how long it takes a skinny guy to bulk up

Here’s How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Bulk Up (Examples Included)

Are you a skinny guy trying to gain muscle? Want to know how long it will take to achieve your goals? If you answered yes to either question, then this is the post you’re looking for. Because today, I’ll be explaining how long it takes to bulk up as a skinny guy.

The average skinny guy needs to bulk for 6 months or more to see significant results. The first noticeable changes occur at around 2 months. Next, it takes up to 1 to 2 years to build a muscular physique and often more than 3 years to get a bodybuilder-type physique.

I’ve sampled data from a Reddit community, as well as given you my own personal accounts to give you the definitive answer you’re looking for.

So let’s jump right in!

It took me 1 and a half years of bulking and cutting to achieve this physique.

Looking To Bulk up Fast As A Skinny Guy?

If you’re interested, these protein powders helped me to gain weight alongside my training program!

How Long Does It Take A Skinny Guy To Bulk Up?

The question of “how long does it take for skinny guys to bulk up?” is a subjective one at best.

What even counts as the end-point for a bulk cycle?

So to give you a more objective idea, I found out how long it takes for the average guy to first notice bulking results and the average rate of weight gain.

I’ll also give you an account of my personal muscle gain transformation.

Together, this allowed me to form an estimated timeline for skinny guys trying to bulk up.

MonthExpected Weight Gain From A BulkVisual Changes From Bulking
1-33-9lbsIncreased muscle definition
3-69-18lbsWider frame and tighter-fitting clothes
6-918-27lbsSignificantly bulkier physique.
9-1227-36lbsHighly noticeable muscular physique.

Most Skinny Guys Notice Results At Month 2.

To determine the average time to notice first bulking results, I tracked down this Reddit poll:

Former skinny guys: How long did it take you to see first results?

I then compiled the results into the bar chart below:

pie chart to show long it takes to bulk up as a skinny guy

As you can see, it take an average 1-3 months for a skinny guy to first notice the results from a bulk.

The most common time-frame to notice first results is 2 months.

But it’s not uncommon to notice at 1 or 3 months either.

Interestingly, it took some outliers over 5 months before they first noticed the effects from a bulk.

This could be due to two reasons:

  1. Unobservant- people who don’t take regular progress pics may not see their bulking progress.
  2. Ineffective programme- following a bad programme will delay bulking results.

But if you are an average skinny guy following a good program, it should take you around 2 months to notice results from a bulk.

Average Skinny Guy Gains 3 Pounds Per Month.

I also used the same Reddit poll to sample the average rate of weight gain for a skinny guy at 1-6 months of a bulk.

Here’s average rate of weight gain for a skinny guy:

line graph to show average rate of weight gain on a bulk

The red trend line shows that skinny guys gain an average of 3 pounds per month in the first 6 months of a bulk.

If you belong to the upper percentile, then you can expect to gain around 6 pounds per month (it’s even possible to gain up to 10lbs or more per month if you don’t mind putting on some fat as well).

In comparison, those in the lower percentile can expect to gain around 1.5 pounds per month.

If you’re a skinny guy, the exact rate at which you bulk will depend on:

  • Training- an effective training program for skinny guys will focus on progressive overload in the compound exercises.
  • Diet- an effective bulking diet requires you to eat surplus calories and a high protein intake.

Read till the end to find out how to bulk up fast as a skinny guy.

But for now, let’s dive deeper into how fast you can expect to gain results.

Tired of being underweight? You can check out my other article for 11 tips to stop being skinny!

I Gained 40 Pounds In 12 Months.

Here’s an account of my personal muscle gain transformation.

I’m a self-proclaimed “hardgainer“. So my story will give you an idea for how long it will take you to bulk as a skinny guy.

timeline for my muscle gain transformation to give an indication for how long it takes a skinny guy to bulk up

I gained 40 pounds in the first 12 months of undertaking a strict weight training and nutrition plan.

That’s the equivalent of gaining just over 3 pounds per month.

skinny guy starting a bulk

In the first 2 months, I didn’t notice much change at all, despite checking the mirror on a daily basis!

I could feel my muscles feeling noticeably more “pumped” after every workout. You can find my skinny to muscular home workout plan here.

But I had a feeling the small changes which I saw were essentially a placebo effect. In other words, I saw a positive effect based on my belief that things were happening.

bulk taking place

It was only between months 2-3 that I (and others) really noticed significant changes.

My back was flaring outwards from doing pull-ups, my upper body was also getting wider from pressing exercises, and my arms were starting to get bigger.

This is the point where i first noticed a V-shape taking form.

fully bulked at the end of my muscle gain transformation

From months 3 to 12 I kept getting bigger and stronger at a consistent rate.

