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Q: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
Category: Health > Fitness and Nutrition
Asked by: igabe-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 04 Feb 2003 05:44 PST
Expires: 06 Mar 2003 05:44 PST
Question ID: 157134
I am somewhat lucky because I can eat fast food two times a day and
then have a pretty big microwavable food dinner day after day without
gaining weight.  I am 16, and the only reason I can explain this is
that I am growing.  I have grown over a foot in less than 2 years. 
The only "problem" I have is that my body is this incredibly thin
stick frame.  I know many people would probably kill for this look,
but I would like to get some sort of meat on me, preferably some
muscle.  I have thought about buying the muscle things from vitamin
stores, but that seems like it is too easy to work.  Is there any
relatively easy way to get some muscle with no more than about 45
minutes work each day?  Keep in mind that I am not looking to get the
Mr. Universe prize here.  All I want is more upper body. I want to
have upper arms(called
biceps?) which are convex shaped... not concave shaped, and some chest
to speak of(not necessarily wanting a "six-pack", but something more
than smooth skin you can see my bones through.

One small note: I weighed 80 pounds 2 years ago.  Now I weigh 110
pounds and grew 1 foot.  I still have the same thin-wire frame that I
had 2 years ago.  If you want a better picture, think of the male
models you see in ads for male underwear and such.  That size and
often thinner is what I am.

I'll give a generous tip($5-$10) for an answer which doesn't go too
crazy about alternative medicines and keeps in mind that I am a 16
year old who prefers playing on his computer over excercising(but I
will do it if it is my only real option).  Feel
free to ask me questions because I know I have a tendency to leave out
important details. :)
Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 04 Feb 2003 10:43 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi igabe, 

You’ve done an excellent job of explaining your situation and telling
us what you want. I’m going to give you a little background
information first so you are clear on what can be done and what can’t
be done with your body, and then I’ll get to the point of your
question – what YOU can do to build muscle.

There are three things you should understand before deciding what to
do with your body.

1) Your overall body frame shape is largely genetic. Take a look at
your parents, your grandparents and your siblings. You’ll probably
notice you resemble some of them in body shape. If both your parents
are thin and all of your grandparents are thin, then in all
likelihood, you will grow into a relatively thin adult. If, on the
other hand, your father for example has a large barrel chest, or your
grandfather is “pear shape” (heavy on the bottom, narrower chest) then
you could potentially grow into a shape like that. It hard to tell at
your age which way you might go, but looking at your close relatives
could give you a general sense of where you may naturally be headed.

2)  Teenagers normally go through growth spurts where height and
weight don’t seem to keep up with each other. Like in your case, most
of them shoot up but hardly gain a pound. This will all tend to equal
out as you approach your early 20’s (usually a little later for boys
than for girls)  Those “Freshmen 15” pounds of weight gain that
college students often complain out, is partially a result of that
equalizing taking place. They stopped growing upward and the weight
they never gained at 16 gets added on.

Also, be aware than guys generally do not start increasing muscle mass
until their growth spurt slows down. Right now all of your food energy
is going towards making you taller. Until that tapers off a bit, you
won’t start filling out musculature. You will have to have some
patience and let nature take its course.

3) There is no magic pill!  

I say that adamantly because it is THE most important thing to
understand about building a muscular body. The people who are trying
to sell you muscle-building pills are preying on your insecurity about
your body. They are the same people who are selling women
breast-enlargement pills, bald men magic hair growth pills and
overweight people magic weight loss pills.  Save your money and stay
away from those.

Ok, so enough of the biology lecture. Let’s get to your point. 

No matter what body type you have inherited and what growing stage you
are in, you can optimize your fitness and build at least some muscle.
The question is how? What kind of exercises can you do?

The simple answer is, any activity that works your muscles, will help
to build and define them.  (And pushing a mouse and lifting a Big Mac
doesn’t count!) For your upper body, this would include weight
lifting, pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, swimming, and racquet sports.

Now, I know it’s hard to promise yourself to exercise --especially, if
you’re like me and spend half your life in front of a computer.
Setting aside 30 or 40 minutes a day somehow is not as easy as it
sounds. The trick is to make your exercise goals realistic,
convenient, and easy to get to. It really doesn’t help to promise
yourself that you’ll swim 20 laps a week if just dragging yourself
away from the computer is a chore.

