How Skinny Guys Build Muscle At Home (an essential guide)

How skinny guys build muscle at home.

Being a hardgainer, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to gain muscle and bulk up. And things are further complicated if you do not have a gym membership right? Wrong! This guide explains how skinny guys can build muscle at home.

Skinny people get bigger at home through resistance training and going on a bulk. Free weight, band, and bodyweight exercises are all effective for building muscle if they are performed at a high intensity. This should be combined with a bulking diet high in protein and calories.

I’ve learned a lot through my own personal transformation. Below, I’ll show you how to put on muscle mass at home just as effectively as you can at the gym.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lift at least 70% of maximum intensity (regardless of your preferred workout method).
  • Apply progressive overload by increasing exercise difficulty over time.
  • Prioritize compound exercises like pressing, rowing, and squatting movements.
  • Effective training methods include free weights, bands, and bodyweight calisthenics.
  • Consume a 5-10% calorie surplus to build muscle fast (daily).
  • Eat at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight (daily).
  • 3 workouts per week are enough to get bigger and stronger.
My skinny to muscular transformation using home workouts.
Applying these principles helped me to transform my skinny body at home!

Home Workout For Skinny Guys To Gain Muscle

The great thing about being skinny is that, whether you’re training with or without weights, most forms of intense physical exertion can promote hypertrophy.

A 30-minute full-body home workout plan for skinny guys to put on muscle and get buff:

ExerciseSetsRepsWeightTarget Muscle
Squat31270% of 1RMQuads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abs
Bench press (or push-up)4880% of 1RMPecs, delts, triceps
Bent-over row (or pull-up)41075% of 1RMLats, traps, rhomboids, biceps, abs
Standing shoulder press4880% of 1RMDelts, triceps, abs
Deadlift31270% of 1RMAll muscles

These 5 basic compound exercises work multiple muscles in a single movement. And combined, they’ll work all of the muscles in your body. This makes them some of the best exercises for skinny people to rapidly put on muscle mass.

Depending on your preferred training method, the exercises can be done using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and body weight (see next).

Choosing Your Prefered Method To Train At Home

Skinny guys can build muscle at home using bodyweight, dumbbells, barbells, and resistance bands.
Skinny guys can gain muscle at home with free weights, bands, or bodyweight exercises.

Different types of equipment can be used by skinny guys to build muscle at home. The most popular include:

These are all effective for skinny people to get bigger and stronger.

The most important thing is to always lift heavy and progressive overload by increasing weight when you are ready to do so.

You can follow each link for the respective workout plan. Each routine is based on the 5 basic exercises given above. You’ll go to an in-depth workout guide on how to perform the exercises, how much weight to lift, and other essential tips.

Home workouts are just half the battle though. You also need to undertake a bulking diet to build muscle (see next).

How Skinny Guys Should Eat To Bulk Up

Skinny people need to go on a “bulk” to build muscle. This is done by:

  1. Eating more than your maintenance calories (caloric surplus).
  2. Consuming enough protein.

Surplus calories and protein are essential for fueling the muscle growth process. And failing to eat enough food is one of the biggest reasons why skinny people fail to gain weight.

Here’s how to do it.

1) Establish A Caloric Surplus

  • Find your maintenance calories (also called total daily energy expenditure) using a TDEE calculator.
  • Add 5-10% for a moderate calorie surplus.

For example- if your daily maintenance calories are 2200, then an extra 5-10% means you should be eating around 2300-2400 calories per day (2200 x 1.05 or 1.10).

This type of moderate calorie surplus is known as a lean bulk. It’s ideal for skinny guys looking to put on muscle with minimal fat gains.

If you’re very skinny, you could consider dirty bulking (>15% calorie surplus) instead for faster muscle gains. Just be aware of the main drawback- dirty bulks increase the rate of fat gain.

A popular strategy for skinny guys is to go on a bulk first and then cut after.

2) Determine Protein Intake

The recommended protein intake for muscle growth is generally around 1g per lb of body weight.

For example- if you weigh 140lbs then aim to eat 140 grams of protein per day.

9 Tips For Skinny Guys To Build Bigger Muscles Fast

Taking everything into consideration, here are essential tips that helped me (and will help you) to build muscle at home as a skinny guy:

1) Increase High-Protein Food Intake

You should ideally keep a log of protein intake. This can be easily done by looking at food packaging and keeping notes on a spreadsheet or notepad. However, this is time-consuming.

If you prefer the easier route, then simply make a conscious daily effort to increase your intake of foods that have a high protein content.

A list of high-protein foods for skinny guys to eat:

FoodTypical Protein Content (per 100g)
Lean red meat25-30g
Fresh fish20g
Whey protein shakes20g (per serving)
Legumes, nuts, and seeds15-20g
Soy produce8g
Vegan meat substitutes25g
Wholegrain pasta and bread12g

2) Keep A Calorie Log

How to log and track calories using a spreadsheet.
Example of my calorie log using a spreadsheet

Speaking from personal experience- eating insufficient calories is a common pitfall for skinny beginners struggling to build muscle (together with not getting enough protein).

Solution: count and track the calories you eat in every meal to ensure you reach daily targets.

This can be time-consuming at first. But after you’ve been calorie counting for a while, you get a rough idea as to how many calories a certain meal contains.

If you prefer the easier option, you can simply make an active effort to eat more calorie-dense foods like:

  • Confectionary.
  • Sugary fruits.
  • Honey.
  • Olive oil.

These foods are high in calories and low in volume, making them easy to consume without giving you a bloated feeling. You can even blend calorie-dense ingredients to make a homemade mass gainer shake.

3) Bump Up Meal Frequency

It can be difficult for skinny people to suddenly increase their calorie and protein intake.

