Bony to Beastly – How to Build a Badass Home Gym / Train at Home to Build Muscle

How to Build a Badass Home Gym

Written by Shane Duquette on October 17, 2013

(Updated February 2014) I gained my first twenty pounds using a rusty old barbell and bench that my dad and I found on the side of the road. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t safe. It also wasn’t the first time I’d tried to build muscle. I’d already tried going to the gym, using a personal trainer, and martial arts. This time though, in my simple rickety home gym, I finally figured out the basic principles of weight gain.

You don’t need much equipment to build muscle optimally. The big heavy muscle-building lifts don’t require much. You don’t even need the rickety bench and rusty barbell that I had. If you’re smart about this, you can get away with just one simple piece of fairly inexpensive equipment. Maybe two.

Gaining My First Twenty Pounds

Despite my very best efforts I started out at a pretty bony 130 pounds. This isn’t me after attempting a marathon, struggling with an eating disorder or intentionally losing weight or anything. This was the heaviest I’d ever been. And I’d been trying to gain weight for six years.


On left you can see me at my then-heaviest. It’s hard to show you what I looked like back then because I started destroying evidence as soon as I started growing. Luckily, my friends kept that photo of me in the unitard. Probably as blackmail.

The middle shot is me right after having trained for four months in my parents’ basement with an awkward mix of equipment from the side of the road and a local fitness store.* I’d finally gained weight. Twenty pounds in four months. I didn’t know that was possible for anyone, let alone me. That was enough to stop my friends from thinking of me as “the skinny kid” and start treating me like a man.

(The final photo is me after having gained another 4o pounds. That story here.)

Over the years we’ve coached many hundreds of guys into building muscle. Some guys train at home, some guys train at the gym—both work equally well. Their success doesn’t have much to do with how fancy their setup is, but rather how well they apply the fundamentals of muscle-building lifting and nutrition.

Here’s what a member of our community, a thin medical doctor, was able to accomplish doing our Bony to Beastly Program from home:

The Best Way to Build a Home Gym For Building Muscle—Bony to Beastly Ectomorph Transformation

Basic Gym-Building Principles

Progressive overload. Progressive overload is “the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during training.” This is what causes our body to adapt. Since our goal is building muscle, we need to do a type of training that causes our body to adapt by synthesizing new muscle mass. To do this we need to increase our strength, not our endurance, balance, fitness or the myriad of other things we can train for. 

The way to best increase our strength is resistance training. There are several ways to do resistance training, and some are better than others. For example, bodyweight workouts are better than nothing, but not anywhere near what weightlifting can offer. Going from 15 pushups to 60 pushups won’t make you any stronger—nothing is getting heavier. There are ways to make bodyweight workouts heavier, but if your goal is building muscle, you don’t want be spending six months mastering a handstand pushup so that you finally have the balance and stabilizer muscles you need to start building up your shoulders.

If you want to build muscle effectively, weightlifting is the best route. You start off lifting within your means and you gradually lift more and more, building muscle along the way. Over time your technique improves and you start lifting heavier and heavier weights. Each step of the way your body responds by growing bigger, stronger and more stable.

In order to do this we need weights that get progressively heavier.

The Five Fundamental Movements. Once we have some weights we can work with, the best way to build muscle is to learn a few movement patterns that allow you to hit all the muscle groups that you’re trying to grow. Marco learned these five fundamental movement patterns from strength legend Dan John:

  1. Presses, like the bench press, build up your shoulders, chest, triceps and abs.
  2. Pulls, like the chin up, build up your back, shoulders, biceps, forearms and abs.
  3. Hinges, like the deadlift, build up your back, butt, legs, abs and forearms.
  4. Squats, like the back squat, build up your legs, abs, butt and back.
  5. Loaded carries, like the farmer carry, turn you into a true beast. They build up your core, your forearms, your traps, your bones, and build up all kinds of spinal support and stability. Stuart McGill, the leading expert in spinal health, calls these a “moving plank” and considers them one of the most important tools for developing a strong body that resists injury.

Home to Build a Home Gym / How to Train at Home to Build Muscle: Hinges (Deadlifts) and Squats Home to Build a Home Gym / How to Train at Home to Build Muscle: Pulls and Presses Home to Build a Home Gym / How to Train at Home to Build Muscle: Loaded Carries

(Shown: dumbbell sumo deadlift, goblet squat, one-arm two-point supinated hinge row, one-arm press and cross carry.)

You’ll see that your abs, obliques, forearms, shoulders, back and hips are getting a lot of attention. They need it. We’re teaching them how to work together in a variety of different ways. Rather than isolating muscle groups, we’re using many different muscle groups at once to perform the most natural human movements as effectively and efficiently as possible. This develops real world strength, coordination, balance… and tons of muscle mass.

It’s not just effective, it’s also efficient. Let’s say you’re trying to learn how to type – would it make sense to spend Monday practicing typing with just your index finger, Tuesday practicing typing with just your middle finger, Wednesday typing with just your ring finger? Obviously not. You’d want to learn how to use everything together. Not only that, you’d want to practice typing actual words, learning actual movement patterns and building up muscle memory so that you can do those movements without thinking.

That’s how you become a fearsome typist. That’s also how you build a fearsome physique. Just like typing, soon being a strong dude will become intuitive both in and out of the gym. When you start your lawnmower you’ll be doing a perfect pull, when you carry your groceries you’ll be doing a perfect loaded carry, when you pick up your wife and lift her over your head you’ll be doing a perfect hinge and then a perfect press.

You can also add in some isolation lifts to give your favourite areas some love. We use plenty of biceps curls and triceps extensions, chest flys and shoulder raises.

So when it comes to building a home gym we need weights that allow us to do these fundamental movement patterns (and some curls and stuff).

The minimum dose that’s maximally effective. If you get a gym membership you’ll have access to a vast array of equipment that let’s you do a rather overwhelming amount of different lifts. That’s great, but when we’re trying to put together a home gym we want to keep equipment to an absolute minimum. And we want to do this while still getting maximal results.

If you do this right, you can buy a few high quality, safe and effective pieces of equipment and have everything you need for the rest of your life.

Safety. We also want to avoid being pinned under bars and dropping barbells on your head, or getting an exercise machine that forces unnatural movement patterns and puts stress on our lower back and whatnot.

Recap. So we need to build a gym that let’s us lift progressively heavier in the five fundamental movement patterns with minimal equipment—safely.

With all of that in mind, here’s how to build a beastly home gym:

Building the Best Muscle-building Home Gym

Must Have: Big Heavy Adjustable Dumbbells

How to Build a Home Gym / Home Workout – The Best Heavy Adjustable Dumbbell

Dumbbells are the most effective piece of muscle-building equipment—far better than any machine, and arguably better than even the barbell. They’re also cheap, they don’t take up much room, and they allow us to lift very safely. You can safely drop them to the sides if you get stuck during a bench press, safely drop them to the front if you get stuck during a goblet squat, etc. Just don’t drop them on your feet. Best of all, if you get a adjustable ones (or a wide assortment of different weights), you can start light and progressively load them up heavier and heavier each week as you grow bigger and stronger.

That’s everything you need to build one helluva burly body. Dumbbells are the only mandatory piece of equipment needed to do our Bony to Beastly Program.

Here are some lifts you can do with just a couple dumbbells:

The Press: Floor Press, Half-Kneeling Press, Pushups, Tricep Extensions
The Pull: Hinge Row, Bicep Curl, Hammer Curl
The Hinge: Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift, Suitcase Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Dumbbell swings
The Squat: Goblet Squat, Split squat, Lunges (backwards)
The Carry: One-Arm Farmer Carry, Racked Carry, Cross Carry, Waiter carry

What I’d get: Badass & Basic Adjustable Dumbbells (100lbs each)*

*These Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you purchase something after following the link we’ll get a small 4% commission, which would be sweet! If you decide to get this stuff using our links – thank you! The three of us really appreciate it. However, checking for secondhand weights on a site like Kijiji is a good option too. You might get lucky!


Probably Want: Sturdy Adjustable Bench

How to Build a Home Gym / Home Workout – The Best Adjustable Workout Bench

While you can build muscle perfectly well with a pair of adjustable dumbbells, there will probably be a time when you’re eager to expand on the list of exercises you can do and the range of motion that you can do them through. An adjustable bench allows you to turn your floor presses into dumbbell bench presses, turn your hinge rows into 3-point rows, unlock some new badass strength lifts like the pullover, and some badass aesthetic lifts like the incline bicep curl.

Some of many new exercises:

The Push: Dumbbell Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Military Press
The Pulls: Dumbbell Row, Pullover, Chest Supported Reverse Fly, Incline Bicep Curl
The Squat: Bulgarian Split Squats, Step Ups
The Hinge: hip thrusts, one-legged hip thrusts

The bench just needs to be sturdy, well proportioned and simple. You don’t need a bench with any sort of weird leg attachments or “bonus” features on it—they’ll just get in the way. Go for quality and function, not fanciness.

