Scrawny to Brawny: How to Build Strength and Muscle When You're Skinny

Six training rules for skinny athletes who want to build muscle and get stronger.

You've heard the names:

"Chicken Legs."


You've heard the names:

"Chicken Legs."


Maybe you're one of the often overlooked minority of athletes who needs to gain weight to keep up with the big guys. If so, here are six training rules that will help you build muscle and increase your strength.

Training Rule #1: Always Perform Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are a must for skinny guys trying to build muscle and get stronger. Focus on movements such as Squats, Overhead Presses, Deadlifts, Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups, Rows and Dips. They stimulate muscle growth much more effectively and efficiently than isolation exercises, so don't ever underestimate them.

Trying to build up your arms? Forget about direct biceps work and focus on Chin-Ups, Rows and Dips. Trying to build up your legs? Squat, sprint, and do some Lunges instead of using the leg-extension machine.

RELATED: Compound Exercises That Build Muscle Twice As Fast

Training Rule #2: Lift With Intensity

If you want to get bigger and stronger, you have to train with intensity. Compound exercises aren't enough. You can make any workout either really good or really bad depending on the intensity you apply.

RELATED: The 7-Minute High-Intensity Dynamic Warm-Up


  • Lift heavy weights.
  • Use free weights and machines.
  • Take shorter rest periods of 45-60 seconds.
  • Keep your workouts under one hour.
  • If you don't look like you're in discomfort, you're not working out at all.

Training Rule #3: Progress Every Week

You will build more muscle only if you get stronger. To do that, progress every week by reaching new PRs in the weight room. There are two ways to progress: add more weight or do more reps.

For example, if you Squat 225 for 3 reps this week, try for 4 reps next week. If those 4 reps feel too easy, add more weight.

Training Rule #4: Practice Proper Form

Every rep counts.

For your muscles to grow, they must be stimulated properly with the exercises you do. The only way for this to happen is to use proper form. Otherwise, you will not stimulate your muscles. Contract the muscle(s) you are working on with every rep and every set.

A good rule of thumb: control the weight, don't let it control you.

Training Rule #5: Train More Frequently

Does your workout routine train each muscle group just once a week? If so, it's time to switch up your workout program. For athletes looking to build muscle, it's important to train more frequently than the typical bodybuilding split routine. Instead of doing "Chest Mondays" or "Leg Fridays," do a Push/Pull routine that will train each muscle group at least twice a week.

If you're an athlete, you have to train like one. Stop training each muscle group only once per week.

RELATED: How to Fix Squat Form Mistakes

Training Rule #6: Take Days Off

Recovery is crucial to building muscle, so you must take some days off. Sure, training more frequently is more effective than not training enough, but keep in mind that muscles grow on rest days. More isn't necessarily better. There's no need to train more than four times a week.


  • Do more Squats, Overhead Presses, Deadlifts, Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups, Rows and Dips.
  • Increase intensity by lifting heavy weights and taking shorter rest periods.
  • To get stronger, strive for new personal records every week.
  • Contract your muscles on every rep.
  • Don't do bodybuilding training splits.
  • Recovery days are just as important as training days.

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