The Perfect Muscle Building Program For Skinny Guys

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

If you’re a beginner bodybuilder and your approach to training is selecting bodyparts based on, “Hmm, I was supposed to train chest today but my triceps are still sore, so I’m gonna train legs because they’re not sore…”

If that’s your approach to program design and it’s working for you, keep at it and don’t let me fix what’s not broken.

However, if you’re a skinny guy trying to figure out how to plan your week, you’ve come to the right website. This article is not an exhaustive breakdown of all the dozens of bodypart splits you can select. I’ll do that in another day. Instead, we’re going to consider some key elements for constructing your weekly training routine and bodypart combinations.

Some reasons you’ll find are purely based on my own experiences on my own naturally skinny frame and also based on the hundreds of skinny guys I trained for six years as a Personal Trainer before running VinceDelMonteFitness.com full time from my home. Some reasons you’ll find are based on research for you academic nerds reading this :)

This article covers some rules to help you put each muscle group in the best possible position to optimize muscle growth.

muscle building program for skinny guys Flavia, my wife, and I just finishing a walk to the top of Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy. Hikes are great forms of cardio!

Have You Ever Tried To Chase Two Rabbits?

As the old Proverb says, if you try to chase two rabbits, you’re sure to lose both and this is how you should view your training split.

Each day you wake up is a new day to turn your skinny and average looking frame into a savage beast that commands respect from your friends and gets women to smile and turn towards you instead of sneer and walk away from you.

Every day is an opportunity to invest your time into the gym – not spend your time in the gym – and create a body that tells the world that you are in control and have the power to go out and get whatever you want in life.

Stop going to the gym and wasting your time trying to hit multiple bodyparts when assisting muscle groups are not even recovered yet. How in the world do you expect your muscles to grow if you don’t position them on a day with a fair shot to train to the max?

You need to design your weekly training split to compliment the previous and following workouts to create the most opportunistic environment for growth. This is much easier said then done and does not mean that today’s workout is the one-and-only split that will work.

It’s an example of a nearly-perfect split. The purpose of this article is to understand that today’s success is based on what you did yesterday and tomorrow’s success is based on what you do today. The way your split is designed is directly related to creating the optimal training environment and will predict how your body performs in each workout.

Lack Of Planning Could Look Like This…

  • Arriving at the squat rack only to find your chest is extremely sore from yesterday’s chest workout. This distraction towards your chest and tightness will be a hindrance to your leg training.
  • It’s arm day but your biceps are feeling tight and swelled from all the close grip chin ups you did yesterday on back day. So much for a killer back blitz today since your biceps are still sore.
  • It’s chest or shoulder day but your triceps are still experiencing deep muscle soreness from the insane tricep supersets yesterday. So much for setting a new personal best in your bench press today.

You may consider this common and something to “get used to” but it’s a reflection of poor planning or lack of planning all together. Let’s work with the next 7-days on your schedule and piece together a well-designed program.

If this seems like too much work, then you’re probably not that serious about changing your body.

1) Keep the big muscle groups away from the small muscle groups:

We’re going to train arms on Monday. This provides multiple advantages: You need your arms fresh for when you train chest, back and shoulders so we don’t want them on back-to-back days or else the big muscle group will suffer. We also know that science tells us that pairing up agonist/antagonist muscle groups provides a boost in strength to the second muscle group trained. The key is to switch the order you train your arms each Monday. So if you start with biceps this week, start with triceps next week.

2) Legs get their own day:

Thank goodness! It’s not wrong to train legs with other muscle groups but for skinny guys it’s best to give them your full attention since it’s such a big muscle group and demands so much of your body and heart. Since your arms are pretty much useless during leg training it does not matter how sore they are from yesterday. Plus, if you have energy to train a second bodypart on leg day it’s a good sign you’re not training hard enough. Lastly, your appetite should be sky high after leg day which will keep you compliant to your high calorie meal plan which will have carry over to growing your arms recovering from yesterday.

3) 2 day off 1 day on. 2 days off repeat.

This is probably the most popular and most effective muscle building split developed for skinny guys. This is called strategically placed rest days. I found that glycogen reserves deplete heavily after 2 days of continual training and taking a day off helps prevent lowered glycogen levels so you can train fresh. You can be sure that you won’t carry any hormonal or nervous system fatigue into Thursday and Friday’s workouts too. The extra day on the weekend fights against the overall weekly fatigue.

4) What! Chest and shoulders on the same day?

Although these are both big upper body muscle groups it’s one of my favorite bodypart combinations. Especially when your triceps are fresh and they will be since it’s been 72-hours since Monday. Your chest and shoulders have no excuse not to go till they blow! The chest and shoulders also have a lot of overlap since they are both pressing movements and the anterior head of the shoulder works a great amount during chest movements. I include the upper traps on chest and shoulder day since they heavily involved in shoulder work.

