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Maybe, You Should Gain Weight

The big and strong guy is self-sufficient and healthy; the waif with abs is neither.

by
Mark Rippetoe

Bio

March 6, 2014 - 11:30 am
skinnyTom

BEFORE

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

Not everybody that goes to the gym wants to lose weight.

This may come as a surprise to some of you who either need to lose a few pounds or think everyone wants to be skinny. Many underweight men would love to be bigger, stronger, and more physically imposing, and gaining muscular bodyweight is a simple process.

Popular culture is currently at war with the notion that a man should be big and strong, because popular culture is at war with the idea of independence and self-sufficiency, and a big strong man literally embodies the concept.

We are inundated daily by print and video advertising, as well as by essentially every non-action/adventure film, with images of men who weigh about 150 pounds at 5’9” (that’s 10 stone 10 for the Brits, and about 68 kg at 175 cm for the rest of Europe). The image of Obama’s “Pajama Boy” is burned indelibly into the national conscience, but it made a very small blister.

But many of us believe that a grown man weighs 200 pounds. He just does.

Bigger and stronger is better than being underweight for your health, your athletic performance in the vast majority of sports, and your longevity, as well as for your appearance.

Many regard this perception as petty and superficial, believing that intellectual pursuits are the true crowning glory of humanity, and that brutish size and strength belongs in the past, with animal skins, stone tools, and sloping foreheads.

But they are wise enough not to say this in our presence.

In reality, the typical human reaction to a well-behaved larger man is a positive and respectful one. More importantly, anyone who has gone through the process of gaining muscular bodyweight will attest to the benefits of having done so, completely aside from the difference in the way he is perceived by others.

This article – and my upcoming PJ Media series — is for those of you for whom this makes sense. Since this might be the first time you’ve read such a thing in the media, listen up.

The process is simple. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy; it’s just not very complicated.

UsefulTom

AFTER

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

First, you have to give your body a reason to be bigger. This means doing things that require a larger body, gradually increasing the loads it is forced to move. Second, you give your body the things it needs to recover from the work, and it will grow. Works every time.

The reason to be bigger is the physical training you make yourself do. There are people who have taken very difficult physical jobs, and their increase in workload and appetite made them get bigger. But the more reliable, controllable, time-tested method is to start lifting weights. Using the major barbell exercises, you start with a weight you can handle and then go up a little every time you train.

The details are simple as well. You go to the gym three days per week, and you do a basic workout that consists of squats, overhead presses, bench presses, deadlifts, and power cleans. You squat every workout, alternate the two press variations, and deadlift or power clean every workout. The lifts are easy to learn, and barbells are commonly available in gyms all over the world — and can be purchased for use in a home gym. Sets of five reps have proven to work best for our purposes.

Assistance work is kept to a bare minimum because it’s not necessary for this short-term project; chin-ups are the only other thing you need to do. Likewise, conditioning work is not necessary during this period. In fact, it will slow down your progress. We’ll condition later, right now we worry about getting big and strong.

This simple program results in rapidly increasing strength and bigger muscles. Muscles get stronger by growing bigger. Essentially, bigger muscles are a side-effect of getting stronger, and since we know how to get stronger, we just train for strength, we eat and rest enough, and growth happens accidentally.

If you eat and rest enough. Remember: you don’t get big from lifting weights. You get big by recovering from lifting weights.

SkinnyJeremy

BEFORE

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

The things your body needs to recover from the work are food and rest — lots of both. This is really the hard part. Most people find it easier to train heavy than to eat enough to both recover from the training and to build the new tissue that adaptation to the work requires. If you want to do a program like this for muscular weight gain, you have to eat more than you want to, more than you’re accustomed to eating — perhaps as much as 6000 calories per day for the few months the program will take.

After all, what you’re eating now hasn’t been enough to make you bigger, or you would not be underweight. If you want to be a bigger guy, you have to eat like a bigger guy.

The dietary requirements for gaining weight are the most controversial aspect of the process, because they are almost universally misunderstood. If done correctly, the process of going from 150 to 205 pounds takes less than a year, and this short period of caloric excess is not enough time to kill you. And remember — you are training, hard. Training gets you in shape, and being in shape makes you healthier (this is difficult to write as it seems so painfully obvious, but I predict there will be confusion).

It is normal for this kind of weight gain to include some bodyfat increase at the same time. But a skinny guy with “razor abs” wearing a shirt is merely a skinny guy. Unless you plan on being mostly naked most of the time, the fact that your abs smooth out a little while your shoulders, chest, legs, and hips get bigger will only be a cause for concern to you.

Because you’re going to look better to everybody else when you’re bigger. I promise.

