Should Skinny Guys Lift Heavy Weights To Gain Muscle?

Should skinny guys lift heavy.

Transforming your body as a beginner can be a daunting endeavor. And a common question for skinny guys is whether or not they should lift heavy weights in order to gain muscle.

Generally speaking, skinny people should lift heavy to maximize the muscle growth stimulus. Weights that are above 70% of the individual’s 1-repetition maximum (also known as a “1-rep max) for a given exercise is considered to be heavy.

Below, I explain why heavy lifting helped explode my gains as an ex-skinny guy, why you should lift heavy to maximize muscle and strength, and how to do it properly.

Heavy weight training was essential for my skinny to muscular transformation.
Heavy weightlifting was essential in my skinny to muscular body transformation.

Key Takeaways

  • Weight training has many physical and mental benefits for skinny people.
  • Skinny people can usually build muscle from light and heavy weight training.
  • But heavy weight lifting is essential for maximizing long-term muscle strength and size gains.
  • A heavy weight is one that’s above 70% of your 1-rep max.
  • Skinny people who have never lifted weights before can start light and lift heavier over time.
  • Compound movements are ideal for skinny guys to lift heavy and build bigger muscles.
  • Heavy weight lifting is safe if performed with good form and technique.

Reasons Why Skinny Guys Should Lift Weights

People stay skinny because they do not resistance train.
A lack of resistance training is a primary reason why skinny guys stay skinny.

There are many reasons why people are skinny. Poor nutrition is one of the primary causes. And a lack of physical exercise is the other.

Speaking from personal experience, here are the five biggest benefits of lifting weights as a skinny guy:

  • Best way to build bigger muscles. Weight training is the most effective way to provide your muscles with the stimulus required to promote growth.
  • Reveal muscle definition and tone. Bigger muscles result in a more toned and defined body, especially for skinny people who naturally have a low body fat percentage.
  • Increase muscle strength. Lifting progressively heavier weights over time is ideal for building strength.
  • Improve body aesthetics. Most people find a muscular body more visually appealing compared to a skinny one.
  • Confidence boost. Skinny guys who lift weights usually find they get a confidence boost from the results of their training.

Should Skinny Guys Lift Heavy Or Light Weights To Build Muscle?

Skinny guys should lift heavy to build muscle.
You are generally recommended to lift heavy if you’re a skinny guy looking to make muscle gains.

Not lifting heavy enough is one of the most common reasons why skinny guys struggle to build noticeable muscle.

Additionally, lifting heavy weights is widely accepted to be the simplest way to ensure you’re exercising at a sufficient intensity to maximize hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Indeed- speaking from experience as an ex-skinny guy- heavy lifting was one of the biggest game changers in my training that helped me to build big muscles fast.

The mechanisms behind muscular hypertrophy (see below) explain why.

Why skinny guys should lift heavy weights to build muscle.

Heavy weight training presents your muscles with a type of stimulus called mechanical tension. This is the name of the stretching force that acts on your muscles when you lift heavy weights.

The heavier the weight the greater the mechanical tension.

Furthermore, research indicates that mechanical tension is one of the main signals detected by a muscle that causes it to respond by making adaptations.

These adaptations lead to muscle growth and strength gains.

With that being said- despite the benefits of heavy lifting for skinny guys to get bigger, it’s still a good idea for untrained newbies to start using light weights first, before slowly adding more weight over time.

This allows your body to safely adapt to lifting heavy weights.

You can go to my 3-day heavy workout program for the exact routine I used to transform from skinny to muscular!

Benefits Vs Drawbacks Of Lifting Heavy

Benefits and drawbacks of heavy weight training.
Heavy weight training is great for skinny guys to build muscle fast but it can also be intimidating and dangerous.

Ideal for building muscle size.Can be intimidating for beginners.
Increase muscular strength.Heavy lifting with bad form comes with safety risks.
Stronger joint strength.Beginners may not know how heavy to lift.

Benefits explained:

Heavy weight training is the simplest and most effective way to drive muscle hypertrophy. Furthermore, lifting progressively heavier weights over time is a requirement for building strength.

Why is building strength important?

The stronger you are the more weight you can lift. And the more weight you can lift the bigger your muscles will get.

It all works in a positive-feedback loop.

Additionally, lifting heavy loads can also improve joint strength which subsequently allows you to lift even heavier weights.

Drawbacks explained:

Despite all the benefits of heavy weight training, it can be intimidating and even dangerous for newbies to “max out” if they lack confidence or if don’t yet know how to lift with the correct form.

Additionally, the term “heavy” is subjective.

Beginners often do not know exactly how heavy to lift. And lifting weights that are too heavy to handle is not a good idea (see section “How Heavy Should Skinny Guys Lift?” below for more details).

If you’re starting your own muscle gain transformation, you may be interested in my other post which explains how fast a skinny guy can build muscle.

Benefits Vs Drawbacks Of Lifting Light

Benefits and drawbacks of light weight training.
Light weight training is a great way for skinny guys to start working out but it provides limited muscle-building potential.

Safest way for beginners to start lifting weights.Not ideal for maximal muscle size gains.
Beginners can build muscle with light weights.Limited potential to build strength.
Allows practicing of correct form and technique.Prolonged workouts.

Benefits explained:

Light weight training is ideal for skinny beginners to start working out.

It allows you to practice going through the range of motion and safely learn the correct exercise form without the risks associated with lifting heavy loads.

