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Spark Your Muscles Into Growth!

High-intensity lifting isn't just for burly powerlifters. It's a great way to
stimulate growth in skinny guys, too.

High Intensity For Hardgainers: Spark Your Muscles Into Growth!

Some people will tell you growth is all about volume, volume, volume. But if that's not working for you, increase the intensity and do more with less!

For years, skinny guys have been led to believe they need to train for longer in order to build big muscles. The reality, I've found, is almost the opposite. Skinny guys actually need to train less—and, of course, eat more.

Eating more is an art unto itself. I touched on it earlier this year in my article "Five Secrets for A Better Bulk." So let's talk training. In my experience, skinny guys must approach building muscle the same way they would approach getting a sun tan. A what? Stick with me.

Think of it this way: Exposure to sunlight doesn't produce a tan. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight stimulates melanocytes in the skin to produce more melanin as a protective mechanism, thus darkening the skin. The brighter the sun, the more intense the radiation, and the stronger the stimulus will be to melanocytes. But even when the stimulus is perfect, your tan doesn't happen overnight. It happens over time.

The same situation arises when you expose your body to exercise-induced stress. The greater the stress that is placed, the greater the stimulus for super-compensation to occur will be. The key is finding the sweet spot in terms of intensity—that is, the percentage of your 1-rep max. In short, we're going to spark our muscles into muscle growth, not force them.

In Search of the Minimum Effective Dose

Our bodies are incredibly adaptive. This means they're capable of amazing things, but it also means they need powerful stimulus in order to make major changes. Just like you can lie outside for an entire cloudy day without getting any more tanned, you can spend all day in the gym and not see any appreciable muscle growth.

But on the other side, our bodies also have a limit to how much stress, and sun, they can handle within a period of time. A certain amount of ultraviolet radiation, in certain doses, will produce a nice-looking tan. Go beyond that point, and the skin gets damaged, resulting in a burn.

Deadlift

Likewise, to a certain point in a workout, intense exercise stress will create the potential for new size, strength, and stamina. Beyond that, it will lead to exhaustion. In the short term, that can put you at risk for injury. Stretch it out for weeks and it can push you toward overtraining, where your body struggles to recover from the intense demands being repeatedly placed on it.

Remember, the training effect is the desired goal of the training. The training effect could be anything: increased relative strength, muscle growth, "functional" hypertrophy, or muscle endurance. But the training effect isn't experienced until you recover from the training.

To continue the metaphor, if you sun tan for five minutes, your body needs time to recover from that five minutes and adapt before you expose it to 10 minutes. Likewise, if you bench press 4 sets of near-maximal weight—let's say 225 pounds—with 2 minutes rest, you'll need some rest before you can bench press 4 sets of 230 pounds with 2 minutes rest. Failure to respect these recovery needs can leave you feeling—and becoming—weaker rather than stronger.

Individuality And The Skinny Guy

Things would be a lot easier if everyone responded the same to every workout. But, just like darker-skinned individuals can tolerate a longer duration in the sun as compared to someone with lighter skin, some skinny guys can tolerate a higher frequency of training. I've devoted plenty of time to questions of volume, intensity, and frequency on my weekly TV show Live Large TV, because it's a never-ending discussion with many different approaches and theories to consider.

Ultimately, experimentation and accurate records are the only ways you will determine how to individualize the different training variables for success. I found that following a low-volume, high-intensity program is a solid method to establish where you are and what will work best for you.

Intense exercise stress will create the potential for new size, strength, and stamina.

The High-Intensity Skinny Guy Workout

Tempo: A tempo of 3-1-1 means that the eccentric, or lowering, portion of the lift should take 3 seconds; there should be a 1-second pause; and then a 1-second concentric portion.

Monday
  • Deadlift Deadlift Deadlift
    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets, 4-1-1 tempo
  • Chin-Ups Chin-Ups Chin-Ups
    5 reps: 1 rep with a 30-second negative, 1 rep with a 20-second negative, 1 rep with a 10-second negative, and 2 reps with bodyweight
  • Military Press Military Press Military Press
    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets, 3-1-1 tempo


Wednesday
Superset


Friday
  • Squats Squats Squats
    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets, 4-1-1 tempo
  • Bench Press Bench Press Bench Press
    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets, 3-1-1 tempo
  • Seated Rows Seated Rows Seated Rows
    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets, 3-1-1 tempo



Why Is This Workout Effective?

1
Low Volume

Each body part gets approximately five sets per week. Classic hypertrophy programs rely on closer to 10-25 sets per muscle group, so this allows an opportunity to increase the intensity, a variable that can stimulate new muscle growth.

2
Broad Spectrum of Rep Ranges

Working between 6-12 reps creates the desired training effect of hypertrophy, and by saving one high-rep set to end each exercise you ensure you don't neglect muscular endurance.

3
Longer Rest Periods

Err on the higher side for functional hypertrophy, in order to ensure you can stimulate the high-threshold motor units on each set. These neuromuscular connections are only utilized when you put out serious force.