UsefulJeremy

AFTER

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

Rest is also very important. You grow when you’re asleep, so every hour you’re not asleep is an hour you’re not getting bigger. Sleep is perhaps the single most anabolic agent in the whole medicine cabinet, much more powerful that steroids, and for most of us it requires no medicine at all — just the time, a dark, quiet room, and a decent mattress.

Sleep must be planned and provided for if the program is going to work, and six hours won’t be enough. A minimum of eight will be necessary if your training is hard enough to make you grow.

This program is most efficiently followed by underweight men younger than 35. But older men and women of all ages who want to gain weight can benefit from some version of this basic program.

The bottom line: bigger and more muscular looks better than smaller and less muscular. Further, more muscular is healthier, stronger, and more useful than less muscular.

The process is not that complicated, and done correctly it doesn’t even take that long. If you’ve been thinking about what you can do to gain some weight, stop thinking and start doing.

Mark Rippetoe is the author of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, Practical Programming for Strength Training, Strong Enough?, Mean Ol' Mr. Gravity, and numerous journal, magazine and internet articles. Rip was a competitive powerlifter for ten years, has coached many lifters and athletes, and has given seminars to thousands around the country.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
This is specifically addressed in the book. Basically, a man who is already overweight (fat) is in a completely different anabolic state than a skinny underweight man. We advise that fat guys do the program on what is basically the Paleo diet, at about 3000kcal/day, as opposed to the advice for underweight guys, which is 4 meals/day and a gallon of whole milk.

Now, watch. Somebody will report this post too.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mark's article raises an issue worth exploring in future PJ Lifestyle pieces: generally, the results arrived at within the scientific community and utilized within the franchise fitness industry do not match the on-the-ground experience of top trainers and athletes.

PJM readers generally know to approach such "settled science" with a skeptical eye -- that's why I wanted Rippetoe here.

I'm editing our fitness coverage, and will try to make these PJM fitness pieces a spot for a great conversation going forward. I expect with our high level of military/first responder readership, we'll have a lot to discuss. Please send suggestions.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sure. Not all of the science says this, and that which does is wrong. This happens quite often, as you already know if you read popular interpretations of science. I have been in this business for 37 years, and I know what can happen with a skinny male, barbells, and adequate food and rest. The fact that no double-blind peer-reviewed study to this effect has been published is the fault of academia, not me. I am not an academic -- I am a strength coach and a gym owner, and I have been suggesting that they catch up for quite some time.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (103)
All Comments   (103)
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Mark, you keep referring to your website.
What is the address?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
@Gymmie. What specifically do you disagree with? Just curious.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Didn't know PJM had a comic section, and that is what I think of this article.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
> Didn't know PJM had a comic section

It sure does, and thanks for your cartoonish insight.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, no! What did I say wrong?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mark, you keep referring to your website.
What is the web address?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
You Have Transgressed The Sacred Dogma!

You Shall be PUNISHED!

32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great article. Focus on getting stronger and stronger.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please Mark, can you give us a link or some information about the versions of SS you are telling about in this sentence: "older men and women of all ages who want to gain weight can benefit from some version of this basic program"? Thanks and sorry for my english.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a question that cannot be answered in a single board post. We have an entire chapter devoted to "special populations" in PPST3.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whoa, glad I ran into this. I just started a similar routine this week with a trainer/friend. I'm on the other end of the spectrum though. Fairly strong musculature but way too much body fat. Thanks for the insights Mark, gonna have to follow this series.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Notice that no one has called Pajama Boy Pajama Man though he has surely reached the age of manhood. Even as a man (use your imagination), he exhibits the characteristics of a boy.

Most of us could use changing our somewhat lighter fat for heavier muscle—growing thinner and leaner while gaining weight.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dudes like pajama boy are what's rotting away American exceptionalism.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Coach Rip, thanks so much for all you've done. As a 50-year old former marathoner who went on your program 2 years ago, I've never felt and been healthier. Folks, if you haven't tried this, go buy his book and just do it. My first year (age 48): no supplements, no change in diet, lost 46 pounds of fat, gained 26 pounds of muscle, and my squat went from 115 to 300. People..this works. Rip is the only honest voice in the US fitness market. Thank you, Coach !
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's nothing wrong with body building, it beats a lot of other things you could be doing.

But the claims that it will make you more independent or more self-sufficient are wrong. So is the implicit assertion here that it will make you a good fighter. If you want to be a good fighter, then learn fighting. If you pack on some muscle and develop the notion that now all of a sudden you're an intimidating bad-ass mo-fo, you're going to wind up getting yourself hurt.

I've seen a lot of fist-fights and been involved in a few myself. How muscular someone looks (or is) has remarkably little to do with what happens. Exercise can help you look and feel better. That's plenty of reason to do it without Rippetoe overselling it.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
What article are you reading?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sheesh, which article did you read? Certainly not the one printed above.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Body building and fighting?

I don't remember reading about that in this article.....
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Neither do I.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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