5) Back blistering blitz!

It’s not uncommon to get light headed during a back workout, similar when training legs. Back requires your energy reserves to be high and no tightness in your legs or lower back that stabilize during many back movements. Plus your biceps need to be fully restored to get the most out of heavy rows and weighted chin ups.

6) Active or total rest days on Saturday or Sunday

A great protocol is turning Saturday into a cardio, ab and calf day. Perform some light cardio for no more than 40 minutes and add your leg and calf routine. These bodyparts will not interfere with your other training. Enjoy your other day off and remember that growth occurs when you’re resting and eating. Isn’t the bodybuilding lifestyle great?

The Perfect Split
Day Bodypart(s)
Monday Biceps, Triceps
Tuesday Legs
Wednesday Rest
Thursday Chest, Shoulders, Traps
Friday Back
Saturday Rest
Sunday Rest

Conclusion

This routine is not perfect. I would give it an expiry date of 4-6 weeks. Training a muscle group only once a week goes against many of the programs I’ve designed in other books and videos but the purpose of this article is to get your mind thinking about bodypart optimization. Are there minor tweaks or changes you can make in your current routine to make it more responsive?

The key to much of my bodybuilding success has been going to the gym without uncertainty cause my days are well planned and set in advance. I don’t waste energy in the gym thinking, “I hope I’m doing the right program…” I know I am because I designed it in advanced and considered the six rules I just shared with you.

Now it’s time to do the heavy lifting and hard work. The growth will come soon.

Vince Del Monte

P.S. Okay, I want to hear from you. Tell me one change you’re going to make in your routine, if necessary , to optimize your split. If you can’t think of anything, then don’t fix what’s not broken. Share your comments and advice below.

If You Liked This Article Please Hit The “Like” Button Below. Thanks.

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  33. I should do this, or your circuit training from your manual ? i don;t understand…

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  34. Great tips! Especially training legs on their own day. Hitting the legs hard for skinny guys is one of the best ways to pack on serious weight!

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  35. i strongly agree, i also bought your book and its very good

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    • @Farouk. Thanks for all your comments and feedback bro.

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  41. @desmond
    You will do both biceps and triceps on the same day. What Vince meant about switching between biceps and triceps first is that is ANY workout, the first muscle group you work will have the most profound effect on it from the workout. The muscles worked later torwards the end of the workout are put a bit on the back burner, just because you’re getting tired throughout the workout. So in order to keep muscles caught up with each other, you would switch the order of muscles you train.

    If it’s just 2 muscle groups (biceps and triceps) then on week 1 do biceps first and then triceps. Week 2 do triceps first then biceps. The order of exercises within the muscle you’re training doesn’t really matter (EZ bar curl, hammer curl, preacher curl), but the order of muscle groups do (biceps, triceps).

    If you have 3 muscle groups, as you get more advanced, just cycle them, moving the musle groups around in circles, so-to-speak, on your workout sheet.

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  42. Vince, can you please give me a split for guys wanting to Lean down. Thanks .

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  43. Hey I hope you guys can answer some of my questions,
    -if mondays are for Bis and Tris, should we do both Bis and Tris on the same day? or Bis on week1 monday and Tris on week2 monday (alternate week style)

    -and also what abt abs days?

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  44. FULLY AGREE,

    aFTER OVER A DECADE OF WEIGHT LIFTING , I HAVE COME BACK TO THE BASICS

    Originally Posted By LifterAfter 3 decades of lifting, I’d have to say honing down to the basics delivers all the size and strength anybody is capable of. Being there are but a handful of moves that will ever dramatically alter how one looks, wasting energy on fluff stuff – something I’ve been guilty of on more than one occasion – simply waters down ones effort, cutting into progress and recovery.

    Having said that, the “beast exercises”, as I like to coin them, promote growth throughout the whole body. Such concentrated effort needs only to be done in small doses. Iif more trainees focused more on getting their squats, decline presses or dips, rows, and bb presses up to triple digits, through weekly additions of 1-2# over many weeks, months, years, then size and strength will come at the rate suitable to their individual genetic potential.

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  45. Vince, as you said in the article, this “one muscle group per day” strategy goes against a lot of your programs that you have designed. What is the major difference on why you would choose this strategy versus a full body workout regimen that you designed for your many other programs?

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  46. @Vince

    Cheers vince, i think ill be doing that.

    Another quick question does your MYM become available six months after sept release again.

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  47. @brian. I would give the advanced program of NNMB a shot bro

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  48. Nice split vince.

    Quick question vince on body splits

    My buddy has your NNMB program and i was looking at it and i think i might be to advanced for it.

