bulking up

5 Steps a Skinny Guy Should Take to Bulk Up

A lot of skinny guys want to bulk up and add quality muscle mass. With all the misinformation out there, it can be difficult to know what steps to take to reach these goals. The process is not complicated, but the more you know, the easier it is to succeed.

The difference between those who bulk up successfully and others who fail is preparation. Make certain that everything you do serves the purpose of bulking up. Every aspect of your bulking diet and your lifting program should make sense and serve to further your aims.

If you follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to building muscle and increasing your fitness levels.

One: Track your diet

Track your diet and nutrition, then adjust it if necessary

Track your diet and nutrition, then adjust it if necessary

Most professional bodybuilders say “muscles are made in the kitchen“. What they mean is that without a proper bulking diet, you will suffer with sub-optimal results.

So how do you know if your diet is holding you back? It’s simple. Keep accurate records detailing everything you eat. With accurate data and a good nutrition-tracking program or service, you can easily keep track of:

Either use a spreadsheet to track your diet, or take advantage of one of the many free, web-based nutrition databases.

Read online workout and food logs for additional details.

Two: Get in shape

If you:

  • live a sedentary lifestyle
  • are a novice weightlifter
  • lifted weights in the past but are now out of condition

You probably can’t jump right into a bulking program at full intensity. The full-body workout that you will use to maximize your progress is not for the faint of heart.

Before you begin your bulking routine, schedule yourself for two or three weeks of general purpose fitness training. Focus on these things:

  • Increase your flexibility and range of motion
  • Ensure you have sufficient joint mobility
  • Work on your muscular endurance

Later, as you begin bulking, you will work out with high intensity. A few weeks of preparation will reduce your chance of injury and reduce the rate at which you accumulate body fat. Use this general fitness training period to review all the information available about bulking up; when you begin bulking in earnest, you will know exactly what you are doing and why. Also make sure you have the equipment you need to reach your goals, and learn how to use it.

Three: Design a Bulking Diet

Before bulking, you need to get your bulking diet squared away.

  • Figure out how much protein you need to eat every day
  • Determine the percentage of your total caloric intake that should come from dietary fat
  • Use the Harris-Benedict equation to get a rough estimate of your total caloric needs during a bulking phase and use that number to determine your carbohydrate requirements

Read How to design a bulking diet for more information.

Four: Lift Weights

Lift heavy to bulk up

Lift heavy to bulk up

Lifting weights while on a bulking diet is mandatory. If you consume excess calories without lifting, the vast majority of your weight gain will come in the form of fat. This is especially true for skinny ectomorphs.

Be sure to choose a bulking routine that features progressive overload. If you lift the same weight day in and day out, you will fail to add muscle mass. Progression and overload are essential to your success.

Try your best to avoid using isolation exercises during a bulking phase. You want to avoid workouts that feature specificity. Use general-purpose compound exercises and work the entire body.

Five: Track your Progress

You will keep track of your lifting program so you can be sure that you are continually making progress. You want to avoid adaptation; always keep the progression principle in mind.

Track your progress, youll be glad you did.

Track your progress, you'll be glad you did.

Keep detailed workout logs in a workout journal, or use a web-based fitness tracker so you can see, at a glance, how you are progressing.

Once your progress stalls, look into periodization to keep the gains coming as long as possible.

Unless you constantly challenge your body with new levels of intensity, your progress will stall and your bulking diet will make you fat.

Succeed at bulking up by leaving nothing to chance

If you follow the five steps for bulking up, you will have no grey areas in your bulking plan: everything will fall into place and you will succeed. Knowledge is power; if you don’t understand why you are doing something, you won’t commit to it and it may not work. Learn what to do, then follow through with things and make them happen!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

KEVIN BAKER April 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm

very good but examples could be given on specific food items items or meals that the dieter could focus on in the diet


Thomas April 16, 2010 at 7:49 am

Hi Kevin:

I detailed two sample bulking diets. You can check them out here: sample bulking diet and the “see food” diet.

Basically, those articles show how to design a diet that meets certain nutrition and energy goals.

I don’t really want to get into giving specific recommendations, because I believe there is no one size fits all answer to the question of how to bulk up and add muscle mass. It’s for that reason also that I don’t try to recommend a standard bulk up weight lifting routine. I think it’s important for everyone to design their own lifting program and diet, then tweak it until they get the results they’re looking for.

Thanks for the comment.


Ray October 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Great Tips! Awesome Ideas!


Hamish June 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

Hey there, this sounds really interesting. Only problem for me is access to a gym or weight lifting equipment. Is it possible to get good results using body weight workouts?


Thomas June 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Make a sandbag. You can do squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts with the sandbag. Do pushups and weighted dips for the ‘pushing’ exercise (read my pushing exercise article here. Get a heavy bucket and use it for one-handed rows. Good luck!


ehshaan November 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm

if you really want good results..follow what your heart says..if you want to achieve its always possible..because nobody was born with a silver spoon in their mouth..,,we have to work hard and achieve everything we want..sacrifice always pays..the pain will be just for a few secs , minutes , hours , weeks or even months but soon or later it will vanish and only ONLY you will achieve…A REAL MAN IS THE ONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO KEEP QUIET AND ENDURE , SHED A TEAR FOR A MOMENT IN THE SHOWER AND THEN PICK UP THE GLOVES AND FIGHT AGAIN..GOOD LUCK!!!!


Ajith K June 7, 2013 at 4:04 am

i have 190 cm height but i am only 55 kg. Can i gain mass/muscle.


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