4
Balance

This program is deceivingly simple. There is equal volume between horizontal pulling and horizontal pushing movements, vertical pulling and vertical pushing, quad and hip, and upper and lower body. All the primary movements of the body are represented.

5
Slow and Steady

The principle of kaizen can be applied to each workout. This is a Japanese way of life that stresses constant and never-ending improvement. Small changes gradually lead to bigger changes long-term. The goal should be to increase your loads by 2 percent from set to set, and to start each workout 2 percent heavier than your previous workout. This allows you to experience progressive overload, a critical ingredient for muscle growth.

Even if you're not a skinny guy, this workout is a great way to stimulate new gains by dropping the volume and increasing the intensity. Don't judge it until you've given it an honest shot!


Related Articles

About The Author

Naturally skinny guys need to play by a different set of rules and my mission is to empower and inform each client to reach their true potential.

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ThatDudeCheek

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ThatDudeCheek

Might have to give this a go.

Dec 19, 2013 11:06pm | report
 
samerym

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samerym

Shouldn't the tempo be the other way around? One second to lift, I-second hold, and 3 seconds to lower the weight.

Dec 20, 2013 6:32am | report
 
scamilton

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scamilton

According to the Weider principles, yes. The positive portion you should explode, moving the weight as quick as possible with the best form possible. The negative can be slow.

Dec 22, 2013 7:59pm | report
Miido

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Miido

Very good routine bro, will try it out soon.

Dec 20, 2013 11:00am | report
 
patricktydean24

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patricktydean24

I just have a hard time taking vince seriously after his youtube series "living large" where he tried to make himself a big deal..... but that's just my opinion

Dec 20, 2013 5:21pm | report
 
BodyTimes

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BodyTimes

I Will try this one ! T
Done similair one before but this is mor specific.
Lets go for more ! Be in progressive state and grow !

Dec 24, 2013 5:40am | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'11"
  • wt: 203.26 lbs
  • bf: 15.7%
Jakelongcz7

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Jakelongcz7

ill try it

Dec 30, 2013 7:43am | report
 
bloodchains

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bloodchains

Is there a workout log that I can print for all the exercises of each day that are altogether, not just for each day?

Jan 5, 2014 5:52pm | report
 
allymorrison70

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allymorrison70

i guess we add weight per set?

Jan 9, 2014 4:47pm | report
 
rezman40

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rezman40

5) Slow and Steady - "The goal should be to increase your loads by 2 percent from set to set, and to start each workout 2 percent heavier than your previous workout."

Mar 20, 2014 1:06pm | report
sydney_boy

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sydney_boy

yeh looks good

Jan 20, 2014 8:42pm | report
 
MelJ

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MelJ

I like the look of this, hopefully it works for the skinny girl too ;)

Jan 27, 2014 1:03am | report
 
Blokers

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Blokers

Should I use the same weight for all 5 sets then increase it every week?


Jan 28, 2014 12:45pm | report
 
DvdOwens

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DvdOwens

Started this workout today. Not exactly sure how I should be changing weight between these sets.

Feb 3, 2014 4:13pm | report
 
robbforce

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robbforce

Considering he suggests increasing the load by 2% between sets, I would swap out some of these free weight exercises to machines or cable exercises that target the same muscles.

Mar 20, 2014 10:40pm | report
Bender666

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Bender666

This is all wrong...way too many reps

Article Rated:
Feb 11, 2014 7:15am | report
 
DvdOwens

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DvdOwens

what are you basing that on?

Feb 21, 2014 2:07pm | report
stevenharrowing

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stevenharrowing

This is a true example of ridiculous advice given by someone on a subject they obviously know nothing about. I am not saying that the person who wrote this article knows nothing about muscular fitness, as I am myself a fan of pointing out that everyone is individual and will have individual results when exposed to certain techniques. However, the suntan metaphor has been taken from Mike Mentzers' book High Intensity Training and the workout is so far from true HIT principles its a joke. The whole point of HIT is to push the specified muscle group to hypertrophy in the least amount of time possible. For example, you only need 1 exercise and 1 set to fully stimulate the biceps and then rest that muscle a sufficient amount of time to stimulate growth. You progress by coming back to the same exercise, whenever that may be in your routine, and either adding more weight, reps or possibly both. Simple.

Mar 31, 2014 1:34pm | report
 
tweets32

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tweets32

I kind of agree with you. I bought his "No Nonsense Muscle Building" program and his own book and program gives different advice. There are way too many reps in this workout for a skinny person trying to bulk up. He specifically says in the book that the pump you feel from the high reps to failure at the end of your sets will not build your muscle. I agree with that because I've done it for years without getting bigger. So why is he adding the high reps at the end of each set? I'm thinking of getting my money back for his book cause it doesn't seem like he's being consistent with his own research. I'm actually more confused after reading this article.

Apr 17, 2014 1:56pm | report
09R6

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09R6

Great workout routine. Been on it for about a month. Seeing results already. Thumbs up

Sep 26, 2014 11:27am | report
 
Showing 1 - 20 of 20 Comments

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