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I am a guy who haven't been working out(exercising) throughout my life. I live a very sedentary live, mostly at my desk reading books or using my computer. The nature of my field of work requires me to only sit at my desk. As opposed to what many people would think of me, I am not obese but neither am I fit. I am very thin and look somewhat scrawny. I am thinking that this is perhaps too unhealthy for a life. I've read a few of the answers on this site and it seems that most of the answers are suited for people who haven't worked out for years and have started to gather fats and would want to burn it. For me, I am too skinny for any visible fats.

I'm thinking how I should begin to start gaining weight and look less skinny, albeit in a correct and healthy manner; I reckon that an abrupt and incorrect way of starting out this goal will end up more harmful than helpful. So, I'm seeking for some advice on this.

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This answer about gaining muscle mass might help. –  Dave Liepmann Oct 13 '12 at 14:53
    
possible duplicate of I am underweight. How do I gain weight and muscle? –  Dave Liepmann Apr 30 '13 at 21:02
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4 Answers 4

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You need to increase your caloric intake and start a resistance training program. The type of program is up to you. There are so many to choose from today. I think a good place to begin might just be with a basic weight lifting split. For beginners I usually suggest a two week rotating split where you workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Week one you will do upper body, lower body, upper body and week two you will do lower body upper body, lower body.

This will ensure that your increased calories are not all stored as fat. My general suggestion for people are new to exercise is to start with aiming for balance of their intake of carbs and protein. Eat good, whole foods such as lean meats and whole grains. Avoid junk food while you are attempting to gain weight. You can give yourself a cheat meal once a week if you are strict in all of your other meals. If you post your current age, weight, and height I can give you more specific advice. If your would like suggestions for exercises you may want to open a new question, but check the FAQ. All of this boils down to 3 thing: eating more calories (healthfully) and stimulating your body so that it will add a healthy amount of muscle (a little fat will likely be unavoidable), and being consistent over time in this. How many calories depends a lot on your weight/height/age.

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Eat more (healthily -- lean meat and vegetables). Then do multi-joint barbell exercises such as squat, deadlift and overhead press. To learn how to perform these exercises with good form, join a gym and take lessons, or at least read Mark Rippetoe's book Starting Strength. Then follow a program like StrongLifts 5x5, which is simple to learn and follow.

Multi-joint exercises are good because they engage the big muscles and they engage many muscles. Performed with proper form, plenty of rest and under increasing load, this stimulates your body to compensate by increasing the muscle-mass. From there you can either chose to focus on programs and lifts that favor strength, size (body building) or explosive power (olympic lifts).

For additional motivation and inspiration, consider joining a community like Fitocracy, where you can track your progress and exchange notes with fellow lifters.

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You don't have to eat healthy to gain weight. A lot of people - to get things going at least - just eat as much as they can without worrying about health. You gain a bit of fat as well as muscle, but it is easier to lose fat when you are strong than it is to gain muscle when you are weak. –  Mongus Pong Apr 30 '12 at 9:23
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I would suggest eating healthy, adding milk if needed for extra calories. –  Wayne In Yak Apr 30 '12 at 16:17
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This is just my personal theory, but I think getting used to eating junk food makes it harder to change the diet once you're done bulking. By maintaining a healthy diet throughout, I do believe it's easier to scale back the diet in the long run –  Kim Burgaard May 1 '12 at 3:59
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Don't think you have to gain lots of weight to "look less skinny". While there's nothing wrong with building muscle and bulking up, joining a gym and lifting weights is something you have to commit to for long-term, otherwise (as in if you start and build some muscle mass, then stop) the muscles you grow will go slack and you won't look a lot better than you do know. You don't have to put on lots of weight or grow big muscles to look better. Getting fit in general and toning up will improve your appearance (and make you feel a lot better).

An alternative would be calisthenics (such as pushups, crunches, free squats, etc) and other exercises you can do anywhere with minimal equipment. I wrestled and ran the 400m dash in high school, in addition to doing farm and construction work during the summer, but when I went to Basic Training for the Army, I actually got a little thicker in the shoulders just from all the different kinds of pushups we did, and from the drill sergeants' best friend, the Overhead Arm Clap (looks just like it sounds).

So I'd suggest 3 or 4 variations of pushups for your chest and shoulders, some crunches, planks and leg lifts for your core strength, free squats for your legs, and running/cycling for aerobic fitness. These can be done in about 20-30 minutes per day. I'd personally recommend the 100 pushup challenge, the 200 sit-ups challenge (I just do crunches), and something like Couch-to-5k (never tried but have heard good things about it) to begin with.

Any form of exercise needs to be committed to and continued long term to be of worth; calisthenics and running just require less equipment and expense.

On a side note, you also don't have to grow lots of muscle mass to be strong. The guy in our platoon that hit me the hardest of anyone else in pugil sticks was skinny as a rail.

Edit: Me in high school vs. me now The major difference (besides 15 years): not being able to spend 4-6 hours every day working out.

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Do you have any examples of people who gained muscle mass then "went slack" and don't look good? –  Dave Liepmann Apr 30 '12 at 20:07
    
Yeah. Me. Nine years of school and work combined to create some seriously squishy-looking "used-to-be-muscles" and lots of loose skin. See edit to my original answer. –  alesplin May 1 '12 at 0:23
    
Any change in life-style is a long term commitment. For some people, that works better when getting out of the house, trying something new and exciting, and then eventually settling into a stable and solid routine once you find exactly the thing that makes you come back for more week after week... –  Kim Burgaard May 1 '12 at 4:08
    
True. I was simply pointing out an alternative that some find appealing. In the end, whatever is easier to maintain will be the better choice. –  alesplin May 1 '12 at 8:26
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It's not really that your muscle goes "slack" it's that you gain fat, both intermuscular and "under the skin". The issue here is that people who are fit and then whose priorities change, you see this with people in their mid-twenties as they transition into careers and starting families, they tend to be accustomed to higher caloric intake from their active days and this stays higher than what is needed as their activity level decreases and their metabolism slows from age and lack of exercise. But either way, your point is still valid! –  Robert Kaucher May 1 '12 at 12:44
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How old are you if I may ask?

Coming from one skinny person to another: get a trainer if you can. I spent the better part of 10 years trying to gain muscle mass and I only started seeing results after I got a trainer 3 times a week. I was training but I wasn't training to get the most benefits. You need to exhaust your muscles which is very difficult training alone and I find a gym buddy doesn't do it for me either.

It is a huge expensive I know, but its best use of money you could ever make. As soon as your body starts growing your confidence levels will soar and the cost will motivate you to really get the most out of your PT sessions. I wish I could go back to being 20 and I would immediately hire a PT. I find that I have motivation to go to the gym, but when I am in the gym I slack off, however with a PT he pushes you to your limit every single session regardless of how you are feeling mentally.

In addition to training I have found that 60% of my results come from diet. You need to figure out what works best for you. If you are able to cook daily then I would suggest preparing fish, turkey, sweet potato, lean steak, eggs, fruit, pasta, rice etc every day and eating 6 meals a day. If you find this is too much time, then you need to replace a meal with protein shakes. I am a fan of just eating a huge amount of good food.

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I'd say this is good advice for someone who has tried and not seen any results, but someone who hasn't done anything at all yet is better off trying a program themselves and seeing if that works. –  Robin Ashe Jun 26 '12 at 8:38
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