Should Skinny Guys Lift Heavy Weights?

Should skinny guys lift heavy weights

The best way to lift weights can often be confusing for a beginner. And one popular question for skinny guys trying to build muscle is whether or not to lift heavy weights. That’s exactly what this post will explain.

Skinny guys aiming to build muscle should lift heavy weights. This is the best way to promote muscle growth. A weight that is considered to be heavy should be at least 70% of the person’s 1-repetition maximum for any given exercise.

I’ve made the same mistake most skinny guys have made at some point- not lifting heavy enough.

And this results in a demotivating lack of muscle gains (DESPITE spending hours in the gym!).

Below, I explain why lifting heavy is key for a skinny guy to build muscle and strength!

Why Skinny Guys Should Lift Heavy Weights

Why Skinny Guys Should Lift Heavy Weights

There’s one reason why skinny guys should lift heavy weights at the gym- to get big.

If you’re a skinny person looking to; build muscle, increase strength, or even just tone your body, then lifting heavy weights is the best way to achieve your goals.

Why is that?

To understand why it helps to understand what happens to a muscle when it is put under heavy load.

“Mechanical tension” is presented to the muscle.

This is simply the name of the force acting on your muscles when you lift heavy.

“Mechanical tension is a type of force that stretches a muscle”

Chris Beardsley, PhD.

And research has concluded that mechanical tension is a primary stimulus for muscle growth (also known as hypertrophy).


As you lift increasingly heavier weights, your muscles adapt. And they do this by getting bigger and stronger.

Why skinny guys should lift heavy weights to build muscle.

Therefore one of the biggest mistakes made by skinny guys trying to get big, is not lifting heavy enough.

It’s a mistake I made as a beginner…

And who can blame us?

It’s not a natural feeling for a skinny beginner to be lifting 80% + of their 1-rep max (more on this later).

But take a look at personal trainers, people who are jacked, and the most popular muscle-building programs.

You’ll notice they all revolve around working in low reps and lifting heavy loads.


Because lifting heavy weights is one of the best ways for a skinny guy to build muscle and get bigger!

What Is Considered To Be A Heavy Weight?

Anything over 70% of a person’s 1-rep max (1RM) is considered to be a “heavy” weight in strength training. 1RM refers to the maximum load a person can lift for a single repetition in any given exercise. This varies between different people and exercises.

How heavy a skinny guy should lift to gain lean mass.

1RM is a phrase you’ll commonly stumble across in weight training programs.

And recommended weights in a program are often given as a percentage of 1RM to standardize the weight for everyone.

This is essential because the term “heavy” is inherently a subjective phrase: a weight that’s considered to be “heavy” for one person may be perceived as “light” by another person.

You can find your estimated RM for any lift on the Strength Levels database.

How to lift heavy as as a skinny guy,

Good adjustable dumbbells like the PowerBlocks have multiple weight increments which are ideal for overloading at home and building muscle.

After you’ve been lifting your current 1RM for 1-2 weeks, it’s essential to apply progressive overload as a skinny guy trying to build muscle.

And the most popular way to overload is to increase weight over time.

Therefore it’s ok to start “light” as a skinny guy. Just make sure that the weight is:

  1. Challenging to you.
  2. Increasing over time.

For example- skinny guys are often recommended to start with an empty barbell or diddly 10lb dumbbells before working towards heavier weights.

This allows them to learn the basic movement patterns and good lifting form, all the while building strength.

To conclude- a skinny should start with light weights and work towards heavier weights to build muscle over time. Even a “light” weight should still be perceived as heavy to the user at all times.

If you don’t know how to structure heavy lifting into your training routine, you might be interested in my other post for a home workout program for skinny people to build muscle!

How Often Skinny Guys Should Lift Heavy Weights

Skinny guys are recommended to lift heavy three times per week. The most efficient way to do this is to train the full body in each workout. This allows each muscle to get at least 24 hours of rest to recover before being trained again.

How often a skinny beginner should lift heavy.

