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Best Workout Routine for Skinny Guys who Want to Put on Muscle

By Joe Talarico on Apr 30, 2020 10:00:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


I’ve had a lot of friends on the skinnier side tell me they’ve been struggling finding a workout routine that helps them put on size. They come across hundreds of programs all promising gains, but all having completely different approaches going about it. Should they lift 4 days a week? 5 days? Body part split or full body? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the programs out there.

The truth of the matter is, when it comes to programs, for a skinnier guy trying to put on size (especially if you have less than 3 years of lifting under your belt), you don’t need all that complicated stuff. A lot of it is just noise made so that coaches can differentiate their product. What works best is looking for the common themes in all of them (compound lifts, some form of progression, etc.).

For today’s focus, I wanna shed light on a more volume based routine that maximizes hypertrophy, and fullness of the muscle. If you want a more strength based approach for overall power, be sure to read my best lifting routine for skinny guys article.

The difference with a hypertrophy based approach vs strength is the volume. Instead of spending as much time in the 1-8 rep area, you are mainly going to be spending your time in the 10-15 rep area. If lower reps help you recruit more muscle, think of this phase as now taking all the new muscle you recruited, and putting it under a longer duration of stress. It sends a bigger growth hormone signal to grow all those muscles, rather than just getting more efficient, and powerful.

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 the 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: 4 week cycle

Sets & Reps: 2-5 sets with 12-15 reps per exercise (rest 30 seconds to 1:30 minutes between sets)


Day 1 -

Barbell Squats   3x12-15

Barbell Bench Press 3x12-15

One Arm DB Row 3x12-15

Barbell Shoulder Press 3x12-15

Skullcrushers 3x12-15

Barbell Curls 3x12-15

Cable Lateral Raises 2x12-15

DB Shrugs 3x12-15

Day 2 -

Deadlifts 3x12-15

Incline DB Press 3x12-15

Lat Pulldowns 3x12-15

DB Side Raises 3x12-15

DB Rear Raises 2x12-15

DB Hammer Curls 3x12-15

V-Bar Pushdown 3x12-15

Day 3 -

Leg Press 3x12-15

T-Bar Row 3x12-15

Incline Barbell Press 3x12-15

Seated DB Press 3x12-15

Rear Cable Flyes 2x12-15

Spider Curls 3x12-15

Dips 3x12-15


Again this is just a sample 4 week program. You want to ideally phase workouts so you change the stimulus up so your body can keep progressing. They don’t need to be drastic tweaks. I recommend never changing any more than any one, to two variables (ideally just one) to send a new signal.

Option 1: Volume - If you can’t increase weight from week to week as much anymore, instead add an additional set to each exercise for another 4 week cycle and try to get the same 12-15 with the same weight but for four sets now.

Phase One you were doing Bench Press 135lbs for 3 sets of 12 in the first phase and struggling to hit 140 for the 12-15 range. For the second phase, try doing the same 135lbs for 12-15 reps for FOUR sets instead of three. You’re chasing the additional volume to beat week to week

Option 2: Double Progression - Phase One you were doing Bench Press for 3 sets of 135lbs for 12-15 reps but couldn’t quite hit 15 for all 3 sets. Each week keep the weight the same, but try adding a rep until you can hit the top end of the 12-15 range and make all 3 sets for 15 reps. Only THEN would you increase the weight up and start back over at 12 or whatever you can hit.

Option 3 - Superset - Phase One you were doing Bench for 3 sets or 135lbs. For the next one, after each set, go immediately into a set of DB Bench Press for 12-15 reps. This will further fatigue the muscle and create more volume and breakdown of the muscle allowing for more growth. A lighter weight will most likely be used as this will total 24-30 reps in a given set.

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 Aesthetic program which further elaborates on the programming I have here if you’d like to continue with this setup.

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 3 sets of bench press with 135 pounds for 15 reps at the most, for your deload week you’d do 2 sets of bench press with 135 pounds for 10-12 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.

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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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