Find It Difficult to Pack on Size? This Muscle-building Workout Plan Builds Mass and Muscle

For some men putting on muscle can be a real slog, but rest assured, we’re here to help. If you want to pack on size, the first thing you need is a muscle-building plan and the second thing you need is to get yourself to the gym.

We know, we know, for skinny guys and hard gainers the gym can be an intimidating place: all the grunting and groaning from men lifting two or three times as much as you can. But you need to be in the gym because balancing a set of dumbbells is a more advanced move than lifting a barbell.

That’s why our 60-day muscle-building plan, which has been designed to specifically help ectomorphs (hard gainers who find it difficult to gain muscle mass as well as body fat), utilises lots of barbell exercises and compound movements, which force your muscle groups to grow and make it easier to overload your body as you grow stronger.

"To get stronger, you need to get bigger. And to get bigger, you need to get stronger," explains strength coach Greg Nuckols. "Training for one without the other doesn’t really make sense for most people.”

In this routine, you’ll perform big-muscle movements, so squats, bench presses and deadlifts. You’ll do these exercises frequently and, by working multiple muscle groups with these compound lifts, you'll be making a hefty difference to your muscle mass. That being said, if you struggle to deadlift at the start of this plan don’t worry. You can start with no weight on the bar if you have to.

Once you get comfortable with the weight and movement pattern, make yourself uncomfortable by adding extra weight. Do that and your hard gainer days will be over.

The Rules of Muscle-Building Workouts

  • Warm up before you begin. Five-to-ten minutes of light cardio and stretching should do the trick.

  • We'd never advise you to omit cardio altogether, but if putting on size is your goal, expending calories isn't the way to go about it. One or two 30-minute sessions per week is more than enough, but make sure you're doing your cardio on non-lifting days.

  • Whatever you're currently eating, you need to eat more.

  • Eat more. We can't stress this enough.

  • Don’t alter the programme in any way. Don’t add anything or take anything out. Just follow it to bulk up.

The 60-Day Muscle-Building Workout Plan for Skinny Men

Ready to get to work? In this plan, you'll be performing each pair of exercises as a superset. Do one set of the first exercise and follow it up with one set of the second exercise. Simple. Rest if noted and then repeat. Continue until you’ve completed all of the sets for each exercise in the pair.

Once you've done your supersets, there is a devilish finisher to get through, but once you've done that you're done. Until the next session that is.

Rest at least one day between workouts, and schedule a maximum of three training sessions per week. Oh, and get ready to gain.

Week 1

Follow set and rep prescriptions laid out below.

Day 1: Superset 1

Rest 1 minute between exercises. Rest 90 seconds after the superset is complete.

physical fitness, weights, weight training, barbell, overhead press, strength training, exercise equipment, weightlifting, shoulder, bodybuilding,
physical fitness, weights, weight training, barbell, overhead press, strength training, exercise equipment, weightlifting, shoulder, bodybuilding,

Barbell Back Squat

3 sets of 5 reps

chin up
chin up

Chin-up

2 sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible). If you can’t perform a chin-up, do a band-assisted version.

Superset 2

Rest for 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

bench press
bench press

Dumbbell Bench Press

2 sets of 8 to 12 reps

single arm dumbbell row
single arm dumbbell row

Dumbbell Single-Arm Row

3 sets of 10 reps per arm. Hold a 2-second pause at the top of each rep.

Superset 3

Rest 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

straight leg deadlift
straight leg deadlift

Barbell Straight-Leg Deadlift

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

cable core press
Philip Haynes

Cable Core Press

3 sets of 10 reps per side

Finisher

Rest 1 minute between each set.

leg, human body, shoulder, standing, human leg, shorts, barechested, knee, muscle, physical fitness,
leg, human body, shoulder, standing, human leg, shorts, barechested, knee, muscle, physical fitness,

Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk

3 sets of 40-yard carries

Day 2: Superset 1

Rest 1 minute between exercises. Rest 90 seconds after the superset is complete.

barbell bench press

Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 5 reps

chin up
chin up

Chin-up

2 sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible). Again, if you can’t perform a chin-up, do a band-assisted version.

Superset 2

Rest 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

trap bar deadlift
trap bar deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

3 sets of 8 reps

dive bomber press up
dive bomber press up

Dive Bomber Push-up

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Superset 3

Rest 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

goblet squat
goblet squat

Dumbbell Goblet Squat

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

weights, arm, barbell, leg, weightlifter, physical fitness, exercise equipment, human leg, chest, weight training,
weights, arm, barbell, leg, weightlifter, physical fitness, exercise equipment, human leg, chest, weight training,

Barbell Bent-Over Row

3 sets of 5 to 6 reps. Hold a 1 to 2-second pause at the top of each rep.

