This post may contain affiliate links at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Click to view our full disclosure.

You’ve spent months trying to transform your physique from skinny to buff, but you still don’t see a noticeable change. Meanwhile, others get ripped from just looking at weights!

This gets frustrating after a while, even for the most disciplined people, but don’t give up. With the right guidance and my expertise, you are on your way to a real transformation.

I’m a professional trainer and coach, and today, I am going to show you how to go from skinny to buff. I’ll tell you what to consider when deciding to get muscular and common mistakes to avoid. 

Keep reading, as I’ll even share the most effective diet and training routine to give you the body you want.

Let’s begin.

Can I go from skinny to buff?

go from skinny to buff

Absolutely! Even those thinking of themselves as ‘’hard gainers” can do it. 

With discipline, consistency, a training plan, and a nutrition plan complete with correctly applied macronutrients, you can go from skinny to buff. 

A combination of strength training, progressive overload, and rep cycling are necessary. You’ll also need an increased calorie surplus of 4000-6000 Kj / 1000-1500 Kcal with added carbs and protein and you will get there. 

This study by the National Library of Medicine found valuable evidence that increased energy intake combined with weight training can result in FAT-FREE mass gains. That means it is totally possible for ectomorphs to build lean muscle mass

Things To Consider When Deciding on Getting Muscular

Related: 5 Must-Try Leg Press Exercises To Target And Tone Your Glutes

skinny to muscular

Before jumping straight under the weights to go from skinny to muscular, there are a few things to consider, such as:

Personal Goals

No one knows better than you. Ask yourself:

“Which areas of my body do I want to focus on the most?”

“What are my strengths and weaknesses?”

“Why is this goal important to me?”

Being clear about your goals and whys will keep you motivated on your journey. Coming up, we’ll go deeper into setting specific goals.

Time Investment

Getting muscular requires time, which most people find challenging in our busy world. 

Assess how much time you have to commit to your workouts and prepare your meals without affecting other things like your sleep, relationships, or work performance. 

This is necessary to find balance as you stick to a long-term training and nutrition plan.

Training and Nutrition Program

Have you researched or reached out for a training and nutrition plan that you can follow? 

It is crucial to get clarity about the frequency, volume, and intensity you need to train at to go from skinny to buff

Also, personalizing your calories and macronutrients to your training are just as important. 

Individual Differences

No one has the same body, exact same goal, or lifestyle as you. Also, you might have special dietary needs or restrictions, past or current injuries, and much more.

There is no one size fits all. 

Looking at other transformations can be motivating, but don’t compare your results, gains, and progress to anyone else’s. 

Your biggest competition is YOU! You should aim to be a better version of YOURSELF every day. 

How To Go From Skinny to Buff

Related: Is 100 Kettlebell Swings A Day Enough?

from skinny to buff

Decision is the first step toward action. Congratulations on taking the first step to do something for yourself! 

I am here to share the secrets to getting buff! This will be your bridge between your feelings of giving up and staying motivated even during the most challenging times! 

Set Specific Goals

The excitement is so high when you witness skinny to buff transformations. You can’t help but imagine yourself as the next success story.

However, be sure to set realistic, individual goals. Do this by following the S.M.A.R.T goal guidelines to track and measure your progress.

S- Specific

Be as specific as possible with your goals, for example: 

  • Short-term goal: “I want to gain a pound of lean mass a week.”
  • Mid-term goal: “I want to deadlift 220 lbs in the next three months with good technique.”
  • Long-term goal: “I am sticking to five sessions a week for a year and eating 3000+ calories.” 


You want to put numbers on your goals. Weigh yourself and know where you are starting from and set a goal where you want to be. For example, “I want to gain a pound of lean mass a week.”


Look at other skinny to buff transformation examples. See how long it took for them to achieve it safely! Emphasis on safely, as extreme methods do NOT last. 

Once you do this, set your attainable targets. 


Ensure that the goals you set for yourself are meaningful for you. This will keep you motivated.


Set a time-limit for your goals. This increases the likelihood you achieve them.

Stay Committed and Dedicated

The journey won’t be easy. 

Invest time and effort to reach your goals, and plan ahead, especially if you have a busy work schedule.

