13 Tips For Guaranteed Weight Gain – The Skinny Nerd Manifesto

So you’re skinny.

If this were an RPG, you’d be an elf.  If this was Maniac Mansion, you’d definitely be Bernard. In the fitness world you’re called a “hardgainer.”  You weigh 125 lbs., you eat whatever you want, and you still can’t gain weight.  You’re ready to bulk up, build some muscle, and get strong like a mofo…but you have no freaking cue what you’re doing.  Luckily, you’ve found this site, and I’m here to help. I used to be a skinny guy too (see above). And it wasn’t that long ago!

I’ve spent the past 15 years struggling to get bigger and only in the past few years have I finally cracked the code. I still am working on getting bigger and stronger, but.

I dig into this in WAY more detail in the following (more recent) articles:

But these 13 tips will get you started down a path to a stronger physique.

13 Ways to Get Bigger

1) Eat a lot – This sounds much easier than it really is, but it’s the truth.

If you’re not getting bigger, you’re not eating enough.

It’s that simple. When I first started exercising and trying to get bigger, the personal trainer in my gym had me DOUBLE the amount of food I was eating. I thought he was crazy…until I did it and it worked. I had tried unsuccessfully to get bigger prior to that, it was simply because I wasn’t eating enough food. You might eat 3 MONSTER meals, 6 big meals, or any combination of whatever works for your schedule.

These days, I eat all my calories between Noon and 8pm (this is a type of Intermittent Fasting).

This is going to be difficult for a while, because your body isn’t used to eating this much food, which means you’ll have to force yourself to eat even when you’re not hungry. 500 extra calories a day = 1 extra pound gained per week.  Whatever you’re eating now, add an additional 500-1000 calories (spread throughout the day).

Need a bit more guidance? Check out this quick article about determining your caloric needs, based on your body and your activity level. Get a caloric number for each day (rest day, training day, etc) and then eat MORE than that.

2) Eat a lot of good things – You need to eat a ridiculous amount of calories if you want to gain weight (depending on how skinny you are), but you want to make sure most of those calories are GOOD calories.  You could easily get 3500 calories eating Taco Bell and Twinkies, and drinking Mountain Dew, but your body will hate you, you won’t put on muscle, and that’s not a good long term solution (goodbye health).  If you want to build muscle, you want to eat healthy calories that are loaded with good protein, good carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables to help provide nutrients and move all that food through your internal plumbing…which brings me to my next point:

3) Protein = building block for your muscles. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk, almonds.  Aim for .8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. You don’t need to overdo it with 300+ grams of protein like you’ll read in fitness magazines – they say that so you buy their protein powders and go through it quickly.

4) Carbs are your friend when you need to put on weight – rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, etc. will help you put on weight. You can also eat a lot of it to get your calorie goals. You can get away with eating less healthy things like bread, pasta, and even snack food ON OCCASION, but try to avoid those things most days. Also, as previously stated,  every meal should have vegetables when possible so your body can properly manage all those calories as they move through your body.

In addition to carbs, eating lots of nuts (high calorie, high fat), as well as using healthy oils in your cooking and eating (coconut oil, olive oil) can easily help you reach your caloric goals too.

5) Keep track of everything you eat – Sign up for a site like MyFitnessPal (it’s free), input your stats and start to track every one of your meals.  It will tell you if you’re eating enough calories, enough protein, and enough carbs. Once you start to get a good feel for how many calories you eat each day, try to eat the same meals to keep it easy. If the scale is moving up, keep doing what you’re doing. If the scale isn’t moving. EAT MORE.

If you’re ever unsure if you’ve eaten enough that day, eat more.

You can always scale back the calories later if needed. YOU WILL NOT GET TOO BULKY. Trust me. That should not even be a concern in your mind. Remove “I don’t want to get too bulky” from your vocabulary.


storm troopers hit the gym

6) Compound exercises are your friend – Up until this point, we’ve only talked about the weight gain portion. Do the above, and you’ll put on weight. HOWEVER, if you’re not also training properly, you’ll just be getting fat, and not building muscle.

And that’s where training comes in! Concentrate on complex, compound exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible: bench press, dumbbell presses, squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, and dips.  Do these exercises, and concentrate on lifting as much weight as possible.

Don’t worry about isolation exercises like triceps extensions, shoulder shrugs, bicep curls or crunches right now.  All of the compound exercises listed here use every muscle in your body, and when you overload your body with calories and protein, those muscles will grow.

Not sure where to start or what to do? We’ve put together an assessment quiz, as well as numerous progressive workouts – for both the gym or home – in our comprehensive Nerd Fitness Academy.

Terrified to even step foot into a gym? We understand! Check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym article for some basic strategies and workouts.

Want to really start diving deep into exercise technique? Read through our Strength Training 101 article series that will answer all your questions!

7) Appearance is a consequence of fitness – This is the mantra of the actors of who trained for the movie 300 – would you be okay looking like a Spartan?  Concentrate on being really strong and lifting heavy weights, and your body will follow suit.  It doesn’t matter if you can only bench press 10 lb dumbbells right now.  Wherever you’re starting out, concentrate on being stronger each and every time you exercise.  Push yourself, get stronger, lift more, and before you know it you’ll be ripped.

