Photo of Shane Duquette and Jared Polowick's bodies before Bony to Beastly.

How Two Skinny Guys Gained Muscle (Our Muscle-Building Transformations)

May 2010—the month that two skinny guys decided they were fed up with being skinny. Did we know how to lift weights? Did we know how to eat a bulking diet? Nope. We didn’t know anything about building muscle. All we knew was that we were underweight, weak, and fed up with feeling so scrawny. That was how “Muscle May” began. In fact, that’s how our entire Bony to Beastly business began.

That first day of May, the two of us made a bulking pact: we would do thirty days of whatever it took to gain muscle—naturally, of course. It’s not like we were going to take steroids or anything. Hell, we were even scared to take creatine. But skinny genes be damned, we were growing out of our skinny jeans.

At the end of those thirty days, we had gained over thirty pounds between us, which was, well, maybe a bit much! But it was working. We were finally gaining weight! So we doubled down on our efforts, extending our bulking pact for another three months. And by the end of those three months, we had built enough muscle that we weren’t skinny anymore. And we haven’t ever been skinny again.

Here’s the story of how we went from skinny to muscular.

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Cartoon illustration of a skinny-fat man with no abs wondering if he's lean enough to bulk.

Are You Lean Enough to Bulk?

Let’s say you’re a skinny guy who’s eager to build muscle. But you aren’t lean. You don’t have much muscle definition. No abs. Maybe you’ve even “skinny-fat.” Are you lean enough to bulk? After all, even if you do a lean bulk, you’ll probably gain at least a little bit of fat. That can be stressful if you’re already feeling too soft.

Plus, many bodybuilders believe that if your body-fat percentage is too high, bad things will start happening if you bulk: you’ll start converting testosterone into estrogen, your insulin sensitivity will crash, it will be harder to build muscle, and you’ll start gaining proportionally more fat. The idea is that if you’re starting off too fat, bulking will only make you fatter. Is any of that true?

How do you know if you’re lean enough to bulk?

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Illustration showing varying degrees of muscularity that women rated for attractiveness.

Survey Results: What Degree of Leanness & Muscularity Do Women Find Most Attractive?

We surveyed 423 women, asking them to rate varying degrees of muscularity and leanness in men, as well as asking them about their favourite muscle groups and ideal proportions. In this article, we’ll go over the results:

  • What’s the most attractive amount of muscle for a man to build?
  • Do women prefer more muscular upper bodies or lower bodies?
  • What muscle proportions do women find most attractive?
  • What’s the most attractive body-fat percentage?
  • Which muscles do women find most attractive?
  • Does neck size affect our appearance?

Here are the survey results.

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What body type do gay men find most attractive?

Survey Results: What Does the Most Attractive Gay Male Body Look Like?

We surveyed 102 men attracted to men, asking them to rate varying degrees of muscularity and leanness. We also asked them which muscle proportions they found most attractive. Topics include:

  • What’s the most attractive degree of muscle?
  • What’s the most attractive body-fat percentage?
  • Do gay men prefer more muscular upper bodies?
  • Which muscles do other men find most attractive?
  • What muscle proportions do gay men prefer?

Here are the results.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder using turkesterone to build muscle.

Is Turkesterone a Good Supplement for Building Muscle?

Is turkesterone a good supplement for building muscle? It’s been promoted everywhere lately—Joe Rogan, More Plates More Dates, Greg Doucette, and Vitruvian Physique have all talked about its benefits. The idea is that it can boost testosterone production, allowing us to build muscle faster and more leanly. But is there any good evidence to back those claims up? And if so, what kinds of results can you expect?

Our specialty is helping skinny guys bulk up. Cutting-edge supplements are a bit outside of our wheelhouse. That’s why we spoke with Eric Trexler, Ph.D. He’s got a doctorate degree in sports science, has published over 30 strength and hypertrophy studies, and professionally reviews research for Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS). This is exactly his area of expertise. We also have a few studies to go over, and the official position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

So, does turkesterone live up to the hype? Will it help you build muscle?

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Are Pre-Workout Supplements Good for Building Muscle?

We’ve seen some heated discussions about ingredients and dosages founds in pre-workout supplements. Does this particular brand have at least six grams of citrulline malate? Is it the correct ratio of citrulline to malate? Is there theanine alongside the caffeine to blunt the jitters? Are they using proprietary blends to hide subpar dosing? Unless you’re super into supplement research, it can be hard to parse.

But the more important question is, will taking a pre-workout supplement actually help you build muscle? Instead of diving right into min-maxing the ingredients and dosages, maybe we should take a step back and see if pre-workout supplements even work.

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Illustration of a skinny guy failing to build muscle even though he's working out, getting him classified as a non-responder.

Are You a Non-Responder to Weight Training?

There’s no doubt that genetics play a role in building muscle. In fact, especially when looking at outliers, genetics can have an enormous impact. If two people do the same workout routine and eat the same bulking diet, one of those people might gain twice as much muscle.

What’s more contentious is the claim that some people can’t build muscle at all. And there’s some truth to that idea. When most people start lifting weights, they build muscle. But not everyone. And these people who don’t gain muscle have been referred to as “non-responders” or “low-responders” in the research.

So what’s going on here? Weight training is supposed to cause us to adapt by gaining muscle size and strength. Why do some people fail to adapt?

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Illustration showing a skinny guy bulking up and gaining muscle.

Is Bulking the Best Way to Build Muscle?

Depending on who you ask, “bulking” has different connotations attached to it. For some, bulking is the way to gain muscle size and strength. For others, bulking is a foolish way to build muscle that results in needless fat gain. Which is it?

To figure out if bulking is the best way for a skinny guy to build muscle, there are a few different questions we have to answer:

  • Does a calorie surplus allow you to build muscle faster?
  • Can you lose fat and build muscle at the same time?
  • Does bulking cause needless fat gain?
  • Will bulking make skinny guys skinny-fat?
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Illustration of a bodybuilder using a barbell and dumbbells to build muscle.

Should You Build A Dumbbell or Barbell Home Gym?

Let’s say you want to build muscle at home. You’ve got a few different options. You could use your body weight, but bodyweight workouts are painful and difficult. So maybe you decide to get some resistance bands, but they aren’t very good for building muscle. Exercise machines are good for building muscle, but you’d need a different machine for each lift, which is highly impractical. That’s why most people turn to weights: barbells and dumbbells.

Both barbells and dumbbells are great at stimulating muscle growth, both are reasonably affordable, and both can be used to do hundreds of different exercises, allowing you to follow a full hypertrophy training program. Still, barbells and dumbbells aren’t quite the same as one another.

Strength training is known for favouring barbells, bodybuilding is known for favouring dumbbells (and exercise machines). For building muscle, we want to use both strength training and bodybuilding lifts. We want to use aspects of both styles of training. So which should you choose? Barbells or dumbbells?

Let’s go over the pros and cons.

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