Accept your failures, too. Not every day will be a good day. Performance swings up and down. When things are tough, that is when you need to commit the most in order to achieve your goals. 

Follow a Structured Training and Nutrition Program

To go from skinny to muscular, you need to fuel yourself with nutrient-dense food. There should be a good balance of carbs, protein and fat sources

At the same time, follow a professionally structured strength training routine to increase lean muscle mass.

The great news is that you don’t have to worry about training and nutrition. You will have plenty of options to choose from below!

Track Your Progress

Keeping track of your training can help you make adjustments whenever needed and help you identify areas of improvement. 

Keep record of your workouts and weights used. Take regular pictures and body measurements. 

How long does it take to get buff from skinny?

skinny to muscular transformation

Each individual will experience different results in different time frames. 

That’s because the speed of your progress relies on different factors, such as:

  • Consistency
  • Fitness Level
  • Training Frequency, Volume and Intensity
  • Others

For example, if you are a newbie, you will make quicker progress at the beginning than those who have been lifting for a long time. We call this newbie gains! But it won’t last forever. That’s when you need to up your game. 

But to give you an estimated time frame, you can safely gain 0.5-1kg (one to two pounds) of muscle mass in a month. This is an amazing amount when looking at an eight-week time frame. 

Common Mistakes Skinny Guys Make When Trying to Get Buff

skinny to buff

Here’s what to watch out for when going from skinny to buff:

Not Eating Enough Calories

Endomorph body types, skinny people, or “hard gainers” have a faster metabolism. They often think they are eating enough calories when they’re not.

This slows down their progress or prevents them from gaining muscle completely.

If you are struggling to put weight on, it is especially important to be eating a calorie surplus. Therefore, increase your calories to 3,000- 3,500 a day to support additional lean muscle growth. But this isn’t all! 

You should also increase your carb and protein intake

Research suggests that you can achieve a more optimal performance and speed up muscle growth by following these macro guidelines: 
Consume 4-7g of carbohydrates and 1.6-2.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily.

Carbs can help you recover faster after strength training sessions, build muscle, and maintain strength. That’s because carbohydrates help restore glycogen, which is a fuel used during heavy lifting, affecting your lifting performance. 

Meanwhile, amino acids (protein’s building chains) help repair damaged tissue from weight training and help build lean muscle mass. 

The National Library of Medicine found a decrease in cortisol hormone (stress hormone) and an increase in testosterone with a higher carb diet. This can also aid in muscle growth, especially in skinny people. 

Not Progressing the Load

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred DeVito.

This applies to your training, too. It is easy to stay within our comfort zone and stick to the same load, intensity, and workout routine for the rest of our lives. 

But you are just hitting a wall by doing so. Sooner or later, you will get fed up and give up completely. 

Instead, try progressive overload. Increase the weight week by week, even if it’s only 1 lb. Aim to achieve the same reps and set with heavier weights. 

Doing Too Much Cardio

skinny to buff transformation

It’s a major question. How often should we do cardio when aiming to increase muscle? But as a skinny person aiming to get buff, you should limit cardio sessions as it decreases your calorie surplus.

Research has found sufficient decreases in strength and muscle growth after more than 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. That’s because cardio rapidly reduces glycogen levels and breaks down protein. 

If you are a huge fan of cardio, do short, high-intensity workouts, or have a lovely walk outside. This way you can keep your muscle gains and still get some aerobic exercise. 

Neglecting Strength Training

Weights should be your best friend when transforming your physique from skinny to buff. 

As a response to the stimulus of lifting weights, our body builds new and bigger tissues. On top of that, there is so much in lifting that can keep you motivated and help you avoid hitting plateaus.

These include training systems like drop sets, supersets, eccentric work load, tempo manipulation, and loads more. 

One study found that these methods can provide additional stimuli for muscle hypertrophy and can also make your sessions time-efficient.

Not Getting Enough Rest and Sleep

Rest and sleep are often underestimated, but it’s essential for muscle growth. That’s because exercise creates microtears in our tissues that are only repaired during rest.

A study found that even one night of sleep deprivation has a negative impact on protein synthesis, can increase cortisol levels, and reduce our ability in building muscle

Loss of sleep has a bad effect on our metabolism and body composition in general, meaning you will store more fat.

