Get Buff And Muscular As A Naturally Skinny Guy: The Beginners Crash Course To Guaranteed Muscle Gains

How do you build muscle and transform a scrawny physique? This is a question that crops up in many skinny people’s minds at some point. And with good reason. Bulking up can be a nightmare for beginners. This post shares my personal research and experience on how to get buff and muscular for naturally skinny guys.

A skinny person can get buff and muscular by lifting weights and eating a bulking diet. Full-body weight training with heavy weights and progressive overload is recommended. Furthermore, a bulking diet should be high in calories and protein. This provides the energy required for muscle growth.

Why listen to my advice?

I underwent a personal skinny to muscle transformation myself.

And I know how frustrating it can be with so much advice from non-skinny people available on the web.

Below, I shared what worked for me!

How I achieved my transformation to go from a skinny guy to a buff and muscular.

Why Most Naturally Skinny Guys Can Get Buff And Muscular

It is possible for the average skinny person to get buff, muscular, and ripped. Although genetics play a role in one’s ability to build muscle, lifestyle choice is the biggest determinant of success. It is recommended to lift heavy weights and consume a nutritious diet to promote muscle gains.

As an average skinny Asian in the past, I never thought in a million years that I could transform my skinny physique.

But I did.

Furthermore, 92% of respondents in this Quora thread also agree that naturally skinny people can get bigger muscles.

Quora poll results to show if naturally skinny guys can get bigger muscles.

Of those that said yes, all responses had one theme in common:

“You need to eat a nutritious diet and lift heavy weights to build muscle as a skinny guy or girl”

Kalam Tang, Kalibre Fitness, B.S, M.S., Biomedical Sciences

The remaining 8% postulated genetics as a factor for success in skinny guy’s trying to gain muscle.

I don’t disagree with this.

Some disorders relating to the thyroid can indeed influence your resting metabolism and ability to put on lean mass.

But speaking from personal experience and research, a lot of skinny people misattribute their bad lifestyle choices with bad genetics.

And that’s why the majority of skinny boys and girls struggle to get buff and muscular.

Next, you’ll find out the best solutions to transform a skinny body.

10 Essentials For A Naturally Skinny Guy To Get Buff And Muscular

I analyzed another Quora thread that asked:

“How can a naturally skinny guy get buff?”

Here are the results:

Quora poll results to show how a naturally skinny guy can get buff.

The majority 88% of respondents gave answers relating to lifting heavy weights, applying progressive overload (increasing weight over time), and eating a high-calorie diet that’s rich in protein.

Now, this may be something you’re aware of already.

It is, after all, basic knowledge for skinny guys trying to gain weight.

Looking for some juicier advice?

I bet you are!

Here are 10 tips for naturally underweight people to go from skinny to ripped/jacked/buff/hench/big (or whatever you want to call it!):

1) Follow The 75:25 Rule For Compound:Isolation Lifts.
Beginner Mistakes: Compound vs. Isolation Exercises - Muscle & Strength

Find out why you should avoid this common beginner mistake when it comes to building muscle.

Compound lifts work multiple muscles in a single movement. Examples include the 5 big lifts:

  • Bench press.
  • Overhead shoulder press.
  • Barbell row.
  • Squat.
  • Deadlift.

These compound exercises should be the main focus for all skinny guys looking to get buff and muscular.

Compound exercises like the bench press, row, and squat are ideal for naturally skinny guys to gain muscle.

I use the PowerBlock Elites which I found to offer the best value of all the dumbbells I’ve tried!

You can also include isolation-type lifts in your workout program. Examples include:

  • Bicep curls.
  • Tricep extensions.
  • Leg curls.
  • Quad extensions.
  • Lateral raises.

These exercises are great for defining specific muscles.

But as a skinny guy/girl trying to get big, you should treat them as accessory lifts.

I recommend allocating 75% compound lifts and 25% isolation lifts in any workout plan.