What I’d get:  a simple adjustable weight bench (or this expensive one)

Lifelong Lifters: Power Cage & Olympic Barbell (or chin-up bar)

How to Build a Home Gym / Home Workout – The Best Power Rack / Squat Cage and Barbell Set

You may eventually find that you become too strong for your dumbbell setup. Even the 90 pound adjustable dumbbell that we recommend will soon become too light to dumbbell deadlift. Your legs will become so strong that your goblet squats will start to become harder on your upper body than your lower body. Plus, you may want to start adding in some cool hearty strongman lifts like the barbell deadlift, barbell (overhead) press or the Yates bent over row. Maybe down the road even some Olympic lifts. Tons of fun to be had with a barbell.

Power racks are how you lift heavy barbells safely. They’ve got safety bars, which will safely catch any weight that you drop. You can set up your barbell bench press in there and rest assured that you won’t get pinned under the bar or drop it on your head, you can back squat without needing to worry about not being able to stand back up, etc.

The power cage has a chin-up and pull-up bar so you’re covered there, too. (If a power cage is too big, too expensive, or overkill though, feel free to get a simple chin-up bar instead.)

A power cage and an Olympic barbell set give you absolutely 100% everything you need to train for the rest of your life. We aren’t talking about building 20-50 pounds of muscle anymore, we’re talking about building as much muscle as your frame will allow (which is probably more than you think) over the course of your entire lifetime.

The Push: Bench Press (with safety bars), Incline Bench Press
The Pulls: Chin Ups, Pull Ups, Yates Bent Over Row, Barbell Curls
The Hinge: Deadlifts, Rack Pulls, Romanian Deadlifts
The Squat: Front Squats, Back Squats, Box Squats

The power cage / squat rack that we recommend: The Best Power Cage
The Olympic* barbell set that we recommend: Badass Olympic Barbell Set

Both of these are top of the line pieces of equipment that you can use for decade after decade. They’ll help you lift really damn heavy really damn safely.

*I highly recommend going Olympic with your barbell, even if you don’t plan on doing Olympic lifts. Olympic  means that there are sleeves that rotate freely on either side of the barbell. These revolving sleeves make the barbell much easier on your grip, allowing you to lift more weight and build more muscle. “Regular” barbells don’t allow the weight plates to rotate freely, meaning the barbell will always be trying to rotate out of your grip, peeling your hands open. It’s good for your forearms … but bad for everything else you’re trying to strengthen and grow.

Bonus Gear How to Build a Home Gym / Home Workout – The Best Kettlebell, Ab Roller and Foam Roller

This is stuff that isn’t even remotely necessary, but hey if you love lifting and want to take it to the next level this stuff can be great to have around. It’s also great if you prefer training at the gym but like having a couple small pieces of equipment around home so that you can still do quick super efficient workouts when you can’t make it to the gym.

An Ab Wheel (with free washboard!). There are many many ways to functionally train you core, but for guys who have mastered the plank and who want to encourage a bit more abdominal hypertrophy and build up truly fearsome core strength, all without stressing their back or ruining their posture with crunches … this thing is super effective and super duper cheap. It’s not necessary at all, but it’s almost as fun as barbell curls.

A Kettlebell. If you’ve got an adjustable dumbbell you can technically do all the kettlebell moves: dumbbell swings, dumbbell turkish get ups, etc… but they’re kind of awkward. Adjustable dumbbells aren’t the prettiest or most streamlined things out there and you never know if a clamp will shake lose, so it can be nice to have a simple little cast iron hunk of metal with a handle on it for when you’re looking to get a little more explosive. I recommend 20 pounds and 50 pounds for starters … or you could get limited edition chimp and gorilla ones like Marco and I have.

A Foam Roller. I love these things. If you’ve got any kind of muscle soreness, mobility issues or you just really dig massages this is a pretty good purchase. They reduce arterial stiffness and thus may improve cardiovascular health (study), they may increase your range of motion without reducing your muscular power (study), and they increase flexibility without reducing muscular strength (study). Since static stretching can reduce power and strength output if you do them pre-workout, this makes foam rolling a wicked way to warm up. (You can use it whenever as a massage and to reduce arterial stiffness, but the mobility you gain is temporary – it won’t become permanent unless you also build strength through that range of motion, e.g., by lifting weights through the five fundamental movements afterwards.)


You don’t need to get fancy, you just need to get smart. If you stick with heartily made quality pieces of equipment, like the ones we’ve recommended, you really can’t go wrong. These things don’t ever go out of style and they don’t break, so 20 years from now if you decide to sell them instead of giving them to your kids, well, you can.

Here are the links again all in one place:

Must have: Badass & Basic Adjustable Dumbbells
Probably want: A Sturdily Built Adjustable Workout Bench
For the lifelong lifters: A Quality Power Cage and a Classic Olympic Barbell Set
For fun: Foam Roller, Kettlebell and Ab Wheel

I hope that helps. Best of luck Beasting up!

The Muscle-building Program for Skinny Guys

Bony to Beastly Full Mass Gainer Ectomorph Program Download

Ready to gain 20 Pounds (9kg) in 3 months with our muscle-building system for skinny dudes?

  • Build Muscle
  • Look & Feel Your Best
  • Master Your Appetite With Scientific Hacks
  • Improve Your Posture
  • Take Up More Space

So, what'd you think? 130 responses below.


Hey man, Good article.. it pretty much answered all the questions I was going to ask. But just in case:
-Does your program allow you to train solo, still with full guide and explanations of the exercises etc?
-It’s impossible for me to get to a gym at this point, so similar question to above.. Alternative/home exercise with full guide and explanation? instructions?
-I have some insane reaction to Whey and just about any form of straight protein.. I can’t drink a class of milk without getting wicked bad indigestion, so protein shakes etc are out for me. I can eat protein, meat, chicken, eggs whatever.. just cant drink the shakes..
Your program has some kinda meal guide to work from? if so are their alternatives to the shakes for example?

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked the article Nick!

1. Of course! Almost everyone in our program trains solo. I think that’s one of the best things about joining the community – even if you train solo you’re still surrounded by people in a similar situation trying to accomplish similar goals. You still get that support system when you need it.

2. Definitely don’t need a gym. Definitely do need to be lifting heavier and heavier through the basic movements as you get stronger and stronger though, so you will need weights, however minimal. (Yep! We’ve got videos / alternative exercises.)

3. Food > supplements always. You can absolutely do this without whey. I gained my first 20 pounds with no supplements whatsoever.

4. We find rigid meal plans too restrictive. (Although we have examples.) We instead teach you the fundamentals so that you eat in a way that suits your preferences and your lifestyle … and then we give you a ton of recipes optimized for various things just to make it super easy. You’ll have dozens of alternatives to shakes – no worries there.

We’d love to have ya man 🙂



Great article Shane really informative stuff. Also SICK kettle bells haha, they’re insane!

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it man!
After writing the post I ordered the orangutan 🙂


Hammered out another useful and entertaining post Shane.

P.S. I know the secret of your strength… my advice to you is never date a girl named “Delilah” or you may need to rename your program “Bony to Beastly to Bony”!

Shane Duquette



Good article bro, I can relate to the bench pressing at home scenario it’s not safe to do that at all.

Mark Howard

Great post! Home gyms rock and save skinny guys like me from gym anxiety.

This is the bench I have. It is safe to bench press on solo. The few times I have failed to lift the bar back up to the top, I just had to lift the bar a few inches up to the safety catches. And the bench when flat is at the perfect spot for me when squatting because my legs are parallel when my butt touches the bench.

And Walmart has a 110 lb starter barbell set.

Mark Howard

Actually this barbell weight set is the one I started with.


Love reading your tips and thank you for sharing the amazing knowledge and experience you have.. You give us skinny guys hope and inspiration.. Thanks.. Always look forward in reading what you got to share.. Best

Shane Duquette

Glad you like them man – thank you for the kind words!


Really interesting article. I have been reading your blog and Anthony Mychal’s in the past weeks (his is focused on training and nutrition for the skinny-fat ectomorphs), and I see a lot of convergence. So having 2 independent sources basically telling me similar things, it HAS to make some sense, right? 🙂

On a completely unrelated note, I really like how you occasionally recommend vegan alternatives. This has already helped me a lot … maybe you could gather all that info in a post of its own!

Shane Duquette

I heard of Anthony Mychal’s from a friend of mine a few weeks back. Apparently his stuff is good.

We actually have a vegan post already written up! Just need to take some photos, edit it and find the right time to post it.

We left the is-meat-bad-for-your-health argument out of it – I can’t see a reason to go there – but we outlined all the principles of being a healthy vegan and how to build muscle while doing it.

I think it’ll be good.


I’ve said this a number of times in the forums so sorry for the broken record but the best place to shop for a home gym is craigslist! I’ve got a pretty sweet setup all purchased over craigslist over the past couple years. I have 2 full size olympic weight sets, adjustable bench, cage, a full cable system and lots of accessories all purchased for under $1000. I see olympic sets, adjustable benches and racks for around $200 all the time… a good and cheap way to get started. There seem to be a lot of people who buy workout equipment then stop using it and want to free up basement or garage space… the most awkward part is letting it go because they know they should keep working out…so they usually end up talking your ear off about having an injury or something to justify the sale. Just go along with it and you’ll get a good deal!