Additionally, the naive muscles in untrained beginners are particularly responsive to growth. Consequently, even light weightlifting can help you to build some muscle.

This is often called the “Newbie Gains” period and it’s why skinny people usually find it easier to build muscle compared to trained lifters.

Drawbacks explained:

For all it’s worth in terms of safety and beginner-friendliness, light weightlifting is not ideal for skinny guys to build muscle and strength over the long run.

You’ll likely find that muscle gains will quickly stagnate if you continue lifting light loads. And the only way to overcome this is to increase lifting intensity; in other words, lift heavier weights.

Additionally, light weight training can increase the duration of your workouts.


Lifting light weights usually means you have to do more reps in order to fatigue the target muscle enough for it to grow. In contrast, heavy weight training means fewer reps are required to fatigue the target muscle.

How Heavy Should Skinny Guys Lift?

Anything over 70% of a person’s 1-rep max (1RM) is considered to be “heavy” 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.

Skinny guys should lift moderately heavy for muscular hypertrophy and very heavy for muscle strength.
Moderately heavy weights are ideal for hypertrophy whilst very heavy weights are optimal for strength gains.

% of 1RM is a phrase you’ll commonly stumble across in weight training programs. It’s a way to give standardized weight recommendations to people of different fitness levels.

This is important because a heavy weight for one person may feel light for another person and vice versa.

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

Now simply take 70-90% of the 1RM to establish the weight you should be lifting on your working reps.

Generally speaking, you’ve found the ideal weight if it challenges you for the reps you’re performing.

Is Heavy Lifting Required To Build Muscle?

Heavy weight training is not essential for beginners to build muscle. Light weights can be sufficient for untrained lifters to start gaining some muscle. But heavy lifting is the most effective way to maximize muscle gains over the long term.

As I mentioned previously, the “Newbie Gains” period allows you to build a basic foundation of muscle during your early lifting days as a skinny guy.

However, you’ll need to progress onto heavier weights if you want to continue getting bigger and stronger.

How heavy you decide to lift depends on your goals.

Scientific research- such as this 2016 study and this 2022 study– indicates that moderately heavy loads (70-80% of your 1RM) are optimal for hypertrophy, whilst very heavy loads (>80% of your 1RM) are ideal for strength gains.

If you’re embarking on a muscle transformation, there are some essentials you need to know in order to avoid failure. For a complete guide, you can check out my guide to gaining your first 5kg of muscle as a skinny guy.

Best Ways For Skinny Guys To Lift Heavy To Get Bigger

Here are 7 important tips to effectively lift heavy weights and build muscle as a skinny guy:

1) Aim for 3-4 heavy workouts per week.

Your muscles are going to take a battering if you’re genuinely lifting heavy. You need to give them 24-48 hours of rest between workouts to repair, recover, and make the adaptations required to get stronger and bigger. 3 heavy workouts per week are more than enough for a skinny guy to grow.

2) Train the full-body.

Imbalanced upper-lower body development is generally not good functionally or aesthetically. Lifting heavy weights on the upper body exercises can be a great way to accentuate your V-taper muscles. But for balanced physique development, you should work the whole-body (including the legs).

3) Focus on the compounds.

These are movements that work multiple muscles and joints in a single range of motion. They’re ideal movements to max out on weight and for skinny guys to gain muscle quickly.

Indeed, heavy lifting on the big compound lifts like the barbell squat and barbell deadlift is considered by most people to be the bread and butter of building muscle fast as a skinny person.

In contrast, isolation-type exercises like bicep curls and ab wokouts should be treated as accessory exercises.

For more information, you can check out my favorite exercises for skinny people to build muscle.

4) Aim for 10-15 sets per muscle group per week.

This is the ideal training volume for a heavy weight training program.

It provides enough workload to stimulate maximal hypertrophy but not so much that you risk overtraining.

2-4 workouts per week are enough to complete 10-15 sets per muscle group.

5) Lift in the 8-12 rep range.

This is the ideal rep range to build muscle and strength using the big compound movements.

Smaller isolation-type movements like bicep curls can also be performed using higher rep ranges (e.g. 3 sets x 15 reps) and lighter weights.

But generally speaking, lift heavy in the 8-12 rep range on the compound movements for the best muscle-building results.

6) Lift heavy and apply progressive overload.

Heavy lifting will only get you so far. As you’re muscles get bigger and stronger, you need to keep them challenged by progressive overloading.

This involves lifting increasingly heavier weights over time.

It’s essential for skinny guys to get jacked.

7) Do not neglect form.

Lifting heavy loads is key to building muscle.

But you shouldn’t neglect your form and technique at the expense of maxing out on weight.

Lifting through the full range of motion is required to achieve the highest muscle activation and hypertrophy stimulus.

This means half-reps should be avoided.

You might also be interested in my essential tips to get buff as a skinny guy.

Is It Safe For Skinny Guys To Lift Heavy?

Heavy weightlifting is generally safe and Ok to do (even for beginners).

However, you should be careful to:

  • Maintain good form when lifting heavy. This is crucial. Skinny guys should lift heavy to build muscle, but only if the weight permits them to execute the lift with 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 8-12 rep range at 70-80% 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.


Skinny guys should lift heavy to maximize long-term muscle size and strength gains.

However, beginners should consider first using light weights to build confidence and practice good lifting form.

As you get fitter and stronger over time, you can apply progressive overload to lift increasingly heavier weights and continue building muscle.

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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