I recommend spreading your total calorie target over multiple meals. For example, if you normally eat 2 meals a day, then up it to 3. And then to 4. Do this slowly on a weekly basis until you’re consuming around 4-6 meals a day.

This isn’t essential to build muscle. But spreading your total calories throughout the day can ease the uncomfortable bloated feeling that beginners often experience when they go on a bulk.

Breakfast, pre-workout, and post-workout meals are some of the most important meal times. That’s when your body needs the most energy for muscle growth!

4) Make Nutritious Meal Preps In Advance

Example of a high-protein homemade meal prep for skinny people to bulk up.
This delicious homemade meal prep contains 30+ grams of protein.

Meal prepping describes the practice of bulk cooking a large amount of food and then batching them into containers to be eaten later (you can even stick them in the freezer).

Meal preps are a blessing for skinny guys. When done right; they are delicious, convenient to take to the office, and help you to accurately track your calorie/protein intake.

You don’t have to waste money buying from online meal prep shops. Simply cook your own.

If you’re interested, you can go to my other post for a home meal prep to get 140g of protein in a day.

5) Prioritize Compound Lifts

The skinny guy home workout at the start of this post focuses on the 5 big compound lifts. In my experience, these are the best weight lifting exercises to build overall muscle mass.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t also perform isolation-type movements like dumbbell curls to gain bicep definition or weighted crunches to define your abs.

But I recommend sticking mainly to the compound lifts for the fastest gains. Follow the 1:4 rule (spend 25% of your time doing isolation exercises vs 75% compound) should you wish to include these exercises.

6) Train At A 70% Intensity (Minimum)

The old adage goes: “lift big to get big”. So how heavy should skinny people be lifting?

A minimum of 70% of max intensity is generally recommended to build muscle. What does this mean?

If you’re lifting weights at home, then use a weight that is at least 70% of your 1-rep max (1RM) for each exercise. This is considered to be a heavy weight. If you’re doing home bodyweight workouts, then complete at least 70% of the max number of reps you can do for each exercise.

The important thing is to ensure you’re exercising at an intensity that fatigues the target muscle.

7) Implement Progressive Overload Correctly

How to progressive overload by reducing tempo.
Reducing rep tempo is an effective way to overload when your weight has been maxed out.

The most common issue skinny guys have with progressive overloading at home is that they eventually max out their weights, given enough time.

For example, there’s only so much weight an adjustable dumbbell or kettlebell set can offer. Likewise, bodyweight training is usually limited to the weight of your own body.

Alternative methods for skinny guys to overload at home without having to increase weight:

  • Increase reps- add 1 extra rep at a time.
  • Add extra sets- add 1 extra set at a time. Avoid exceeding 6 sets per muscle per workout.
  • Reduce rest time- If you usually take a 2-minute rest between sets, try 1 minute instead.
  • Reduce lifting tempo- An average rep takes around 2 seconds to complete. Actively prolong this to 6 seconds for a more challenging workout.
  • Utilize pause-reps- Pause for 1-2 seconds at the halfway point in each rep. This takes away any momentum that would otherwise help you during the rep, making the exercise harder.

8) Do Not Overtrain

There’s only so much training your body can handle (especially as an untrained skinny guy). After this volume threshold is reached, there’s a decline in benefits returned. That’s why you should avoid working out every day.

As a skinny beginner- aim for 3 intense workouts per week to start.

And avoid the mistake I made- thinking that more time spent training equals more gains. This is not true. It’s also a waste of time, mentally draining, and extremely fatiguing.

9) Control Lifting Tempo

As a skinny guy working out at home, you need ways to make the most out of the limited weight you have available.

One of the best ways to do this is to focus on the eccentric (downward) phase of each rep. In a bench press example, the eccentric is when you lower the dumbbells toward the chest.

Multiple studies have indicated that eccentric contractions play a key role in stimulating muscle growth.

Basics On How Skinny Guys Build Muscle

How skinny guys gain muscle.

The 3 key requirements for building bigger muscles:

  • Intense resistance training. Lift heavy if you’re weight training. Choose a suitable band thickness if you’re using bands. Find ways to increase exercise difficulty if you’re doing bodyweight workouts. The important point is that the exercises need to ACTUALLY fatigue the target muscle.
  • Progressive overload. Training at the same intensity day in and out is simply not enough. You need to find ways to make the exercises harder as your muscles get stronger over time. This is called overloading and it could mean lifting heavier weights, using a thicker resistance band, or doing more reps.
  • Bulking diet. This is what most skinny guys struggle with. You NEED to be eating more calories and protein than your body needs to maintain your current weight (i.e. “going on a bulk”) Otherwise, your body does not have the energy required for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Applying these 3 principles will help you to get bigger and stronger at home. If you’re interested, you can check out my other post to see how long it takes a skinny guy to gain muscle.

Can A Skinny Guy Really Build Muscle At Home?

Everyone- even skinny men and women- can generally build muscle at home. The most common reasons why people fail are; lifting insufficient weight, not applying progressive overload, and not adhering to a proper bulking diet.

My skinny to muscular transformation in 6 months of home training.
I gained 10lbs within 6 months of training at home.

When I was a skinny beginner, I was able to gain my first 10lbs of muscle using home workouts (dumbbells and body weight).

Reddit poll results show 94% of people agree that home workouts can can build muscle.

Additionally, I polled this Reddit thread, and 94% of responses agreed that it’s possible to build muscle at home without having to go to the gym.

Tired of being skinny? You can check out my guide on building 10 pounds of muscle quickly!


Skinny guys can build muscle at home using free weights, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises.

But it’s crucial to train at a high intensity, apply progressive overload, and follow a suitable bulking nutrition plan.

A bulk typically requires you to eat 5-10% surplus calories (sometimes more) and at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight per day.

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 printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!


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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