By Austin Schanzenbach
For the majority of my life, I have been skinny. This was particularly disheartening for me because we all know chicks dig gains, and I was tired of people grabbing my arm and putting their hand around my wrist, touching their thumb and middle finger together to demonstrate how small my wrists were. Why the hell was that ever a thing? I get it, I had the frame of a malnourished elderly man. Stop grabbing my damn wrists.
Eventually, I decided I didn't want to look like Calista Flockhart for the rest of my life and at the ripe old age of 17, weighing an awe-inspiring total of 120 pounds, I got bit by the iron bug. Around 90 pounds and a decade later, a lot of things have changed for me. I no longer have to wear extra medium shirts, nor do I completely disappear behind fence posts if I turn sideways. I also realized that anything worth doing takes time and effort.
Here is a list of eight anecdotes from my journey as a former skinny guy:
1. Skinny guys aren’t eating enough.
Dagnabbit, it took me a long time to learn this. No matter how much you think you are eating, it is not enough. Most skinny guys don’t have huge appetites and will claim they are eating everything that isn’t nailed down. It may seem like this to them (it sure did to me), but if they were to take the time to measure the amount of calories and actual food they are eating, they would find it isn’t all that much. Certainly not enough to grow. Skinny guys need to eat more food than what they can fathom, and until they start doing this with decent, whole-food choices, it won’t really matter what they are doing in the gym.
2. Don’t overdo it in the gym.
Skinny guys tend to have a high(ish) work capacity, and combining that with a psychological edge to get bigger, they end up doing way too much volume in the gym. Taking this a step further and adding in point number 1, which was not eating enough, you have a recipe for subpar progress and a lot of wheel spinning. Reduce volume and make the focal point about gaining strength to establish a foundation on which the body can actually grow from.
3. Training too frequently is a problem.
This piggybacks off of number 2. Along with doing too much volume, skinny guys are eager to train too frequently. I am sure some of it stems from impatience with being skinny and wanting to gain size as fast as possible (I know it did with me), but again, too high of frequency, too much volume, and not enough food, all become major deterrents for skinny guys with their quest to magical muscle city. Reduce the frequency, so as to allow for proper neural recovery from the strenuous strength workouts skinny guys should be doing. Improper CNS recovery can often be harder to distinguish than improper recovery from a muscular standpoint, so it is extra important to not overdo the frequency of workouts even if you feel you are capable of the extra work.
4. Avoid program ADD
If you were like me, you would read the latest and greatest bodybuilding program on the internet or some magazine and immediately drop what you were doing to implement said great program. The reality ended up being that you switched programs, sets, reps, and exercises so frequently that you never become proficient at anything. No matter how much P90X wants to claim muscle confusion is a thing, it is essentially bullshit. Weight lifting is a skill, and we all know girls only want boyfriends with great skills.
Your ability to coordinate the movement safely, and maximally recruit your muscle fibers will do wonders for helping you progress. This takes time and patience, though. Stick with a program for a while, get proficient at a few of the big movements, and master a specific rep range.
5. For god’s sake don’t skip leg day.
A skinny guy’s least favorite day is always leg day. Try squatting with bird legs, small joints, and an ass flatter than an IHOP pancake. Hitting depth with just an empty bar felt like an insurmountable task. A protruding cervical spine and lack of traps made resting a bar on your back feel like an army of leprechauns were riding your shoulders and stabbing you with tiny little pitchforks. This made it an easy decision for me to skip leg day. Unfortunately, neglecting 60% of the muscle mass in your body is never a good idea. Big movements like deadlifts and squats do so much for systemic growth that you’re really impeding your entire body’s ability to grow. Not to mention that your body does not like to create massive imbalances. So, I am sorry, your dream of being a real-life Johnny Bravo just ain’t in the cards.
6. Don’t blow a ton of money on supplements
Supplements can be very effective tools if you have a decent diet in place already. The problem with skinny guys is they don’t have a decent diet in place already or they wouldn’t be so skinny. Spend that 50 dollars a month on whole foods instead of the latest and greatest SUPER DRAGON PRE-WORKOUT 9000 that is guaranteed to increase your bench press 40000% all while having the unfortunate side effect of making your bowel movements burn worse than Vulcan, the Greek god of fire and volcanoes.
Maybe a decent protein powder would be acceptable. Or blow some of your money on our "Weekend Warrior" shirts & hats, that would be cool too.
7. Buying smaller clothes doesn’t make you look bigger.
I learned this one the hard way. Eleventeen inch arms are still eleventeen inch arms, even in extra-small T-shirts.
8. Be patient
Most importantly, I learned that building the body you want takes time. Anyone looking for a short cut in this game is going to be woefully disappointed, or end up doing something stupid. If you are a skinny person reading this article right now don’t be discouraged. Ask anyone who has built an impressive physique over time and they will tell you that the journey is what really matters. The journey not only shapes your body, it also shapes your mind and spirit. A person learns discipline, adherence, patience, consistency, and most of all they learn how to work hard at something. Athletic endeavors involving sports or training may be the first thing in life that really made me push myself. I like to think those lessons with the iron carried over to other facets of my life as I got older, and after 10 years at it, it’s obvious to me there is more a person can get out of training than just bigger biceps.
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