Building muscle can be a confusing ordeal for skinny beginners. One reason for this is that different training methods are more effective for different training levels. What works best for a bodybuilder may not necessarily work well for someone who has just started weight training. This post explains whether skinny guys should do high or low reps.
Skinny guys aiming to build muscle should do low reps rather than high reps. Lifting in a lower rep range allows heavier weights to be lifted. And lifting heavy weights is the most efficient way to increase muscular size and strength as a beginner.
I’m an ex-skinny guy myself.
And let me tell you I’ve tried all the tricks in the book in an effort to build muscle.
Below, I explain why I think low reps are better for skinny beginners.
These are just personal opinions based on my own experience and what I understand from the research! I welcome thoughts and opinions on the matter.
What Happens When You Lift High Vs Low Reps
To understand why it’s generally better for skinny people to lift low reps to build muscle, it helps to first understand what happens to a muscle when you lift high vs low reps:
- High rep lifting using light weights- presents a strong time under tension (TUT) stimulus. This refers to the duration your muscle remains contracted. Lighter weights allow you to lift more reps which is good for TUT.
- Low rep lifting using heavy weights- presents a strong mechanical tension stimulus. This refers to the amount of mechanical load a muscle is put under. Heavier weights are good for mechanical tension but it also means you can’t lift as much weight.
Both stimuli are known to be drivers of hypertrophy (muscle growth).
But the latter is generally considered to be a stronger driver of hypertrophy for beginners.
Can Skinny People Gain Muscle Size With High Reps?
The average skinny guy can build muscle using high reps. In fact, most forms of weight training can help a beginner to get bigger. However, high reps are not the most efficient way to muscle size in someone new to weight training.
The guys at Mind Pump recommend periodically transitioning to high reps as an effective way for trained lifters to introduce new hypertrophy (growth) stimuli to their muscles and promote size gains. This does not apply to skinny newbies though!
As a skinny beginner, you have one great thing going for you: newbie gains.
This refers to the honeymoon period of rapid muscle growth in response to most forms of weight training.
What are the implications of newb gains?
You can actually gain muscle regardless of whether you’re lifting high reps using a lighter weight or low reps using a heavier weight (assuming your workouts are at a sufficient intensity).
But I’m guessing you’re looking to make the fastest muscle gains possible right?
If so, keep reading to find out why you should low reps are better than high reps as a skinny guy.
If you’re new to weight training, you may be interested in my other post which explains why it is good for skinny guys to lift weights.
Why Skinny Guys Should Not Do High Reps Low Weight
Skinny people should not do high reps to build muscle. This approach to hypertrophy is most commonly used by trained lifters and bodybuilders as a way to introduce a new hypertrophy stimulus for their muscles to adapt to. It does not work well for beginners.
As a skinny guy looking to build muscle, you should know that “mechanical tension” (i.e. the weight loaded onto a muscle) is the most potent hypertrophy stimulus.
In other words- lifting heavy weights using low reps is how your muscles will grow the fastest.
But you should also know about the other type of hypertrophy stimulus at play. It’s called “time under tension” or TUT (i.e. the duration a muscle is contracting).
TUT is a secondary hypertrophy stimulus.
In other words- TUT also promotes muscle gains but not as potently as mechanical tension.
So why do some bodybuilders and trained lifters sometimes transition to high-rep TUT lifting after a long period of low-rep heavy lifting?
Mainly to give their muscles a new stimulus to adapt and grow to.
This is something skinny beginners do not have to do and should instead stick to the low-rep method using heavier weights!
New to weight lifting and unsure how long each workout should last? You can check out my other post which explains how many hours a skinny guy should work out!
Why Low Reps Heavy Weight Is Better For Skinny Guys
Low reps are better than high reps for skinny guys who want to build muscle. Lifting in a low rep range allows for heavier weights to be loaded onto a muscle. This is one of the most effective ways for a beginner to promote muscle strength and size gains.
I can say that I’ve made most of the common lifting mistakes as an ex-skinny guy who struggled to build muscle.
And one tip that I preach to fellow skinny dudes is this:
You need to lift heavy and keep adding weight to get bigger!
As I mentioned previously, loading your muscles with heavy weights is the only way to present them with the mechanical tension stimulus required to drive rapid growth.
And the only way you’ll be able to lift heavy enough loads is by lifting in a low rep range.
Doing this is also the best way to quickly build strength.
And after you’ve built a foundation of strength, only then should you begin to experiment with higher rep ranges for the aforementioned TUT stimulus.
You might be interested in my other post to find out exactly why skinny guys should lift heavy weights!
Recommended Number Of Reps For Beginners
So far I’ve established that skinny guys should avoid high reps and stick to low reps for maximal muscle growth.
However, it’s not as simple as that.
Different muscle groups also respond better to higher vs lower reps as follows:
|Muscle Group||Higher Or Lower Reps Better?||Recommended Rep Range For Skinny Guys|
|Biceps and triceps||Higher||8-12|
Generally speaking, the larger muscle groups respond better to lower reps and the smaller muscles respond best to higher reps.
And just to clarify any potential confusion- I say “higher reps” as opposed to “high reps”.
In the grand scheme of weight training, anything between 1-12 reps per set is generally considered to be a low rep range.
But doing 12 reps is still higher than 5 reps.
If you want a ready-made program without the headache of deciding high vs low reps, you may be interested in my other post for a skinny guy workout to build muscle fast!
I’ve explained why skinny guys should avoid doing high reps using light weights, and stick to low rep training using heavier weights instead
As a beginner aiming to build muscle, your primary goal should be to get stronger.
And this is most effectively achieved through heavy lifting using low reps.
After you’ve spent some time (a few years) building a foundation of strength as a skinny guy, THEN you can switch to high reps to give your muscles a new stimulus to adapt to.
What do you think about the high vs low reps debate?
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!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)