Are you a skinny guy looking to bulk up, but not yet ready to commit to an overpriced gym membership? Then this is the post for you. Because today I will be explaining how to gain muscle at home for skinny guys.
Gaining muscle at home requires a 3 to 4 day training week. Each workout requires bodyweight exercises which engage the shoulder, chest, arm, core, back, and leg muscles. Furthermore, aim to consume a 5-10% caloric surplus and 2.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day.
Many skinny guys want to get bigger. But not all are ready for their first steps into a commercial gym.
If you are like me (2 years ago), this could be due to a combination of gym intimidation, cost objections, and travel objections.
But through a combination of research and (a lot) of creativity, I managed to gain my first 5 pounds of muscle at home.
And today I will be sharing with you how I did it!
So let’s dive right in!
Happy at gaining my first 5lbs of muscle from a home workout plan!
- It’s Totally Possible Gain Muscle At Home!
- 1. Do Home Compound Bodyweight Exercises.
- 2. Train 3-4 Days Per Week.
- 3. Work 6 Muscle Groups Per Session.
- 4. 4 Sets Per Muscle Group.
- 5. Take Sets To Failure.
- 6. 2 Minute Rest Between Sets.
- 7. Overload Your Muscles.
- 8. Eat A 5-10% Caloric Surplus.
- 9. 2.4g Of Protein Per Kg Bodyweight Per Day (Minimum).
- 10. Track Your Progress (Correctly!).
- Kalibre Muscle Gains Home Workout For Skinny Dudes
It’s Totally Possible Gain Muscle At Home!
Ok so the first thing you need to know is this:
It’s completely possible to gain muscle at home!
In fact, a home workout is better than no workout (that’s if you want to gain muscle).
Take a look at this 2019 study.
The scientists split 20 hospital patients into 2 groups:
- Group 1 was assigned a body weight resistance training programme.
- Group 2 was assigned a resistance band training programme.
Both groups exercised 3 days per week for a total of 5 weeks.
And guess what they found?
Both groups saw increased muscle thickness AND strength in their biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles.
More specifically, group 1 saw muscle thickness increase by up to 38% and functional strength increase by up 42%!
How’s about that to motivate you to start working out at home!
So how exactly can skinny guys workout at home to gain muscle?
1. Do Home Compound Bodyweight Exercises.
The first thing you need to do is create a bodyweight exercise programme (don’t worry I made one for you already).
A simple pen and paper plan is good. And for the fancy techies, an excel sheet is even better!
Furthermore, your bodyweight exercises should be compound movements (as these are most effective for gaining muscle).(1)
Compound movements are simply exercises which utilise multiple muscles, around multiple joints.
The compound lifts are the bread and butter of training for muscle gains. What’s more, you don’t necessarily need a a barbell or dumbbell to perform compound lifts.
Take the push up as an example- this exercise uses the arms and chest muscles to drive the body upwards (around the shoulder and elbow joints). And this movement effectively replicates the barbell bench press!
Check out my other article for an introduction to the multi-joint exercises!
If you are the lazy-type who wants a pre-made training plan, then I got you covered.
Read until the end for my example home workout plan! It includes a list of compound bodyweight exercises for you to try.
All you have to do is follow the workout plan and track your weekly progress!
2. Train 3-4 Days Per Week.
Next, gaining muscle at home will require you to workout 3 to 4 days per week.
This is the recommended number of training days to maximise muscle growth (also called muscular hypertrophy).(2)
So why 3 to 4 training days?
First of all- your muscles require a physical stimulus (i.e. resistance training) in order to grow. If you train for less than 3 days per week, chances are you won’t provide an adequate stimulus.
Secondly- your muscles also require rest in order to grow (more on that later). If you train for more than 4 days per week, chances are you will limit the required resting duration. And this will hinder your muscle’s growth potential!
Furthermore- as a skinny guy- your muscles are likely to be unadapted to training. And this makes it even more important to allow them the rest they require!
To put it simply, there is a fine line between over-training and under-training. And that line so happens to lie between 3 days and 4 days!
Check out my other article to learn more about training day splits!
3. Work 6 Muscle Groups Per Session.
Each training session should be a full-body workout, hitting 6 muscle groups.
The six muscle groups you should be targeting are the:
As a skinny guy, it may be tempting to focus all your efforts on the upper body (who doesn’t want that coveted V-shape?!)
But did you know that taking a full-body approach will actually provide the greatest stimulus for overall muscle development?
In other words, training your entire body is more beneficial to upper body growth than simply focusing on the upper body alone.
Take this 2018 study for example.
These scientists found that training the legs can actually facilitate with increasing upper body muscle strength.