Shane Duquette

I don’t disagree! I took it one step more primitive than that and found my bench on the side of the road, but when it came time to buy more weight plates and such that’s exactly what I did.

I made sure to add the “check to see if you can get it used!” blurb to the post 🙂

For cages, benches, barbells and plates I think it often works out really well.

Sometimes when you’re trying to find something like a pair of super damn heavy adjustable dumbbells it can be tricky though. You can buy a bunch of different dumbbells secondhand, but by the time you finish you often have a huge assortment of them and STILL not having the ability to go from 10 pounds progressively up to 100.

You have 2 Olympic weight sets?! That’s amazing.

“the most awkward part is letting it go because they know they should keep working out…so they usually end up talking your ear off about having an injury or something to justify the sale. Just go along with it and you’ll get a good deal!”


Hehe what I hope more than anything is that readers of this blog post don’t wind up being the ones sheepishly trying to sell their equipment a few weeks from now 😉


Hi, I’ve read a few of these articles and they’re all great. I had a few questions though.
1. Why was that not the first picture you destroyed when you were skinny? 🙂
2. I’ve finally started to put on muscle/weight after exercising for a while now. But one thing I’ve noticed is my muscles ache more now than before. Is that normal? Admittedly I had no muscles before. An article about the changes that happen to your body and mindset would be cool.
3. When do people actually notice a difference. Not everyone walks around as much as you without a shirt.
4. Final question and sorry for the long post. If someone is say 6 inches shorter than you, does that mean they shouldn’t aim for your weight. 6 inches can equate to 30 lbs if 2 people were to have the same BMI.

Shane Duquette

1. Ahahahaha.

2. Well muscles aching are normal if you’re talking about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s what happens when waste and inflammation accumulate in your muscles after you thrash ’em in the gym. That doesn’t mean that it’s GOOD though, especially if you’re getting more and more sore as time goes on. You don’t need to cause THAT much damage to optimally stimulate growth, and what should be happening is probably the opposite – as your body adapts to training you feel less and less sore.

That depends on your program though – some programs are designed to crush ya.

If not, you may be lifting a little too close to the failure threshold, your volume might be too high, you might not be resting enough, you might not be eating enough protein, you might not be eating enough in general, etc.

Based on the information you gave I’d say a good place to start would be to finish your sets a rep earlier – before you totally annihilate your muscles. “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.”

Make sense?

3. Depends! Oftentimes it’s the fit of your clothes that people notice FIRST. All of a sudden your shoulders fill out your t-shirt and it gets a little tight over your chest, you know?

I find with myself and with our members 6 pounds generally has you looking “healthier” in a noticeable but subtle and hard to place way. 12 pounds has you looking noticeably stronger. 20 pounds gets the “whoa you buffed up! Amazing!” That “did you just get back from football training camp?!” sort of effect. That’s what a lot of guys are after, even in the long run. 20 lean pounds of muscle makes most people look a hell of a lot more athletic, strong and visibly quite healthy.

30+ pounds is when you’re a new person.

4. There are advantages to being both tall and short when it comes to muscle. Generally short guys build muscle disproportionately fast. They may be able to gain 20 pounds in a similar amount of time as a much taller guy, for instance … but it would have a much more dramatic effect.

What weight should they aim for? Well that’s up to them! Many guys like to feel sizable, so often shorter guys still like to weigh a substantial amount and enjoy getting pretty buff, whereas some taller guys get a lot of their mass from their height so they prefer to rock a leaner look.

I’m around 190 pounds. 190 pounds on a 5’8 guy (6 inches shorter) would look suuuper jacked. To look my size at 5’8 I think you’re exactly right – you’d need to subtract 30 or so pounds.

That stuff is never exact though. Oftentimes people don’t scale proportionally, so a 5’8 and 6’4 guy will have somewhat similarly sized heads but radically different limb lengths, for example. That depends though.

Does that help? Tricky questions …


Thanks!!! Great and extremely helpful answers.

The reason I asked the questions was because it’s great to have an idea of what I’m aiming for and what to expect. To see someone who has gone from bony to beastly and can eloquently explain it is great. One last question, now you’re at your ideal physique (I’m guessing) is it tougher maintaining your body or was it tougher to get there?

Keep up the great work! You guys should be proud of what you have started.

Shane Duquette

I wouldn’t say I’m at my ideal physique, although my goals have certainly changed. I’ve yet to deadlift 400 pounds. (I tried but only got it a few inches off the ground.) That’s a big goal of mine. I’m pretty happy with my posture, but I’d like to totally master my mobility and become better at the five fundamental movement patterns. Do them with more grace and ease. Things like that.

Changing can take effort. Sometimes it can take a LOT of effort. (Creativity can go a very long way there.)

Once you get up to a weight you’re happy with you’ll quickly get used to it, at which point you can put this beasting stuff on the back burner and coast pretty easily. Staying the same isn’t very difficult at all.

Our bodies are pretty cool and pretty sophisticated systems. They’re exceptionally good at maintaining the status quo. To quote a study by Bogusewsky et al: “this regulatory system is formed by multiple interactions between the gastrointestinal tract, adipose tissue [fat] and the central nervous system, and is influenced by behavioural, sensorial, autonomic, nutritional, and endocrine mechanisms.”

So, essentially, your body will subconsciously cue you to do what it takes to stay the same.

If you want to see an example of this, look at all the people who have been perpetually trying to lose fat. If they succeed in creating a calorie deficit they often wind up uncontrollably binge eating every few days to totally cancel out that deficit. The urges are so strong that no matter how badly they want to lose fat they’re unable to. Ironically, that’s actually a healthy response. Their body is functioning “correctly” when it cancels out that deficit. Their body is so adept at staying the same that even years of conscious effort isn’t always enough to overcome it.

This is incredible news when it comes to maintenance. If I eat a comfortable amount of the food that I enjoy eating … my weight will stay the same. If I eat less I get hungry and get very tempted to close the caloric gap … by having a huge urge to run to the cupboard for more food, like someone would when they’re trying to lose weight. Similarly, eating enough to gain fat involves eating an uncomfortable amount. Before I get to that point my stomach strongly encourages me to stop eating. And if I overeat anyway … I’ll “forget” my next meal.

(That’s one reason that we place such a strong emphasis on hacking that system in Bony to Beastly – we need to overcome our body’s best efforts to stay skinny.)

Anyway, that’s why change is hard and maintaining is a breeze. Once you get used to being bigger and stronger you’ll find it’s easy to stay that way 🙂

(If you got to an EXTREMELY jacked and lean state you’d have trouble maintaining it, but if we’re talking about a visibly healthy and strong physique then it’s easy. I could likely gain an extra dozen pounds and have an easy time maintaining it, for example, but if I were to gain two dozen pounds … maybe not.)

I find this stuff super fascinating haha, so this is a longer answer than I planned on writing. Hope it helps!


Cheers mate. I find it interesting too and appreciate the long answer.

Thanks for the advice.


Hey shane, ive been following your blog for a while now and your free posts are always great. Have just changed up my workouts to focus on the big five you listed. Essentialy im trying to build up strength for acro moves, I like the idea of strength training that contributes to other goals, mine being hadstand and acro tricks.

Any chance you could give me an idea of the reps and sets you do? You mentioned it in an old comments section on another post but im pretty sure youve refined it since then

Photos and post s are looking awesome as always!

Shane Duquette

That’s sweet Jared, and thank you for the compliments!

We do a whole bunch of different rep ranges. We usually start with some nice heavy ones (4-6 reps) to build up some strength, some moderately heavy ones to build up some size (8-12) and then some cool stuff like carries, core work, vanity work (bicep curls, extensions, shoulder raises, etc) and the rep ranges there are all over the place – often much higher.

That’s an oversimplification, but generally we lift through a wide variety of rep ranges.

Acro tricks and handstands sound sweet – good luck man!


You know, I never thought about building a home gym until I read this article. I had NO idea how reasonably priced weight equipment is. I’ve spent more on one of my guitars than it would cost me to build a badass home gym. I went ahead and grabbed that set of dumbbells and the deltech bench from your affiliate links, so I’ll let you guys know how they work out. Can’t wait to buy an olympic weight set and a power rack when I move out of my apartment!

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s awesome!

Ahaha yeah comparing it to a nice guitar makes it all seem pretty reasonable.

(Comparing it to the price of a year’s worth of a gym membership makes it seem pretty reasonable too.)

You’ve already got a pretty jacked back. Having dumbbells and a bench lying around will probably get you a crazy chest in no time! Makes it a breeze to get in all kinds of bench press variations.

Hope to see you back in the forum letting us know how it goes 🙂

Roberto U

Hi, I like Your posts, by my day by day activities I only have acces to my bench, my pair of adjustable dumbbells up to 23 pounds (discs) , I am doing the 5 fundamental movement at 8 x 4 series, but squatting a bit more ( reasons: I love soccer, and I am ACL torn survivor), my training basis of one day training other rest, I am not skinny anymore (but I think in to get your prgoram) I am now an average office man, 6’3” and 194 pounds, can you suggest any variations, or my only option is get more weight discs and keep the 5 basic moves?, any suggestion could be great, thanks, greetings from Mexico.

