Before and After Illustration of man building a thicker and more muscular neck.

Neck Training: How to Build a Thicker Neck

Given that we specialize in helping skinny guys bulk up, we often get asked how to build a thicker neck. And I can relate to that. I always hated how skinny my neck was. When I first started bulking, my neck circumference 14 inches—a long way from the average man’s 16-inch neck. And even after gaining a full 60 pounds, my neck had only gone up to 14.5 inches. Clearly, building muscle overall wasn’t doing anything for my skinny neck.

That’s where neck training comes in. Doing muscle-building exercises to bulk up the muscles in our necks is a fairly new thing. It’s not common in either bodybuilding or strength training. But neck training has a long history in contact sports and martial arts, given that it reduces the risk of concussions, knockouts, and brain trauma. We can look at that research and then modify it for our own goal of building thicker, stronger, and better-looking necks. And, as a bonus, our necks will grow tougher, too.

Given the paucity of research, I was skeptical about how well a neck bulking routine would work. But within a few months of doing neck training while resting between sets, I was able to add over an inch to my neck circumference. We were then able to reproduce those results with members of our community.

Read More
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?

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

Are Resistance Bands as Good as Free Weights for Building Muscle?

We have an article about how to build a barbell home gym and we’re about to publish one about how to build a much smaller, cheaper home gym with just dumbbells or kettlebells. Our motto has always been that we can help you build muscle with any sort of weights, whether that’s a full gym membership, a barbell and some plates, some adjustable dumbbells, or a couple of old kettlebells.

One question we often get, though, is why we don’t recommend resistance bands. Now, it’s not that we discourage people from getting them. We just don’t actively recommend them. And that’s weird, right? I mean, resistance bands are cheap and portable, and aren’t they just as good for building muscle? After all, to stimulate muscle growth, all we need to do is challenge our muscles … right?

So, what results can we expect from resistance bands?

Read More
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.

Read More
Illustration of a skinny guy lifting weights to build muscle.

Hypertrophy Training: the Skinny Guy’s Guide to Lifting for Muscle Size

Most skinny guys are eager to gain muscle size. I don’t blame them. I was the same way. Back when I was 130 pounds, I wasn’t interested in powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, or chiselling out my abs for a bodybuilding show, I was interested in not being skinny anymore. Plus, gaining overall muscle size is the best way to gain overall strength. And it’s healthy, too. There’s no real downside.

Problem is, skinny guys are different. We don’t naturally overeat. We aren’t muscular by default. Gaining weight can be hard, and we might need to gain a lot of weight.

The good news is, once we start lifting weights and eating enough food, we can often 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. We’ve seen skinny guys gain up to forty, obliterating their skinny genetics in a single year.

So how do you train for muscle size? With a style of training called “hypertrophy training.” Let’s talk about how to do that.

Read More
Illustration of a man doing a conventional barbell deadlift

How to Deadlift for Muscle Growth

Deadlifts are one of the only true full-body lifts, challenging our muscles from our fingers down to our toes, stressing our bodies from the skin on our palms all the way down to our bones. They’re hard, tiring, and absolutely amazing for building muscle, gaining strength, improving our fitness, and becoming much better looking.

When it comes to bulking up, the only lift that can rival the deadlift in terms of sheer muscle growth is the squat (and especially the front squat). Even then, the deadlift has a few unique advantages:

  • Deadlifts bulk up our traps, spinal erectors, and glutes, as well a number of other muscles in our upper backs, all of which is great for improving our aesthetics.
  • Deadlifts are one of the best ways to increase the density of our bones and the health of our spines, making them great for our health and longevity.
  • The strength we develop with deadlifts transfers near-perfectly to our daily lives, making us look strong because we are strong.
  • Squats and deadlifts train different muscles, with the front squat emphasizing the quads and upper back, and the deadlift emphasizing the hamstrings, glutes, and entire back.

