Bulking is a common struggle for many skinny people. But with the right exercise selection and training routine, the task becomes much easier. So what are the best exercises for lean guys to build muscle fast?
Compound exercises are great for skinny people to build muscle. These are complex movements that involve different joints, activate multiple muscle groups, and allow you to lift heavy weights. This makes them ideal for beginners looking to get bigger and stronger quickly.
In this post, I reveal my 7 favorite exercises, a 3-day full-body workout plan, and 10 essential tips to start building muscle.
Table of contents
- In Else?
- 7 best exercises for skinny guys to build muscle fast
- 45 minute workout plan for skinny guys to build mass
- 10 tips for skinny guys to build muscle fast
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7 best exercises for skinny guys to build muscle fast
The 5 great compound exercises are some of the best exercises for lean guys to get taller and stronger fast. These include bench press, overhead press, row, squat, and deadlift. These combined movements will train the whole body.
That being said, the 5 big lifts aren't the only way for skinny people to build muscle mass fast. Actually all forms ofcompound liftare great for building lean mass and increasing strength.
- Activates multiple muscle groups.Unlike isolation exercises, compound exercises target multiple muscles at once. For example, where the dumbbell fly only hits the pecs, but the bench press hits the pecs, shoulders, and arms.
- Allows the heaviest weights to be lifted.By activating multiple muscle groups at once, compound exercises make it possible to lift even the heaviest weights.Heavy liftinglow rep ranges (5-8 reps per set) is essential for skinny guys to build strength quickly, which in turn builds muscle.
- Ideal for progressive overload.Because compound lifts allow you to lift the heaviest weights, they're also perfect for progressive overload. Regular overloading is essential for building muscle. Just lift progressively heavier weights to get bigger and stronger fast!
- Functional.Compound exercises build functional strength because they are all either pushing, pulling, or squatting movements. This leads to better athletic performance, which many thin people can benefit from.
Here are the 7 best compound exercises that have helped me achieve my goallean-muscle transformation.
1) Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is one of the best exercises for skinny men to build horizontal pushing strength and upper body muscle mass.
In fact, it's a common reason for not doing enough bench presses in a training routinewhy a chest doesn't grow.
This powerful upper body exercise targets the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your abs, biceps, forearms, and back are also recruited for stabilization.
As a skinny beginner, start your bench press progression plan with barbells before moving to dumbbells.
The best way to build muscle is to lift heavy and evoke as much muscle activation as possible.
While the barbell bench press is the best way to lift heavy weight and quickly build a strength base, it's not as effective as dumbbells for chest activation.
For example this oneStudy 2016consistently found that bench pressing with dumbbells produced approximately 5% more activation of the chest compared to using a barbell.
But the downside of the dumbbell press is that less weight can be lifted (you can read my other post for a dumbbell vs barbellBench Press Weight Calculator).
The best way to incorporate the benefits of both into your training routine is to start with the barbell bench press, and when you're able to press 1x your bodyweight, switch to using dumbbells.
The chest dip is a great alternative exercise for skinny men to work the chestmuscle building at homewithout bench press machines.
All you need are dip bars.
This powerful upper body exercise targets the same muscles as the bench press muscle, but with oneEmphasis on the lower pecs.
The best thing about the Chest Dip for Skinny Guys is that you don't need a lot of external weight. Lifting your body weight is enough to straighten your upper body and make noticeable gains in strength.
Of course, you'll get even better results if you hold a dumbbell or weight between your legs!
The bodyweight dip can be difficult for beginners. A good progression plan is key to mastering the chest dip and maximizing muscle and strength gains as a skinny guy:
- Use a band weight that allows you to perform 12 consecutive reps of assisted dips that are challenging.
- Change to progressively easier bands every 1-2 weeks to increase the difficulty. Stay in the 12 rep range.
- When ready, remove the bands completely and do 8 consecutive reps of bodyweight dips.
- Add a light weight between your legs when ready.
3) Overhead barbell shoulder press
The overhead shoulder press is one of the best exercises for skinny men to build shoulder muscle mass fast.
This exercise targets all 3 deltoids in your shoulders (anterior, lateral, and posterior) as well as your triceps. It also engages the core, back, and biceps for stabilization.
Also this oneStudy 2020shows that the overhead press results in an overall greater activation of all 3 deltoids compared to lateral raises (another popular shoulder exercise).
All in all, the shoulder press is a must-have exercise for skinny guys looking to bulk upV-shaped physiqueand gain upper body strength!
Because it's a compound movement, you can lift heavy and it's great for regular progressive overload.
