How Should Skinny People Exercise?

Not fat but still unhappy with your body? Quick Tips to build muscle.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read


Ask Get-Fit Guy: How Should Skinny People Exercise?

Q. Luis recently wrote in and asked: "I have thin legs and thin arms and a flat chest. What I do have is a pretty big belly. What is the fastest way to gain muscle? I don't have weights because I live in a very tight space. I was wondering if body weight is enough."

A. In the fitness industry, Luis would be termed an “ectomorph” body type, meaning he is naturally thin, and a “hard gainer”, meaning his body type has difficulty putting on muscle.

Both men and women can fall into this category, and when they’re out of shape, it’s fairly common for the extra fat to gather around the mid-section, which causes the skinny-with-a-beer-belly look. To make matters worse, it is easy both ectomorph men and women to appear frail, thin or flat.

Here are 3 Quick & Dirty Tips for skinny people who want better bodies:

  1. Lift heavy weights. Your body will be naturally gifted at cardio and light weights, which means these modes of exercise won’t get you quick results. Instead, perform a full body, heavy weight training routine 3-5 days per week. If you don’t have access to weights, improvise with sandbags, buckets or thick elastic bands. Also, check out the space-saving “Selectorized Dumbbells”.

  2. Eat protein. Skinny people are notorious carbivores, and rarely eat enough protein to enhance muscle gain or muscle toning. For each pound of body weight, a skinny person should aim for 0.8-1.0 grams of protein.

  3. Limit cardio. Rather than long, slow cardio sessions, incorporate short and explosive cardio intervals of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, followed by full recovery periods.

Finally, the following exercises are effective for ectomorph bodies: squat to press, deadlift to press, clean and jerk, push press and dumbbell chest press. If you like the idea of specific routines for your particular body type, then let us know by e-mailing getfitguy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Weights image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.