Shane Duquette

Hey from Canada Roberto. Props for transforming yourself into a fit and strong dude! 6’3 and 194 is awesome. 🙂

Yes sir, if you want to join our program (and I really think you should!) then we’d be recommending that you up the heaviness you’ve got access to. The reason for that is simple: you’re going to get a hell of a lot stronger and even moderately heavy weights quickly become too light.

These are good problems to run into though, and I think you’d get a lot out of having some heavier weights to lift. I say get the discs!

Aaron Coleman

Im an ectomorph. I went to gym solo. I gained 7 kgs with raw rebuilt mass from gnc. But lost 3 kgs after stopped taking the sups(very expensive). Then took dymatize super mass gainer. No result. Im a smoker. N I know I should stop.
Now., Im following the sups as recommended from this website.
Dextrose after workout.
Going to try creatine!
Hopefully this will help me gain more!
Will try to stop smoke again.
Besides smoking, is there anything else I shud practice?

Now im
165cm. Im asian

Aaron Coleman

#correction. Besides stop smoking.

Shane Duquette

Hey Aaron, it sounds like what you’re describing is boosting your calorie content by a ton (which is great for gaining mass) by using weight gainers (which are good in some ways and bad in some ways).

When you stopped taking the gainers it dropped your calories down low enough that it put you into a calorie deficit and you lost some weight.

(You probably didn’t lose as much muscle as you may think, either. Some of that weight was probably water retention, stomach contents, muscle glycogen, etc.)

That’s fairly common, especially when using things like gainers. You usually need to maintain your new muscle for a little bit before it starts becoming totally natural. When it does, homeostasis will help you maintain that new status quo.

Eventually your body will fight to keep you heavier, rather than to revert you to your old weight. It’s pretty cool how that can work.

As for regaining that mass (and more) I would focus on eating enough to move the scale up, whether that’s from gainers, whey or potatoes 🙂

Good luck man!

(Smoking tends to reduce appetite, among other things, so you may find it easier to eat like a beast when you quit!)


Hey guys,

Question: does the program include any coaching on exercises/movement? Like if I’m a member can I send in a video to get pointers on my squats? I’m just really wary of hurting my back, and approaching 40 I gotta be realistic. Slow and steady wins the race right?


Shane Duquette

Hey Jake,

You can absolutely send in videos of your squats for feedback. That’s our favourite way to do it, actually.

We also have a pretty good system for teaching you proper movement patterns in the first place. We aren’t just going to show you a video of a back squat, toss you into a power cage and hope for the best. Unless of course you’re a really mean dude. In that case we might …



It is amazing to see your transformation. With your current stats, I’m assuming your body fat % must be quite low.


Another thing I was wondering, were you proportionally very skinny as a young child, or did that come later when you became a teenager?

Shane Duquette

I’m not really sure what my body fat percentage is. I always just go based on how I look in the mirror. When trying to gain weight I just always make sure I still have visible abs and veins in my biceps.

As ectomorphs I figure we should play to our natural strengths and get / stay lean throughout the whole muscle-building process 🙂

(I didn’t really have abs when I started, so I had to work towards that as well. Not planning on losing ’em though.)


I was a chubby baby, a slim kid and tween … and then puberty hit and all of a sudden I was very tall and very very skinny.

Even in middle school though I was always on the slender side. My limbs were just short enough that it wasn’t that extreme 😉


One thing I’ve wondered about with ectomorphs is height vs muscle growth. Although I am a short ectomorph, I’ve noticed in my personal encounters that the majority of ectomorphs are above average height, and that seems to be true with you guys. But yet, at the same time growth works against ectomorphs when it comes to muscle. Do you have any ideas for why it generally works that way? Also, were you a lot taller than average as a kid, or did you just have an above average teenage growth spurt in tadem with becoming very skinny?

Shane Duquette

Yep! Ectomorphs are usually pretty tall. I mean, like you say, there are ectomorphs in every height bracket, but a lot of us are rather tall.

At 6’4, 6’2 and 6′ the three of us are definitively tall … but in the b2Beastly community we’re actually around average. Lots of taller guys, lots of shorter guys. In real life that’s not the case – Marco is pretty much the only guy I know who’s taller than me 😉

There are lots of ideas and theories about why it works that way! I’m hoping to write a bit more about that soon. Don’t want to open my mouth too soon and spew stuff that isn’t true. Stay tuned!


I just want to ask dude, I only work out at home, can I substitute dumbell squats to barbell squats. I have a problem with my upper back and cant squat using heavy barbells but I can hold it in my hand. Can I still grow big using dumbells for squat?

I did add 20 lbs from 130lbs to 150lbs at 5″10″ doing just bench press and deadlift. I really dont like barbell squat. I hope I’m not missing something. thanks!

Shane Duquette

Congrats man! Gaining 20 pounds is amazing. You must be stoked 😀

No need to back squat.

I much prefer goblet squats and front squats. I’m decent at back squatting – no issues or anything – but the other variations I find a lot more fun and fulfilling, since I can get so much deeper.

Some sports performance experts, like Mike Robertson, don’t think that anyone should be back squatting ever. They favour goblets, front squats, bulgarian split squats, step ups, 90/90 split squats, etc.

If you’re only bench pressing and deadlifting you’re missing out, yes, but there are many types of squats you can do 🙂

Good luck man, keep kicking ass!


Great!, I will try the Goblet squat and Split squat like what your doing above.

I’ve only done side dumbell squats this week, my only concern is that i don’t have very heavy dumbell. I also shopped for a cheap kettlebell and the heaviest I found is 30kg. Do you think that weight is enough ….do I need to go to failure on all sets or last set only to to stimulate muscle growth?

By the way bench press and dead lifts are the two compound exercise that I’m doing (4 sets of 12 reps) but I also incorporate barbell rows and chin up from time to time. Gaining 20 lbs is not easy, it took 5 months and investing on ON Whey and Creatine. I’m also having doubts if the muscle I gain is just water. Coz some say Creatine stores water. Haha.

Really appreciate your reply. thanks!

Shane Duquette

You don’t need to go to failure ever, really!

Creatine causes fluid uptake, yeah, but definitely not 20 pounds worth, and the muscle you build while on it is real (and will stick round when you stop).

If you can complete all your reps and you don’t have anything heavier to lift, it’s time to get something heavier to lift!


Thanks. Very helpful stuff.

I’ve been punishing myself the whole time cause that’s what I read at before I started. I never know Ectomorphs didn’t need to go to failure. Just progressive overload, right?

I hope It’s fine to ask for 1 last question.:)

This is my workout

Monday – Benchpress, Deadlift (4 x 12)
Tuesday – Off
Wed – Pull Up, Barbell Rows (4×10)
Thurs – Off
Fri – DB Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift (4×8)
Sat -Off
Sun -Off

I just want to ask do I need to switch from whole body 3 days a week to just one body part split?

All Compound excercise and no Isolation. still I grew 20 lbs in 5 months. I hit a plateau, from 130 to 150 at 5″10″ and never add weight anymore. That’s why I did some research again and luckily I stumbled upon this very cool site.

I’m really glad reading all the comments and very surprised by your fast response. (This is my last question and I hope I did not bother you.:) ….You guys rock! \m/

Shane Duquette

Well it’s not just an ectomorph thing either. Most people who want to get big and strong don’t need to go to failure. They can – it’s a viable way to train … but it’s not the only way to train, or even necessarily the best way to train.

I like full body workouts, so if you do too I’d stick with ’em. Your workouts are rather different from what we do … but that’s not necessarily bad. If you want to train how we train, you should consider joining b2B! I think you’d like it 🙂

Also, there’s nothing wrong with isolation now and then either. We base MOST of our workouts on big compound movements, but we also toss in some bicep hypertrophy lifts and stuff – give ourselves bodies that function AND look how we want ’em to 😉

Thanks for the kind words Tim! We’ll keep coming out with cool free stuff.


i did gym for 1 year with hard training and i was very dissapointed as an ectomorph. im from romania so is a bit hard to afford $197(which is our minimum salary) but ill do my best because this really looks attractive. thanks for existence!

Shane Duquette

Hey Iri, no problem, and thanks for the kind words.

Yeah. I know training consistently and not seeing results is really damn frustrating. I’ve been there. That’s something pretty much all of us skinny guys struggle with, really.

That doesn’t mean it was a waste of time though. Weightlifting and exercise is brilliant for your health, both in the short-term and the long-term. Great for your brain, your bones, your mood, your energy levels, your strength, your cardiovascular health, your fitness levels, etc. Stick with those habits!

(If you were lifting well, lifting heavy, improving your strength and not seeing ANY results as far as building muscle mass goes, your biggest issue is probably on the nutrition side of things. Perhaps calories or protein. Hard to say, but that’d be where I’d look first.)

That would be sweet if you joined us. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to keep coming out with cool free content on the blog and in the newsletter 🙂

Hope to see you in there!


Just curious, what ever happened to Louis? Did he ever become beastly too?