2) Make Free Weights A Priority.

These include dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.

Whilst weight machines, bodyweight training, and resistance bands can be a great way for skinny beginners to start their journey to becoming buff and muscular because they are generally much safer, you should switch to the free weights ASAP.

That’s because free weights are:

  • More challenging.
  • Offer heavier loads.
  • Require more stabilizer muscle activity.
  • Allow for a greater range of movement.

These factors fast-track your results as a naturally skinny guy/girl trying to get as buff and muscular as fast as possible.

Any half-decent gym will have a complete selection of free weights.

Powerblock Elite adjustable dumbbells are good dumbbells for naturally skinny beginners.

If you’re training at home, then a good pair of adjustable dumbbells are ideal (they fit multiple weight settings in a single unit).

I use and recommend the Powerblock Elites (find out why here).

A weight bench allows skinny boys and girls to bench press at home to build an upper body.

It works well with the Flybird adjustable bench (link for my full review) for a simple yet effective home gym.

You might also be interested in my other post to see my own skinny to muscular transformation and my workout plan for skinny guys to get buff at home (with and without equipment).

3) Do Not Overexert Your Muscles.

Here’s a ninja piece of advice for any skinny person looking to get ripped and build bigger muscles.

Do not overtrain!

“Overtraining happens when you ask too much from your body for too long”

Noah Siegel, Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer.

It can be tempting for naturally skinny guys/girls to lift weights 7 days a week in their efforts to get buff and muscular.

But you should choose (and follow!) a suitable training split instead.

I suggest a simple 3-day full-body split for beginners.

And once your body has adapted to this, you can bump it up to 4-days.

Alternatively, go for a bodybuilder-style 6-day muscle group split to get jacked.

Regardless of which training split you adopt, always give each major muscle group at least 24 hours of full rest before training it again.

You can go to my link at the bottom of point 2) for a full workout program for skinny guys.

4) Optimise Your Sets And Reps For Maximum Muscle Gains.

Training volume refers to the total number of sets, reps, and weight you lift every week.

And trust me, this is a big reason why a lot of skinny people fail to get big and muscular.

They’re simply not doing enough work.

How do you optimize your sets and reps as a beginner?

Go over your workout plan.

Ideal sets, reps, and weight for naturally skinny beginners to get buff and muscular.

Make sure each major muscle group sees 10-15 total sets per week.

Each set should comprise 8-12 reps using a weight that ACTUALLY challenges you (the target muscle should feel fatigued by the last few sets of each rep).

This is one of the best things you can do as a naturally skinny guy struggling to build muscle.

You can also check out my other post which explains how to know you are building muscle.

5) Lift Weights That Are At Least 65% Of Your 1 Rep Max.

Lifting the correct weight is crucial for naturally skinny guys looking to get buff and muscular.

In fact, choosing the right weight can mean the difference between overtraining and undertraining.

For 8 reps, you should be lifting 80% of your 1 rep max (1RM) for that specific exercise.

For 12 reps, you should lift 65% of your 1 rep max.

A 1RM is simply the maximum weight you can lift for a single repetition for that exercise. You can use the Strength Levels database for 1RM estimates based on your personal details (pic below).

How to choose the right weight as a beginner.

Lifting 65-80% of your 1RM ensures you’re muscles are being challenged sufficiently for growth.

You should also apply progressive overload on a regular basis.

Do this by adding 5-10lbs to your lifts every 1-2 weeks.

This ensures your muscles are constantly presented with a new stimulus to adapt to.

6) Work In Different Rep Ranges To Break Plateaus.

Working in the 8-12 rep range with regular progressive overload is enough for skinny beginners to start building muscle.

But you’ll eventually hit a plateau where you cannot add any more weight.

From advanced to beginner lifters, this happens to all of us and not just skinny guys.

Powerblock elite variable weight settings are ideal for changing rep ranges to build muscle.

