I am underweight and only able to do 3 pushups at best. I am wondering what I should focus on: getting stronger or gaining weight?
I think this also depends on your age. But putting that aside you should treat yourself to whatever you can get your hands on and eat the motherload out of it. Then get yourself in the weight room, decrease the cardio to a minimum, and hit some solid weights. Don't worry about any strict programming in training, merely focus on doing something. After the body goes through the adaptation process you can look into certain workouts posted in t-nation or even bodybuilding.com. Any of those will work.
As for diet add olive oil to everything, have protein shakes like no tomorrow, try to drink a half of gallon a milk a day, eat eggs like their your girlfriend. After you get a good increase of quality protein meals in your system, have hit the weight room 3-4 times a week, diminished cardio then look into refining your structure. It will come naturally since you learn how your body reacts to certain movements, meals, etc. You will build an excellent rhythm after a few weeks and months and fall in love in training. Here's a trick: Try to really focus on a heavy protein diet and training for 14 days straight. You'll kick start a habit ritual in your system and everything else will seem easy from then on.
After training for 3-4 years on a very consistent basis you can really drill down the details that will help you get your squat over 600pds and get your bodyfat % below 9%. Then you're on fire and will look back at your post and laugh at your 3 pushups. Until then it's being super consistent, have a big freaking breakfast for quality energy throughout the day and punch it hard like Chewie did.
Honestly, I think whether you are over or under-weight it is never healthy to fixate on the scale. Total body weight is like a thermometer, it only tells you if something is wrong--but it doesn't tell you what it could be.
Gaining muscle requires that you work hard, and eat a lot of food. For some reason, there are people who's bodies tell them they had enough food very early. Other people whether through years of ignoring the full signals or just genetically don't get that feeling as quickly tend to pack on weight. The hormone most associated with this affect is Leptin. If you struggle to put on weight, your body either makes too much of it, or is too sensitive to it and you stop eating before you can gain weight. If you struggle with gaining weight, then the body either doesn't make enough Leptin, or it is too insensitive to it.
Leptin, like insulin, is sensitive to carb intake. Also like insulin, overstuffing yourself with carbs over time will make you insensitive to that hormone. For people already overweight, backing off carbs for a few weeks will help restore some sensitivity. If you are underweight, you may want to pack up on carbs during this time. The purpose is to decrease your sensitivity to leptin.
That said, make sure you have the physical activity to match the food. Work hard to the point of depleting all the energy from you muscles, and then eat a meal with a decent amount of protein, but go for a lot of carbs. It really doesn't matter at this point what kind. The bulk of what you eat will go into your muscles to replenish what you need.
So if you work your diet like this:
- Protein: ~1g per pound total body weight. remains constant--easy to figure out
- Carbs on rest day: keep it low. No more 0.5g per pound total body weight.
- Carbs on training days: ~1g per pound total body weight, most after training
- Fat: fill in your caloric needs to move towards your weight goals
You should be able to get bigger and increase your body weight in a way that still looks good. The same structure can be used to lose weight--but in that case you should probably take 10 days and keep the carbs at or below 30g, and on rest days keep the carbs as low as 30g.
Well by gaining weight and not strength essentially means you'll be gaining fat???!! Meaning you may not be able to do those 3 press ups at all.
Focus on strength - check out my answer on a previous question: Is this program good to achieve functional strength and fitness?
Train simple and hard, eat and rest! Good luck