There is no such a thing as catching up on sleep, so don’t leave your sweet dreams for the weekends. 

Try and find a consistent sleeping schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time. 
Aim to sleep at least seven to eight hours each night, even nine is ok if you are an athlete! 
Avoid caffeine after 2pm, as it takes six hours to get out of your system. 

Lack of Consistency

You are training hard one week, then leaving three weeks out because you don’t feel like training. Or, perhaps you trained so hard that you couldn’t recover for your next sessions. 

Unfortunately, this won’t work..

If you are serious about getting muscular, you need to train consistently. If that means lowering your intensity to start, so be it. 

Your progress can come little by little, step-by-step when following your routine consistently, every single day!

Not Tracking Your Food 

skinny to buff mistakes

The less precise you are with your macros, the slower your progress will be. Try not to guess how much you should eat. Weigh your food so you know you met your required calorie intake for the day. 

While you can gain weight without measuring food, it may lead to excess body fat instead of muscle mass, or the opposite, you will stay skinny.

Not Tracking Your Training

The more you train and the more advanced you get, the harder it will become to build muscle. That’s why tracking your training is important.

Take a notebook and write down the load you worked with on each exercise. Then, increase the weight on your next session, always prioritizing good technique.

By following these steps, you will progress quicker and also get a confidence boost as you are lifting heavier. 


Neither too much nor too little training is good for you, so how can you know when you are overtraining? 

Imbalance between training and recovery periods can lead to a decline in physical performance, which is normally the first sign you are doing too much.

If left too long, it can progress to something even more serious. That includes persistent injuries, muscle soreness and pain, breathlessness, irritability or anxiety, increased resting heart rate, poor sleep, and illness. 

This is called Overtraining Syndrome. 

Research shows the effect of overtraining on performance. It finds that sufficient muscle weakness in athletes from overtraining resulted in reduced performance. 

Lack of food, intense exercise, inadequate rest, oxidative stress (from alcohol, smoking, drugs, medicine, stress, toxin) can lead to overtraining.

Pro Tips To Go From Skinny to Buff 

Focus on compound exercises.

While isolation exercise can improve muscle imbalances, compound exercises will get you from skinny to strong and muscular. 

That’s because they work multiple muscles at the same time and stimulate your central nervous system to a higher extent. 

Because of all the muscles involved during compound lift, you are also able lift heavier loads that force muscles to adapt and grow. 

Don’t max out too often.

skinny guy to buff transformation

While challenging your one rep max weekly can be an ego booster, it can be highly damaging.

Exercises like deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts are very demanding on your central nervous system. It needs at least 48 hours to recover before getting under those heavy loads again. 

That’s because they place a higher amount of stress on the nervous and endocrine system (hormones). Your body has to work against that stress much harder.

I would also advise to deload every six weeks while following your training routine. Deloading means you are still lifting but lighter weight and doing higher reps. 

You can also take more rest days or do relaxing activities that feel good for you.

Don’t worry it won’t negatively affect your progress or slow it down. You will experience several positive changes, including improved performance, strength and power by giving rest to your body to recover!

Do phasic training.

Phasic training alternates between training periods by focusing on specific goals like hypertrophy, strength, power, etc. 

By following phasic training, you are placing various stimuli on your body, not allowing it to plateau, adapt, and stop growing. This is a great way to go from skinny to buff!

Focus on your weaker points.

We all love doing what we are good at, and hate what we are bad at. 

Invest a little more time into the things you are weaker at. This can lead to a more balanced muscle and strength development. It can also prevent muscle imbalances and injuries. 

Seek professional guidance. 

A dietitian and strength coach can help you with all these points I mentioned so far.

In short, they can provide you with the following:

  • Motivation and accountability
  • Personalised training and diet plan
  • Professional periodization and phasic training
  • Injury prevention guide and proper technique
  • Progressive overload
  • Customized exercise selection
  • Reaching your goals in a shorter time

It’s an investment, not an expense!

Skinny to Buff Workout Routine

skinny to buff workout plan

Now that we know all the dos and don’ts of getting buff, it’s time to go through the best muscle-building exercises step-by-step.

