A few years ago, I was a rail. I had no muscle tone whatsoever. While I’m certainly still thin today, I’m no longer goddamned embarrassed when I take my shirt off. I’m still far from where I ideally want to be, but seeing myself shirtless, with shoulder striations, ripped abs, and bigger pecs gave me a tremendous sense of newfound confidence that I lacked previously.
So what can skinny guys who have no muscle tone do to build some up?
The following routine allowed me to gain about 10 lbs of muscle in the span of a few months. It’s designed essentially for beginners just starting out, which will allow you to get a “burst” period since your body isn’t used to this kind of routine and so will be forced to adapt quickly.
Let me insert the legalize disclaimer that this was my experience. Your results may vary.
The basic building block of the workout is Scooby’s beginner routine. If you’re in the YouTube fitness community, you certainly know who he is.
Scooby’s beginner’s routine is a three-day routine, and when you’re just starting out (and I mean literally when you haven’t done a serious workout prior to that for years if at all), you should stick to three days. After maybe a month or so, you should do this as a four day routine, which works out to every other day.
The basic plan involves the following:
- 2 revolutions of the rotisserie core workout (front and side planks, plus crunches)
- 3 sets of overhand pullups
- 3 sets of goblet chair squats
- 3 sets of pushups
The rotisserie works your core and abs (as well as your lats to an extent), the pullups work your lats and biceps, the squats work your legs, and the pushups work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. You’re hitting your entire body in one day.
The only equipment you’ll need is a basic set of weights and a pullup bar.
You can modify and add exercises to this basic routine as needed. For instance, I added bicep curls with my weights to the routine, and before I got my pullup bar, used the curls to work my biceps when the bar wasn’t available. Note that curls are generally useless on their own so you’ll want to get a pullup bar fast. Once I had my pullup bar, I still did the curls as a supplemental exercise, adjusting the weight as needed.
Note that for any exercise with weights, adjusting the weight you use is critical. Your target number of reps per set with any weighted exercise like the squats or curls is around 8 to 14. As Scooby remarked, if you can’t do 8, you’re using too much weight. If you can do 14 easily, you’re not using enough weight.
That’s why I decided to buy an adjustable weight set.
With sets like mine, you can add additional weight to your squats, curls, and other, more advanced exercises (when you get there), such as shoulder presses and dumbbell flies, as you need to.
Your weights can also be used to make your body weight exercises, such as pushups or pullups, more challenging. When I was used to the basic workout, I would add the disc weights that can be attached to the dumbbells to my back inside a backpack, so that when pure body weight wasn’t challenging enough, I had added more pressure. It’s amazing what a difference a mere 10 lbs can make in a body weight exercise.
When you start up, you should be doing three sets. You have a few options with your pushups.
- You can get pushup stands (this is probably the best, but one I never saw a need for).
- You can do them open-handed (I don’t like this because of the pressure it puts on your wrists).
- You can do them with your fists (this was my choice because it keeps your wrists straight and is a more intense and tougher workout).
You can also vary how you do your pushups if you desire. A wider arm spread will tend to work your outer chest more, while a narrower spread will work your inner chest, triceps, and shoulders more.
Wide or narrow pushups, you ask?
When you’re just starting out with three sets, vary them up, such as wide-narrow-wide on one day and then after your rest day, narrow-wide-narrow.
After you’ve done the basic Scooby workout for a while and you’re getting used to things, add another set of pushups, doing two of each variation to get the most work in.
Unlike the weighted exercises of 8 to 14 reps, you want to do as many pushups as you can in each set before taking a rest (the same goes with pullups).
As many as you can.
When you’ve done this routine for a bit, you can put weights from your adjustable weight set on your back in a backpack and continue on. Again, it’s amazing just how much a difference in difficulty a mere 10 lbs can be.
Rotisserie Core Essentials
First, you’ll need a stopwatch or something to time yourself. You can get that by simply going to this online stopwatch. Use the countdown timer.
When you’re just beginning, do your planks for 30 seconds apiece, and, like your pushups and pullups, do as many crunches as you can.
As you continue on in your routine, you should add time and crunches to the rotisserie. You can also add weight to the exercise, such as putting weights on your back or sides and behind your head as you do your crunches. Your goal should be to challenge yourself with every workout.
Now you can see the utility in buying a set of adjustable dumbbells. The weights come in handy for way more than just the dumbbell exercises.
When Can You Expect Results?
It depends on your body and how you go about it, of course. If you were real skinny like me and just starting out seriously, you might start to feel your appetite increasing and seeing results in as little as a few weeks, and when you keep on doing it, you will start to see even further results until you eventually hit a plateau and it’s time to move on.
More on that later.
Overall, for a period of about three to six months of intensity on this routine, you should start to see major gains relative to where you were before, which was probably nowhere. You can make the most out of it with the proper nutrition and adding new routines on top of this one when you’re ready.
To go along with taking your body from nowhere to somewhere, you should begin to take your mind from nowhere to somewhere also. Stumped will give you those tools that I wish I had back then.