The basic rule for making progress is that you want to accumulate
about 30 minutes of workout three times a week in increments of no
less than around 10 minutes. Or, in the case of repetitions, 1-2
repetitions past your last best amount.  In other words, if you can do
5 pushups now, then next time go for 6.

Since you admit that you prefer the computer keyboard to the racquet
club, I would suggest you pick up a set of hand-held weights
(dumbbells) and put them near your desk.  Also, you could purchase one
of those chin-up bars that spring-mounts in a doorway and put that in
either your kitchen door (between you and the food) or your computer
room door (between you and the world).

Of course, pushups and sit ups don’t require any equipment and are
very effective.

Make it a game that works with YOUR lifestyle. Waiting for a slow
flash intro to load? Rather than click “skip intro” instead see how
many curls you can do before it loads. Bored by tv commercials? How
many pushups can you do in that 2 minute space? Got a craving for a
slice of cold pizza? Make yourself do 3 chin-ups on your way to
kitchen. Talking on the phone with your girlfriend? Grab those weights
and do some reps.

Do you like working with numbers? Build an excel spreadsheet and graph
your progress – not in terms of your body shape but in terms of
numbers of reps or each exercise within a certain time frame. For some
people, just being able to see the progress is encouraging enough to
keep them going.

The secret is that there is no ONE way to do this right. The only
right way is the way that works for you. If you have to change your
entire lifestyle to meet your goals, you won't stick with it.

This site here has some good advice for realistic exercise goals –

Realistic Fitness Tips & Ideas for the non-exerciser in the family

The other key is to do the exercises correctly and safely. Remember,
more is not necessarily better. The old adage "No Pain - No Gain" is
bad advice. Exercise is not supposed to hurt. When it does you may
have caused damage.

One way to get good information is to ask your gym teacher at school
to show you how to do the exercises safely. Or, make one trip down to
the local fitness center and ask someone there for advice. If you buy
dumbbells at an athletic equipment store, have the staff there show
you how to use them safely.

The other option is to rent a video that talks you through the
exercises. But stick with the ones that stress safety, not instant

There is plenty of online advice, but it’s not all good. Make sure
what you are reading is safety oriented and not trying to push for
“instant muscles” or that perfect bodybuilding physique, which frankly
would be impossible at your age.

For example, here are a few websites you might find useful –

Dumbell Exercises... Simple, Safe And Effective

Even though this website is trying to sell you dumbbells, I think
their overall advice is sound.




Basic medical information on exercise

MEDLINE - Physical activity






I found this website to be quite useful. It is a Q & A Nutrition site
written by Joanne Larsen, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with
extensive clinical experience in nutrition counseling.

She serves up some good solid advice for people trying to lose or gain
weight, for athletes, for students, and for anyone else who has
nutrition concerns. For example (scroll down the page to find this) 

“If your concern to gain weight is related to your desire to increase
muscle size, muscles increase with increased exercise, not diet. Diet
alone could cause weight gain, but the increase would be mostly
bodyfat without the exercise component. Keep exercising (about 30
minutes per day three to five times per week) on a regular basis and
your muscle size should increase. Weight lifting is effective to
increase muscle size.


“Basically, by exercising your abdomen and reducing the overlying body
fat you will show more muscle definition. However, you do need a
certain amount of fat to make testosterone.  Since you are 16, you
will continue to grow until 23, but should reach 90% of your adult
height at age 18. So don't drastically alter your diet which may
interfere with your normal growth.”



So, I hope I haven’t drowned you in information here!   To sum up, my
main points are that ---

1) your physique at your age is normal and will probably change on its
own over the next 4 years.

2) The best way to build muscle in the meantime is to use those
muscles regularly, which means to devise a workout program that works
with your current lifestyle.

If anything I’ve said is confusing, please feel free to ask me for a
clarification and I’ll try to explain it better.

Thanks so much for your question, and good luck with your training


search terms:

growth spurt teen
teen weight gain
teen growth chart
teen exercise 
dumbbells safe use
igabe-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
I appreciate the fact that you answered my question with me in mind,
and that you explored virtually every possible thought that I was
thinking but did not write down.   Plus, it was nice that you wrote a
bit on your own before just throwing a bunch of links at me... it was
appreciated, to say the least :-))

Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
From: probonopublico-ga on 04 Feb 2003 12:56 PST
When I was your age, I was very self-conscious because of my thinness
- even though I ate like a horse.

