I'm a 23-year-old male, 6'4", and 175 lbs. I'm too thin. What's the best way I can gain weight and muscle? I'd like to start working out in my own apartment.
September 30, 2008 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 23-year-old male, 6'4", and 175 lbs. I'm too thin. What's the best way I can gain weight and muscle? I'd like to start working out in my own apartment.

I have played sports all my life and played ice hockey in high school, so I'm not totally out of shape or nonathletic by any means. I just really want to turn over a new leaf by moving into my new apartment and making a new me by gaining some weight/muscle. I still feel like I'm a skinny little shit like I was in high school.

Any tips for gaining weight and/or muscle? Anyone know of any good exercises I can do in my apartment? I plan on starting the 100 Pushups plan but I want to do other exercises, as well.

I'd rather start working out in my apartment and then maybe move to a gym a few months down the road. I feel too skinny/weak to be in a gym, I suppose. I guess that doesn't help the situation.

I should probably also change my eating habits to gain some muscle/weight. Any tips for that, as well?

Thanks MeFi.
posted by decrescendo to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'll be the first of many to tell you that Muscle Beach not withstanding, gyms are full of big and small as well as skinny and fat people along with all possible permutations. You should feel no shame about being there. Everyone is there to better themselves and that is what is important.
posted by mmascolino at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah I guess I just don't feel comfortable going straight back to that after not being in a gym for 7 years...
posted by decrescendo at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2008

Yeah, get to a gym. They're not just for buff people. No one will really pay attention to your actual workout regime, so don't feel like everyone is staring at you.

One thing you should do is switch to a more protein-heavy diet. Fewer carbs, less fat, more protein. Red meat, eggs, nuts, beans and rice, you get the idea. Go light on the sugars. Stick to whole grains. This will maximize the benefit from weight training.

Finally, don't do weight training exclusively. Definitely include both flexibility and aerobic exercises. If you don't balance out weights with aero, you can do nasty things to your blood pressure. You can certainly do more of one than the other if that's the kind of shape you want to be in, but don't ignore anything.
posted by valkyryn at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2008

Starting Strength: Learn it, love it, live it.

You'll gain lots of functional muscle, be strong, look good, and gain weight (b/c form follows function and muscle has mass ;)

It is a barbell training plan, so people at the gym will think you're weird when you start using the squat rack for its intended purpose, but this is the best way to make the improvements you want, and you'll see & feel the changes surprisingly quickly as novices have a lot of room for growth.
posted by jpeacock at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was in your shoes when I was 23. Sad to say, the only thing that worked was finally turning 35 and having my metabolism change on me -- and that made it even worse, because ten years of "wheee, I have a hyper-active metabolism so I can eat whatever I want" taught me bad habits, and when my metabolism changed I gained 30 pounds in only a year.

175 doesn't sound that skinny at all, even for a guy. I'd focus more on staying healthy and less on what you look like; we all come in all shapes and sizes, and unless your doctor has expressed concern about your health, it could simply be that God ordained that you be the way you are and you won't be able to do much anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2008

Response by poster: Well this isn't a totally visual thing here haha. I'm trying to get back into playing hockey right after I move and I want to get a lot stronger as soon as possible. I'm going to get destroyed if I don't bulk up.
posted by decrescendo at 12:00 PM on September 30, 2008

Do you have access to a pullup bar at home? Or a tree branch? If so, you could do Simplefit for awhile. But as your goal is to gain weight, I'd only recommend doing that until you find a good gym where you can follow Starting Strength as mentioned above.
posted by Durin's Bane at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a post I made today about starting a home workout program. It follows the Starting Strength plan that jpeacock linked to, and also goes into buying the equipment you'll need (not much, really, you can get what you need to do the whole program for under $300 on Craigslist... or even under $100 if you're patient/lucky).

As for eating habits -- protein, protein, protein! I like the chocolate whey powder that BioChem makes. Eggs are also your friends. Be particularly sure to eat lots of it right after the workout.
posted by vorfeed at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2008

Okay, I'll just chime in here: read all the advice you want on home gyms, but

a) you should really join a real gym. The sooner you get over your complex, the better (in terms of your body)

b) remember to eat more. If you're working out, and eating the same amount, you're not going to see any size gains.

Size (both bigger and smaller) is made in the kitchen! (Along with 6-pack abs!) Your gym routine will determine if that size is muscle or fat.
posted by unexpected at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2008

1) Increased the amount of both Carbs and protein that you have. Eat at least one gram of protein for every pound you have and double the carb amount (these are spread out during the day).

2) Do join a gym...stay away from machines and do free weights......Do mostly compound exercises: SQUATS, DEADLIFTS, BENCHPRESSES, ETC....
posted by The1andonly at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2008

You got to eat a shitload man - protein, veggies, fruits, and nuts. Aim for three square meals and at least 3 snacks a day - try to eat something every 2.5-3 hours.

Don't see food as a meal, think of it as fuel for a machine, even if you don't feel like eating much.