Just like tracking your eating is important, so is tracking your workouts! We talk more about that halfway through this article.

8) When exercising, keep your rest between sets to a minute or two, and don’t do more than 12 reps in a set – Keep your range of reps between 6 and 12, and try to keep the time you rest between sets to a minute or two.  Example: incline dumbbell chest press – 12 reps of 50 lbs, wait a minute, 10 reps of 55lbs, wait a minute, 8 reps of 60 lbs.

9) Let your muscles rest – Never exercise the same muscle two days in a row.  Your muscles get rebuilt (larger) during your days off, so never exercise the same muscle before it’s ready. Training 3-4 days a week with a day off in between each (and plenty of calories) is plenty of training. Skinny guys often don’t need to train more, they need to eat and rest more!

10) Sleep – You need to be getting at least 7 hours of sleep, but 8-9 hours of sleep every night for maximum gains.  Your body is doing nothing but lying there and building muscle while you’re sleeping.  If you are only getting 6 hours or less, you’re not going to get all the benefits of your exercising and diet.  I know it’s tough, but those 3AM raids on Runnyeye need to be put on hold for a few months.  SLEEP.

11) Cardio is your enemy – Running long distances isn’t going to help you.  If you’re going to run, do sprints or run up a hill. If you love to run, that’s fine, but understand you’ll need to eat even more calories. Think about it: would you rather look like a sprinter or a marathon runner?  Keep your distance cardio to a minimum if you want to put on some pounds.

12) Make it part of your routine – It’s okay to skip a workout here and there, but it is NOT okay for you to skip a meal if you’re serious about weight gain.  You need to be always eating.  It sucks, it’s practically a full time job, but it’s what you have to do.  Eat.

If you “swear” you’re eating all the time, then you should start tracking things (as we mentioned earlier!). Are you actually skipping lunch a few times a week when work gets busy, or skipping breakfast on the weekends when you sleep in?

13) Realize you will put on some fat – with all of this eating, you are going to be putting on some fat along with your muscle. That’s okay! Trying to lose fat (when you’re skinny) and put on muscle at the same time usually results in neither been done well.

Figure out what your goal weight is, and then add another 5-10 lbs on top of it.  Once you get to that weight, cut back on the calories in your diet, do more sprints, and keep exercising: you’ll shed the fat quickly and be left with a killer figure.  Eat all the vegetables you want, but cut back on breads, pasta, rice, and oatmeal.

Now go eat something!



photo credit: W_Minshull Hardcore Stormies Hit The Gym

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  • Harsh Sharma

    HI, I’m 141 lbs and 5’9″. Am I skinny or normal ?

  • PonyBoy

    Nowadays being lean is what most strive for, the days of being huge don’t seem to be the norm anymore… and let’s be real for a second anyone that thinks someone like Kai Greene is a picture of health is absurd. I promise you dude has cholesterol, kidney, heart and liver problems.
    Besides Bruce Lee was skinny and he fu cked people up. 🙂

  • James

    Hope, you get fatter as well as i am

  • Connor Forbes

    I might be late to this, but k could really use some help, I am 16 currently in highschool and I weigh 128 lbs and I am 6″0, what kinds of foods should I be eating and how do I turn the fat that I gain into muscle?

  • Tiffany Daniels

    does d3 and b 12 help gain weight ?
    I;m 5’6 139 im skinny , i would like to be 160

  • Nicole Pharaoh

    I’m only like 100 pounds I was premature when I was born I need some advice how to get bigger and gain weight

  • Vamsi_Peketi

    5’6 height and 58 kgs too lean………

  • Neil Waldron

    …i can relate

  • BzzyQueen

    Yes, i quit smoking and gained hella weight!! That was 3-4years ago. Now i have started back smoking nd lost it, now im trying to quit again and its hard!!

  • Devyansh choudhary

    I cant make my self fat i eat ton of protien then also????? Help

  • SkinnyGirl

    Been skinny my whole life, I’m 20yrs old, 5’3 and 83lbs

  • SkinnyJ

    I’m 5’9 and weigh 135 pounds. I have a really slender physique and go really thin at the wrists and ankles which I hate. I struggle massively to gain weight and when I eat more I feel really bloated. It’s hard work!! Just feel like my genes are totally working against me.

  • Victor Alexis

    He’s just an idiot. Let’s be honest – nobody who doesn’t have anorexia weighs just 100 lbs at 5’10”. When I was 138 lbs at that height, I looked disgustingly skinny. He’s probably assessing his own weight like many of the imbeciles in the comment section. Seriously? People saying they’re 6’4″ and weigh only 120? They’d be dead or hospitalized.

  • JC

    Try 6’3, 130

  • CR Monge

    I’m 8 years later, I’m 19, female, 5’8 and only 106 lbs, I don’t know what else to try. No matter what I do I still can’t gain weight and I hope to gain some, I’ll be working hard at the gym but being in my second year of college it’s complicated to keep it up with a routine at the gym, guess we’ll see.

  • http://www.strengthessentials716.com Jim White

    My go-to for gaining weight is pasta and meatballs. Also extra peanut butter/olive oil throughout the day. One actual serving size of pasta is very small so I could put down 4 servings or more EASILY.