As with all the big lifts, though, there are several different ways of deadlifting, each with different pros and cons. And given how many different sorts of adaptations deadlifts provoke, it’s not surprising that some ways of deadlifting are much better for building muscle than others.

Most guys who are interested in strength favour the conventional deadlift, which is wise—and we’ll explain why—but they deadlift for low reps and drop the bar to the ground after every repetition, making it worse for building muscle mass.

The most heinous sin, though, belongs to the bodybuilders who forego the deadlift altogether, thinking that it’s not a good lift for gaining muscle, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Read More
Illustration of a man doing a barbell front squat

Why Front-Loaded Squats Are Best for Bulking

All types of squatting are great for building muscle, gaining strength, and improving our health and fitness. In fact, in many ways, squats are the best bulking lift. However, although all squat variations are great for us, each of them has a different purpose, and some of them are much better for bulking than others.

For powerlifters, the low-bar squat is king. It uses a smaller range of motion, it has great leverage, and our back strength won’t ever hold us back. If our goal is to squat as much weight as possible, low-bar squats are best.

For athletes, high-bar squats are popular. The range of motion is a little larger, it still allows for fairly heavy loading, and it does a great job of bulking up the lower body. For sprinters, footballers, and rugby players, it’s a great squat variation.

But what if you’re a skinny guy who’s trying to get bigger, stronger, healthier, and better looking? We aren’t trying to win powerlifting competitions, and we care about more than just being able to sprint like a demon. 

For us, front-loaded squats–such as goblet squats and front squats—are easily the best squat variations. They allow for the largest range of motion, they pack muscle onto our lower and upper bodies, they toughen up our spines, and they help us stand taller and straighter.

  • If our goal is sheer muscle growth, front squats win.
  • If our goal is to develop general strength, front squats win.
  • And if our goal is to improve our aesthetics, again, front squats win—easily.

Here’s why.

Read More
Illustration of the tortoise and the hare

How Fast Should You Gain Weight While Bulking?

I remember being skinny and wanting to gain weight FAST. I didn’t just want to be muscular yesterday, I wanted to be muscular in every single one of my previous lives.

We aren’t trying to gain weight, though, we’re trying to gain muscle. And if we bulk up too fast, won’t we become skinny-fat? That can happen. Not to everyone, but it can happen to some of us sometimes. It’s important to understand those risk factors.

Over the past eight years, we’ve helped nearly 10,000 skinny guys bulk up. We’ve helped them bulk fast, we’ve helped them bulk lean, and everything in-between. Even when dealing with naturally skinny guys, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of gaining muscle quickly versus gaining it leanly. That way, you’ll know exactly how much weight you should be trying to gain on the scale each week.

Read More
Illustration of a margarita

How Much Alcohol is Okay While Bulking?

Maybe you’ve heard that beer builds beer bellies, that alcohol can tank our testosterone production, or that drinking too much can impair muscle growth.

All of this is true. In fact, it gets worse. Alcohol can also disrupt our sleep, which can further reduce muscle growth, cause extra fat gain, and harm our workout performance.

Worse still, alcohol can slow digestion, making it harder for us to digest big bulking diets. It can also negatively impact our appetites, making it harder to gain weight.

However, these aren’t the effects of drinking, these are the drinking too much. As with most good things in life, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

Maybe you’ve even heard that having a drink or two per day is better than having none. Is that true?

Read More

Bulking Set Point and “Muscle Memory”

You could think of your body as having a built-in bodyweight thermostat. You might have your weight set at, say, 130 pounds. If you go above 135, your appetite automatically turns off until you get back to 130 pounds. If you go below 125 pounds, your appetite automatically turns on until you get back up to 130 pounds. There’s more at play here than just your appetite, but you get the idea: your body is automatically regulating your weight around a given “set point.”

When you’re bulking up, you’re fighting that set point. It’s trying to regulate your body weight back down. It’s trying to eliminate all the progress you’ve made.

So how do we get your set point to 150, 180 or even 200 pounds? Is that even possible? That’s what this article is about.

Read More