Articles

I Know Everything About Building Muscle—I Just Haven’t Done It Yet

Couple quick questions.

Are you satisfied with how much muscle you’ve built?

If not… do you know what to do? I mean the basics: Eat 1g of protein per pound bodyweight, get into a calorie surplus, lift weights, and sleep. That kind of thing. Know them inside and out? Rad.

But if you know the basics and you’re not satisfied with what you’ve built so far, what’s going on?

How is it possible to not be where you want to be when you know everything?

I’m not asking these questions to be mean, or a downer. I’m asking because I really want to see you reach your potential.

I’m asking because I want to see if I can wake you up. Is it possible that there’s a gap between intellectual knowing something and actually doing it?

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The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Natural Testosterone Production

This is a guest post written by Dr. Robin Bhavsar, a physician with a specialization in urology (the field of medicine concerned with testosterone). He works at St. Joseph Health. You can see his credentials here.

After bulking up with our Bony to Beastly Program, he wrote a guide in our coaching community that became immensely popular with our members. He also answered many of their questions, including ones like:

  • Does being skinny mean I have low testosterone?
  • Am I skinny-fat because I have low testosterone?
  • How can I increase my natural testosterone production?

In this article, Dr. Bhavsar will explain everything a skinny guy should know about their own natural testosterone production.

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A Conversation On Aesthetics and Fitness

In this article we’re going to do something a little bit different. The idea came from one of our members. He started off by saying something fairly controversial. Then, as other members prodded him, instead of backing away from it, he doubled down. And I think his arguments are pretty compelling.

First, let’s set the stage. In our articles about attractiveness, we make the argument that attractiveness is visible health. Being very attractive just takes that one step further. Instead of looking healthy, you’d have to look healthy in a way that truly stands out—you’d have to be conspicuously healthy.

For an overweight person, the best way to build a more attractive physique is to become visibly healthier by losing fat. For us skinny guys, the best way to become more attractive is usually to build muscle. There are lots of objective goals you could set: bringing your BMI to 23 with abs, becoming 50% heavier than your date/girlfriend/fiancée/wife, or building your biceps up to the size of your neck, to name a few.

At first, progress can be very quick. If you’ve read our newbie gains article, then you understand exactly how quick. The interesting thing is that the 80–20 principle applies here. What I mean is that with a small amount of time investment—just a couple months—a skinny guy can usually get to the point where he looks healthy and fit. He’ll look attractive.

Not alarmingly attractive, but attractive.

At that point, progress will slow, and it can take a lot more time and effort to get to that next, very attractive level. After all, looking healthy is one thing, but looking so healthy that people go, “Wow, that dude looks healthy!” is a whole other thing.

But physical attractiveness isn’t the only way you can boost your attractiveness. It’s not even the only physical way that you can boost your attractiveness.

That’s where Rick J comes in.

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Illustration showing the three somatotype body types: endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs.

The Male Body Types: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph

In bodybuilding and fitness communities, people commonly use the terms endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph when talking about male body types. Endomorphs are purportedly stockier and chubbier, mesomorphs are said to be broader and more muscular, and ectomorphs are supposedly thinner and leaner.

Or that’s what people say, anyway. Men do have varying heights and bone structures, and have different propensities for being overweight or underweight, but do these traits really combine together to form three distinct body types? Is it correct to call a naturally skinny guy an ectomorph?

And even if we do use these slang terms to sort people into different body types, do the different body types benefit from different diets and workouts? For example, is there such a thing as an ectomorph workout or an ectomorph bulking diet? Or do all body types benefit from the same workouts, diets, and lifestyles?

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How to Gain Weight If You’re Skinny

Sometimes you’ll find an article about how to gain weight that doesn’t quite make sense. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just that it’s clearly written by someone who isn’t skinny and who’s never struggled to gain weight. They just don’t get how tough it is for us skinny guys to gain weight.

It’s like an obese person taking weight-loss advice from someone who’s naturally skinny. The skinny guy would confidently say, “Well, yeah, just stop eating. It’s easy. I do it all the time.”

