Skinny Guy Jogging Illustration

The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Cardio (While Bulking)

Cardio causes a different type of adaptation from hypertrophy training. Instead of stimulating muscle growth, cardio causes us to develop more blood vessels, gain additional mitochondria in our cells, and it even increases the size of our hearts. Make no mistake, these are all great adaptations. But they aren’t muscle gains.

If you want to increase the size of your muscles, no amount of cardio will help. Cardio simply doesn’t stimulate any muscle growth. So if we’re trying to build muscle, we need to focus on hypertrophy training, which is usually done by lifting weights.

But what if we lift weights and do cardio? Most people know that cardio doesn’t stimulate muscle growth, so this article is written for skinny guys who are considering lifting weights and doing cardio.

Doing both hypertrophy training and cardio causes us to adapt in two separate, competing ways. We get something called an interference effect, which can reduce muscle growth. That’s what people say, anyway. Is that true?

Things get even more confusing because we’re naturally skinny “ectomorphs.” The more cardio we do, the more calories we’ll burn, and the more calories we’ll need to eat. For us, even just thinking about cardio burns too many calories. If you think that’s bad, though, imagine needing to write about it. I can already feel my metabolism rising. I’m going to have to eat so much trail mix after this.

Let’s Dive In
Illustration of a skinny and a muscular ectomorph doing biceps curls

The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Hypertrophy Training

Most exercise programs are designed for overweight guys. Even most lifting programs are designed for overweight guys. After all, overweight or not, who doesn’t want to be big and strong? Thing is, most guys intuitively overeat, and so year after year, they gain pound after pound (study). They don’t gain muscle quickly, they gain it relentlessly.

Skinny guys are different. We don’t naturally overeat. We aren’t muscular by default. But once we start bulking, we can usually gain muscle more quickly than any other body type. We’re far enough away from our genetic potential that our bodies are primed for muscle growth. The average guy would be lucky to gain ten pounds of lean mass in a year. Some of us skinny guys can gain up to forty, defeating our skinny genetics in a single year.

Thing is, most weight training programs aren’t actually designed for muscle growth. Yes, they often produce some muscle growth as a byproduct. But as naturally skinny guys, we shouldn’t be doing workouts that stimulate muscle growth as a byproduct, we should be doing workouts that are designed to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible—on purpose.

So how do we deliberately train for muscle growth? With something called hypertrophy training. Let’s talk about how to build muscle, and why hypertrophy training is the most effective way to bulk up.

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Illustration of vegan bodybuilder bulking up

Vegan Bulking Guide: How to Build Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet

Bulking on a plant-based diet can work very well, with vegans building just as much muscle as anyone else. In fact, vegans already tend to be one step ahead of the general population when it comes to their health, especially if they eat a proper plant-based diet, and especially if they exercise (study). Vegan diets can lend themselves quite well to building muscle, too, given that the best bodybuilding diets are made up mostly of plants: fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes (study). 

So bulking on a plant-based diet can absolutely be done, it doesn’t need to be difficult, and you won’t necessarily be at any disadvantage whatsoever. However, it still really helps to know what you’re doing.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The general principles of building muscle as a vegan.
  • Considerations for pescatarians, vegetarians, and vegans.
  • What does a fully plant-based bodybuilding diet look like?
  • What muscle-building supplements should vegans take?
  • How to gain weight more easily on a plant-based diet.
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Are Bodybuilding Exercises Good for Gaining Muscle Size? (Push-Up Illustration)

Are Bodyweight Exercises Good for Building Muscle?

Bodyweight exercises can certainly stimulate muscle growth. There’s a lot that can stimulate muscle growth, though, ranging in intensity from resistance bands all the way to heavy barbell strength training. In fact, there’s even research showing that simply flexing your muscles can stimulate a bit of muscle growth (study).

But the question isn’t whether bodyweight exercises can stimulate any muscle growth, the question is whether they’re any good at stimulating muscle growth.

  • How do bodyweight exercises compare against lifting weights for building muscle?
  • Is bodyweight training a good way for a beginner to ease into bulking?
  • How do push-ups compare to the bench press for building muscle?
  • What advantages are there to bodyweight training?
  • What are the disadvantages of bodyweight training?
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Ketogaining: is keto good for bulking up and building muscle?

Are Ketogenic Diets Good for Bulking?

