How Does a Skinny Guy Gain Muscle and Get Big?


question-icon-newI am 19 years old, 6’4″ and a full-time college student. I have a very skinny frame. I would like to have bigger and more toned arms then the skinny ones I have now and also tone up both my stomach and chest. I have somewhat of a healthy diet, walk approximately 3-6 miles, 4-5 days a week and exercise whenever I have spare time. I have tried protein drinks in the past but I’m afraid now that I may not have time to have an extensive workout routine while using them. However, I am thinking about taking the protein drinks again.

I have been wondering if ab belts can be used to help the process of getting 6-pack abs. I am aware that they do not do as the box says but it might be worth a try. I have a layer of fat covering my abs. I would like to know what I am doing wrong as I see very little or no improvement when working out. I do not wish to pig-out and eat everything to get big over Christmas and gain a bunch of fat, so your advice would be great!

answer-icon-newI remember those good old days of college and it certainly can be tough to maintain a fitness regimen with consistency while attending to coursework and a social life. I will focus on the question of resistance training for mass and a proper diet to accommodate muscle building but first I want to mention the most important factor. Consistency is going to be the key for you to attain the results you want, especially for someone who has a naturally thin frame. Your body type falls into the category of what we call a “hardgainer”. This simply means that because of your genetic makeup and metabolism, it makes it difficult for you to gain muscle mass and size in general. I have quite a bit of experience in this area being that my brother is also a hardgainer who has successfully put on quite a bit of lean muscle over the years and kept it on as well. There are definite things that he focused on in training and his diet but the most important by far was simply sticking with it. You will have to experiment a little with what works best for you. I have included some weight training and diet tips below to help you.

Weight Training Tips
If you have a naturally thin frame and your goal is to build muscle mass, your focus needs to be primarily on weight training. Cardio training definitely has its place as it provides the body with a host of benefits, but you want the recovery abilities of your body to be spent building muscle tissue. Your training should revolve around basic power movements. Barbell and dumbbell curls, shoulder presses, rows, bench press, deadlifts and power cleans are all power movements that not only build specific muscle to one particular muscle group but also build and strengthen many secondary muscle groups as well. You can find information on how to correctly perform all of these exercises in the exercise guides portion of this site.


I noticed that in your question you only mention the upper body but keep in mind that the upper body is supported by the lower body and there are many great power movements for the lower body as well. Squats and lunges are some of the best overall exercises you can do for your body and though they may not be considered “beach muscles” they should not be neglected. Another huge benefit of training the lower body is that it keeps your body in what’s called an anabolic state. An anabolic state is when the body is in a highly energetic state of growth and building muscle which is exactly where you want to be as much as possible.

Diet and Nutrition Tips
The key to 6-pack abs is diet. I know that’s not a fancy answer but it’s absolutely true. The most honest thing ever spoken about 6-pack abs is when Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym”. Truer words were never spoken. It really doesn’t matter if you strap on an AB belt or do 1,000 sit-ups a day if there is a layer of fat and water hiding them. Your abdominals will be strong for sure but what I think you want is strong AND visible.

The first action to take is to eliminate junk food and fast food. Try your best to eat some lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs) with each meal and to keep these meals as natural as possible. It’s really pretty simple if you stick to lean proteins, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Try to keep these meals small and eat every 2-3 hours to keep from getting either too hungry or too full. It will help you greatly to get some Tupperware and plan ahead a bit. Before class (better yet the night before) you can throw a can of tuna and some brown rice in your backpack along with an orange and some almonds and you’re good to go! This is also a time when protein drinks can be of best use. When I was in college I would put the protein powder in a plastic drink cup before I left the house and before class I would fill it with water and shake it up then sip on it throughout class.

I know that college means a lot of late nights cramming for tests and that means snacks. But just because they are snacks doesn’t mean they need to be unhealthy! Try to replace that bag of chips with some almonds or some peanut butter on an apple and trade that soda for some unsweetened ice tea. Read this article about healthy snacks for more great ideas. Protein drinks are also great for a quick protein snack at night but try to choose whole foods over supplements unless you are in a hurry and need something quick. As for the holidays, just do your best as we all tend to eat a little more of mom’s home cooking than we should.

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