Being naturally skinny may seem like winning the lottery to some people, the ability to eat whatever you want and still stay thin sounds like a super power.
But actual skinny people know the truth, just because you don’t put on much weight, doesn’t mean you’re happy with your physique.
This is particularly true when you’re looking to build muscle, suddenly being skinny is more of a curse!
Luckily for you, this article is designed to help you to build muscle and to increase strength. We will go through ten tips to help you achieve this.
Tip #1. Track Calories
One of the most common complaints among people who say that they can’t put on weight is that they are eating loads but still not gaining. But scientifically this is impossible.
You can have a high metabolism, but at some point there are going to be more calories going in than are going out. Otherwise you would be gaining weight.
What tends to happen is that people a) overestimate the calories that they are consuming, or b) have periods of high calories followed by periods of low calories.
If you’re thinking that this is the exact opposite situation for overweight people trying to lose weight then you’d be right!
By tracking your calories you’ll ensure that you are consistently eating enough, and that you aren’t over consuming fat or carbohydrates.
You can also make sure that you hit your protein target for the day.
You’ll learn a lot about your daily calorie intake, your eating habits, and what the common foods that you eat are made up of.
Tip #2. Hit Your Protein Targets
This tip follows on from the last, but it’s so important that it requires its own section.
To build bigger muscles you need the required protein. Without that protein you won’t grow.
To find out your correct protein intake target for the day, you should use the following equation:
Lean Body Mass (kg) multiplied by 2.3 = protein target (grams)
So if you are 70kg and only 15% body fat then your lean body mass (the weight of everything except body fat) would be 70 – 10.5 (15% of 70). Which equals 59.5kg.
You would then multiply 59.5 by 2.3 which equals 136.85g. Your new target.
This equation comes from a landmark study by Helms, Aragon, & Fitschen (2013) . They actually recommend anywhere between 2.3 and 3.1g per kg of lean body mass, but we used the lower end here.
Tip #3. Supplement
No you don’t need to spend your entire pay check on mass gainers, but at the very least you should be thinking about whey protein.
It’s actually one of the cheapest protein options per serving, can be used as a snack, can be mixed with Greek yoghurt and oats for a high protein/high calorie dessert, and is easy to transport around with you.
The extra protein in your day will help with recovery, and the protein to calorie ratio is perfect for anyone trying to bulk.
Tip #4. Keep it Simple
A lot of the advice thrown at skinny people is basically “eat all the time”, you’ll see people recommending eating 7-10 meals per day.
Some guys wake up during the middle of the night just to get an extra meal in.
This is stupid, because meal frequency does not matter. It’s all about calories in versus calories out.
If you need to eat 3000 calories to create a calorie surplus then it doesn’t matter if that all comes in 3 meals, or spread out into 5.
Your best bet is to keep things simple, if you are used to eating 3 meals per day and having a couple of snacks, then stick to that formula.
Look for calorie dense foods (peanut butter has lots of calories for a small serving) and look to add protein. But keep the structure the same.
Tip #5. Don’t Rush Things
If you are currently consuming 2000 calories per day and you found out that you need to eat 2,500 calories per day to build muscle, then cramming in 4,000 calories immediately is not going to work. You’ll feel sluggish, you’ll gain too much body fat, and your sleep will be affected.
Add in 50-100 calories per day, each week (2100 week one, 2200 week two etc) and take your time.
Tip #6. Train 3-5 Times Per Week
If you want to build strength or build size (or both) you’ll need to be consistent with your training, and work hard.
Creating a calorie surplus will backfire on you if you aren’t using that extra energy to exercise harder and for longer.
Three times per week should be a minimum, but if you can try and do more.
Tip #7. Prioritise Free Weights
Resistance machines are great, and definitely have their place in most programs (particularly beginners’). But if you are really looking for results then the hormonal response is far superior with free weights .
A barbell squat will produce more testosterone and growth hormone (both necessary for muscle growth) than a leg press, as it is a more difficult exercise to perform.
Use what time you have available in the gym to get the absolute most out of it.
Tip #8. Use Timed Rest Periods
If you are looking to build strength or increase hypertrophy then you should be resting for 3 minutes between sets.
This has been shown to be the most effective time for recovery, it will allow you to lift more, and for more reps (if required) and will help hit more muscle fibres.
Tip #9. Be Patient
Results don’t happen overnight, they happen over months, and years.
If you are serious about gaining size then you will need to accept that and plan for the future.
Most people fail in their goals because they are too focused on getting short term fixes, and are then unhappy with the (lack of) results.
Tip #10. Measure Progress
You need to be regularly weighing yourself, taking photos of your physique (yes an excuse for shirtless selfies), tracking progress in the gym, and measuring your muscle size.
If you aren’t doing that, then how will you ever know whether you are making progress or not?
Seeing those number go up after a couple of really good weeks is the ultimate motivation to keep going.
 Helms, E., Aragon, A., Fitschen, P. 2013. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition11(20)
 Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(4): 1032-40