The ketogenic diet has been used as a weight-loss diet for over 200 years now. In the 70s, for example, it saw a surge in popularity because of the Atkins Diet, which started off with a strict ketogenic phase. But the fact that it has a long history of helping people lose weight doesn’t tell us much about whether it’s effective for bulking up. Are there any advantages to using keto for building muscle, gaining weight, and getting bigger?

In this article, we cover:

  • How does keto affect lifting and muscle growth?
  • What happens if you bulk on a ketogenic diet?
  • Should you bulk on a ketogenic diet?
  • How do you bulk on a ketogenic diet?

Let’s dive in.

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Strength training isn't good for gaining muscle size or bulking up

Is Strength Training Good for Gaining Muscle Size?

Is strength training good for gaining muscle size? For getting bigger? For bulking? If we look at a recent study comparing strength training against hypertrophy training, we see that hypertrophy training stimulates more than twice as much muscle growth per set. But if that’s true, why is strength training so popular with skinny guys who want to get bigger?

Let’s dive in.

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The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Newbie Gains

If you’re a skinny guy who’s new to lifting weights, it’s possible to build muscle incredibly quickly. Lifters call this phenomenon “newbie gains,” and it lasts for about a year.

During that first year alone, the average man will often claim to gain around 20 pounds of muscle. Skinny guys often claim to be able to do even better, gaining upwards of 40 pounds in just a single year. Can beginners really build muscle that quickly?

However, although newbie gains seem to allow some beginners to build muscle unbelievably quickly, research shows that other lifters fail to gain any muscle when they first start working out. When that happens, they’re dubbed non-responders. Do non-responders really exist? And if they do, how do you know if you’re a non-responder?

Why are some guys able to build a lifetime of muscle in a single year, whereas other guys spend an entire lifetime unable to build a single year’s worth of muscle?

Let’s dive into the science of newbie gains.

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What equipment should you buy if you're trying to build a barbell home gym to train for size, strength and aesthetics

How to Build the Best Barbell Home Gym

Let’s say your goal is to build muscle and bulk up, you want to do it at home, and you have the space to build a home gym. What lifting equipment should you get?

In this guide, we’ll go over how to build a simple barbell home gym, including:

  • What lifts your home gym should be designed for
  • How to make your home gym perfect for gaining 50+ pounds of muscle
  • How to lift safely and effectively in your home gym without a spotter
  • What specific equipment you should buy

I remember how confusing building my own home gym was and how many mistakes I made, so my hope is that I can make the learning curve a little smoother for you.

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The Growth Mindset

One of the biggest obstacles to transform our bodies might not be in our genes. It’s not about being skinny. It’s not about being ectomorphs. Many times, what holds us back are our beliefs. We want to change our bodies, but… how can we get started on a new journey when—deep inside—we believe we won’t make it?

We say we want to gain weight and put on muscle, but part of us holds back. Otherwise, we should have already solved this, right? If you are still struggling with being skinny, chances are you need to take a look at your mindset.

In fact, if you can adopt the right mindset, it won’t just change your psychology, it will also change your physiology. It will improve the rate that you build muscle through a process akin to the placebo effect, where simply believing that you can grow will physically increase the rate that you’re able to gain muscle.

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Muscle Size and Strength Standards for Ectomorphs

How much muscle and strength can an ectomorph gain? There’s plenty of research looking into rates of muscle and strength gain. But what if you’re a naturally skinny guy? Are there different strength standards for ectomorphs?

Ectomorphs do start off with less muscle mass, but what effect does that have on how quickly we can grow? Do we have an extended period of newbie gains, allowing us to gain muscle and strength more quickly? Or does having less muscle mass indicate that our genetics are poor, causing us to build muscle more slowly?

We do have thinner bones and narrower frames. We tend to start off weaker. Is that going to limit how strong we can become? Or can we still expect to become as strong as any other lifter?

In this article, we’ll go over two main questions from an ectomorph’s perspective:

  1. How much muscle can an ectomorph gain in his first year? Most guys can expect to gain around twenty pounds of muscle during their first year of lifting weights. How does that change for an ectomorph?
  2. How strong can an ectomorph get after a year of lifting weights? With a good workout routine, most guys are able to bench press 225lbs (100kg), squat 315lbs (140kg), and deadlift 405lbs (180kg). Are these numbers realistic for an ectomorph?
  3. What’s an ectomorphs lifetime muscular genetic potential? If we lift for a lifetime, how big can we hope to get?
  4. How strong can an ectomorph get with a lifetime of serious training? If we develop our muscles to their full potential, how strong can we hope to become?

Let’s dive in.

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