This phenomenon has been associated with a larger hormonal response produced by engaging the leg muscles (which are larger than the upper body muscles).(3)
Furthermore, increased strength correlates with increased muscle mass and definition!
Therefore each training session should aim to hit all 6 muscle groups (i.e. your entire body).
To do this, I would recommend doing a single exercise for each muscle group per day (have a look at my training plan below!).
4. 4 Sets Per Muscle Group.
Each exercise should also comprise of 4 total sets per session.
A set is simply a group of repetitions you perform without taking a rest.
For example- doing 8 push ups in a row would be 1 set of push ups.
You would then take a rest, before completing another set (for a total of 4 sets before moving onto the next exercise).
So why perform 4 sets per muscle group?
Well, the whole idea behind resistance training is to provide a physical stimulus to your muscle. And this stimulus triggers a hypertrophy (growth) response in the muscle.(4)
So by extension, the more sets you do, the more the muscle will grow right?
Yes, but only to a certain point.
At around 5 sets, your muscles actually stop being responsive to further training stimulus.(5)
In other words, after you hit a muscle group for 5 sets per workout, there is a significantly diminished rate of returns. And these are called “wasted sets”.
So perform each of your chosen 6 exercises with 4 sets per exercise. And this will equate to 24 total sets per training session.
This should give you an hour workout duration per day!
5. Take Sets To Failure.
Do an online search, and you will quickly find recommendations that an 8-12 rep range is optimal for muscular hypertrophy.
In other words, complete 8-12 reps per set to get bigger muscles.
However, this rule applies to heavy free-weight training and not necessarily to bodyweight training.
That’s because bodyweight exercises tend to be a form of low-intensity resistance training.
In other words, your muscles aren’t working as hard as they would be during a heavy free weight session(which is considered to be a form of high intensity resistance training).
To compensate for the lower training intensity of body weight exercises, you will instead need to perform more reps (in order to promote the same level of muscle stimulation as heavy free weight lifting).
Additionally, research suggests that maximum muscle growth for body weight training occurs when you take your muscles to failure (the point where you are physically unable to do another rep).(6)
Taken together, I would recommend you take most of your sets to near-failure. In other words, complete enough reps to leave you fatigued by the last rep (but still have enough energy to squeeze out another few reps).
Then- on your last set- work to complete failure (i.e. when you can’t do anymore reps).
And this applies to each exercise you perform.
6. 2 Minute Rest Between Sets.
After completing each set, you need to rest for between 1 to 2 minutes before starting the next set.
Resting between sets is just as important as resting between training sessions (as explained above), if you want maximal muscle gains.
Research suggests the optimal inter-set rest period for hypertrophy is between 30 seconds to 1 minute.(7)
However- as a skinny beginner- I would highly recommend increasing this to 1 to 2 minutes. This is because your muscles have are not yet made the adaptations necessary to push them with restricted rest periods.
Instead, you should give them the chance to recover before hitting them with another set. And this will allow you to push harder on the next set, leading to bigger muscle gains.
In fact, it can be even more beneficial to rest as long as is required (as a newbie).(8)
To put it simply- aim for a 1 to 2 minute rest. And if you feel like this isn’t enough, by all means go longer.
Just don’t use this as an excuse to scroll on instagram (always push yourself within your own boundaries!)
7. Overload Your Muscles.
As you progress in your training, you will naturally be able to complete your weekly reps and sets with increasing ease. This is means your muscles are getting bigger.
And it also means you should begin overloading your muscles!
Overloading is a principle which involves making your exercises harder to complete. By doing so, your muscles will grow as a result of adapting to the new intensity.(9)
Overloading is relatively headache-free with free weights. Simply add more weight!
But it isn’t as straightforward with home bodyweight exercises (you can’t add more body weight on command!).
But where there’s a will, there’s a way!
I would recommend overloading on body weight exercises by:
- Increasing rep number.
- Adding resistance bands.
- Using dumbbells or kettlebells.
- Using heavy household objects (crate of beer? 2L bottle of water?!)
However, these methods may not be suitable for everyone.
Firstly, increasing rep number will increase your workout duration (who want’s to do that?!).
Secondly, resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells cost money (gotta save the pennies dude!).
Thirdly, using household objects can be awkward and takes time adjusting to.
As an alternative to these methods, you can incorporate time under tension training into your exercises.
This simply involves reducing the speed of each exercise motion. This allows you to really feel the contraction.
In a push up example- count for 6 seconds on the downward phase and then count for another 6 seconds on the upward phase.
By slowing down the movements, you will find them much harder to do!
And this is an effective way to work your muscles harder and challenge them to grow.