Finisher

Rest 1 minute between each set.

weights, exercise equipment, standing, bodybuilding, muscle, chest, arm, kettlebell, dumbbell, abdomen,
weights, exercise equipment, standing, bodybuilding, muscle, chest, arm, kettlebell, dumbbell, abdomen,

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

2 sets of 8 to 10 reps per leg

Day 3: Superset 1

Rest 90 seconds after the superset is complete.

sumo deadlift
sumo deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

3 sets of 5 reps

landmine punch
landmine punch

Single-Arm Landmine Press

2 sets of 8 reps per arm

Superset 2

Rest 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

front squat
front squat

Barbell Front Squat

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

hip thrusters
hip thrusters

Hip Thrusters

3 sets of 10 reps

Superset 3

arm workouts
arm workouts

Close-Grip Bench Press

2 sets of 12 to 15 reps

weights, arm, barbell, leg, weightlifter, physical fitness, exercise equipment, human leg, chest, weight training,
weights, arm, barbell, leg, weightlifter, physical fitness, exercise equipment, human leg, chest, weight training,

Barbell Bent-Over Row

3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

Only rest when needed. Rest 90 to 120 seconds after the superset is complete.

Finisher

Rest 1 minute between each set.

face pull
face pull

Face Pull

2 sets of 20 reps

Week 2-8 plan

Week 2: Add one set to both exercises in superset one for days 1 to 3.

Week 3: Add one set to both exercises in superset one for days 1 to 3.

Week 4: Add one set to both exercises in superset one for days 1 to 3.

Week 5: Follow week one's rep and set protocol for superset one for days 1 to 3, but use a heavier load. Strive to use more weight every week from here on out.

Week 6: Same as week 2.

Week 7: Same as week 3.

Week 8: Same as week 4.

just ten more
Struggling to add size? It could be the intensity at which you train at, or the environment in which you train in, holding you backNastasic - Getty Images

5 Reasons You're (Probably) Not Bulking

Too much cardio

“The first thing to do is to cut down on your cardio – especially running”, explains personal trainer James King. “This is because the body’s response to cardiovascular exercise is to maximise its strength to weight ratio and this process will cut the muscle mass you are trying so desperately to build.” If you’re going to do cardio make sure you take in extra carbohydrates and switch to explosive interval training rather than slow continuous training.

Not enough food

In order for your body to remain in a constant anabolic state (building muscle) it has to have a constant supply of energy. Eat at regular intervals, typically 5-6 small meals throughout the day. If you feel hungry, chances are you catabolic (your body is breaking down muscle as a fuel source). “Building muscle is low on your body’s to-do list, explains King. “Only when more important functions have been met will your body start building muscle – and that is only if there is surplus energy.” Make sure there is – eat.

Not enough intensity

“The more stress you put on your muscles the bigger the rewards”, says King. “It’s absolutely vital that every set is performed to failure and make sure you have someone to spot you, if not cheat the last few reps!” he adds. In addition, ensure that every week you are lifting heavier – even if this is the weight of a barbell collar, tiny incremental increases will ensure you get a growth response. Grit your teeth and go heavy.

Too much quantity

“A common mistake is to confuse intensity with quantity,” says King. In the world of bodybuilding, less can be more. Each muscle group requires no more than three sets of three exercises. These exercises should not be performed more than a maximum of twice a week at a high intensity. Any more than this and they will be unable to super-compensate (the process whereby muscles grow in size and strength), the result being limited gains in size and strength.

Not enough compound exercises

It is a necessity to include the following compound exercises in any bodybuilding program: squats, deadlifts and bench presses. These huge movements engage large muscle groups allowing your body to move some serious weight. “It’s the stress from moving heavy weight that causes a surge of testosterone”, explains King, “and that’s what stimulates serious muscle growth.”

man cooking healthy food
Your diet plays a huge role in your get-big-quick mission. So make sure it’s working for you GeorgeRudy - Getty Images

3 Best Foods for Bulking Up

Sometimes, when you're knee-deep in the mission of bulking up, it may not be about how many plates you're racking up on your barbell during leg day, but rather how you're stacking your plate at mealtimes. Below, we've got a tri of muscle-feeders that, owing to a higher calorie-to-volume ratio and ease of consumption, will help bolster your meals quicker than you can say 'mass gainer'.

Oats

Higher in protein than other carbohydrate sources — rice, pasta and cereal, for example — oats have the power to deliver a one-two punch to your bulk-up plan. Not only this, but it'll help steady your sugar levels to curb cravings and, handily, oats blend easily into smoothies and require next to no effort to prep.

Eggs

During a study, researchers found that whole egg consumption sparked increased levels of protein fibre repair and recovery than eating egg whites. The process is key to building bigger and stronger muscles, and is theorised that eggs can elicit a greater protein synthesis response than simply eating protein alone. The yolk contains fats, including the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, and minerals, like phosphorus and iron.

Nuts

High in magnesium, vitamin E and protein, almonds, in particular, can lower cholesterol and boost your lifespan, as well as adding valuable calories to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seriously — research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that for every day of the week you eat a handful of nuts, you lower your mortality risk.

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