The idea that you can be too skinny to build muscle is probably one of the most common myths you see in the fitness industry.
It also leads to some pretty big problems in my opinion. A lot of guys give up early because they think they are somehow programmed not to build muscle. As a result, they often quit lifting altogether or take steroids.
My point here is that you don’t need to resort to either – something I’ve experienced first-hand.
As you can see from the pic on the left, I was quite a skinny kid/teenager – you would have probably found more meat on a vegan’s toothpick! Through trial and error, I managed to overcome my genetic limitations to build muscle, so if you find yourself in the same boat hopefully you can pick up some tips.
Ectomorphs (naturally skinny people) will typically face a lot of stick – you must have heard ‘abs on a skinny guy don’t count’ etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad place to start from though. From newer pics you can see I’ve tried to remain as lean as possible while adding size. This is because you can bulk up in small, gradual steps without sacrificing much of your definition if you are genetically lean.
Obviously, you will put some fat on when you add size, that’s completely normal as you need to gain weight to grow muscle tissue. Those who naturally hold more body fat would probably kill to be lean to begin with though.
Here are some tips for anyone in the ‘hardgainer’ position looking to pack on mass:
- Food: It may seem obvious, but you probably aren’t eating enough. Authorities say 70g protein is your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) but this is really just to prevent medical deficiency. If you actually want to build muscle, go for 1g protein per pound of bodyweight = e.g. 180g protein if you weigh 180lbs. I’d shoot for 2g carbs per pound of bodyweight, and roughly 0.4/0.5g per pound of bodyweight in terms of fat
- Training: A mistake I initially made, and one you constantly see skinnier guys make, is wasting time performing lots of isolation exercises. Concentrate mainly on compound movements – lifts which work more than one major muscle group or joint at once (bench press, dip, squat, pull-up, deadlift, military press etc.)
- Recovery: You may not be training enough – or in many cases are training too much. Some people forget that you don’t actually grow in the gym. You’re breaking down muscle fibres while training. Only when you eat, hydrate and sleep do you actually repair and grow muscle tissue. If you’re hitting the gym 7 days a week for hours on end each time and not seeing improvements, it’s probably time to cut that down and include a couple of rest days.