Illustration showing a beginner deadlifting to failure with a rounded back.

Should Beginners Lift to Muscle Failure?

As a new lifter trying to gain muscle size, how close to failure should you be lifting? Some argue that beginners should stop shy of failure, leaving a few reps in reserve, a few reps in the tank. There’s some wisdom to that advice. It allows beginners to better practice their technique, and it reduces the risk of injury.

Others argue that beginners should take their sets all the way to muscular failure, ensuring that they’re pushing themselves hard enough to stimulate a maximal amount of muscle growth with every set. But does taking a set all the way to failure actually stimulate more muscle growth? Let’s take a look at the research.

Finally, not every lift is the same. Some suit training to failure better than others. So it’s not as simple as saying that a beginner should always train to failure or always avoid training to failure. It often depends on the specific lift.

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Illustration showing a skinny ectomorph having trouble with the barbell bench press.

Ectomorph Workout Plan: Beginner Weight Training Routine

Skinny guys are often called “ectomorphs.” It’s a slang term referring to our thinner bones, narrower frames, shallower ribcages, or lankier limbs. Does being naturally thinner affect how we should exercise, lift weights, and build muscle?

Many of us ectomorphs also have atypical goals. Most people want to lose weight, we want to gain it. Most people intuitively eat too much food, we eat too little. We’re usually eager to bulk up, and we often have a hard time of it. Some may even worry they’ve got bad muscle-building genetics. Does that change how we should train?

Different workout programs are designed for people with different goals. Some, like CrossFit, are designed to improve our general fitness. Others, like Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5, are designed to improve our general strength. Still others, such as bodybuilding, seem entirely centred around helping naturally muscular guys gain even more muscle. What’s the best way to work out if we’re trying to gain muscle size?

So, how should ectomorphs work out?

Dive In
Illustration showing various bulking and hypertrophy studies.

A Review of Interesting Muscle-Building Research for Skinny Guys

In this article, let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting research that could help us ectomorphs, hardgainers, and skinny guys bulk up, including studies looking into:

  • How important are bicep curls for building bigger arms?
  • Does muscle memory really exist?
  • How long should we rest between sets?
  • Does doing more sets increase muscle growth?
  • What happens if we bulk on a ketogenic diet?
  • Are high-protein diets healthy?
  • Does having casein for bed help with muscle growth?
  • Are 5×5 workouts good for building muscle?
  • Are 10×10 German Volume Training workouts good for building muscle?
  • Are push/pull/legs splits good for building muscle?
  • Which lifestyle intervention caused simultaneous muscle growth and fat loss?

All of those answers and more inside.

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Illustration of a skinny hardgainer's stomach.

Hardgainers: Why Is It So Hard for Skinny Guys to Gain Weight?

It’s common for skinny “hardgainers” to have trouble gaining weight. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic, surrounded by people who gain weight by accident, and yet no matter what we do, we can’t budge the scale.

“Just eat more.” I know. I’ve heard it, too. That advice isn’t wrong, but it’s hard to eat more when we’re fighting against faster metabolisms, smaller stomachs, and humbler appetites. Sometimes when we eat more food, our metabolisms get faster, gobbling up the extra calories, preventing us from gaining weight. We’ll explain all of that.

There are proven methods that can help us gain weight. We’ve helped tens of thousands of skinny guys bulk up. We’ve done it ourselves. We’ll teach you how to do it, too.

There are advantages to being a hardgainer. Once you learn how to take advantage of your body type, you may be able to build muscle faster and more leanly than the average person.

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Illustration of a doctor evaluating a skinny and a muscular man.

Is Bulking Healthy? Can We Make it Healthier?

Different people bulk in different ways, and so depending on how we approach it, it can be either good or bad for our general health. However, as a general rule, bulking involves habitual weight training, eating a lot of whole food, eating plenty of protein, getting an abundance of good sleep, and gaining muscle mass, all of which are incredibly healthy.

One of the main reasons that Marco and I are so passionate about helping skinny guys bulk up is because we’re so confident that it can profoundly improve your health, as it did for the two of us.

Still, there are some things to watch out for, as well as some things we can do to make bulking even healthier, so let’s go into more detail about how we can bulk up in a way that’s good for our general health.

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Illustration of a skinny guy doing push-ups to build muscle at home.

Beginner Bodyweight Workout Plan for Building Muscle—Full Guide

Bodyweight workout plans can be incredibly good for building muscle, especially in your upper body. If you put enough mechanical tension on your muscles, they’ll grow. That’s just as true with bodyweight exercises as it is with free weights or exercise machines.

However, most bodyweight workout plans are designed to help people get fitter, not more muscular. If you’re trying to build muscle, that won’t cut it. To maximize your rate of muscle growth, you need to train for muscle growth. You need to do bodyweight hypertrophy training.

In this article, we’ll teach you the best bodyweight exercises for building muscle, then give you a full hypertrophy training workout routine you can do at home.

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Illustration of men with varying leg sizes.

How Big Should Men Build Their Legs?

What’s the ideal male leg size? How often should we be squatting and deadlifting? How much emphasis should we put on leg training if our goal is to improve our health, general strength, and appearance? What’s interesting is that there are popular views at opposite ends of the spectrum:

  • Some aesthetics-oriented approaches have us spending more of our time doing upper-body training: more incline bench pressing, chin-ups, overhead pressing, and biceps curls. If lower-body training is included at all, it’s often lighter stuff, such as one-legged squats and Romanian deadlifts.
  • Some strength training programs tell us that we should focus our energy on getting stronger at the Big Three lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. In those circles, it’s common for every single workout to start with a few sets of strenuous back squats. Is that a good way to build a strong and attractive physique?

If we’re trying to build strong, healthy, and attractive physiques, how big should our legs be? How often should we train them? And what lower-body lifts should we choose?

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Illustration of a muscular man doing biceps curls with resistance bands.

Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle? Yes, But How Well?

Resistance bands are cheap, portable, and convenient. They challenge our muscles. What more do we need? There’s a whole grain of truth there. Resistance bands can stimulate muscle growth. Plenty of people get great results from training with them. You don’t need anything more.

But what if you’re trying to build muscle as quickly, efficiently, or painlessly as possible? Are resistance bands the best tool for that? That’s a different question. In that case, we need to compare resistance bands against the alternatives: bodyweight exercises, dumbbells, barbells, and exercise machines.

So, how do resistance bands compare to callisthenics and free weights? Let’s delve into it.

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Illustration of a sick man who's lifting weights

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Bulking

Most of us know that working out, eating a good diet, and getting plenty of good sleep will improve our health. So why, then, whenever we start working out, do we keep getting sick. Isn’t working out supposed to make us healthier? Is getting sick every time we try to bulk up just an unavoidable part of our skinny curse?

Nothing can ruin the momentum of a good bulk like getting a cold, the flu, or—every skinny guy’s worst nightmare—the stomach flu. I can’t tell you many dozens of pounds I’ve lost to the stomach flu over the years. Getting sick while leading a sedentary life is bad enough, but it feels all the worse when we’re in the middle of a bulking routine. We lie there in fear, breathing through our mouths, certain that our muscles are being eaten away, but unable to muster the willpower to shovel down enough food to maintain our body weight.

Our bulks eventually resume, those pounds come back, and regaining muscle is a total breeze compared to gaining it in the first place. But still, better to never get sick in the first place.

Nothing will guarantee that we won’t get sick, but there are a few things we can do to reduce our risk.

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