It's often difficult to do vertical pressing movements in moderate to high reps. Instead, it's generally better to lift heavy and work in a lower rep range of 5-8 reps per set (use a weight that challenges you for your chosen rep range).
Also, opt for the seated shoulder press over the standing variety.
The seated shoulder press is more stable, allows you to lift heavier weights compared to standing, and is overall better for skinny men to build muscle mass and strength quickly.
4) Bent-over barbell rows
The bent-over row is an effective exercise for thin men to stimulate back muscles to grow.
Rows target all of the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius and posterior deltoids, and the biceps. Additionally, the erector spinae, core, and hamstrings are used for stabilization.
Overall, rowing is a fantastic exercise for building functional traction and building the V-shaped muscles needed to widen your back.
As always, lift heavy and progressive overloads by increasing the weight over time.
Good lifting form is critical to getting the best muscle building benefits from the row.
More specifically, the angle of your back in relation to the floor is important for hitting the various back muscles.
In general, you should keep your back between 0 and 45° relative to the floor (0° is flat and parallel to the floor).
This leads to a balanced activation of the entire back muscles. Crossing the 45° threshold shifts the emphasis away from your mid-back and onto your upper back and shoulders.
If there is an exercise that proves thatBody weight alone can build muscle, it's the mighty pull-up. This is one of the best exercises for skinny men to build back muscles and increase functional traction.
The pull-up targets the lats, rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoids, and biceps. It also recruits the abs, shoulders, and chest for stabilization.
The main difference between pull-ups and rows is that the former is a vertical pulling movement while the latter is a horizontal pulling movement.
This means the pull-up puts the emphasis on the lats, making it a great move for building a defined V-shape.
Most people have trouble doing pull-ups. A good progress plan and patience are key:
- Begin by mastering 12 reps of band-assisted pull-ups, gradually using lighter bands each week.
- When ready, remove the bands completely and complete 8 reps of unsupported bodyweight pull-ups.
- Hold a 5-pound dumbbell between your legs to do weighted pull-ups when you're ready.
Check out my beginner's guide for more pull-up tipshow to master the pull-up.
6) Barbell Squats
The squat is an essential exercise for skinny men to build mass.
It works all of your lower body muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. It also engages the core and lower back for stabilization.
Lean guys often neglect lower body work in favor of building the mirror muscles (chest, arms, and shoulders).
Don't make this mistake.
Strong legs are essential for developing a balanced body and improving athletic performance.
Additionally aStudy 2018showed a link between heavy squats and the release of anabolic hormones, which stimulate muscle growth and help you build strength in almost all other compound exercises.
You can check my other post for the full oneBenefits of squats for skinny people.
ManySquat variationsexist. Lean beginners should get used to the high bar squat as soon as possible.
This is the best all-around squat variation for building bigger and stronger legs.
Additionally, there are important form cues to get the most benefit from the squat:
- Keep your knees stressedand don't let them break in.
- Use a shoulder-width stancethat's not too wide or too narrow.
- Do not open your feet more than 45°relative to an imaginary straight line running from your spine to your navel.
- The thighs should be parallelon the floor at the bottom of the squat.
This creates a stable base for squats, takes pressure off the knees, maximizes muscle activation, and helps you squat heavier weights.
7) Barbell Deadlift
Heavy deadlift is another functional andessential exercise for thin people to build mass.
This exercise primarily works the posterior chain muscles, which includes the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back (some of the largest muscles in your body).
But all major muscle groups are engaged to some extent to lift a barbell off the floor.
Deadlifts and squats alone can produce some of the fastest muscle and strength gains for a skinny man.
There are two main variations of the deadlift; Sumo vs traditional.
Both are effective full body muscle builders and you should experiment between the two to find the most comfortable variation for your body type.
In general, sumo is more suited to thin people, while traditional sumo is more suited to burly bodies.
Regardless of your chosen variation, lift heavy (>85% of 1RM) in low rep ranges of 3-6 reps per set to reap the greatest benefits.
