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Muscle Growth, Hardgainers

Best Lifting Routine for Skinny Guys

By Joe Talarico on May 26, 2020 9:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time

If you are a taller, skinnier guy, and putting on muscle has always been an issue, then I’d recommend phasing your workouts. It’s too easy for us to get caught up doing the same routine over and over, and expecting new results. Don’t get me wrong, certain main lifts like squat, deadlift, and overhead press should definitely be staples, but the slower our progression in weights starts to come, the bigger emphasis on quality programming.

For today’s focus, I wanna shed light on a more strength based routine that maximizes strength and power. I think too many skinny guys think they need the crazy crazy volume like they see the bodybuilders doing. While yes, there may be a place and time for that, when you are just starting out, you want to focus on the basics.

Get REALLY good at the main lifts, as those recruit the most amount of muscles. Gearing towards a more strength based approach allows you to do less reps, and therefore create high high amounts of tension. This activates your central nervous system to recruit as many muscle fibers as it can, and over time makes it more and more efficient at firing them quicker. Why is this good? If we can fire more, then we recruit more muscles allowing for better overall growth. If you want a more hypertrophy based approach for muscle growth and fullness, be sure to read my best workout routine for skinny guys who want to put on muscle article.

When you do a squat, you’re activating the quads, hamstrings, glutes, while isometrically activating the upper and lower back. With a bicep curl, you are mainly activating the biceps (which is a small muscle group in general) and that’s about it.  

Now that we have the reasoning behind the workout lets get into the programming. I’ll give some rough guidelines to see a sample routine, but this isn’t the end all be all of exercises. Feel free to check out any of the other MAPS programs or free articles and videos we have on YouTube and on this site to switch exercises out, or try new programs.

Frequency: 2-3x a week (keep 1-2 days of rest in between to recover)

Length: 3 week cycle with one week deload

Sets & Reps: 2-5 sets with 3-6 reps per exercise (rest up to 3 minutes between sets)


Day 1 -

Barbell Squats 4x5

Bench Press 4x5

Weight/Assisted Pull-ups 3x5

Shrugs 3x3-6

Barbell Curls 2x6-8

EZ Bar Skullcrushers 2x6-8

Day 2 -

Deadlifts 4x5

Overhead Press 4x5

Seated Row 3x5

Dumbbell Shrugs 3x3-6

Dumbbell Hammer Curls 2x6-8

Dips 2x6-8

Day 3 (only if you aren’t sore and are recovering from Day 2)-

Romanian Deadlifts 4x5

Lunges 4x6-8

Incline Bench 4x5

One Arm Dumbbell Row 3x5

Lateral Raises 3x6-8

Preacher Curls 2x6-8

Tricep Pushdowns 2x6-8

Deload: Keep in mind, you don’t want to be doing this program for any more than 3-4 weeks. You should find the weight stops progressively increasing as much week to week and the stimulus starts to be less effective. Your body will also need to take a break (also known as a deload). For the deload, make sure to spend one week doing half as many sets, with the same weight, but stopping 1-2 reps shy then you normally would. So if you were doing 4 sets of bench press with 135 pounds for 5 reps at the most, for your deload week you’d do 2 sets of bench press with 135 pounds for 2-4 reps. The point is to give the stimulus but not overwork the muscle so it can catch up to the work you’ve given it the past 3-4 weeks.  

Progressing from here

Again this is just a sample 3 week program. You want to ideally phase workouts so you change the stimulus up. Your next phase, for example, might be for 8-10 reps on most lifts. The phase after that might be for 12-15, with a set added to smaller lifts. Feel free to check out previous articles I’ve written on programming, or checking out any of the many Youtube videos on our Mind Pump page. If you want to take it a step further, we have our MAPS Anabolic program which further elaborates on the programming I have here if you’d like to continue with this setup.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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