You should vary your rep range when this happens. Here’s an example of how you can do this:

  1. Spend one month lifting 6 reps at 85% of your 1RM. This gives your muscles increased mechanical tension.
  1. Now spend the next month lifting 15 reps at 50% of your 1RM. This gives your muscles increased time under tension.

Both types of stimuli are essential for making maximum muscle and strength gains.

As a result, a weight you struggled to lift 8 reps for last month, should now become more manageable!

The variable weight settings on a Powerblock are perfect for this (if you’re training at home).

7) Do Not Skip Leg Day.

Attention all skinny guys trying to get buff and muscular:


Squat, deadlift, and lunge are great dumbbell lower body exercises for skinny people to build leg muscle.

Here’s why:

  • Studies have shown that heavy leg days stimulate anabolic (muscle-building) hormone production (testosterone and growth hormone).
  • Leg strength doesn’t apply only to squat and deadlift performance. Performance in the other compound lifts are directly affected by how strong/weak your lower body is.
  • “Chicken legs” lead to an unablanced physique. This takes time to rebalance and it will leave you wishing you hadn’t skipped leg training.

As a skinny beginner, it’s tempting to focus only on your mirror muscles (chest, arms, and abs).

But trust me.

Speaking from experience, you’ll regret neglecting your legs 6 months into your training when the imbalances appear.

Not only does it look odd but it can also affect your athletic performance (if this applies to you).

8) Eat In A 5-10% Calorie Surplus.

Do a quick search on how to bulk up as a skinny guy and you’ll likely see the phrase “eat big to get big”.

I agree…to a certain extent.

Whilst a calorie surplus is essential for skinny guys/girls to get buff and muscular, you don’t want to overconsume by TOO much.

Too large a surplus leads to excessive fat gains.

Lean vs dirty bulking results for skinny guys.

I recommend going on a lean bulk (5-10% daily calorie surplus) rather than a dirty bulk (>20% calorie surplus).

This allows you to build lean muscle, keep your visible abs (if you have them already), and prevent a belly from forming.

The easiest way to determine your daily caloric target is to find your maintenance calories on TDEE calculator and then add 5-10%.

That’s how many calories you should be eating to build muscle as a skinny guy.

9) Consume 1g Of Protein Per Pound Of Body Weight Daily.

Regardless of whether you opt for the lean or dirty bulking route, it’s essential to eat the right ratio of macronutrients.

Here are the macronutrients and how much you should eat every day:

  • Protein- aim for 1g per pound of bodyweight.
  • Carbs- aim for 2.5g per pound of bodyweight.
  • Fats- aim for 0.4g per pound of bodyweight.

For example, a 140lb skinny guy should eat:

  • 140g of protein per day (minimum).
  • 350g of carbs per day.
  • 56g of fats per day.

You don’t need to be exact with the carbs and fats. Just aim to roughly reach these targets.

The most important thing is to reach your calorie and protein targets.

It can be hard to decide whether to cut or bulk first if you’re a skinny-fat person. For advice on how to decide, you can check out my other post which explains whether you should cut or bulk first.

10) Have A Long Term Goal In Mind And Be Patient.

Trust me when I tell you this:

“Ignore extravagant claims that you can gain 10lbs of pure muscle in a month.”

Kalam Tang, B.S, M.S, Biomedical Sciences.

Because it’s physiologically impossible.

I’ve even quit my job in the past to focus solely on optimizing and following the perfect bulking routine for a year.

And even then I still couldn’t do it. A lot of the weight gained came from fat.

So if you’re an average skinny person burning calories working a 9-5 job, then you can probably guess that your chances are pretty slim too.

Ultimately, it takes time for a skinny guy to get buff and muscular.

Knowing this can put you in the right mind frame and set you up for long-term success.

Choose a good training split, eat well, and remain disciplined, and you’ll reach your goals!

You can also check out my other post to find out how fast it takes to grow muscle.

