Broad shoulders are touted as one of the most attractive features a man can possess. That’s not wrong—building bigger shoulders will improve your appearance—but it’s not the whole story, either.
Then there’s the issue of bone structure. The length of your clavicles (collarbones) determines how far apart your shoulders are. This comes down to genetics. If you have a thinner build, you’re fated to have narrower shoulders. But that isn’t quite right, either. Some skinny men are able to add over a dozen inches to their shoulder circumferences. We’ll show you examples.
Finally, we’ve helped over 10,000 guys bulk up, tracking their progress along the way. If you spend the next 6 months bulking up your shoulder muscles, how much can you expect to add to your shoulder circumference? What will it look like?
In theory, you could bulk slowly over several years. That’s what some natural bodybuilders do. They eat in a small calorie surplus as part of their regular lifestyle, only stopping when they need to lean down for a bodybuilding competition. However, they have fierce appetites and large stomachs, making it relatively easy to gain weight.
For most skinny guys, eating in a sustained calorie surplus is incredibly difficult, not least because our metabolisms adapt to larger calorie intakes. You might start a bulk by eating 3,000 calories per day. A few months later you might struggle to gain weight on 4,000 calories. You could add even more calories to your diet, but that’s easier said than eaten.
As a naturally skinny guy with a meagre appetite, the thought of bulking forever fills me with a deep sense of dread, leaving little room for extra food. My first and second bulks were 3 months each, which was enough time for me to gain a lean 45 pounds. My third bulk was 5 months long. The longest I’ve made it was 8.
Over the past 10 years of helping over 10,000 guys bulk up, we’ve developed a system for figuring out how long to bulk and when to stop.
Creatine has earned a reputation for being the most powerful muscle-building supplement, and with good reason. It has thousands of studies proving its effectiveness. Still, most people don’t know how much extra muscle it will actually help them build. 5% more? 50% more?
One way to get an idea of how well it works is to look at before-and-after photos of guys combining weight training, a good bulking diet, and creatine supplementation. But that won’t tell you exactly how effective creatine is. That’s why we need to look at the research.
There are two big meta-analyses looking at how creatine affects muscle growth. The first tells us how much extra lean mass we can expect to gain. The second tells us how much extra muscle mass we can expect.
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Most skinny guys are eager to gain muscle fast. I don’t blame them. I was the same way. When I weighed 130 pounds, with a BMI of 17, all I wanted was to not be skinny anymore. The best way to build muscle, of course, is to lift weights.
The problem was that I had just graduated with a degree in graphic design, I had never been active, and I didn’t know a single person who lifted. Well, I knew one person who shoplifted, but I didn’t want any part of that. And when you’re that far outside of a subculture, it can be hard to know where to start or what to do.
Since then, I’ve gained 70 pounds, going from a 65-pound bench press to a 315-pound bench press. My business partner, Marco, has helped college, professional, and Olympic athletes bulk up. Together, we’ve spent over a decade helping millions of readers and over 10,000 skinny clients build muscle (naturally).
Fortunately, once skinny guys start following a good workout routine and eating a proper bulking diet, we can gain muscle faster than any other body type. Our frames are empty and eager for muscle growth. Most of us are able to gain 25 pounds within our first 6 months of working out. Some of our clients have gained 40.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of training for muscle growth. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Once upon a time, I was 23 years old and 130 pounds at 6 feet tall. I was skinny and underweight, with a BMI of just under 18. I was hunchbacked from all my time spent hunched over my desk studying graphic design.
My roommate, Shane, was similarly thin, so we made a pact to bulk up together. We called it Muscle May and spent much of April preparing for it. But even before I started lifting weights or eating more food, my body was already transforming.
In preparation for the start of Muscle May, I started taking creatine monohydrate a week early. I wanted to load up on creatine beforehand so that my levels were optimized for my first workout. I mixed 5 grams of creatine into a glass of blueberry juice. The creatine was grainy but tasteless. It was the first muscle-building supplement I ever took.
By the end of the week, before I started lifting weights or eating a bulking diet, I had gained 8 pounds from creatine alone. I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve managed to bring my arms from 10 inches up to 16 inches. But I got off to a rough start. During my first two years of successful bulking, I gained 40 pounds at 11% body fat, bringing my bench from 65 to 225 pounds and doing chin-ups with 50 pounds around my waist. Yet, despite my progress, I had only added 2 inches to my arms. My arms were still 1.3 inches smaller than average, and the average man doesn’t even exercise!
That’s when I realized my mistake. I was relying on compound lifts to bulk up my arms. When I finally added proper arm exercises to my workout program, my arms quickly shot up to 14 inches, then gradually climbed to 16 inches. Surprisingly, my bench press started going up again. I was finally able to bench 315.
We’ve used these same methods with over 10,000 skinny clients and millions of readers. If you add these methods to your workout routine, you can expect to add around 2 inches to your arms within the next 6 months. That’s what our clients gain, on average.
You may have heard that natural lifters can gain 20 pounds of muscle in their first year, 10 in their second, 5 in their third, and then a few pounds per year until they reach their natural potential. That doesn’t seem to be true for the average man, and you may not be average anyway.
How fast can you build muscle naturally? That depends. Let’s take a deeper look.Delve Deeper
Bulking and cutting are key terms in the muscle-building industry. Bulking is when you gain weight to facilitate muscle growth. Cutting is when you lose weight to burn fat. Some people do them in sequence, bulking, then cutting, and then bulking again.
Bulking is controversial, and understandably so. The average person is already overweight. They don’t need to gain even more weight. However, if you’re skinny, thin, lean, or in good shape, bulking is by far the most effective way to gain muscle and strength.
Cutting is less controversial. Most people have extra fat, and cutting is the best way to burn it. It’s a great first step for the average beginner. However, many seasoned lifters get distracted by trying to maintain overly lean body-fat percentages.
The main concern is that you could get stuck in an endless cycle, bulking until you become overweight, cutting until you wither away, then going back to bulking. This is especially worrisome for “skinny-fat” people who already feel too thin and fat.
We have solutions for all these issues.
There’s a common myth in the fitness industry that skinny people don’t have faster metabolisms, they just don’t eat as much food. According to this line of thinking, there’s no such thing as a fast or slow metabolism. Rather, your metabolism is determined by your height, age, weight, lean mass, exercise habits, and activity levels. There are two problems with this line of thinking.
First, those variables can result in huge changes in metabolic rate. For example, in a study published by Science, they found that a 180-pound person could burn anywhere from 1,400 to 5,700 calories per day (study).
Second, even if you account for every single one of those variables, metabolisms can still vary greatly between people. Even when living totally average lifestyles, naturally skinny people often have unusually fast metabolisms.
Let’s go over the research and implications. Then we can talk about how to gain weight and build muscle with a fast metabolism.
Clean bulking is when you approach bulking with a monk’s asceticism, eating only the purest foods and carefully avoiding culinary hedonism. It may sound like I’m poking fun. That’s true. But there’s also truth to be found in clean bulking. There are no shades of grey. No nuance. This is often presented as a negative, but it also makes the diet simpler to learn and easier to follow.
Clearer boundaries are easier to stay within. Instead of trying to limit your junk food, you avoid it entirely. Foods like pasta and bread are neither whole nor wholly processed. These are grey foods. They have no place in a clean diet. There’s a simplicity here. Eat this, not that. It works.
Perhaps most importantly, clean bulking diets are nutritious. They aren’t necessarily more nutritious than balanced bulking diets, but eating clean is certainly a healthy way of eating. If it works for you, there’s plenty of upside with very little downside.Delve Deeper