Shane Duquette

He found a type of exercise that suited his lifestyle and preferences better – ultimate frisbee. He also became a lawyer, a great chef and grew a pretty sweet beard.

We’re still great friends, too. He’s in the eccentric blue sweater:

Mr 3X

Hey Guys

First of all this is a great resource site for ectomorphs like me.

I’d like to ask something controversial, In fact I find it shameful to ask this question. If you find it a bit censored could you please just email me the answer. But feel free to answer this here, I believe it will be helpful to many guys like me. hehe.

I’m an ectomorph at 6ft, 148lbs long limbs but very high libido. When I’m watching porn I always fap and loose some precious liquid (I’m just making my language decent 😉 After that
I feel very weak for about 3 to 4 days and lasts to a week, I cant fully concentrate and can’t lift heavy. I’m trying to gain weight and I go to the gym to do bench, squats and barbell curls, I’m also eating meat and drinking ON Serious Mass.

I asked this if there’s a corelation between fapping and lifting heavy, I’m just starting to lift and my bench is 70 lbs at 10 reps, I can hit 80 for 5 reps. But after I fap and feel really weak and dizzy after a day I don’t feel going to the gym. I’m trying to avoid watching “those” kind of stuff but sometimes the call is hard to resist.
I think the white liquid is full of protein your loosing it if you expel it frequently, therefore loosing weight and muscle mass. By the way I’m lifting 3x a week MWF, I fap either Tues or Fri depending if nobody is watching. Haha.

I hope this mail is not that vulgar. Cheers!

Mr. 3X

Shane Duquette

Hey man that’s actually a pretty common question and there are a lot of myths surrounding sex, testosterone and muscle.

1. Being sexually turned on acutely increases testosterone production. It IS acute though, i.e., not lasting, so it doesn’t affect overall muscle growth really at all – certainly not noticeably.

2. Ejaculation doesn’t affect testosterone or muscle-building efforts at all. It also shouldn’t affect strength – certainly not noticeably. If you’re turned on WHILE lifting it would ratchet up your testosterone very temporarily and it might help you lift a little heavier, but all these minor temporary things really aren’t worth worrying about because they’d never contribute to measurable differences in progress / muscle growth.

3. It does take energy, but it shouldn’t be making you feel weak for days afterwards. This stuff should be making you feel better and your life more enjoyable overall, not the opposite. I really can’t explain why that’s happening, so I would ask your doctor about that one!

4. Having a healthy sexual appetite is a good indication of your hormones being okay / that you aren’t over-training. Generally that’s a good sign.

Long story short – no worthwhile or significant connection (as far as I know).

I’m sorry I can’t offer more help!

Mr 3X

Cool!. No worries man, your answer is actually comforting knowing I have a healthy hormones and I’m normal. I’ll take advantage of that temporary Testosterone spike you are talking about. Hehe.

Oh by the way. I googled my symptoms while waiting for your reply and I found out what that is:

its called POIS or “Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome”. It’s the cloudy brain and weakness after frequent release of the white liquid. Gotta reduce fapping. Now I believe in the saying anything in excess is bad, live by moderation.



Hey guys,
So are you saying that I could gain the same amount of wieght in the same amount of time+eating right with a simple 200$ dumbbell?
I find it hard to believe because in the gym there is so much more expensive equipment that can help you to do a full body workout, and I am not too sure how many full body workouts are possible with only a dumbbell.
I really hope this is true because well.. the gym isn’t the best place for me.
First of all, there are many distractions there and it distracts me from doing a proper workout like I’d do in home.
And second, in my gym atleast, there are alot of places taken already and I have to wait in line and its really exaushting.
Is it possible to do a deadlift and a squat with just a dumbbell?
How can I do your workouts with just a dumbbell?

Well anyways, thank you for motivating me even more! I really hope this really works!

I can’t wait to read your reply and I hope it could help me some more!

Thanks for the awesome article and keep motivating people guys!: p

Shane Duquette

All you really need to build muscle is a solid understanding of the fundamentals of weightlifting, a solid understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition, something heavy enough to lift, and enough food to eat.

Whether you lift in the gym using a wide variety of fancy pieces of equipment or you lift in your living room using a couple heavy adjustable dumbbells doesn’t matter – at least not very much.

Are there some advantages to going to the gym? Of course. It’s easier to vary your routine, there’s a wider range of exercises you can do, you don’t need to fiddle with adjusting the weight of adjustable dumbbells, etc … but you can build tons of muscle either way 🙂

Yep – totally possible to do a few squat and deadlift variations with just a dumbbell – suitcase deadlifts, dumbbell sumo deadlifts, goblet squats, offset rack position squats, offset split squats, etc. You can see me showing a couple of ’em in the photos above.

Eventually as you get bigger and stronger you can slowly upgrade your setup to allow you to lift heavier and heavier. That’s in the long-term though. You can gain 20-30 pounds before then I’m sure. 100 pounds per hand is quite a lot, so you’ll be able to get pretty damn big and strong.

How do you adjust our workouts to use just a dumbbell or two? We’ve got a specific workout plan for it, so you don’t need to 🙂

Fundamentals > fancy any day.

And thank you for the kind words Tony! Hope to see you on the other side someday.


Hey I commented earlier this year and you recommended me read this article for tips and the like. I just wanted to say that this is one of the most comprehensive articles i’ve read! No lie!
I took alot of the fundementals you explained, and scoured the internet and i just wanted to know if this is a good program to start out with for my ectomorph self(6ft 1 and 135lbs):

Alternate workout A and B every 4 weeks…
Workout A
Barbell Squats-(3×5)
Bench Press-(3×5)
Bent Over Dumbbell Row( and Reverse)- 2×3
Farmers Walk(Racked Carry, Waiter Carry,etc…)

Workout B
Barbell Squat-(3×5)
Overhead Press(3×5)
Power Clean-(5×3)
Bent Over Dumbbell Row( and Reverse)- 1×4
Farmers Walk(Racked Carry, Waiter Carry,etc…)

(Too long of a post i know!)

Shane Duquette

Really glad you found it useful Nate!

I suspect that will build you some solid muscle, yeah, since it will allow you to progressively lift heavier and heavier through the main movement patterns.

I can’t really go into proper depth here – we wrote a whole book and filmed several dozen videos about this stuff and I still feel like I have more to say – but I think you can make it a little more effective at building muscle and also way way way safer.

That’s not a workout that I would program for a thin 6’1 dude, that’s a fairly advanced program for a sturdy, strong, experienced and athletic guy.

For example, back squats are a tough lift to master and most skinny dudes – what with our long and relatively unstable spines, shoddy hip mobility, and iffy posture – struggle with them starting out. I love back squats, don’t get me wrong – but that’s something we usually get our guys doing after they’ve gained 20+ pounds of muscle. After gaining a couple dozen pounds of muscle there’s a lot of beastly strength in their spinal erectors, abs, obliques and back, and they’ve got great hip mobility. All of a sudden back squats become very effective and very safe.

You may want to start with a heavy goblet squat or front squat. That would take some of the stress of your back and allow you to work on your mobility (while building tons of muscle).

Same deal with overhead presses. Great lift for some guys – absolutely awful for skinny guys without amazing core stability and fearsome shoulder mobility. Again, we love the lift and love working it into our programs, but we do it after building up tons of muscle and mobility first.

For now, your horizontal presses will give the fronts of your shoulders (anterior deltoids) all the work they need. Your pulls will give the backs of your shoulders (rear delts) all the work they need. For the middle (lateral) part of your shoulders I’d just toss some lateral raises onto the end of the workout.

Same thing with the deadlift – great lift, but not ideal to start with, especially for us skinny dudes.

Power clean? Not even really sure why that’s in there. I wouldn’t touch olympic lifts yet. Gain a couple dozen pounds and master the movement patterns first, I would say.

The further you get into advanced techniques and stability/mobility bottlenecks the less muscle you’ll build where you want it and the higher your chance of injury becomes.

So basically I’d just regress some of the lifts so that you can build muscle, stability, strength and mobility more heartily and safely.

I know that’s a lot to take in. If you want to read up on it more we wrote an article on ectomorph weightlifting here, and I explain some of the rationale and regressions for the lifts:

(You also might want to work in some moderate rep range stuff. 6-12 works amazingly well for growth. Again, the crazy low powerlifting rep ranges like those are great, and we do them, but they’re really best for strong muscular dudes with amazing technique and tons of stability and mobility.)

I really hope that helps!


Snake again

I would like to ask you do I need a decline bench or incline/flat will do?
I’m asking you because i’m on a very tight budget and I will put my father to build me a bench.

PS: I’m joining the comunity between jan and feb 😀

Shane Duquette

Niiice glad to hear it man! You’re going to like it 🙂

As for the bench – flat and incline is more than enough. No need for decline.

Your dad’s building it? That’s so badass.


Hello. I am 14 yrs old and was wondering if I can do this program?