If you work out consistiently, and this includes whole-body so don't neglect squats and deadlifts - your will notice your metabolism will increase significantly within a week or two and what seemed like an insurmounable pile of food in the beginning will only satisfy you for a few hours. The first couple times is awful though, you'll look at 3 chicken breasts, get through 1.5 and the rest will turn to ash in your mouth (at least if you're anything like me, at 6'1 and 165 when I started)

The good thing though is that it's a very positive feedback loop. You'll work out a lot so you feel tired and famished, so it feels really good to just devour a huge (healthy) meal. Then the next day you have way more energy from eating so much, and it feels great to work out, etc.
posted by spatula at 1:52 PM on September 30, 2008

Nthing what others are saying...

1. Get thee to a gym.
2. Keep the weight high and lift to FAILURE (forget about counting out the reps - but do be conscious in the back of your head of not letting the reps get over 8 times). You want to build mass so lift heavy... don't worry about toning - your metabolism will take care of that visual effect for you.
3. Eat dude. Eat. Eat a LOT. At your age, eat healthy and don't worry so much about the mix. Just keep it simple and healthy. Eat.
4. Join an online body-building forum. There's a million of them out there and they're full of people happy to give you dedicated advice.
5. One day you'll wake up and find that your metabolism has screeched to a halt. When that day comes, check back in with us because the advice will change dramatically.
posted by matty at 5:43 PM on September 30, 2008

I'm a skinny guy that's had some success putting on healthy weight. These guys are right, get into a gym and eat more.

The one thing I didn't see anyone mention is don't work out too much. Rest is really, really important when you have a hard time gaining weight. Do shoulders and chest one day in a short but tough workout, then rest 1-2 days. Then do arms/back together the same way, and legs the same way a few days later. Don't work out more than 3 times a week if you're trying to put on weight. Just focus on resting and eating between times, you'll be surprised how effective this is.
posted by bend2squares at 6:34 PM on September 30, 2008

I was also going to link to vorfeed's recent comment. Do what he says.

I'm 23 and went from 145 to 160 lbs. bodyweight and got a shit ton stronger on a couple of months of the stronglifts program, which is basically Starting Strength. There are lots of good pictures and videos and explanations of the various lifts on that site.

Also check out the Starting Strength wiki FAQ.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:08 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't have to go to a gym to gain a lot of muscle.

One effective workout is to buy a few 50 pound standbags, pick one up, carry it somewhere and put it down, repeat until you are exhausted.

Another effective workout is to do sets of squats, then dips, then chins and repeat. Olympic gymnasts spend most of their time doing variants of the dip and chin up with only their body weight and have phenomenal physiques.

What you do matters little as long as it involves lots of muscle groups, and is difficult because there is heavy resistance somewhere. Eg, 30 total squats with 100 extra pounds will be much more productive for gaining muscle than 200 body weight squats.

Try eating more protein, some recommendations that are safe unless you have chronic renal failure or some other disease is about 2 grams per pound of bodyweight, or 300 grams a day. This might seem like a lot but it's only about 1200 calories and someone of your size who is exercising probably needs about twice that. There is a bunch of uninteresting research on athletic protein requirements on pubmed, I've noticed most muscular sprinters and strength athletes tend to report eating massive amounts of protein.

Something I've found very effective at regaining muscle mass after my two hernia surgeries and ACL repair was taking branch chain amino acids before/while/after my workouts, about .44 grams per kilo of bodyweight. If you're curious why they work look at the research on burn patients, they first were used with them, then athletes took wind of how they seem to spare muscle during workouts and boost protein synthesis rates after workouts.

Oh and you're probably lying to yourself about how much you eat, I do and so does everyone else I know. Keep a found journal, go through it each week and reflect upon your progress.
posted by zentrification at 9:13 PM on September 30, 2008

I am going to agree with jpeacock, starting strength would be a brilliant start for you.

There is a wiki over here.

One of the most important things if you are looking to gain weight is going to be the diet i would aim for around 18 cals per lb of current body weight. Try and drink a LOT of whole milk to make up those cals and go for a 40,40,20 split. Thats 40% protein, 40% carb and 20% fat. A 40,30,30 would also make sense.

Make sure to hit some healthy fats so eat a lot of nuts.

i would definitely join a local gym unless you have serious money to invest in a home setup. Going down the gym also gives you the advantage of meeting people in the same boat as yourself so you can pickup a workout partner.
posted by moochoo at 12:49 PM on October 1, 2008

Before joining the gym, which I recommend, I would start doing things like pushups, pullups, and burpees. And spend some time building up your 'core' by doing different forms of situps and planks. This will help build up your strength, endurance, and confidence before stepping into the gym. It can be a little intimidating to hit the weight room and struggle to knock out reps of minimal weight. It will also reduce your risk of injury and extreme soreness after your first time in the gym.

I would then spend some money and have a few sessions with a trainer. Tell them you want to gain weight. They will get your started in the right place. A few people have recommended 'From Scrawny to Brawny' on this site. I bought it a while back and it is an interesting read. But to boil it all down: Eat lots, supplement with whey protein, and do plenty of squats. The theory on squats is that, because you are working your largest muscles, your body produces maximum muscle building hormones / chemicals / etc.

I was skinny as heck a while back, and was able to gain a pretty good amount of muscle by hitting the gym, and most importantly, supplementing my diet with whey protein. It is very easy to drink 1 or 2 vanilla protein shakes on top of your normal diet.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:28 PM on October 1, 2008

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