I was pushing increasingly heavier weights, and noticed positive changes every month!

By the end of the year, I’d built a body I was proud of when clothed.

My next challenge was to cut some of the excess fat that I’d accumulated in the bulking process!

Predicted One Year Bulk Up Timeline For Skinny Guys.

By combining my personal account and those from the Reddit community, here’s an expected 1 year timeline of results for a skinny guy to bulk up:

how long does it take to bulk up as a skinny guy? An expected timeline of results

1) Launch Phase.

The launch phase happens in the first 5 months where you see gains come slowly.

Things may seem rocky at first. You’re still learning lifting form and adjusting your diet.

But hang in there.

By month 2-3, you would’ve gained around 6-9 pounds (around 4-6 pounds of muscle). This is the point where you first notice the positive effects of your training program.

2) Traction Phase:

The traction phase place in months 5-10, where the most impressive changes take place.

You’ll be bathing in the full glory of the “newbie gains” period, feeling bigger and stronger every week.

By now, others will be commenting on your muscle gains, and you can see big changes in the mirror.

You can also expect to be proud of your before and after pics.

3) High & Flying Phase:

The high and flying phase occurs in months 10-12 and beyond.

By this point, you can still expect to make fast gains.

However as the months go by, the newbie gains effect will start wearing off, and you’ll begin to build muscle at a slower pace.

That’s fine though because you’ve gained an impressive amount of muscle already.

By now, you’ll probably need to buy new shirts unless you enjoy the ultra-tight-fit look!

Be consistent in your training and nutrition, and you’ll keep building muscle.

How Long Does It Take To Build Noticeable Muscle?

A common question for skinny beginners is- how long does it take to build noticeable muscle mass?

The average person requires 1 to 3 months to build noticeable muscle. The visibility of muscle growth will depend on body fat percentage. Those with lower body fat levels will reveal muscle more noticeably than those with higher body fat levels.

Here are the details you need to know about building noticeable muscle.

Skinny Guys Can Gain 2 Pounds Of Lean Muscle In A Month.

Gaining weight is one thing. But how much muscle can a skinny guy gain per month?

In general, a person can gain 2 pounds of muscle per month. This is influenced by the adherence to a heavy resistance training program, a caloric surplus diet plan, and a protein intake of 1 to 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight per day.

How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle Mass

If you follow these guidelines, you can expect to gain around 9 pounds of body weight by the end of your third month.

6 pounds of this will be muscle and the remainder will be as stored fat.

To limit the amount of stored fat, I’d recommend you to do a lean bulk (5-15% surplus calories) rather than a dirty bulk (20%+ calories).

lean bulk vs dirty bulk

The merits of choosing to lean bulk are highlighted in this 2013 study.

Here, it was demonstrated that lean bulking puts on a similar amount of muscle mass compared to dirty bulking.

But the best thing?

Fat gains are kept to a minimum!

Most Skinny Guys See Noticeable Muscle 2 Months Into A Bulk.

The most noticeable muscle gains will come at around 2 to 3 months.

By this point, you should have gained around 9 pounds of body weight (6 pounds of which being muscle).

At this stage, your gains are mostly noticed by you.

But the more observant of your friends will also notice.

When clothed, your upper arms and forearms will look more defined, and your upper body may be marginally wider.

But that’s about it.

When unclothed, you may notice your chest and shoulder look slightly more “pumped” (assuming you’re training those muscles).

This is mainly due to increased blood flow to that area in response to weight training, but also slightly due to a placebo effect.

How Long Does It Take To Go From Skinny To Muscular?

Another common question by a skinny guy looking to bulk up is- how long does it take to go from skinny to muscular?

The average person requires 1 to 3 years to achieve a muscular physique. Success will be determined by disciplined adherence to a weight training and diet plan. A more disciplined approach will produce faster muscle gain results compared to an undisciplined approach.

Here’s what you need to know about building a muscular physique as a skinny guy.

Definition Of Muscular.

Let’s first make one thing clear- “muscular” is highly subjective.

What on person considers muscular, another person may consider “athletic”.

For the purpose of this article, let’s define muscular as the classic X-shape.

the muscular spectrum showing how long it takes a skinny guy to bulk up

Brad Pitt in Troy is an example of the lower end of the muscular spectrum.

In comparison Hugh Jackman in Wolverine is an example of the higher end of the spectrum.

Both of these muscular physiques have:

  • Visible pec lines.
  • Cut biceps and triceps.
  • Thick and wide back.
  • Wide shoulders.
  • Developed legs.

This is the type pf physique many skinny guys aspire to build from a bulk!

If you’re interested in using dumbbells to build muscle at home, you can check out my other post to learn about the ideal dumbbell weight for building muscle.