I have created a linear program for newbies and an undulating program for the more advanced. 

Linear programming gradually progresses the weight over time. This starts with high-volume (reps) and low intensity (weights), progressing to low volume and high intensity.

Undulating varies the intensity, volume, and training style daily. Here, you constantly need to adapt to new stimuli, making it more advanced. 

Research shows that weight training is the gold standard in increasing and maintaining muscle mass.

However short the duration, high intensity work can be a good addition to your routine, while trying to avoid losing muscle as much as possible.

By completing 10-15 minutes of high intensity work at the end of your weight training routine, you can keep your body fat percentage low (minimize fat gain), while also building muscle

That’s because weight training uses glycogen for energy. When your body runs out of this store during your lifting, it will have to reach to your fat stores as a fuel while doing intensive work at the end!

Also, having aerobic capacity is good for heart health!

Linear Hypertrophy Program

In this program, we emphasise the tempo that I state in the NOTES section. Tempo training refers to the speed of each part of the movement.

For example:

Bench press Tempo: 5011

  • 5 seconds eccentric (lowering) phase on the bench press. Bring the weight to your chest in 5 seconds.
  • 0 seconds hold on the bottom.
  • 1 second to push it back up to the starting position. This should be explosive.
  • 1-second hold on top.

By controlling the speed of the exercise, you can focus on your weaker part of the movement, preventing injuries. By keeping the muscles under tension for longer, you are encouraging better muscle growth.

Linear Program Weekly Schedule

Chest,  Shoulder, and Triceps
Legs and CoreLight Cardio or RESTBack and Biceps
Legs Arms and CoreREST
Scroll across to see workout

Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps

ExercisesWeek 1-2Sets65%
RestWeek 3-4Sets75%RepsRestWeek5-6Sets80%RepsRestNOTES

Bench Press



60 sec


60 sec



From week 4 superset bench press with 10-15 press ups without resting between the exercises. Then recovery for 120 secondsTEMPO: 5:0:1:1

Frontal Raise

30-60 sec

30-60 sec
60 sec
TEMPO: 3:0:1:0
Cable Triceps Overhead Extension2-3

30 sec

30 sec

30 sec
TEMPO: 5:0:1:0
R.Machine Pec Flies2-31530 sec31230 sec38-1030 secIncrease weight gradually
If you are new to exercise perform this HIIT for 4-10 rounds:
20 seconds cycling 20 sec rest, 20 seconds Jumping Jacks

If you are more advance or up for fun do this for 6-10 rounds:
20 seconds battle rope 10 seconds rest 20 seconds Roll outs
Scroll across to see workout


leg workout for skinny guys
ExerciseWeek 1-2Sets60-65%RepsRestWeek 3-4Sets70%RepsRestWeek 5-6Sets80%RepsRestNotes


90 sec





120     secFocus on your technique
Leg Extension2-31530 sec 31530 sec315

30-60 sec
TEMPO: 5:0:1:1
Lateral Lunges
10 each side60      sec
10 each side
30 sec

8 each side60 sec
Leg Press2-31530-60 sec31230 sec3-48-1060-90 sec
Hamstring Curls



30 sec



30 sec



30-60 sec
TEMPO: 5:0:1:1
When you get a bit more experienced add BB squats at the end with. Follow the sets, reps, and rest shown on the deadlift.
Core Circuit:1-2 rounds:  Decline Sit Ups x 20, Leg raises x 15, 30 seconds plank
Scroll across to see workout

Back and Biceps + HIIT

ExerciseWeek 1-2 Sets 60-65%RepsRestWeek 3-4 Sets 70%RepsRestWeek 5-6 Sets 80%RepsRestNotes
Bent Over Row2-31260 sec31060 sec3-4890-120 sec
Lat Pulldown2-31530 sec31530 sec31230 secTEMPO: 3:0:1:1
Single-arm DB Row2-312 each side60 sec rest312 each side60 sec rest315 each side60 sec
Reverse Prone Flies2-31530 sec31530 sec31530 sec
Chin-Ups with bands or Negatives2-315 banded60 sec
 3 x as many as you can do, rest for 90 seconds in between
If you are new to exercise perform this HIIT for 4-8 rounds:
20 sec row 20 sec rest

If you are more advance or up for fun do this for 6-10 rounds:
20 seconds sprints 10 seconds rest 20 seconds Standing  Barbell Twists
Scroll across to see workout


This should be a light workout with higher reps, hitting smaller muscle groups. Never stay in your comfort zone; if it’s too easy, up your weight!