Shane Duquette

Hey Jose, that’s a really good question. Here my two cents:

First, people much smarter and more educated than me think it’s a good idea. Eric Cressey, one of the most respected names in strength and athletics coaches a ton of professional athletes(major league baseball players in particular) and young aspiring professional athletes into building up strength, muscle and great movement patterns thinks that it’s a good idea. Starting at a young age, he argues, is great. It’s far less dangerous than the actual sports kids play, and it comes along with a ton of advantages. He wrote an article on it here.

(Marco interned under Eric Cressey a couple years ago, and he coaches some high school athletes.)

The New York Times agrees, saying that weightlifting is great for teenagers in this article.

And studies seem to be finding it quite safe (especially compared with common sports):

So weightlifting at fourteen seems like a pretty solid idea – I know I wish I’d started younger – and I think our program would work brilliantly well. Of course, I recommend getting permission from your parents (and doctor). No form of physical activity is totally risk free and you and your family would need to be okay with that.

If all of that pans out, we’d love to have you man. I think you’d get a lot out of it 🙂


Hi Shane,

Another .

another great post. thanks very much!

I was thinking: in fact we (you or i) just have to give up our desk/computer jobs partly and found a half-time job where we lift heavy things. Then we wil be paid for getting muscle.! great idea i have (lol). The other half work time you keep your desk job.




Shane Duquette

Ahaha perhaps start up a moving company and spend your days carrying couches? Bonus points if you carry it overhead 🙂


I went into landscaping as a skinny ectomorph. After spending 11 years doing hard labor, I left the field as the same skinny ectomorph, only with a very sore back! My advice, follow Shane’s program and enjoy your cushy job : )


thanks for the reply
(sorry for being late)

Just replying to add that you look great, i don’t know how many pounds you could add for now.



Hey, I am writing again.
I was wondering a few things:
If I lift those 2 dumbells for deadlift/squat exercises, would I have the same impact as lifting a barbell for the same excercizes?
And I am also wondering, do you have any people as members of B2B that use only 2 dumbells and they are making progress with them? Gaining the same weight as someone in the gym?

Thanks again!
Have a good day!

Shane Duquette

You can absolutely get killer results with just dumbbells, especially if you do the right lifts and have heavy enough dumbbells to make those lifts challenging in the right rep ranges. In that case, you can certainly achieve the same results as you would using barbells 🙂

Eventually, as you get stronger and stronger, you may find that you need to progress to using equipment that allows you to lift heavier and heavier. With barbells you can easily load up 200, 300, 400+ pounds.

But you can gain 30+ pounds before needing to do that. Those two dumbbells would allow you to do a rack position squat and dumbbell Romanian deadlift with 200 pounds! Not bad.

We’ve got a couple guys using just dumbbells, but most guys get the bench too so that they can do our official workouts, instead of the limited equipment workouts. (We’ve got a separate workout that uses just dumbbells.) They do well, yeah 🙂


how much do you weigh in the picture?

Shane Duquette

190, if I’m remembering correctly? Maybe a little bit more.

Shane Duquette

I’m always hanging out somewhere between 180-200. Usually between 185-190.


Hiya B2B!
I’ve been pondering over buying a couple of kettlebells so I can work out at home. However, I’m wondering to what extent I can accomplish through only kettlebell exercises and no dumbbells at all. Reasons for this are a limited budget and temporary living plans (I’m planning a cross-country move in a year or so). Your opinion on solo kettlebell exercises?

– Justin

Shane Duquette

Hey Justin,

Kettlebells are good – I use kettlebells when I train at home – but they aren’t necessarily the best tool for building up muscle size and strength if your goal is gaining weight. Most kettlebell workouts are more geared towards conditioning/fitness/aerobics, and that’s where they really shine. If you check out some kettlebell workouts you’ll see lots of swings, snatches, cleans, etc done in fairly high rep ranges. Absolutely incredible for you, but not mass builders, per say.

If you have to get kettlebells you can make them work. I mean, you could even try and just use them more or less like dumbbells and probably do decently well if they were heavy enough, but in that case you may as well just get some big heavy adjustable dumbbells, since they’d be the far superior option there, and on a pound for pound basis they’re usually cheaper (and pound for pound they obviously weigh the same, and would presumably be equally easy/difficult to transport).

Does that make sense / help at all?


Heya Shane,

Thanks for the reply and yes it is very helpful and informative. It certainly explains further why kettlebells are optional equipment. I will expand my search for a pair of affordable adjustable dumbbells. Thanks again and for dispensing valuable advice to people, especially ectomorphs, everywhere.

Shane Duquette

No problem Justin, glad I could help 🙂


Hey there 🙂 Enjoyed reading this post, you’re really funny! Anyway, I got a question. I’m planning to participate in this program but I only have dumbbells and the ‘Sturdy Adjustable Bench’. Will that do?


meaning I don’t have the power cage and the Olympic barbell.

Shane Duquette

For sure! I would call those the “required” pieces of equipment. We’ve got an equipment-light version of the program that requires just one heavy adjustable dumbbell, but I’d recommend a pair of dumbbells and an adjustable bench.

Down the road you may find you want a power cage, but it’s by no means required for b2B – we’ve got exercise substitutions built into the program for guys without them 🙂

I hope you decide to join us man!


Hey man, I just found out about your program and everything seemed to make a lot of sense. I was wondering if I could complete the whole program without going to the gym. I really don’t have access at the moment but am willing to buy those home workout equipment you mentioned in this article. You know ,I really want to double check before I commit and buy the program lol. Anyways, this is one of the only websites that had alot of good information. So that’s why I stuck with it. Thanks.

Shane Duquette

Really glad to hear you’re digging our website, Jay! For sure – you can definitely complete the whole program without going to the gym. All you need to build muscle are some heavy things to lift so you can progressively build up more strength. Gyms are great, and that’s where I prefer to train, but they aren’t mandatory by any means. Marco trains people at a gym every day and then does his own training at his home gym, for example.

I hope you decide to join us, man – I think you’ll like it 🙂


I just bought some dumbell weights that was recommended too.So that means i am probably going to do the program at home. I was wondering though..When I get to the point where I buy the program, Do you guys send me materials or something (books..ect.) or is it all online? And I got one more question; when I purchase the program does that mean I keep it? In other words if I ever get caught up in something and have to lay the program off Would I have to “Repurchase” the program to get back on? Sorry I just want to make sure before I commit to something lol.

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s sweet, Jay!

Nah, no need to wait for stuff in the mail – we like to keep everything digital. There are always new studies coming out regarding hypertrophy, strength, nutrition, health, etc. It’s actually a really really exciting field as far as the research goes, and every month a few new interesting/significant studies will come out, adding to the larger body of muscle-building evidence. I mean they’re rarely game changers – most of this stuff is fairly well established – but we like to keep as current and precise as possible.

We also like to improve and add to the program based on how guys in the community are doing. We recently re-shot all the training videos and revamped the weightlifting program 🙂

Once you’re in the content is yours to keep. Your membership in the community though (and coaching from us) lasts for a year.

Hope to see you on the other side soon, and enjoy your dumbbells!


This may seem like a stupid question lol, but is it optional to post photos of your progress? Or is it part of the program?

Shane Duquette

Totally optional! We encourage it, but many members don’t and that’s absolutely totally cool. Some guys crop off their heads too, as you can see in the sidebar. (And it should go without saying that if you do post them we would never share them without explicit permission.)


Hey guys, big fan of what you achieved. My name is ahmad and I am 15 years old and i was wondering if it’s too early for me to subscribe because I won’t take the protein shakes or supplements(I am too young) and I won’t do workouts that would stop my growth(like my height) .In the other hand, I can eat massive amounts of food without bothering my self and I am physically strong.In addition I once tried putting weight and I gained 2kg(4.4 pounds) in 3 weeks and after two weeks the weight I used (4kg=8.8 pounds) became nothing to me as for my strength grows rapidly. So can I benefit from the program at my age and conditions??

Shane Duquette

Hey Ahmad, congrats on gaining 2kg! That’s sweet that you find yourself growing stronger rapidly, too.

I’ve never heard of any evidence that ANY type of training would reduce your height. Fracturing bones could stunt growth, but that happens more often with sports (soccer, football, etc) than with weightlifting. You’d have to lift weights pretty atrociously to wind up with that kind of injury 😛

Most successful weightlifters start young. Arnold Schwarzenegger started at around your age (6’1). Marco started at 15 (6’4). I, on the other hand, started late. By the time I gained my first pound at 22 Marco had already gained 62 pounds!

No need for supplements ever, if you don’t want to take them. They’re totally optional always.

Here‘s a New York Times post on weightlifting for high school aged kids.

Long story short, so long as your parents (and doctor) are on board, you aren’t too young. We’ve got a few guys your age and they’re doing really well!


Glad for the response,expect from me to become a member once I finish my finals in about a month:)

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s great! See you on the other side, and good luck 🙂


Hey Shane, got recommended to your site by a friend. I got a question about soreness. After not training for about a year, I finally decided to get back into working out with heavy weights. For the first week I was super sore. The second week I was mildly sore. Then from the third and fourth week (on my fifth week now) I have noticing some gains in terms of muscle mass but I have not been getting the DOMS experience that I have been experiencing. I was always told that soreness was an indication of a great workout. I have increasing the weights by a few Kg’s a week and I have even been training my muscles to shock or even in some instances to the point of failure. Any suggestions? Coul it be the protein shakes that help? I am worried I have hit a plateau 🙁 Thanks a lot.

