Your Weak and Small And It's Time to Make A Change

image of girl performing crossfit

How can you get stronger when your really skinny is a common question hard gainers and small eaters are always asking. But getting stronger is going to be a lot harder if you don't get some more meat on your frame. eating more calories is going to have to be your number one priority. All your hard work in the gym will be wasted if you don’t have the proper amount of nutrients for growth and strength.

To get your muscles stronger you have to ensure that you are giving them enough nutrients for healing and creating new muscle tissue. But to do this your going to have to understand why you're skinny. Are you eating enough food to get the number of calories you require? Or are you having problems eating enough calories?

Plate with different sources of protein

First, you have to make sure you're eating enough protein each and every day. The number of grams of protein you are eating daily should be equal to the new weight you want to reach. So if your 140 lbs and you want to reach a weight of 160 lbs you will have to start eating approximately 160 grams of protein a day. For more information on protein intake see our article for women or are one for Men. It also contains a list of foods with the highest protein amounts from meat and other sources.

You also need to know the number of calories you should be eating. To calculate your calorie requirements use are Daily Calories Required Calculator Are calculator will also take your age, height, weight and your general daily activity level to determine your required calories. Use the calculator to determine your calorie requirement to gradually gain weight
It's important to gradually alter your calories as you are gaining weight, whenever you gain .5 to 2 lbs you should recalculate the number of calories you should be eating. This will allow most of your weight gain to come from developing muscle from your exercise routine and not fat from having to large of a calorie surplus.

When eating make sure you spread out your meals throughout the day. Ideally, you should be eating 5 - 7 small meals, but if you find that to much aim for at least a minimum of 4 separate meals spread out through the day. You also need to be logging everything that your eating to ensure you are getting the proper amount of nutrients.

Use are Calorie Food Log it's free of charge and contains a Dashboard so you can see how much you are progressing over time. And unlike other sites all updates and new features are added to your account with NO CHARGE. Nutrition is going to be your biggest determining factor to whether you are going to get stronger or not. Nutrition is about 80% of the work and 20 % will come from your exercise routine. Make sure you are really focusing on eating enough calories.

Ways To Eat High Calories

If you have problems eating a large amount of food throughout your day you need to be eating foods with a high-calorie count. Know this doesn't mean you should start eating junk food or sugary treats but look for healthier sources of high-calorie foods. To get you started we have created a list of 15 foods that have a high-calorie count.

  • 15 High Calorie Foods

  • Cheese: 353 calories per 100 grams
  • Peanut butter: 589 calories per 100 grams
  • Pasta: 158 calories per 100 grams
  • Whole Wheat Bread: 270 calories per 100 grams
  • Nuts: 576 calories per 100 grams
  • Olive oil: 884 calories per 100 grams
  • Bacon: 548 calories per 100 grams
  • Salmon: 208 calories per 100 grams
  • Beef: 332 calories per 100 grams
  • Sausage: 297 calories per 100 grams
  • Brown Rice: 297 calories per 100 grams
  • Potato Salad: 143 calories per 100 grams
  • Dates: 282 calories per 100 grams
  • Avocados: 160 calories per 100 grams
  • Homemade Granola: 510 calories per 100 grams

Using high-calorie foods will help you reach your required calories by eating a lot less food. And if your really skinny eating some unhealthy foods isn't really an issue but just make sure not to overdo it.

Get Into A Consistent Progressive Overload Training Routine

Your exercise routine needs to consist of compound exercises while utilizing progressive overload. Compound exercises are exercise movements that use more than one joint / muscle. So instead of doing something like bicep curls you would use pull ups instead. When your small and skinny, isolation exercises like bicep curls are not very useful. Focus on pull ups and rows these will still work your biceps but also use your larger back muscles helping you to gain more strength in less time.

Don’t use machines, all of your exercises should be done with free weights. Free weights are known to trigger higher amounts of human growth hormone (especially squats and deadlift). You will also use many more muscles when using free weights since your stabilizing muscles get triggered. To help with the lifts.

Barbell stacked with weights

If you really have some isolation exercises you want to do, just make sure to try to limit it to only 1 isolation exercise per workout and for the rest of your routine, you should be focusing on compound lifts. The one exception to the rule would be your calves as there are not really many compound exercises that work the calves well. Calves are also the one exercise where you should use a higher rep range. Between 10 to 20 reps seems to work well for the growth of a person's calves.

Compound exercises are going to produce the largest amount of strength in the shortest amount of time. Compound exercises are very well suited for progressive overload and by including progressive overload into your routine you should see significant gains in a short amount of time. If you haven't used progressive overload before check out our About Progressive Overload article to get the basics of how to implement it into your workout routine.

Here is a list of the main compound exercises that you should be focusing on.

  • Compound Exercises list

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Press
  • Decline Press
  • Shoulder press
  • Arnold Bumbbell Press
  • Squats
  • Stiff leg Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Lunges
  • Deadlift
  • Axle Deadlift
  • Bent Over Row
  • T Bar Rows
  • Pull ups
  • Chin Ups
  • Cable Seated Rows

Rep Range For Strength

You should keep the rep range of the exercises on the lower end. 3 - 7 reps is ideal for building strength. You should be doing between 3 to 5 sets for each exercise. Keeping the reps on the low end will help to work your fast twitch muscle fibers. Just remember to use progressive overload to keep getting stronger.

Exercise Split

The exercise split you choose isn't going to matter to much in the beginning. A good routine for just starting would be a full body routine 3 days spread over the week. Another option is to do a split by push, pull, and legs. It's best just to pick one and then focus on using progressive overload and you will start building strength in no time.

Exercises in Category Push, Pull, Legs

  • Push

  • Anything where you are pushing the weight away from your body.
  • Bench Press
  • Incline Press
  • Decline Press
  • Shoulder Press
  • Arnold Bumbbell Press
  • Pull

  • Direct opposite of push, where you are pulling the weight towards your body.
  • Deadlift
  • Axle Deadlift
  • Bent Over Row
  • T Bar Rows
  • Pull Ups
  • Chin Ups
  • Pull ups
  • Cable Seated Rows
  • Legs

  • Anything from waist down.
  • Squats
  • Stiff Leg Deadlift
  • Dumbbell lunges
  • Leg Press

It's important that you keep your routine simple. You should only be in the gym for about 45 minutes for your exercise routine. Studies show that after that time your body will begin pumping cortisol and lower the body’s production of testosterone. This will slow the number of gains you will see and should be avoided. The first 6 months or so of lifting you don’t need to alter your training routine. It's only when your abilities get to intermediate to advanced that altering your exercise routines every several weeks becomes important. That is also when you may want to include more isolation exercises into your routine. But at that point, you should no longer see yourself as skinny and you should start looking into a new program like mad cow to keep increasing your strength.

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