It took me years to realize how much fitness information is really weight-loss information in disguise. It took me even longer to figure out how to convert all of it into information that skinny guys can use. And longer still to break it down into five simple concepts.

This article is written by a skinny guy who has spent the past eight years helping other skinny guys bulk up. If you put this information into action, it will help you gain weight, just like it did for the thousands of members in our bulking program.

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The Social Workout: A Skinny Guy’s Guide to Confidence

A few weeks ago we got an email from a Beastly member, Nick, saying that he had referenced our Ectomorph Aesthetics article on his site. He thought that it perfectly described the physique that women find the most attractive. That got me curious about what his site was all about, so I checked it out.

It turns out that Nick has started up a business teaching guys how to improve their confidence so that they can meet women in an honest, authentic way. This confidence extends to success in business and with friends.

His approach hit home with me.

As a skinny guy, building muscle was so important to me because I thought my skinniness would prevent me from attracting the amazing woman who I wanted to raise a family with, or that it would prevent me from defending her. My confidence suffered as a result, and I approached muscle-building with a sense of desperation.

By the time I met the woman of my dreams, I had gained over fifty pounds of muscle. We spent our first date drinking beer, chatting, and doing handstands in the park.

A couple of days ago my friend asked her what she first noticed about me. I was surprised by her answer. It wasn’t my long hair or tattoos; it was how strong I looked. She even told her roommate about it after our date.

As someone who runs a fitness website for skinny dudes, I wish I could tell you that she fell in love with me because of that strength. It sure made a strong first impression, but I think she fell in love with me because of something else.

Being a strong guy has value. So does being a confident guy. But being someone who can turn a weakness into a strength is the real ticket.

I think it’s amazing how Nick now makes his living teaching other guys how to do the thing he was known for being awful at. He turned his greatest weakness into his greatest strength.

This article might help you do the same thing, and if you’re a single guy looking for love, this could even be the article that changes your life.

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Illustration of a skinny hardgainer with an ectomorph body type.

How to Know If You’re an Ectomorph

Most of us ectomorphs describe ourselves as being naturally skinny and we tend to have a hard time gaining weight. More specifically, though, ectomorphs are usually defined by having narrower shoulders, lankier longer limbs, thinner bones, and a lower body-fat percentage. Being an ectomorph is also associated with having a higher metabolism and a smaller stomach.

If you’re curious about whether you’re an ectomorph or not, there are a few simple tests that you can do. All you need to do is measure the width of your frame, the thickness of your wrists, and the length of your muscle bellies. You can do it at home in just a couple of minutes.

We’ll also cover how the various ectomorph traits affect our ability to build muscle, what our genetic muscular potential is, and how we should approach bulking up.

Dive In
Illustration of a man on vacation with a woman in a bikini

How to Maintain Your Muscle Mass Without Lifting Weights

Imagine being in the midst of a bulking routine, and things are going super well—you’re gaining weight on the scale each week, steadily building muscle. But then, lo and behold, disaster strikes. And not just a run of the mill muscle disaster, like running out of trail mix, but the worst kind of disaster imaginable: a vacation.

And I’m not talking about one of those cushy vacations at a resort that includes a gym, I’m talking about one of those vacations where we’re forced to stop lifting weights entirely. 

For many of us, even just the thought of taking a break from our workout routines gets our hearts racing, our minds spiralling down into the depths of pure terror. Unfortunately, I’ve been there too. I know what you’re thinking:

In desperation, you might start googling around to learn more, but since only 3% of the population is trying to gain weight, good luck trying to find an article for people who are worried about losing weight when they stop working out.

So what do you do? Cancel your vacation? Do bodyweight workouts? Or take a break from lifting?