Shane Duquette

Hey Brian, soreness isn’t really a good indicator of success at all. It can be. If you’re lifting in rep ranges that wouldn’t give you a burn (under 8-10 reps) it can be encouraging to feel DOMS in your pecs 24-48 hours later and think, “phew, I did indeed hit my pecs while bench pressing, and not just my shoulders”. But I would say that you should use your progress (strength/muscle gains) to gauge the success of your workouts, not muscle soreness.

Generally you feel pretty sore in the first few weeks of training as your body adjusts to the new stimuluses, and then the soreness fades or disappears. Oftentimes the soreness stops feeling bad and starts feeling more massage-like too, as your body learns to interpret the “pain” as something bodacious.

Now, since you’re feeling relatively fresh still, you may be able to handle even more training volume or intensity and further accelerate your results … but it’s hard to say.

Anyway, I would worry about a plateau when your results stall, not when muscle soreness fades 🙂


Hey Shane just one more question; Does the videos show the proper form and technique for doing the workouts at home with the dumbells? Or is there some substitution? I really wanna know cause I’m not able to go to the gym at this moment. And also you’re saying I can get the same good results at home too? Thanks man.

Shane Duquette

Yes sir! We recently revamped the training program and re-shot all of the videos. That was one of the common requests we had, so for the lifts that are more equipment intensive we filmed and explained minimal equipment alternatives at the end of the videos 🙂


Hey Shane I sent you an e-mail with some questions, but didn’t receive an answer yet. I sent to us (at) Is that the correct address?

Shane Duquette

Yes sir! We get a lot of emails, so sometimes it takes up to a couple days to get back. (We handle all the member stuff first and foremost, so sometimes the emails get pushed back to the next day.)

I’ll answer it now 🙂


I’m probably going to try your program but I want to ask just a few questions; Will the food required to buy for the program be really expensive? Will it be a lot of groceries to buy?or just basic amount but focused more on proteins and calories etc.? The day I buy the program can I start even though my nutrition ain’t really on point (about average). Also if I hit a plateau will the muscles get smaller if I keep training the same or will they just stay the current size forever unless I add more resistance? What do people mean when they say change up your workouts once in a while? Is it necessary because I like to keep things simple? And if so, can I just do it at home with the equipment you listed. Thanks man lot of questions but I am.really looking to try it now.

Shane Duquette

Hey Jon,

1. The food won’t be expensive. You don’t need to buy fancy foods, switch to organic or eat loads of expensive meats. Nothing wrong with bulking like a pauper—rice, potatoes, beans, whole grain bread, peanut butter, etc. You will need to eat enough protein, but when bulking that’s easier to do than you probably expect. We’ll teach you how it’ll all come together.

2. You can start right away. Hell, if you start with the training side of things that’s probably the best place to start. You may not see gains on the scale until you start eating enough to grow, but your body will start doing everything it can to build muscle as soon as you begin the workouts. (You’ll want to read the chapters on training beforehand though and watch the videos.)

3. There are many reasons you might hit a plateau. We can help you blast through them an individual level. If you’re talking about eventually switching into maintenance mode, you can train much less and eat much less without your muscles getting smaller. It’s the growing part that’s challenging.

4. Strategically adding in variety/progressions does indeed help. Changing up your workouts at least a little bit is fairly necessary when trying to progress, especially when you get past the beginner level. We’ll teach you about that.

5. Yep! You can train at home even when you get more advanced. You’d still be following a periodized plan though and introducing variety in certain ways. This will keep you from hitting a wall with your results.

Does that answer everything?


How long on average will you start seeing some results? But anyway thanks man I think you answered everything I need to know!

Shane Duquette

After the first week you should see measurable results on the scale. Most of our guys will gain a couple pounds in the first week, and then 1-2 pounds each week for the next couple months. At around the 10 pound mark (a couple months in, usually) most guys can notice a significant change in their bodies and will start getting compliments from others.

20 pounds is usually when the changes become quite impressive, and that’s why we have it as a benchmark goal. (You can see examples of that in the sidebar, along with how long it took them to get there.)


With the bench press amounts that you were able to do, were those one rep max or multiple reps?

Shane Duquette

It was the heaviest I had ever actually done. Something along the lines of a 3RM, since I wasn’t lifting singles back then.


Hey Shane I’m interested in joining your program but I have a few quick questions. Is your program designed for gym and all of their fancy machines or can it be completed with dum bells, bench press set, and pull up bar? Also, do you include exercise videos with the exercise equipment I mentioned? Thanks.

Shane Duquette

We aren’t so much a “fancy” program as a hearty fundamentals program. We use some machines in our programming, however whenever we do, we also include dumbbell alternatives. If you’ve got some heavy dumbbells and an adjustable bench you’re set to do the program, and not in a half-assed way—you can expect to get maximal results.

Yep! We’ve got videos for the dumbbell alternatives too. We recently reshot all of the videos, and since so many members were training at home, we kept that in mind when filming them!

So we’ve got ya covered 🙂


Hey Shane,
My hubby loves this post and has started getting our home gym together based on your recommendations (and stalking craig’s list). I totally agree with your “simplify” philosophy in regards to equipment and exercise. “Eat clean, exercise daily!” has been my mantra for the summer. I love my elliptical and use it daily, but after reading this post and seeing my man start weight training, I want to build some muscle too… perhaps not to the “beastly” level though! Any tips/modifications recommended for skinny girls or can I go with same program of the fundamental lifts you recommend for skinny guys?? 🙂 Thanks a bunch!
Chrissy from VT, USA

Shane Duquette

Ahaha Craigslist and Kijiji are sweet for weights. Good call!

The same fundamentals will be more or less true for women, although physiological differences do exist. What usually tends to be more different is the desired outcome. I mean everyone will want to get stronger everywhere, so the full body compound lifts will be the same (mostly), however guys usually want to further emphasize their shoulders, backs, chests, arms and build up burly abs… whereas women often want their glutes to be their biggest asset and they want a narrower waist. Since the goals are different, it usually leads to rather different programming. That always depends though. Everyone is a little different.

I think you’re going to love our sister program, Bony to Bombshell 🙂

It’s a weight gain / muscle-building program for naturally thin women.


Hey Shane,
I started working out from this March and was regular till June.I gained around 14 pounds in these 4 months and looked lean as before but more muscular.The problem is I had to skip gym whole July(no exercise) due to family problems and by the start of August I saw a little belly fat and love handles.I kept my diet same.I gained around 2 pound without any exercise in that month.Now I have started working out again from the start of August but that fat thing is still there till now.Should I worry about it or will it go away as I build more muscle? I was around 120 pounds at start and now I am 140.Sorry for the bad English though.

Shane Duquette

Congratulations, Shreyan—gaining fourteen pounds is sweet!

Hehe yeah, bulking without weightlifting is a bad time. That’s a great way to get fat :S

Fat won’t necessarily go away as you build more muscle, especially if you stay in a calorie surplus (i.e. you keep gaining weight/building muscle). When in a calorie surplus your body has little chance to burn its emergency energy stores (fat), since there’s never an energy shortage. If you want to trim the fat I’d suggest cutting. You’d keep weightlifting to build muscle, but you’d consume few enough calories that you lose weight on the scale each week.

Two pounds is nothing though. If it were me and I wanted to keep getting stronger, I’d just ignore the accidental fat gain and keep focusing on building muscle… although I’d make sure to do it leanly from there. That’s a matter of personal preference though.

Does that help / make sense? And good luck!


I heard someone say just eating loads of food without any type of weightlifting doesn’t really do much to gain in size except maybe just a lil fat. They said once you start getting in the routine you naturally start wanting to eat more because your body needs the fuel. So when weightlifting its more easier to bulk and gain size. I think since I’m not doing any form of exercise my body isn’t needing the fuel hence not having a big appetite. I actually eat pretty normal so I guess I need to start lifting. I could be wrong but it does make sense.

Shane Duquette

Hey Jon,

That really depends on the person! Lots of guys naturally eat a lot of food when lifting, yeah. However, that isn’t usually the case with us, since most of us are naturally skinny “hardgainers”. Moreover, exercise burns calories. Many people do eat more food when exercising but burn even more… resulting in weight loss.

Here‘s an article looking into the research into appetite and exercise. If you do run into trouble eating enough to build muscle, there are some strategies for that in there too 🙂

(And your friend is right about overeating without weightlifting—that will indeed just make you fatter!)


Thanks for the reply Shane it helped me a lot.And regarding muscle-fat gain I have come to the conclusion that no one is same.It solely depends on the genetics how fast you can gain muscle or burn fat but it always possible to gain muscle or burn fat even if it takes a little time.

Shane Duquette

No problem, man. Good luck!


Shane your posts are inspirational and thank you for all of the information.

I am 5’11 at 130 lbs up from 125 lbs about a month ago. I have started consuming more calories and ON whey protein twice a day with milk. Thus far I have been doing a variety of push ups. My biceps are getting bigger and more defined. I literally had no pecs a month ago and now I do.