    I was trying your 1st month MYM program ( i got it free with XFLD) and i love it gives me soreness, pump and a sweat like i’ve never had before.

    So maybe is this my body telling me i am beyond the beginner intermediate stage of 3 day a week training.

    Lastly i do appreciate you do hate these questions and understandably so.

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  49. @Steve. I do have an editor but usually write my blogs in the pm and try to get them live by midnight… so don’t get a chance to get them to proof read it cause it’s late.

    I’ll keep you in mind. thanks

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  50. Legs should get *their* own day. Not *there*.

    How about I proof read your blogs for a set period of time in return for one of your programs?

    Not being a prick, I love your stuff. Serious offer. I’m qualified!

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  51. Like you said, “Probably not the most effective plan, but can make a difference for those that are stuck.” Eating right really makes all the difference. You got to feed that growth.

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  52. Vince – I’m really interested in this statement: “It’s not uncommon to get light headed … like you do when training legs.”

    I do find this during leg training but don’t understand why or what to do about it. In fact this is the very first time I’ve seen any mention of anyone else being similarly affected.

    I’d love for you to write more about what causes this and what to do about it – specifically, how to judge when to just put up with feeling light headed and when to back off.

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  53. Vince,

    I like your advice of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. As you said, this isn’t the perfect plan for a long term program, but it’s always good to mix things up in the gym and constantly do new programs. For someone who especially has trouble putting on size, or someone new to weight training I think it’s a great start.

    Chris Cannon

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    • Thanks Chris. That’s an important note I would like to expand on…

      If you’re currently following http://www.VinceDelMonteFitness.com or http://www.YourSixPackQuest.com or http://www.MaximizeYourMuscle.com or someone elses program and it’s working, don’t worry about todays post. Every time I put up new information on my blog does not mean you need to apply it to yourself.

      I will continue to put out loads of muscle building and weight gain and diet and six pack information, sometimes at a relentless pace so please don’t get overwhelmed. This is your home to return too when you need new info.

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  54. Interval Training Fan August 3, 2010 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I appreciate you including appropriate rest intervals for maximum recovery. I see so many clients that don’t get the right recovery and can’t understand why they are not getting the results they want.

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  55. I have come to believe that the”perfect” workout program is one where you train the body as a single unit.

    There is of course more than one way to skin a cat but from what I’ve found out exercises that require lots of muscle groups in the body to work promote more mass gains.

    Splits are okay though, I came across a guy’s profile on the bodybuilding.com site, he claimed to do splits and had an impressive after picture whereas before he was REALLY skinny.

    -Alex Allmert

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    • Ultimately, everything works. Look at all the Oscar winning movies… they were all achieved with different techniques, actors, plots, backdrops… there is rarely ever ONE WAY … some cases… yes… but rarely.

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  56. Hey Vince, it is written “Vesuvio” not “Vasuvius”. If you wanted to write it in English (or latin, it’s in the same way), it’s “Vesuvius” :-)

    Apart from that, nice post 😉

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    • haha… you know that I’m not known for my grammer… thanks for the clarification.

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  57. After 3 decades of lifting, I’d have to say honing down to the basics delivers all the size and strength anybody is capable of. Being there are but a handful of moves that will ever dramatically alter how one looks, wasting energy on fluff stuff – something I’ve been guilty of on more than one occasion – simply waters down ones effort, cutting into progress and recovery.

    Having said that, the “beast exercises”, as I like to coin them, promote growth throughout the whole body. Such concentrated effort needs only to be done in small doses. Iif more trainees focused more on getting their squats, decline presses or dips, rows, and bb presses up to triple digits, through weekly additions of 1-2# over many weeks, months, years, then size and strength will come at the rate suitable to their individual genetic potential.

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  58. This totly goes against ur NNMB ..

    doesnt it ?

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    • Hey Dom. Yes, I stated that in the article. Please read the response I made to Chris. Thanks.

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  59. Hey Vince,

    I agree that this is a perfect split for BEGINNERS. If you are new to weights, you will be pretty sore (DOMS) when you first start working out…or if you are starting back after a layoff from training.

    By working each major body part once per week, you allow much of this soreness to go away before working that muscle group again. This allows you to focus all of your energy on the workout, not the soreness you feel.

    I love the 2-days On, 1-day Off, 2-days On, 2-days Off weekly split. This is the same one that I currently use most weeks. Now that I’m over 40, I find it necessary to take this many days off during the week or it just becomes counterproductive. My joints start to hurt, little nagging injuries turn into big ones that disrupt my workouts, tendonitis flares up.

    Those 3 rest days are just as important as the 4 workout days.

    Hope to see some more sample split routines from you in the future.

    Best wishes,

    ~ Pete

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    • Thanks… I certainly will explore new split routines and share right away.