Barbell curls31530 
Shoulder shrugs31530
Triceps Push-UpsChallenge time: Reach your max amount of push-ups in 1 minute. Do this every week, and try to beat your previous week’s result!
Hammer Curl31530
Skull Crushers31530

Hypertrophy is followed by strength, where you complete three to five sets of four to eight reps of compound exercises like Deadlift, Shoulder Press, Barbell Rows, Squats

Make sure you allow for recovery, like three to five minutes between sets. 

When you are progressing to the strength phase, your aim won’t be to control the tempo, but to overcome high load/resistance. 

Therefore, there are only a few exercises that you need to do, as the central nervous system can fatigue too quickly. See example at the undulating strength plan.

Advanced Undulating Program 

going from skinny to buff

We are alternating between upper and lower-body hypertrophy, strength and power.

Undulating Program Weekly Schedule

Upper Body HypertrophyFull-Body StrengthInjury PreventionFull-Body PowerRESTLower-Body HypertrophyREST
Scroll across to see workout

Upper-Body Hypertrophy Phase

Military Press3-48120 sec
Pyramid Sets DB Incline Chest PressSet 1: 15 reps with 50– 65% 
Set 2: 12 reps with 60–75% 
Set 3: 8-10 reps with 70–85%
Set 4: 6-8 reps with 75–90%

As the reps go down the weight should be heavier. Up to 80-90% of your 1RM. 
Upright Row2-31260 sec
Cable Face Pulls2-31230-60 secTEMPO: 3:0:1:1
SUPERSET Cable Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls315

30 sec
Pendlay Row31290 sec

Full-Body Strength Phase

Trap Bar Deadlift55180 sec rest
Single-Arm Landmine Press56180 sec
Pistol Squats/ Touchdown Squats 4-54 each leg60 sec
Pallof Press310 each side60 sec

Full-Body Power Phase

Box Jumps6-83-4 Up to 4 minutesYour aim is not to get tired, but land optimally and jump high!
Barbell Power Cleans          4-6 53 minutes
Medicine Ball side to side Plyo Push-Ups


5 each side
Rest as long as it takes you to complete the 10 full explosive reps
Banded Broad Jumps



Up to 3 minutes recovery 
Tie a band around your waist. Jump for your best distance each rep!
Barbell Push Press        4-6        3-5Up to 5 minutes recovery
3 x 6 – 60 m Sprints for best time

Lower-Body Hypertrophy Phase

Frontal Squats3-4890 sec
Bulgarian Split Squats310 each leg60 sec
Single-Leg Deadlift2-3830 seconds
Romanian Deadlift2-31230-60 sec
Hip Thrusts41090 seconds

Injury Prevention

90/90 Drill10 each side
Hip CAR’s10 each side
Prone T’s and Y’s 10 each side
Wobble Ball Balance30 seconds each leg

Skinny to Buff Diet Routine

As we discussed above, you need adequate calories, such as 3,500 Kcal/day with high carbs and protein. 

One study recommends 30% protein to help prevent loss of lean muscle, 55-60% dietary carbohydrates to maintain training intensity, and 15-20% fat to decrease circulating testosterone levels.
skinny to buff diet

Here are some good breakfast, lunch, dinner ,and snack options to consider:

BreakfastOmelet with ham, cheese, onions, peppers, and toastOatmeal with fruit, nuts, almond milk, and protein powder
LunchChicken caesar wrap 
Bunless turkey burgers with potato wedges 
DinnerOrange salmon with sweet potatoes and broccoli
Vegetable stir fry
SnacksMass gainer protein, bedtime casein protein, fat-free yogurt with fruit and nuts, rice cakes, peanut butter on toast, veggie sticks with hummus 

Get Your Training and Nutrition Plans With Superhero X12

When it comes to transforming from skinny to buff, we all need effective plans from trustworthy sources.