It Takes The Average Skinny Guy 1.5 To 3 Years To Become Muscular.

To build a muscular physique, the average skinny guy needs to gain around 30-40 pounds of lean muscle (not fat!).

This is enough for a muscle gain transformation.

Slow and steady wins the race!

For most people, this requires 1 to 3 years of consistent and disciplined training and nutrition.

Additionally, you may also need to go on one or more bulk/cut cycles.

But when you reach your goal, you’ll fill out a T-shirt very nicely and upgrade a t-shirt size (or two!).

Furthermore, you’ll also have a body you can be proud of at the beach!

Read my other article to find out the ideal bulking duration!

How Long Does It Take To Go From Skinny To Toned?

Another common goal is to get toned.

So how long does it take for a skinny guy to get toned?

In general, it will take a few weeks of training for a skinny person to become toned. This is because skinny people have a low body fat percentage. As a result, even a short period of consistent weight training will increase muscle definition.

Here’s what you should know about getting toned as a skinny guy.

Note: if you’re looking to get toned at home, you can check out my other article to find out what dumbbell weight you need to get toned arms!

Definition Of Toned.

Toned is a subjective phrase used by many people. So let’s define what toned actually means.

BCS Fitness describes tone as the tension in a muscle at rest.

“Toned muscle is slightly contracted, even when at rest.”

BCS Fitness.

As a result of toning, your muscles look well-defined even when they are not that big yet!

Toning a muscle requires lifting weights to increase muscle definition, and a low body fat % to reveal that definition (if you’re skinny fat, you can learn how to lose some weight with nothing but dumbbells here).

Dr Gene James- Muscle toning vs Muscle building

The next step up from toned would be “ripped“.

The difference between toned and ripped is the size of the your muscles.

When you’re ripped, you are muscular as well as lean.

And this gives that bodybuilder-looking physique!

Skinny Guys Can Become Toned In The First Month Of A Bulk.

The good news for skinny guys is that it’s not difficult to become toned.

As long as you lift heavy weights and eat near-maintenance calories with a high protein-intake, your naturally low body fat levels will reveal your gains very nicely.

Within the first month you will see more defined lumps and bumps as result of toned muscles.

At this stage, you won’t yet be considered “big”, but heck it’ll be a nice confidence boost!

Check out my dumbbell workout to get ripped!

How Long Does It Take To Go From Skinny Fat To Muscular?

Some guys may be skinny fat rather than skinny. So how long does it take to go from skinny fat to muscular?

A skinny fat person will take 1 to 3 years of training to get muscular. This requires consistent weight training combined with a nutrition plan. Additionally, a skinny fat person may need to go on multiple bulk and cut cycles to build a muscular and defined physique.

Here’s what you need to know about bulking as a guy who is skinny fat.

Definition Of Skinny Fat.

First let’s define skinny fat.

Being skinny fat means you have a high amount of body fat (more than 20%).

But due to a lack of muscle mass, you still look skinny.

As a result, you may have skinny-looking limbs but also a pronounced belly and love handles.

Skinny & Skinny Fat People Take The Same Amount Of Time To Bulk Up.

First the good news- If you’re skinny fat, you’ll take just as long to bulk up as someone who’s skinny.

Now the bad news- getting ripped is a complete different ball game for someone who’s skinny fat.

Depending on how high your body fat % is, you may need to cut before bulking.

Alternatively, you may choose to bulk first, and then cut after you have gained muscle.

Either way, it will probably take you longer to build a ripped and muscular physique, compared to someone who is just plain skinny.

Check out my other article to find out if you should bulk or cut first.

Can You Be Strong But Not Muscular?

Now let’s explore a common problem for a skinny guy when looking to bulk up- disproportionate strength and size gains.

By this, I mean getting stronger but not bigger.

Many people see strength increasing rapidly, yet muscle size remains the same.

Here’s why it happens and what you can do to speed up the bulking journey.

Relationship Between Muscle Strength And Size.

A skinny guy in the early stages of a bulk will often find that strength and hypertrophy (growth) does not follow the same trajectory.

strength vs hypertrophy graph showing  you can be strong but not muscular

This is normal.

You’ll find that you may be regularly increasing poundage on all your lifts, yet your muscles aren’t getting bigger.

It’s only around week 5 that your muscles start growing.

At this stage, you’ll enter the start of your newbie gains period of rapid growth.

So be patient!

Neurological Strength Vs Morphological Size

This 2017 study explains the reason for disproportionate strength and size development.

Here, the authors note that there are 2 mechanisms for muscle development:

  1. Neurological- describes increased motor neurone recruitment during the inital weeks of weight training, to produce strength gains.
  2. Morphological- describes the increased muscle fibre recruitment seen in the months following the start of weight training, to produce strength and size gains.