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The Best Exercises for Building Muscle

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “What exercise is best to grow my small chest (or arms, shoulders, abs, etc)?” It’s a surprisingly large question. Yes, some exercises tend to be better for activating certain muscle groups, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Effectiveness: how well they build the target muscle groups
  • Efficiency: how many different muscles they bulk up at once
  • Learning curve: How easy they are to learn and master
  • Risk-to-reward ratio: How likely they are to strengthen versus injure us

So we’ve put together a guide showing you the best exercises for each muscle group. These exercises represent your best chance of safely building muscle as rapidly as possible for your experience level.

Dive in

As a skinny guy my abs are my pride and glory. Will bulking make me fat?

If you’re a skinny guy who prides himself on having great ab definition, the idea of bulking up can be intimidating. The same is true for skinny-fat guys who have fought hard to lose fat and are now faced with the prospect of gaining it back.

Frankly, most people who bulk up do wind up gaining some fat. That’s not because they’re doing anything wrong, either. When gaining weight, you need to eat in a calorie surplus. And when you eat in a calorie surplus, there’s always the risk of some of those extra calories being stored as fat.

The good news is that as a naturally skinny guy—even if you’re naturally skinny-fat—you’ll probably have a small number of fat cells than the average overweight person. Because of this, ectomorphs tend to be a bit more resistant to gaining fat than the other male body types (study). If you bulk cleverly, you should be able to build muscle quite leanly.

There are also a few things you can do to reduce your risk of gaining fat while bulking:

  1. Follow the best bulking program you can find. The better your bulking workouts are, the more muscle growth they’ll stimulate, and so the more calories your muscles will soak up. It’s usually better to skip the bodyweight workouts and strength training programs, focusing instead of on bonafide bulking routines.
  2. Keep your calorie surplus relatively modest. With a good workout routine and a good bulking diet, most skinny guys are able to build muscle quite quickly and leanly during their first few months of training. During this period, we normally recommend gaining around a pound per week. However, if you’re worried about gaining fat, eat in a smaller surplus and gain weight more slowly. Gaining 0.5 pounds per week will give you a better shot of avoiding fat gain while bulking.
  3. Eat enough protein. Protein is the raw material that muscle is built out of. In order to build new muscle mass, we need to be consuming enough protein to build that muscle with. Unless you’re bulking on a vegan diet, getting enough protein from whole foods isn’t that difficult. If you’re finding it difficult, though, try getting a protein powder.
  4. Eat a higher carb diet for leaner gains. This one is surprisingly controversial, especially now that ketogenic diets are becoming more popular. However, keto isn’t designed for bulking, it’s designed for weight loss. The same is true with low-carb diets. Most guys are able to build muscle more leanly if they get up to around 50–60% of their calories from carbohydrates. (Having a little bit of sugar in your bulking diet is usually okay, too, provided that it’s not more than 10% of your total calorie intake.)
  5. Eat mostly whole foods for general health. Whole foods tend to contain more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and dietary fibre. That’s going to help you build more muscle, and it’s going to help reduce the amount of fat you gain (study). Now, it’s true that foods that are higher in fibre are also more filling, which can make it hard for us skinny guys to eat enough calories. But there are ways to eat more calories while still eating a diet that’s healthy overall.
  6. Add in some cardio alongside your bulking workouts. If you’re new to exercising, lifting weights will probably improve your cardiovascular health. Even then, though, you’ll probably be able to build muscle a little bit more leanly if you add in a little bit of dedicated cardio to your bulking routine.
  7. Bulk up your abs. Most overweight people are naturally muscular in their abs and lower bodies. After all, they need to carry around their extra bodyweight with them everywhere they go. This gives their abs a ton of stimulation as they go about their everyday lives. This isn’t true for ectomorphs. Our lighter bodies don’t require as much core strength, so unless we train our abs directly, us skinny guys will often wind up with fairly skinny abs.

There’s more good news, too. Lifting weights will improve the insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells, making it more likely that the food you eat will go to muscle instead of fat (study). Plus, having more muscle mass on your body will further improve your insulin sensitivity, making it easier to be lean and muscular in the longer term (study, study).

There are tons of things that affect how lean your gains are—we’ve written an entire book about it. However, if you keep these principles in mind, you should do pretty well.