What To Expect As A Skinny Guy Trying To Get Buff And Muscular

Generally speaking, it is not hard for a skinny guy to build muscle and get buff. Discipline is the most important factor for success. It can take up to 1-2 years or more of following an effective training split and eating well before a skinny person achieves a full transformation.

Many beginners don’t have an issue training.

After all, there are many online programs out there and working out is generally quite fun.

What most skinny guys struggle with is eating enough calories and protein.

My top tip is to use a spreadsheet or notepad to log your daily nutrient intake and slowly build up each week.

That way you can troubleshoot any issues as well as give your stomach the chance to expand.

This can reduce the uncomfortable bloated feeling associated with bulking.

For more tips on bulking, you may be interested in my 17-step guide to gaining your first 10lbs of muscle as a skinny guy.

Timeframe For A Skinny Guy To See Muscle Gains

The average skinny guy can take 1 to 4 months of undertaking a bulking program before they see the first signs of muscle gains. Increased muscle definition is often first seen in the arms, chest, and back. This is followed by visible changes in the shoulders, legs, and abs.

Here’s a rough timeline for how long it takes to see improvements in each body region:

Body RegionMusclesEstimated Time Required For Skinny Guys
To See Noticeable Definition
ArmsBiceps, triceps1 month
ChestUpper, mid, and lower pectorals2 months
BackTrapezius, lats, rhomboids2 months
ShouldersAnterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids3 months
LegsQuadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves3 months
AbsRectus abdominis, obliques4 months
  • Arms: your biceps and triceps should begin looking more “cut” within a month. Visible striations will appear where your arm muscles meet the arm bone. Improve your chances by focusing on compound lifts like pressing and rowing.
  • Chest: your pecs will feel pumped after your first few weeks of training. By month 2, they should look visibly more defined. Bench pressing is a skinny guys best friend when it comes to building a buff and muscular chest.
  • Back: similar time frame as the pecs (see above). Rows, pull-ups, and chin-ups are to the back, what the bench press is to the chest. These 3 exercises alone should broaden your back by around month 2.
  • Shoulders: the deltoids can take a little longer to develop. Keep working on them and you should see those shoulder boulders taking shape by around month 3.
  • Legs: these are some of the hardest muscles to build. Focus on heavy squats and deadlifts and you should see the first signs of quad/hamstring definition appear at the 3-month stage.
  • Abs: these can also be dififcult reveal. Not because they lack size. But because many skinny people also have a small belly which hides any abdominal definition. Lean bulk to imprive your chances of building muscle and shredding away that belly fat. Your abs should reveal definition by around 4 months.

Is It Harder Or Easier For Skinny Guys To Build Muscle?

Skinny people often find it easier to gain muscle and get buff, compared to trained individuals who usually find it harder. This is due to the “Newbie Gains” period of rapid muscular development in beginners. Newbie gains can last for up to 1 year.

I can tell you that, from personal experience, Newbie gains are a Godsend for skinny guys/girls looking to get buff and muscular.

I put on over almost 20lbs of pure muscle after my first year of training as a skinny guy.

So it’s not all doom and gloom for a skinny beginner.

Use your first year of training to pump hard and eat well.

If you can remain disciplined and consistent, there’s no reason why you can’t make some serious muscle gains.

For more information on building muscle as a beginner, you can check out my other post to find out how long it takes for a skinny guy to get buff.


I’ve given you a crash course guide for skinny guys to get buff and muscular.

Assuming you don’t have any medical conditions (it may be worth consulting a physician), then there’s no reason why you can’t gain muscle, get jacked, and build yourself a ripped physique.

You’ll have to choose a good training split, lift heavy weights with progressive overload, and eat enough calories and protein every day.

It’s not too hard.

But it does take discipline and consistency on your part!

Save my 10 muscle-building tips and refer back to them when needed. They work for both skinny males and females.

Are you a skinny guy trying to get buff and muscular? What do you struggle with the most?

Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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