Think of this as a flower.

The stalk and leaves grow first to provide a strong foundation, but it’s only later that the flowers bloom.

Again, be patient!

How Can A Skinny Guy Bulk Up Fast?

To wrap things up, heres how you can bulk up fast as a skinny guy.

More details can be found in my other post which teaches you how to gain your first 10lbs of lean muscle.

Skinny Guys Can Gain Weight With Effective Training And Diet.

To gain weight as a skinny guy, you need to perform heavy resistance training and combine this with a caloric surplus.

Training will recruit motor units in the muscle to improve strength. And as for strength increases, this drives hypertrophy through repeated cycles of muscle fiber damage and repair.

Ultimately, this increases muscle fiber size and number, leading to bigger muscles.

Nutrition-wise, one of the most important aspects of a bulking diet is a caloric surplus. But equally important is high protein intake.

Your surplus calories will fuel the hypertrophy process and protein provides the raw ingredients to build muscle.

Simply put- lift heavy and eat big!

Training Tips To Bulk Up Fast As A Skinny Guy.

Here are fundamental training tips to bulk up fast as a skinny guy:

  • Compound lifts- should be the focus of your training program. Think bench press, overhead press, row, deadlift, and squatting! Isolation exercises like bicep curls can also be included. Just use them as an accessory to the bigger lifts
  • Lift 70 to 90% of 1 rep max- these are considered heavy weights and will drive strength and hypertrophy gains.
  • 8 to 12 Reps per set- this is the recommended rep range for hypertrophy training. You can also go lower reps with heavier weights occasionally to break strength plateaus.
  • 1 to 2 minutes rest between sets- keep your muscles challenged by minimising rest times.
  • 10 to 15 sets per muscle group per week- ensures each muscle gets the required stimulus for maximal growth.
  • Hit each muscle group with at least 2 sessions per week- spread your sets across a minimum of 2 training sessions per muscle per week.

If you’re interested, you can check out my other post for 14 of the best dumbbell bodybuilding exercises.

Diet Tips To Bulk Up Fast As A Skinny Guy.

Here are essential diet tips to bulk up fast as a skinny guy:

  • Eat surplus calories- a lean bulk will have the average skinny guy eating between 2500-3000 calories every day.
  • 1.0 to 1.2g of protein per pound body weight – fresh meat and fish, nuts and beans, soy, and protein powder are your best friends!
  • 2.5g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight- complex carbs are the best. In with the rice, brown bread, pasta, and potatoes. Out with the sweets and confectionary!
  • 0.4g of healthy fats per pound of body weight- oily fish, nuts, avocados, and fresh meat all contain the vital fats used for hormone production.
  • 6 portions of fresh fruit and veg per day- these are packed with fibre to help nutrient absorption and also serve as vitamin and mineral powerhouses. No multi-vit tablets required!
  • 5 or more meals per day- spread your meals keep the body fuelled throughout the day.
  • Strategic meal timing- have a pre and post-workout meals for the best workouts!

Protein powders and mass gainers can help you supplement your daily protein and calorie intake.

Protein powder van help you bulk up faster.

If all you need is a protein supplement, then the MyProtein Impact Whey (you can see the full specs here) is a clean whey powder. Each scoop contains 21g of protein and 100 calories. This makes it the perfect supplement for average or skinny fat guys looking to make lean gains.

If you need a complete shake that packs calories as well as protein, then the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass Weight Gainer is ideal. Each scoop contains 50g of protein and 1250 calories. This is perfect for skinny guys looking to pack on mass quickly.


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Eating enough protein is hard- check out my other article for the tips to eat enough protein as a skinny guy.

Recommended Protein Powders Recap


Today I’ve explained how long it takes to bulk up as a skinny guy.

It takes the average skinny guy around 2 months before noticing the first positive changes.

After month 5, you’ll be well into your newbie gains period and would have gained around 15 pounds. By this point you will really be noticing your gains.

Additionally, your gains will continue at a rate of around 2 pounds of muscle per month.

By the end of the year, you can expect to have gained around 36 pounds of total body weight and 24 pounds of muscle.

To get really muscular, the average skinny guy will require 30-40 pounds of pure lean muscle. And this will require you to bulk for 1 to 3 years.

Refer to my predicted bulking timeline to make sure you are on track!

How long have you been bulking for? Are you seeing similar results?

Let me know in the comments below!

Alternatively, download the FREE Kalibre Muscle Blueprint to find out EXACTLY how I transformed my skinny body as a hardgainer!

how I built 40lbs of lean muscle as a hardgainer

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


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

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