I wanted to share the information above before asking you a question about dumbbells. I am considering the first set you mention above (the 200 lbs Unipack). What are your thoughts on this Unipack 105 lbs set for someone like me to start with?

Once again thank you and I am considering your program.

Shane Duquette

Those look pretty decent, although given the choice I’d go for something heavier. You’ll soon grow too strong for adjustable dumbbells that max out at 50 pounds. Even if that seems far-fetched now, a couple months and a dozen pounds from now you’ll realize how quickly you can gain strength!

Shane Duquette

And congrats on the progress so far, man—sounds like things are going really well! 😀


I ordered the 200 lbs Unipack adjustable dumbbells with your affiliate code in the URL. Thanks for your posts, I’m looking forward to the next few months.

Shane Duquette

That’s awesome, Ross—I hope you dig ’em! And good luck 🙂


Hey. Great article and website. And also great design an illustration work!

I’m interested in learning more about dumbbell exercises since I don’t plan on going to a gym. I didn’t find any articles on your site that give basic exercise instructions. I’d like to give it a try before buying the whole package.

Thanks in advance!

Shane Duquette

Hey Seth,

You’re right. We don’t currently have any free workout plans in the community. We might be sending out some sort of sample over our email newsletter sometime later this year though 🙂

I hope that helps!


I noticed that you don’t have normal squats under your list of exercises for Dumbbells. (Holding a Dumbbell in each hand-squat)
Is there a reason you don’t recommend this exercise?

Shane Duquette

Hey Seth,

I would say there are a few types of “normal” squats. The first type would be bodyweight squats (for guys who don’t have weights), the second type would be barbell back squats (for experienced heavy lifters with good back health), and the third type would be dumbbell goblet squats (for anyone without a squat rack or power cage).

Holding a squat in each hand. Do you mean a 90/90 split squat with dumbbells? Or do you mean holding the dumbbells in a racked position? These are all good variations with their pros and their cons. A variety of different squats, used strategically and based on the individual and their circumstances, is best 🙂


Thanks for the response. I meant the racked position, although I don’t know that expression(just a beginner). I guess you can hold the Dumbbells by your thighs, or up over your shoulders.

I feel like the goblet squat limits how much weight you can work with. So even as a beginner I’d like to have an exercise I can progress with. And squats seem like the cornerstone of the whole workout.

Shane Duquette

You can do racked position, yep! That’s one of my favourite ways to progress the lift if all you have is dumbbells, and that’s what I’ll do when doing heavy goblet squats at home.

Goblet squats can be pretty humbling even for very advanced guys though. If you’re using a 120 pound dumbbell it takes a whole helluva lot of strength, and you can up the reps quite a bit before it’ll stop building muscle—maybe going as high as 18 reps before considering that 120 pound dumbbell “beaten”.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s good to progress exercises, not just weights. You’ll see more balanced and more rapid muscle growth if you use a variety of different exercises and progressions. For example, rather than doing a back squat for six months in a row, it would likely be better to do a goblet squat for a couple months, then a front squat for a couple months, then a back squat for a couple months.

Shane Duquette

Oh! You can also progress to single leg variations. You could turn that goblet squat into, say, a goblet bulgarian split squat!


Im 17 and reading your websites and reading most of the comments, has really made me more confident about myself and working out. It’s people like you who inspire me, although sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror or at my arms, I don’t think I look that skinny but im 17 and I haven’t checked my weight but im guessing 120, 122 last time I checked but other people say I’m skinny and I’m just like, do I really look that skinny? Haha sometimes I think I look kind of normal, have any of you guys ever felt that way too? But I know I’m skinny and I am definitely going to try out this website, especially all the pictures I see they’re insane! You guys are awesome for doing this and I really appreciate how you guys take time to give advice to these people and make others gain more confidence in themselves just as you did for me I would reccomend this site to anybody

Shane Duquette

Hey Julian, thank you so much for the kind words!

Ahaha I’ve gained 50 pounds and sometimes I still feel skinny! Compared to some guys, who are either exceptionally muscular or very overweight, I really am pretty skinny. I’m not sure that feeling will ever totally go away, but I do, for the most part, feel super super happy about how my body looks and performs. I can lift furniture alongside the burliest of dudes, and sometimes I’ll run into pieces of clothing that don’t fit my arms or legs.

120 might indeed be fairly light for your height, but who cares! If you’re healthy and you feel good about your body those are the most important things. And if you think that building muscle and lifting weights will make you look and feel even better, then I can’t recommend it highly enough—I think you’ll love it 🙂

17 is a great age to start, too. I hope you do decide to join us!

Dominik B.

Hey Shane! 🙂

I am Dominik from Germany – 25 years old, 5’10 tall and currently at 110 pounds. I have been an eager reader of ‘bony to beastly’ in the last couple months and would like to share my story.

I have started to do freeletics (no weights) sporadically, about 2 1/2 months ago with two buddies of mine. In this time period I also tried to pay more attention to my eating habits (I am vegetarian) and managed to gain and – more importantly – keep 5 pounds, even though I only got to work out once a week. My overall strength has also increased by a fair bit, but that is probably a given when you have not done any sports for more than five years, haha. 5 pounds are nothing for most people, but I have not managed to gain any weight for a long time even though I tried in the past.

Unfortunately my buddies lately slack when it comes to our workout schedule and might quit sooner or later. However, I have decided that I will not give up that easily this time! (which is partly due to you and ‘bony to beastly’)

Even though I am not sure yet, if I will purchase your program, your website definitely left an impression. I am surprised and equally delighted that you have invested so much time and effort into responding to everyone’s questions in the comments. Thanks to this I have not only learned a lot about the body of us ectomorphs, but also about the general workout we should aim at.

I especially enjoyed reading ‘how to build a badass home gym’ and hence got my first workout equipment yesterday which consists of two adjustable dumbbells (up to 33 pounds each), an adjustable bench, a 20 pounds kettlebell, an ab weel, a chin-up bar and an adjustable hand gripper. This shall be the basement of my dream physique! 🙂

Once again, thank you for providing so much information without expecting anything in return. Hopefully I will be able to look as healthy and strong as you in the future.

Some last words:

Shane, I was really moved by your story (at least I believe it is yours) in the first & free Chapter of the program, because I have been feeling exactly the same for a long ass time! Thank you for sharing your story and – of course – your openness.

Keep rockin’!

PS: I really like the song you guys used in your youtube video ‘Ectomorph Transformation, Part Two: 90 Day Results (Before Bony to Beastly)’ and regularly listen to it while doing exercises at home. Can you recommend any songs/bands you like to listen to while working out? 🙂

Shane Duquette

Congrats on the five pounds! Whether or not it sounds like a lot, I know how precious even a few gained pounds can be to a skinny guy. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Glad we could help inspire you to keep working out, Dominik 🙂

(That was indeed my story in the first free chapter.)

It awesome that you’ve decided to get some weights, too! Sounds like you had luck with bodyweight exercises. Oh man, you’re going to get WAY better results with weights. I think you’ll find it pretty exciting 😀

As for bands, I just recently bought all three Mariachi El Bronx albums and I’ve been loving them. If you liked that song in our video though, maybe try some of these. I’ll link a few videos: Pure Love, Dead Weather, Alexisonfire, Comeback Kid, Maylene, Death from Above, Baroness, Danzig, Queens of the Stone Age, and this classic song from an ectomorph right here in Ontario.

Dulitha Lakvin

This is best article I ever seen so far. I’ll definitely follow this and hopefully waiting to see results


hi shane, its now 2015 and your still getting bigger and improving. im reading your article bony to beastly since 2013. i drop my weight im back to my scrawny body… wtf .

Shane Duquette

I’m sorry to hear that, man. Losing gains is so so frustrating. Fortunately, rebuilding muscle is very easy compared to building muscle in the first place.

As for maintaining your gains… the hardest part is actually gaining weight and building muscle. Maintenance is pretty easy by comparison—you can eat according to your appetite (usually), you don’t need to eat as much protein, and you don’t need to lift as heavy or as often. But a big part of staying muscular after you make a transformation is adjusting your habits. That way leading a healthy lifestyle truly becomes your “natural” way of being.

We tried really hard to make sure that was built into the program. Even though it might take a lot of work to transform, the goal is for you to feel “naturally” muscular afterwards, you know? Like you were always supposed to be that way.

We’ve got an article about habits and lifestyle that might help. Another big thing is putting some effort into making your bulking lifestyle more enjoyable. Don’t bulk up using foods you hate, don’t train at a gym where you hate the atmosphere (use a different gym or build a home gym), and really try to make the whole muscle-building process enjoyable. Not only does that increase your chances of finishing a full program, it also makes maintaining your gains extremely enjoyable and easy.

I really hope that helps!


Hi Shane, Great article! If you buy some dumbbells for a home gym, what’s the best way to progressively increase the weight without buying lots of dumbbells? The dumbbell sets I’ve seen only seem to allow the weight to be increased in large increments.


That chick with the peacock tattoo is in great shape.

Shane Duquette


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