When two people start a similar weight lifting regimen at the same time, they should gain muscle at the same rate ... or so you would think. If one of these people is skinny and the other one plump, the heavier of the two might appear to gain size faster. Yet how quickly and how much a person gains when working out depends on a few factors.
The Bulking Illusion
If you lean more toward plump than skinny, ExRx.net reports that weight training can result in temporary weight gain initially. But it's not that you've gained muscle quicker than your skinny lifting partner. You've just started building muscle under a layer of fat. With the muscle pushing the fat outward, it appears that you've gained size, but you'll have no muscle definition. At the same time, the skinny lifter doesn't have that extra layer, so his progress is seemingly slower. Once fat burning kicks in, you'll lose the extra weight and you'll be able to see your muscles better.
Metabolism and Body Type
Metabolism and body type come into play when a skinny person is trying to gain muscle as well as when an overweight person is trying to build muscle while losing fat. The skinny one seems to be able to eat everything in sight and still not gain weight, while his chubby friend seems to gain weight just by sniffing the aroma of a fresh-baked pie. That's because the skinny guy's metabolism burns up everything he eats and his friend's metabolism is prone to storing body fat. The two body types will have to approach their fitness routines from different angles, but as Mark Macdonald tells readers in his book "Body Confidence," you can improve any body type with dedication and the right strategies.
Bulking Up for the Thin
If you've always had trouble gaining weight, you won't be able to gain muscle simply by lifting a lot of weights. Actually, as Shannon Clark reports in an article on workout mistakes that skinny guys make, lifting a lot of weights is probably working against you. You'll still need to challenge your muscles by lifting heavy weight, but Clark advises that thin people who are having trouble gaining size should do half the number of sets they've been attempting. Personal trainer Matt Siaperas agrees, saying three sets of each exercise should be enough to start gaining muscle. Thinner people also need more calories to build muscle -- and they need to be quality calories from protein and "good carbs" like whole grains. But don't interpret the need for calories to mean you should be using all the latest supplements. Siaperas recommends three basic supplements for those serious about gaining muscle: protein, Omega-3s and creatine. Finally, if you're skinny, don't overdo the cardio. When you don't have fat to burn, too much cardio will work against your muscle gains. Cardiovascular exercise is necessary for a healthy heart, but two or three light cardio workouts (20 minutes of walking or jogging) each week will be sufficient without eating up muscle gains.
Cutting Up for the Stout
When a heavy person sets his sights on gaining muscle, he also has to work on burning off the fat. While your weight lifting regimen won't be that much different than your thinner lifting partner's, you can add a fourth set of each exercise to your workouts. You will benefit from a healthy diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables and carbohydrates from whole grains, but you'll have to be more careful of your fat and sugar intake than your skinny friend. Creatine, protein and Omega-3s will be effective supplements for your diet, too. The biggest difference in your training is the cardio factor. Getting your heart rate up with a cardio workout three to five times a week for 30 to 45 minutes will burn off the layer of fat over those muscles you're building, and give you some definition.
- Matt Siaperas; Personal Trainer, Hardbodies Gym; Blackfoot, Idaho
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Myths
- Mahler's Aggressive Strength: The Top Five Muscle Building Mistakes Skinny Guys Make
- Body Confidence; Mark Macdonald
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.