Skinny guys have been lead to believe they need to train longer to build big muscles. The reality is that skinny guys need to train less and eat more. Skinny guys must approach building muscle the same way they would approach getting a sun tan.
The Sun Tan Analogy Skinny Guys Must Understand Before Working Out
Sunlight to the skin is analogous to stress to the body. Exposure to sunlight does not instantly produce a tan. Exposure to weight training does not instantly produce muscle. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight stimulates melanocytes in the skin to produce more melanin as a protective mechanism, darkening the skin. The brighter the sun, the more intense the radiation, the stronger the stimulus.
The same situation arises when you expose exercise stress to your body – the greater the exercise stress the greater the stimulus for super compensation (adaptation) to occur. If you go to the beach while their are clouds covering the sun, you can lay outside all day long and not experience any tanning effects because the radiation of the sun would not be sufficient enough to to stimulate the skin. Exercise stress is the same. You can spend the entire day in the gym working out and if the stimulus is not sufficient you will not see much if anything in terms of improvements. However, if the exercise stress is sufficient, very little is required to see new gains.
The Key Is To Understand The Minimum Effective Dose
Our bodies have a limit to how much stress we can handle within a period of time. For example, up to a certain point, a certain amount of ultraviolet radiation will produce a nice looking tan. Beyond a certain point, the skin is damaged and results in a burn. Up to a certain point in a workout, intense exercise stress will create the potential for new size, strength and stamina but beyond a certain point will lead to exhaustion that can result in overtraining or injury.
Remember, the training effect is the desired goal of the training. The training effect could be anything from increased relative strength, functional hypertrophy, hypertrophy or muscle endurance. The training effect is not experienced until you recover from the training. In short, if you sun tanned for five minutes, your body needs time to recover (adapt) from that five minutes before you expose it to six minutes. The same is true for exercise. If you bench pressed 4 sets of 225 lbs with 2 minutes rest, you will need a few days before you can bench press 4 sets of 230 lbs with 2 minutes rest. Failure to respect these recovery needs can lead to overtraining, plateau or becoming weaker.
Individuality And The Skinny Guy
Just like darker skinned individuals can tolerate a longer duration in the sun compared to someone with lighter skin, some skinny guys can do a higher frequency of training before overtraining. Determining the optimal training volume, intensity and frequency is a topic covered in depth of Season 3 of Live Large TV and there are many training theories to consider in finding what’s optimal for you. Ultimately, experimentation and accurate records is the only way you will determine how to individualize the different training variables for success.
Here is a sample skinny guy workout erring with lower volume to set up the potential for training at greater intensity. In short, we’re going to spark our muscles into muscle growth, not force them.
The Skinny Guy Workout
A. Deadlifts 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 20 — 90 seconds rest between sets — 411 tempo
B. Chin Ups 1 x 30 sec negative, 1 x 20 second negative, 1 x 10 second negative, 1 x bodyweight, 1 x bodyweight
C. Military Press 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 20 — 90 seconds rest between sets — 311 temp
A1. Incline Biceps Curls 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 6, 1 x 12 – 90 seconds rest between sets — 411 tempo
A2. Lying Triceps Extension 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 6, 1 x 12 – 90 seconds rest between sets — 411 tempo
B1. Barbell Shrug 1 x 15, 1 x 12, 1 x 1o, 1 x 8, 1 x 15 — 60 seconds rest between sets — 311 tempo
B2. Standing Calve Raise 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 6, 1 x 12 — 60 seconds rest between sets — 311 tempo
C. Stability Ball Crunch 5 x 5 — 15 seconds rest between sets – 505 tempo
A. Squats 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 20 — 90 seconds rest between sets — 411 tempo
B. Bench Press 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 20 — 90 seconds rest between sets — 311 tempo
C. Seated Row 1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 20 — 90 seconds rest between sets — 311 tempo
Why Is This Workout Effective?
1. Lower volume. Each bodypart gets approximately five sets a week. Classic hypertrophy programs rely on closer to 10-25 sets a bodypart so this allows opportunity to increase the intensity, a variable that can stimulate new muscle if it’s been neglected.
2. Broad-spectrum of rep ranges. 6-12 reps creates the desire training effect of hypertrophy and by having one back off set in each exercise we ensure we don’t de train the quality, muscular endurance.
3. Longer rest ranges err on the higher side for hypertrophy to ensure you can stimulate the high threshold motor units each set.
4. Balance between all the primary movements of the body. Their is equal volume between horizontal pulling and horizontal pushing moves, vertical pulling and vertical pushing, quad and hip and upper arm.
5. The Principle of Kaizen can be applied each workout. This is a Japanese way of life that stresses constant and never ending improvement. Small changes gradually lead to bigger changes long term. The goal of every weight set should be to increase your loads from 2% from set to set and to start each workout 2% heavier than your previous workout. This allows us to experience progressive overload, a critical ingredient for muscle growth.
Even if you’re not a skinny guy, this workout can act as an excellent way to stimulate new gains by dropping the volume and increasing the intensity. Don’t make any assumptions until you’ve given it an honest shot!