous for training your chest, shoulders, and triceps, but they also train your abs and serratus muscles (under your armpits). Until you grow too strong for them, they’re even more powerful than the bench press.
  • Chin-ups (or lat pulldowns or rows): where you pull with your back and biceps. They also do a great job of bulking up your abs and strengthening your grip. If you aren’t strong enough yet, start with lowered chin-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, and/or dumbbell pullovers.

I’d already gained 40 pounds by the time I tested the first version of our IFBNewsfeed.Org Bulking Program. Going back to these beginner variations provoked a new wave of muscle growth, helping me gain another 15 pounds.

These variations are simple, but that’s good. The better your coordination is while you lift, the easier it will be to stimulate muscle growth. The challenge will come from the weight you’re lifting.

As you get stronger, you’ll need to find ways to load your lifts heavier. That’s when 100-pound goblet squats turn into 150-pound barbell front squats.

The Power Of Isolation Exercises 

Not every muscle responds well to compound exercises. Our bodies are built to do more than just 4 movements. For example, your biceps don’t just flex your arms, they also pull your arms forwards at the shoulder joint, interfering with pulling movements, and preventing them from fully engaging.

That’s where biceps curls come in. “The long and short head balance one another out at the shoulder joint, helping to keep it stable while you flex your arms”. This allows you to fully engage both heads of your biceps, stimulating twice as much biceps growth.

There are other muscles, like your side delts, that aren’t trained very well by most compound exercises. Overhead presses can work, but not as well as simpler exercises like lateral raises.

Finally, you might want to work some muscles a little harder. Push-ups do a great job of working your entire chest, but you’re especially eager for your chest to grow, it can help to add in some dumbbell chest flyes.

The point is, if you’re eager to bulk up a certain area of your body, it helps to make sure you have an exercise that trains those muscles properly. If you want bigger arms, you should include biceps curls and triceps extensions. If you want broader shoulders, you should include lateral raises.

Here are a few isolation exercises you probably want to include in your workout routine:

  • Lateral raises to build broader shoulders.
  • Biceps curls and triceps extensions to build bigger arms.
  • Chest flyes to bulk up the chest.
  • Planks to bulk up your abs.
  • Neck curls to bulk up your neck.

The Workout Routines

Now that we’ve covered the best training principles and exercises, we can build the workout routine. There are simpler workout routines than this one, but they aren’t as effective. There are more complicated workout routines, but they aren’t more effective.

I’ll link every exercise to one of Bigflex Dogg’s tutorial videos.

Workout #1

Romanian Deadlifts 3 sets 9 reps
Push-ups 3 sets AMRAP*
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets 11 reps
Dumbbell Rows 3 sets 11 reps
Biceps Curls 2 sets 11 reps
Triceps Extensions 2 sets 11 reps
Lateral Raises 2 sets 11 reps
*AMRAP: As many reps as possible

You can go through the entire workout routine exercise by exercise, but if you can, I recommend doing them as supersets. For example, you could do a set of Romanian deadlifts, rest a minute, drop down for a set of push-ups, rest a minute, and then do your second set of Romanian deadlifts. That way, while your hips and back are resting, you’re training your pushing muscles, and vice versa.

Supersets stimulate just as much muscle growth as regular sets, they’re better for improving your fitness, and they cut the length of your workouts in half.

Workout #2

Goblet Squats 3 sets 9 reps
Underhand Lat Pulldowns 3 sets 9 reps
Romanian Deadlifts 3 sets 9 reps
Push-ups 3 sets AMRAP
Front Planks 2 sets 5-10 slow breaths
Side Planks 2 sets 5-10 slow breaths
Farmer Carries 2 sets 40 steps

This workout is similar to the first, but it brings in goblet squats, and it uses different isolation exercises. By alternating between two different workouts, you’ll build a more balanced physique, gain more versatile strength, and keep your tendons and joints feeling fresher.

Wrapping Up

Alright, that’s it for now. I know this has been a long article. I know this can be overwhelming at first. Start with the first step and go from there. Do your first workout, even if it isn’t perfect. Once you’ve started, it’s easy to improve.

If you want more muscle-building information, we have a muscle-building newsletterIf you want us to walk you through the entire process of building muscle, check out our IFBNewsfeed.Org Program. It includes a 3-months workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, tutorial videos for every exercise, and one-on-one support in our online community.

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