Superhero X12 is a 12-week program by Keith Lai, founder of FitMole. Its diet and training plan aims to achieve a superhero’s lean physique, but in a sustainable and realistic way.  

Actors often use extreme methods to get in shape for shooting that are not manageable in the long-term. Especially not to those with full-time jobs and busy lives. 

This program can help you get from skinny to muscular and keep the body forever, while enjoying your life and eating the food you love. 

Superhero X12: Getting Started Module

This module is a 21-page e-book that has all the details to get you started confidently. It helps you set goals and track your progress no matter you are a beginner, advanced gym bro, or starting from skinny. 

It also sets you in the right mindset to overcome doubts, fears, and stay motivated throughout your journey.

Superhero X12 Workout Module

This is your workout guide with different training styles, exercise modifications, mobility drills, and progressive overload. 

It has two workout series, the Nova Series for beginners and the Titan Series for advanced athletes.

Diet & Nutrition Module

This is an 80+ page comprehensive dieting guide with calorie and macro formulas, portion size, and much more. The program also provides a nutrition calculator to get your individual macros.

Recommended Tool Module

This module recommends additional resources such as workout equipment, books and supplements, that can give you that extra edge!

Superhero X12 VIP Bonus Bundle

What you’ll get :

  • Meal plan for cutting
  • Meal plan for bulking
  • Proportion calculator
  • Workout playbook to adjust your days to your busy schedule
  • A supportive, members-only Facebook group

What makes this program so special is that you can build a Hollywood body without getting overwhelmed by long, impossible workouts and boring diet plans

You will gain not just muscle, but confidence.

Read our Superhero X12 review here!

Skinny to Buff Before and After 

There have been some jaw-dropping transformations from skinny to buff. 

Two notable examples I want to discuss are Chris Evans and Christian Bale. They transformed their skinny physique for their respective Marvel and DC superhero roles. 

Chris Evans played the character of Steve Rogers, becoming Captain America. At the beginning of the first series, we see him as a skinny, short, humble, but whole-hearted character with the morals of a superhero.

Rogers’ physique was transformed in seconds by a Super Soldier serum, but this, of course, is film magic.

In reality, Evans achieved this through hard work and consistency, strict nutrition, and several months of training to embody his superhero role. 

Similarly, Christian Bale was recognized for his dramatic transformation to Batman for the Dark Knight trilogy. 

Bale weighed only 121 lbs in The Machinist. He set a challenge to gain over 100 lbs of lean muscle in six months, to bring Batman alive. This transformation involved a diet high in protein and carbs, hours of workouts, and some serious mental toughness. 

These examples are just a glimpse of what is possible. They remind us that the possibilities are endless when we set our minds to something. Your transformation is no exception. With dedication and determination, you have the power to change!


Anyone can transform their physique from skinny to buff. The catch is, you have to be dedicated and do it correctly.

Set specific and realistic goals, follow well-planned strength and nutrition programs with increased calories, stay consistent on your journey, and your goal is within reach!

You should also listen to your body and watch out for the signs of overtraining. Keep an eye on reduced performance, insomnia, frequent injuries, and increased heart rate. 

Additionally, if you have any conditions or concerns, consult a healthcare professional before you start training.

So, how do you plan to incorporate the information you learned here into your own journey? 

Let us know!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get buff fast for skinny guys?

With the combination of strength training and high calorie (3500), nutrient-dense food, skinny guys can get buff. You should also increase your protein intake (0.8-1g per pound of bodyweight) and carb intake (2-3g per pound of body weight).

Can you go from skinny to buff?

Yes, you can! Stay consistent with your strength training, progress the load weekly, and eat adequate calories.

You should also reduce the amount of cardio you do.

How fast can I go from skinny to buff?

You can gain 1-2 pounds of muscle a month safely. However, the speed of your progress can highly depend on your fitness level, training, and diet plan

Can I go from skinny to buff in 3 months?

Yes, you can. By following the correct strength training routine and nutrition plan, 90 days is a good amount of time to make significant physical transformation.

Is it easier for skinny people to get buff?

Not necessarily. Skinny people often have higher metabolism. Busy schedules can make it difficult for them to eat enough. Also their training, just as anyone else’s, requires dedication, preparation, and hard work.