This is a 3-day full-body split.

It is a popular way for skinny beginners to start lifting heavy weights.

You can check out my other article to learn more about why skinny guys should do full-body workouts.

Why is it so effective?

First of all, when done correctly, it’s a good way to reach the required training volume to promote muscle gains.

Training volume is the sum of all your weekly reps, sets, weight, and training frequency.

Here’s my recommended training volume for skinny guys to build muscle:

  • 6-12 reps per set.
  • 4 sets per muscle group per workout.
  • Use a weight that is 70-85% of your 1-rep max.
  • 3 full-body workouts per week.

Secondly, lifting heavy 3 days a week allows a skinny guy to rest for at least 24 hours between each workout.

And rest is essential for optimal muscle recovery, repair, and growth.

Thus, I recommend skinny guys to do 3x full-body heavy weight sessions per week to build muscle without the risk of overtraining!

You can go to my other article for more information on how often a skinny guy should lift weights!

Can Lifting Heavy Weights Help You Get Big?

Lifting heavy weights can no doubt build bigger muscles. It is important to apply progressive overload by increasing weight over time in order to do so. Additionally, it takes around 6 to 12 months before a noticeably bigger physique is built.

Lifting heavy weights can help you get big.

There are also some things you should avoid if you’re a skinny guy lifting heavy weights to get big.

Be careful to:

  • Maintain good form when lifting heavy. This is crucial. Skinny guys should lift heavy weights to build muscle, but only if the weight permits them to use good form.
  • Limit training frequency when lifting heavy. You don’t (and shouldn’t) have to lift heavy every day to get big. Adequate rest is essential to building muscle.
  • Avoid doing too many reps when lifting heavy. Working in the 6-12 rep range at 70-85% of 1RM is optimal (lower reps = heavier weight and vice versa).
  • Avoid lifting more weight than you can handle. Remember to only lift a heavy weight if you can do it with good form.
  • Lift heavy on isolation exercises. Small exercises like bicep curl, lateral raises, and tricep extensions actually respond better to slightly higher reps and lower weights. I recommend 12-15 reps per set at around 50-60% of 1RM.

You can check out my other article for a full timeline of how long it takes to get big!

Best Exercises To Lift Heavy

Not all exercises respond the best to heavy lifting.

Skinny guys should lift heavy weights mainly in compound exercises. These are movements that work multiple muscles and joints in a single range of motion. They’re the best for skinny guys to gain muscle quickly.

Examples of compound movements to lift heavy on are:

  • Squats.
  • Deadlifts.
  • Bench press.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Rows.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Dips.

Here, I recommend lifting in the 6-12 rep range using 70-85% of your 1RM.

In contrast, isolation-type exercises respond better to lighter weights and higher reps.

Examples of isolation movements to lift lighter on are:

  • Bicep curls.
  • Tricep extensions.
  • Lateral raises.
  • Ab crunches.

Here, I recommend lifting in the 12-15 rep range using 50-65% of your 1RM.

You can check out my other article on how much weight skinny guys should lift for exact starting weight recommendations for beginners!

How A Skinny Guy Can Lift Heavy At Home

A barbell and rack setup is the most efficient way for skinny guys to lift heavy weights at home.

However, most people do not have the space nor money for this.

The next best thing is a heavy dumbbell and bench setup.

I currently use the Powerblock adjustable dumbbell and Flybird bench setup.

It’s not exactly a budget setup, but most people can afford it and it can give most skinny beginners years of heavy lifting progression.

If you’re interested, here’s the full setup:

  • Powerblock Elite EXP.
  • Flybird adjustable bench.


I’ve explained why skinny guys should lift heavy weights.

Lifting heavy is essential if you want to build muscle and strength as a skinny beginner.

Furthermore, the term “heavy” is by nature subjective and perceived differently depending on your current strength levels.

Aim for a weight that’s at least 70%, and preferably 80-90%, of your 1RM for it to be considered heavy for you!

How heavy are you lifting and is it enough to build muscle?

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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