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  60. @Andrei@Andrei – You use your biceps a lot for back exercises especially rows etc so if you start off by doing back first and then your biceps, your biceps wont be able to do much lifting because they will already be fatiqued from doing the rows for example. same goes for chest and triceps. Triceps are used in chest exercises so again if you were do do chest exercises first and then follow them up with your triceps you wont be able to get the most out of your tricep exercise because they will already have been worked with your chest. And of course if you did your biceps or triceps first then your major chest or back exercise will suffer because your biceps or triceps will have already been worked. So as Vince says, keep your arm exercises seperate from your chest and back exercises OR combine chest with biceps (instead of triceps) and back with triceps (instead of biceps). Hope that makes sense.

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  61. @Andrei – You use your biceps a lot for back exercises especially rows etc so if you start off by doing back first and then your biceps, your biceps wont be able to do much lifting because they will already be fatiqued from doing the rows for example. same goes for chest and triceps. Triceps are used in chest exercises so again if you were do do chest exercises first and then follow them up with your triceps you wont be able to get the most out of your tricep exercise because they will already have been worked with your chest. And of course if you did your biceps or triceps first then your major chest or back exercise will suffer because your biceps or triceps will have already been worked. So as Vince says, keep your arm exercises seperate from your chest and back exercises OR combine chest with biceps (instead of triceps) and back with triceps (instead of biceps). Hope that makes sense.

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  62. Hi Vince,

    Isn’t this going back to the more traditional, ‘what they say you should do’ body split as opposed to the ones that you have been recommending in NO-NONSENSE MUSCLE??

    What are the benefits of split training compared to full body?

    Cheers,

    Callum

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  63. Vince

    let me start the routine and update you of results after four weeks of training

    regards
    Paul

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  64. Hmm, Vince, I would do things a little differently. An intermediate lifter needs more heavy training and also high volume lifting to continue gaining. My routine would look something like this:

    Monday: Upper body heavy weights, low reps
    Tuesday: Lower body heavy volume
    Thursday: upper body heavy weights, low reps
    Friday: Lower body heavy weights, low reps

    A sample heavy weights day would be:
    1) Bench press 3×5
    2) weighted chins 3×5
    3) Military press 3×5
    4) bent over rows 3×5
    5) 6min ab circuit

    And a sample legs volume day would look like:
    1a) RDLs 3×8-10
    1b) Bulgarian Spilt Squats 3×8-10

    2a) Good mornings 3×10
    2b) goblet squat 3×12-15

    3a) Glute ham raise 3×8
    3b) bodyweight speed step-ups 3×12

    Intervals can be added in on Wednesday. Once again, just a suggestion! I’d like to see what you think of that.

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  65. Perfect timing for me

    This is a very well thought out program with clear action plan

    I especially appreciate the “what doesn’t work” scenario you laid out in advance

    Nicely done Vince

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  66. What would be the split for a bulky guy trying to lean down. Will it be the same ?

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  67. I’m curious what would be the best day you recommend to do abs in this routine aswell?

    Otherwise, great article and advice Vince…as always.

    I like the bit about chasing two rabbits. What a great mesomorph…um, metaphor :)

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  68. Great article … just like any other article you wrote. My current split is Back&Bis, Chest&Tris, Shoulders and Legs with a day off between Chest and Shoulders days. It’s working ok but I wanna change this so that I will work my arms in one day as I want them to grow. I also would like to work Back on my first day because Back is my weak body part. So your training split will give me a hand in making the right choice.

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  69. Hey Vince, Thanks for sharin the training split, will def use this info :) a change i am gonna make is go from training my arms one day straight to back and shoulders the next day, will do legs instead.

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  70. Great article; although Mitchell has a valid point – what about abs?

    I’ve been using a similar split for the past year or so, and I actually spoke to one of the personal trainers at my gym yesterday about my routine. I was previously doing everything the same as what you’ve suggested here except I’d do abs on Mondays (with arms) and Thursdays (with chest) and shoulders I worked on Fridays along with back. The problem I found with this was that like you mentioned with regard to leg days, I felt that I wasn’t getting a PROPER workout on Fridays by working shoulders along with back, so he suggested that I switch shoulders to Mondays, and train them with arms. I was going to give this a try from next week, was a little worried though because I superset the CRAP out of my bi’s and tri’s and don’t think I’d still be able to hit shoulders effectively. SO, I think I’ll go with your suggestion of doing shoulders on chest day. Thanks dude! :)

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  71. I’m gonna start training in a push and pull stlye… pressing chest movements combined with horizontal rows on the same workout… pressing shoulder movements combined with weighted chin ups on another workout.. and legs with their own day on the weekend together with some arm training….

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  72. Great article vinny… very nice my friend very nice…

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  73. What days would be the best to do ab exercises in this program?

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