Last week I discussed the way you need to eat in order to turn yourself into the un-skinny guy. Now knowing how to eat is all fine and dandy but without some sort of training involved, the extra kcals are not going to be partitioned in your favor; that is unless you want to look like the Michelin Man.
Train Unlike You Were Likely Advised
Yes, I said it. Don’t do what everyone is telling you to do because it’s likely not suitable for the skinny guy. Chances are if you are skinny, you are weak. If you are weak, you are still classified as a newbie. If you are a newbie you have no business doing Ronnie Coleman’s routine that he used during his contest prep for Mr. Olympia. He has many years on you, not to mention the plethora of extra help he is receiving. This is his full time job.
Now there is nothing wrong with being a beginner. You must accept where you are and start building your foundation from the ground up. Read my story.
You answer for training does not lie in the magazines or on the shelves of the fitness section at the nearest bookstore. Your saving grace lies in books and manuals that I have never seen in a national book retailer. Your answer can also lie in the hands of a great coach or an athletic program at your school; however you may not have that luxury or be many years out of school.
Luckily we have the internet and all the finest information at our disposal. However the internet also produces a ton of garbage as well. Be careful where you seek out information.
If you’ve never set foot inside a gym before, I would highly recommend going to the nearest one you have, getting a guest pass and spending some time looking around and getting a feel for the place. You must decide this is something you really want to do. After all you will be spending your time and money on this worthy pursuit, so make sure your heart is in it before shelling out the money on a gym membership (I hate contracts, avoid them if you can).
Now once you’ve decided this is what you are going to do, start getting educated. I suggest that you start on forums such as BodyRecomposition, Clutch Fitness and JP Fitness to name a few. You could also pick up a few books that will get you started on the fundamentals of training. A few of the books that would fit this bill are Starting Strength, Practical Programming, Brawn and Beyond Brawn. That’s more than enough material to get you going in the right direction. When perusing online, I would also suggest that you seek out most of your information only from reliable sources such as Amped Training, Skyler Tanner, Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon, Roger Lawson and Ryan Zielonka. If you can’t find what you need on these sites, no one can help you.
Low Volume For Starters
I am a big advocate of low volume training when it comes to the skinny guys’ needs. I have found that most under eat, therefore those who embark on training programs with unreasonable amounts of volume crash and burn rather quickly. The idea is this: pick a handful of movements, learn them and get stronger. That should be your only focus, for a while at least.
Here’s a sample full body routine for someone getting started
Squat (leg press) 3×5
Bench (horizontal press) 3×5
Row (seated or bent over 3×5
Squat (leg press) 3×5
Over head Press 3×5
Deadlift 1×5 (with ample warm up sets)
This is similar to the Starting Strength model minus the power cleans. Essentially, on a routine like this, you warm up thoroughly and then pick a challenging weight that you can get across all 3 sets. Ideally, the last set is going to be challenging but you do not want to go to failure. You should be able to make a 5-10lb increase at the next workout granted you’re eating well, and your sleep/recovery situation is in order.
Each workout is preceded by mobility work to get loosened up for the work to come. I also like to add some body weight work each day as well. So once you are done with the big lifts you might do some pushups, chins, pistol squats and lower back extensions. Abdominal work is done every other workout.
Rotator cuff work should begin immediately in my opinion. This is an attempt at preventing any shoulder issues that seem to plague the strength training and bodybuilding community.
As one progresses and gets used to the movements, more volume can be added but not much. We are talking about adding a few sets to each movement to make it 4-5×5. This does not mean that you go from 3×5 to a 10×10 routine. This is a surefire way to screw yourself and spin your wheels.
If you really like to work out, you can do an upper/lower split. Here is how I might set one up.
Glute Ham Raises 3×8-10
BW Reverse Lunges* 2-3×12
Overhead Press 3×8-10
BW Chins 3×8-10
Leg Extension 3×8-10
BW Reverse Lunges* 2-3×12
Overhead Press 3×5
Weighted Chins 3×5
*These will aid with squat depth and hip mobility.
When warming up to your work sets, you want to do just enough to get the blood flowing and to prepare yourself for the load. There is no need to waste all of your energy on warming up. So lets say you are working up to a squat of 225lbsx5. Your warm up should look something like this:
115×5 (~50% work set)
135×5 (~60% work set)
165×3 (~70% work set)
195×3 (~85% work set)
3×5 of 225lbs
The same warm up and loading principles in full body routine apply to this one as well. If you choose the upper/lower split you better get the eating part right. No freaking excuses.
One more thing I should also note. Skinny guys are notorious for moving around a lot. So if you’re goal is to make the most of your efforts in gaining some solid body weight, I highly suggest you skip out on any extra cardiovascular activities. If you are active and like to play pickup games or intramural athletics, you better make the peanut butter and jelly sammich your dearest friend.
In short, the muscle building equation goes like this:
Progressive Overload + Food + Time = Jacked and Swole