So, I tried weight training and drinking milk by the gallon.

I soon lost weight and came to hate milk. No more weights.

After I turned 30, my weight started piling on, so I had the problem
of taking it off.

Just be thankful with what you've got!
Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 05 Feb 2003 07:29 PST
Well, thank you very much igabe, for the rating, your kind comments,
and the very generous tip. I'm glad I could help.

Regards, K~
Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
From: robertskelton-ga on 08 Feb 2003 00:00 PST
Hi Igabe,

In a simplistic way, I am you, 20 years on (too thin, prefer sitting
at the computer). Last year I figured I'd try and put on some muscle -
mainly out of curiousity. It wasn't so hard in terms of how to do it,
you just gotta push yourself TO do it...

1. Join a good gym. Get one of there experts to design a workout plan
for you.
2. Go to the gym. Two or three times a week. Push yourself until you
feel some pain.
3. Get a healthy diet. Feed your growing muscles with real food.
4. Do this for a year. Once you achieve the level of muscle you want,
you can afford yo workout less often, just to maintain it.

Maybe you could kill two birds with one stone and get a job which has
a physical aspect to it?

Be aware that some folk get obsessed and don't know when enough is

It's more than just looks. You will feel better physically.
Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
From: igabe-ga on 08 Feb 2003 00:49 PST
I know I should just go to one of the 10 gyms within 10 minutes of my
house and get started with some sort of schedule which works for me. 
I actually never really thought about the job aspect to it.  I will
definitely think about that... if anything that would be some real

Probably kidding myself asking a question like I did above.  In all
likelyhood I'd stop doing it within a month, and more likely a week. 
Getting a trainer would mean I'd "have to" be at a gym at certain
times.  Thats good for me.

Thanks for the idea.
Subject: Re: Getting some muscle on an extremely thin body.
From: wilbur111-ga on 08 Feb 2003 06:42 PST
When I was your age, I was skinny.  When I am my present age (26) I am
skinny.  In between I have tried all the above advice and a load of
other ways to put on weight, and eventually I succeeded.  I have come
across a two step plan for success:
1) Eat a whole lot of food.  I used to say that I ate a lot of food -
and by most people's standards I do and did - but I eventually
realised that I didn't eat a lot of food by *my* standards.
When I most successfully put on muscle, I ate five or six meals a day.
 And not six little meals either.  I heard that you can work out how
much food you need by the size of your fist, so I tried it.  I filled
a bowl to the brim with water and dipped my fist in.  I collected the
water that was displaced in another container and measured the volume.
 It was about 300ml I think.  That was a portion.
Every meal was made up of 2 portions of carbohydrate (potato, rice,
pasta, etc), one portion of protein (cottage cheese, tuna, chickem,
meat, etc) and a portion of vegetables.

2) The second thing I did was lift weights.  I did that three times a
week for about 40 minutes.  And I also skipped rope for about 20 on
the in-between days.

This provided phenomenal results in a matter of weeks.

I had tried the swimming, tennis, physical job routes on repeated
occasions.  I had lifted weights on repeated occasions.  I had "eaten
shed loads" on many occasions.  I even refused all physical exercise
for several weeks and just sat in a chair gorging on cakes, crisps and
other junk foods... and still the weight would not go on.

THE most important thing, it seems, was to eat that ridiculous amount
of food as described above.  It was also the hardest thing.  Going to
the gym, skipping rope and all that stuff was easy compared to forcing
that food down.  (And preparing it was time consuming too, but from
your other posts you have the luxury of not having a full-time job to
get in the way just now).

This stuffing of face was made easier by buying and drinking those
body-builder shakes you fear.  Their main purpose is not to be a magic
pill, their purpose is to save you cooking yet another meal, and
forcing the bulk down your throat.  Just protein drinks or meal
replacement drinks.  Not the pills (thought they also do work when
combined with exercise, but aren't necessary)

What I put on was muscle.  And my fat content stayed low.

You may or may not have the body type that I have, but I have met
literally dozens of guys with the same skinniness problem and they all
say "I eat shed loads"... and none of them genuinely do.  They, like I
used to, think they eat a lot, but don't comapred to the fist method I
described above.

Buy chickens in bulk and rice by the sack.

Do this for even just a month and you will benefit.  If you slack off
after that, so be it, but you *will* gain, and that muscle should then
stay around without you having to eat quite such ridiculous

Best of luck.

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