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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How To Bulk Up & Gain Muscle Mass For Skinny Guys

Dear Drew, 

I recently just started hitting the gym. I’m 6’1’’ and about 140lbs. I’m 19 and have been working out incredibly hard to see the results I want. I’ve started taking creatine to help me build more muscle, since I’m still not seeing the results I want in the gym. What are some tips you can give me to build additional muscle mass? I’m very skinny for my height and want to pack on weight. 

From Joey 

Dear Joey,

It sounds like you’re on your way. I know you said you’re not seeing the results you wanted, but hang in there and keep at it. 

Always pay close attention to your nutrition. For a couple of weeks or so, you should keep a food journal and monitor the types of foods you’re eating as well as the amounts. If possible, you should be counting calories to give yourself a good benchmark. Since you’re trying to gain muscle mass and you’ve already stated that you’re naturally skinny, you shouldn’t be afraid to crank up your calorie intake. You’ll be able to get away with this due to your fast metabolism. 

Whenever somebody is trying to lose weight, I always tell them that the best way to do so is to create a calorie deficit. This means that they will consume fewer calories than their body needs each day to maintain their weight. But whenever I tell people how to gain weight, I always tell them the complete opposite. You’ll always want to take in more calories than you’re burning off. It doesn’t need to be a drastic increase in calories and you won’t want it to be, since if you shoot too high on your calories the remainder of them will simply get stored as fat. A good starting place is to find out how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight and then add 300-500 calories to this number. This will allow you to pack on anywhere from a half pound to one pound per week. If you find that you’re gaining weight too quickly or you’re simply getting fat, you can always scale back the amount of calories you’re eating. 

Having said this, just because you are going to be eating a calorie surplus does not mean that it’s a free pass to stuff your face with cheese puffs, potato chips and Big Macs. In order to create this surplus of calories, you’ll still want to do it eating healthy foods – complex carbs, animal proteins, healthy dietary fats, etc. You’re just going to be eating more of them and in greater quantities than you did in the past. 

When it comes to lifting weights, you should focus a majority of your efforts on getting stronger. Since you’re trying to pack on muscle, you should stick with heavy weights and low reps – in the range of 6-12. Always make sure to hit failure on every set. This means that when you’re on your last rep, you should be so fatigued that you can’t perform another rep. This is known as the method of progressive overload and it’s the only way to get stronger. You should always focus on beating your previous workouts. If you’ve gotten stronger, you’ve gotten bigger. 

Although it's still fine to combine a few brief sessions of cardio throughout the week, you should keep it to no more than three 30 minute sessions per week. Too much cardio can have a negative effect on your gains and you can actually start burning muscle if you do too much of it – just look at long distance marathon runners if you don’t believe me. 

And yes, creatine can definitely help you increase your strength and get bigger. Many individuals report an initial weight gain of about 10 pounds in the first week, but this is primarily due to the fact that creatine increases water retention in your muscles. 

The last thing you need to keep in mind is that you should always be realistic! As a naturally skinny guy, you probably don’t have the genetics to look like Arnold. Just embrace and work with what you have and realize that many overweight people would be extremely jealous of your high metabolism.