8. Eat A 5-10% Caloric Surplus.
Training is only half the battle for skinny guys who want to gain muscle at home.
You will also need to consume a 5-10% caloric surplus every day.
This is known as a clean bulk, and it will create the perfect nutritional environment for your muscles to grow.(10)
When you train, you are essentially destroying your muscle fibres. And it’s only when your body replaces the muscle fibres in larger numbers and volume, that your muscles begin to grow.
This is an energy intensive process. So you will want to provide the body with the adequate fuel.
But is a caloric surplus essential to gain muscle?
In fact, research has shown that it is possible to gain muscle in caloric neutral and even a deficit.(11)
But this approach is mostly for guys who currently have an energy reserve to tap into (i.e. body fat).
If you are very skinny, then this doesn’t apply to you. And if you want to quickly gain significant muscle mass, then lean bulking is the way forward!
Calorie-dense foods such as peanut butter, fatty meats, shakes, complex carbohydrates, and dairy can help you achieve your target.
Check my other article if you want to learn more about clean bulking!
9. 2.4g Of Protein Per Kg Bodyweight Per Day (Minimum).
In addition to your caloric surplus, you will also need to aim for 2.4g of protein per kg of body weight per day (minimum).
For example- if you weigh 56kg, then aim to consume at least 135g of protein every day (2.4 x 56 = 135).
So why is protein essential?
Well, protein is made up of molecules called amino acids. And amino acids are also the building blocks for muscle.(12)
By consuming high levels of protein, you are creating an anabolic environment in the body.
In other words, you are giving your body the raw materials it requires to build bigger muscle fibres!
The exact amount of protein required to build muscle varies between sources. Some preach higher values, yet others recommend less.
But the research suggest 2.4g per kg body weight per day is sufficient to maximise muscle gains.(13)
I would recommend starting at this figure first and track your muscle gains (more on that next) before you consider increasing your intake.
If you aren’t gaining any muscle, then you should increase your protein intake (assuming you are also training correctly and are in a caloric surplus).
Protein-rich foods include poultry, red meat, fresh fish and shellfish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes, soy, and whole grains!
10. Track Your Progress (Correctly!).
Now for the exciting stuff. How to correctly track your muscle gains!
Now, you probably already have a vague idea of how to track muscle gains (look at yourself in the mirror right?!).
Yup that works.
But you will want to be a bit more precise than that.
Let me explain.
The 3 main ways to track muscle gains are:
- Comparing photos of yourself to body fat % charts.
- Weighing yourself.
- Taking body measurements.
All three are crucial to ensure that your training and caloric surplus are producing muscle gains (and not fat gains).
First, you will want to find a mirror to take weekly photos of your progress. Make sure it’s the same spot and angle every week. This will prevent lighting variations from affecting the photo.
Doing this will allow you to compare your photos to body fat % charts like this one from Train Beyond The Box.
As a skinny guy, you will probably lie anywhere between 10-18% body fat. And this is the range you want to keep to!
If your body fat % is rising at a monthly rate of more than 1%, you may want to cut down on your calories.
Secondly, you will need to weigh yourself every day and take weekly averages (this provides a more accurate representation of your weight gain).
For the leanest muscle gains, aim to increase your weekly bodyweight by 0.25% to 0.5%.(14)
You may find yourself not gaining much weight weight. And this can also be normal if you are skinny fat. That’s because your body is replacing fat mass with muscle mass. Just make sure your body fat % is on track.
Thirdly, record your bicep, thigh, and chest diameters. These should be getting bigger!
Tracking the above three parameters will ensure you are on target for a bigger, more muscular body!
Kalibre Muscle Gains Home Workout For Skinny Dudes
Now for the promised training programme!
This is a 3 day whole-body workout based on compound body weight exercises.
Each workout should take around 45 minutes to an hour depending on your familiarity with the routine.
Once your body has accustomed to the workload, you can increase to 4 days.
Additionally, don’t forget to overload (as discussed previously!).
Finally, all the exercises can be found on youtube if you are unfamiliar with any of them! (search [workout name] + home)
Today I have explained how to gain muscle at home for sknny guys.
The process isn’t all that much different than if you were to use the gym. You will need to combine a resistance training programme with a nutrition plan.
The major difference between gaining muscle at home and at the gym lies in your training methods.
A home workout will require creativity to hit all the major muscle groups. Additionally, you will have to do high reps and use alternative methods to overload your muscles (like time under tension training).
All this may be awkward at first. But once you have adapted to the routine, the muscle gains will come!
Will you be trying the Kalibre home workout?
Let me know in the comments below! It would be awesome to help my fellow skinny dudes begin your journey to bulk up!
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Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)