45 minute workout plan for skinny guys to build mass
Here's a free 3-day workout program for a skinny beginner to get started building full-body muscle and strength fast:
A practice sentences repetitions pause between sets Weight Bench press with barbell 5 6 3 minutes 85% of 1RM Barbell rows bent over 5 6 3 minutes 85% of 1RM Barbell Shoulder Press 3 5 3 minutes 80% of 1RM Squat with barbell 4 8 3 minutes 80% of 1RM
A practice sentences repetitions pause between sets Weight Barbell Shoulder Press 5 5 3 minutes 80% of 1RM pull-ups 5 8 3 minutes body weight Squat with barbell 5 8 3 minutes 80% of 1RM deadlift 2 5 3 minutes 85% of 1RM
A practice sentences repetitions pause between sets Weight Bench press with barbell 5 6 3 minutes 85% of 1RM Barbell rows bent over 5 6 3 minutes 85% of 1RM Barbell Shoulder Press 3 5 3 minutes 80% of 1RM Squat with barbell 5 8 3 minutes 80% of 1RM
As a beginner, you may want to practice each movement with dumbbells before moving on to a barbell. See my favorites for more informationDumbbell lifts for thin people.
10 tips for skinny guys to build muscle fast
Here are 10 essential workout and diet tips for skinny men to make the most of the exercises mentioned in this post.
1) Optimize exercise frequency and recovery
Skinny guys should exerciseto build muscle and strength. But be careful not to overtrain. Allow at least 24 hours between workouts to allow your body to recover.
2) Work in the range of 5-8 reps
Low to medium rep ranges are ideal for building muscle and strength. But make sure you lift heavy. And make sure the weight you choose is enough to tire you within the allotted reps.
3) Do 3-5 sets per exercise per workout
TheStudy 2016showed that exceeding 6 sets for a given muscle group per workout confers no additional hypertrophy benefit. These are known as "wasted sentences". Stay healthy and limit yourself to 5 sets.
4) Lift heavy weights
How heavy you should liftBuilding muscle depends on your strength level. But in general, you should aim to lift weights that are at least 80% of your 1RM.
5) Keep the workout short and intense
An effective workout for a beginner shouldn't take much longer than 45 minutes (that's 45 minutes of active reps and rest between sets). Overtraining can impair muscle recovery and muscle growth.
6) Exercise when you feel fresh
Thebest time to trainis when you are fully awake. At this point, your nervous system is in the ideal state for running at full speed and engaging in high-intensity exercise.
7) Eat a calorie surplus
Skinny guys should go on a bulking diet in conjunction with heavyweight training to ensure muscle growth. Determine your daily maintenance calories with an online calculator and add 5-15% to find your total calorie intake.
8) Track macros
Your macros include protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Protein is important to fuel muscle repair and muscle growth.Skinny guys can use protein powderas a convenient and inexpensive source of protein. Don't forget that carbohydrates and fats are also important to fuel your workout.
9) Eat multiple meals a day
This is not strictly necessary. But eating 4-6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large ones can help you hit your daily calorie goals without feeling overly bloated.
10) Set realistic goals
It usually takes around 3 months to see the first signs of muscle definition and 6 months to see noticeable changes in muscle size. Be realistic with your goals to avoid disappointment.
You can check my other post for a timeline ofhow fast lean guys can build muscle(including photos).
Compound lifts are the best exercises for lean guys to build muscle fast.
These include the 5 large lifts; Bench press, shoulder press, row, squat and deadlift.
As a beginner trying to bulk up, focus on these moves and employ good training and nutrition practices to get bigger and stronger in the months to come!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kaliber Blueprint PDF detailing how I put on 40 pounds of muscle (it's 100% FREE!). It details the exact exercises and diet (with printouts) that used to tear me from skinny to skinny!
- Barbell bench press – chest.
- Bent-over row – back.
- Squat or deadlift – legs.
- Overhead press – shoulders.
- Barbell curl – biceps.
- Lying triceps extension – triceps.
- Eat nuts on the reg. ...
- Eat dried fruit (and fresh). ...
- Eat oats cold. ...
- Eat plenty of lean meat and fatty fish. ...
- Drink your calories. ...
- Eat six times per day. ...
- Avoid low-density food. ...
- Smear on the almond butter.
- Eat up. Aim for a gram of protein per pound of your body weight every day. ...
- Train better, not harder. You can stimulate muscle growth with very few exercises as long as they're done with heavy weight and they activate as many muscle fibers as possible. ...
- Rest. ...
- Keep a log. ...
- Weigh yourself.
- Eat More Than You Think. According to Ryan, the first step to building muscle and strength is being in a caloric surplus. ...
- Load up on Protein. ...
- Increase Your Meal Frequency. ...
- Carb Up After Your Workouts. ...
- Drink Your Calories if Necessary.
- #1 Eat More Calories. ...
- #2 Eat Sufficient Protein. ...
- #3 Don't Skimp On Carbohydrates. ...
- #4 Focus on the Basic Exercises. ...
- #5 Train with Free Weights. ...
- #6 Challenge Your Muscles. ...
- #7 Take Breaks.