What Every Naturally Thin Woman Needs to Know About Exercise

If you’re naturally thin, keep in mind you’re immediately at odds with the mainstream. Only 3% of people are trying to gain weight, and the majority of that 3% are probably men. You’re such a minority that basically everything you read about fitness will be wrong. Not necessarily wrong for your friends, but certainly wrong for you.

Most of fitness information or advice is either weight loss info in disguise, or exercise designed to improve the health of overweight people.

You might try the new trendy workout routine, try harder than everyone else, not get the results you want, and think that your genetics suck. Your genetics don’t suck, you’re just doing a fitness-ey program designed for people who want to lose weight and hoping that it will help you gain weight. Of course it won’t help you gain weight, but how on earth were you supposed to know that?

Someone who’s overweight probably should be on a treadmill, doing Insanity, or yoga. Overweight people have a really hard time with heart disease and diabetes and whatnot. Becoming more active and working to improve their fitness levels while burning some calories is exactly what they need.

As a result, a lot of thin women will turn to yoga, Zumba, running, Spin, etc. These seem like types of exercise that are designed to make you fit and toned. That’s not true.

These are types of exercise designed to make you fitter and smaller.

So how do you accomplish your goals in a way that suits your body type? That’s what this article is about.

First of all, let’s define fitness. Fitness can mean a number of things, but in the mainstream media it tends to mean cardiovascular fitness. This is what most mainstream workouts are designed to improve—even CrossFit. This doesn’t improve your appearance, it improves heart and blood vessel function. This is a very good thing, but many people who are trying to get fit want more than that.

Surprisingly, the exercise designed to make you look fit is bodybuilding. Want to build up a fearsome pair of glutes? Bodybuilding. Strong toned arms? Bodybuilding. Long and lean muscles? Still bodybuilding.

Even if you want to lose fat, bodybuilding allows you to do it more quickly and effectively than any other type of exercise. For example, a recent study found that people who combined light exercise with a calorie deficit lost 13 pounds—they lost 7 pounds of fat and 6 pounds of muscle. The group who combined bodybuilding with a calorie deficit lost 18 pounds—they lost 22 pounds of fat while gaining 4 pounds of muscle (study).

Lifting will make you fit too, since it will improve your health (bone density, heart health, insulin sensitivity, etc) and make you better able to complete certain physical tasks (lifting things, throwing things, sprinting, avoiding injury, etc). Interestingly, the process of building muscle also improves the health of your nails and hair, and having an abundant amount of muscle mass means that even if you get sick your bones, nails and hair won’t suffer.

An hour of bodybuilding will even give you the same cardiovascular benefit as 30 minutes of cardio.

Not bad, right?

Going a little further down the bodybuilding rabbit hole, lifting heavy things is a type of exercise that will cause your body to adapt by building muscle. That muscle will make you stronger and better looking. Better looking because you’ll look like a superhero, and also because you’ll be standing taller and more confidently due to improved posture.

Quickly going back to the non-lifty sort of exercise, doing not-so-heavy stuff to get your heart rate up, like running, like bodyweight workouts, Spin, Body Pump, etc—these will cause your body to adapt by improving blood flow and oxygen delivery throughout your body. This is a type of exercise called aerobics, and it really has nothing at all to do with muscle growth. It’s healthy and it will burn calories—great for weight loss and general health—but it won’t build muscle mass.

Here is a woman who is probably naturally slim, has cardio-d hard for years, and has fully adapted for her cardio oriented goals:

Female Olympic Marathon Runner

Here’s a woman who has lifted hard for years, and has fully adapted for her strength and power goals:

Female Olympic Weightlifter

Both bodies are fantastic. They’re both Olympians after all. However, if your goal is to build muscle, you can see that it’s strength and power that you want to train for, not cardiovascular endurance.

I know these are just examples, but the research is also very clear. It doesn’t matter how gruelling your workouts are, or how fearsomely your muscles burn with a hellish fire. If the stimulus isn’t heavy enough, it won’t cause you to adapt by becoming bigger and stronger (studystudystudystudystudy). Even if you ate a calorie surplus in order to gain weight, a large portion of that weight gain would be fat.

Remember—sweat is your fat crying, not your body building muscle.

I realize that this advice doesn’t apply to everyone. For a lot of women out there, they already have all the muscle they want. They don’t need to build more, they just need to chisel off the fat that’s covering it. Sort of like taking a giant rock and chiseling out the bombshell hidden away inside. There are a lot of reasons for their already ample musculature, but more often than not, a lifetime of overeating has caused a lot of muscle growth along with a lot of fat growth. Even if you don’t lift weights, gaining 10 pounds will probably result in a good 3-4 pounds of muscle along with 6-7 pounds of fat.

Not very lean gains, but gains nonetheless.

Moreover, carrying around extra bodyweight makes you more muscular too. Going up a flight of stairs when you weigh 200 pounds requires quite a lot of lower body strength.

So to a certain extent being overweight also means being strong. For them, getting toned actually does mean getting smaller. They tone by removing the fat on top of their muscles.

For you though, getting toned means developing more lean muscle mass.

General fitness stuff, while good for your heart, will not help you gain lean mass. It causes a totally separate type of adaptation—improved blood flow.

Another thing to consider when you look at fitness celebrities is that once you have muscle mass, it’s very very easy to maintain it. If you develop a killer physique by lifting, or genetics, or however—you can often maintain that physique with incredible ease forever afterwards. So if someone already has an amazingly muscular body, they can do all kind of nonsense on YouTube and maintain it just fine. However it won’t help someone who doesn’t already have it.

For a naturally skinny gal, no deliberate muscle mass development  = no muscle tone.

If you want to build muscle, you need to do a type of exercise that actually builds muscle.

What Type of Exercise Builds Muscle?

Heavy resistance training—anaerobic training—is the type of exercise designed to build muscle. It also comes along with a host of other benefits—strength, fitness, health, bone density, increased life span, and even improved cardiovascular health—but most weightlifting programs are designed with muscle and strength in mind. These other benefits are often just a welcome bonus.

Most of these “bodybuilding” programs are designed for men. And perhaps you don’t want to be bulky or hulky like those programs promise. However, bodybuilding is still your best bet for accomplishing your goals. You just need to build the body that you want, not the body that someone else wants.

It seems like a lot of heavy weightlifting programs out there are designed to make you bulkier, not curvier. That’s true. But curviness is found on the journey to bulkiness. If you gain 10 pounds of muscle you may wind up looking curvy and slender. If you gain 20 pounds, maybe you’ll look curvy and strong. If you gain 50 pounds, yeah, maybe you’ll look like a bulky bodybuilder. However you aren’t going to wake up one morning after having gained 20 pounds only to realize that now you’re 50 pounds heavier. You could spend the next year or two working towards gaining 20 pounds, then when you reach your size goals you stop overeating, and you stop gaining weight.

There’s still an issue with most bodybuilding programs though. Because most of them are designed for dudes, there’s a lot of arm work, a lot of chest work, a lot of ab work, a lot of back work. There’s some leg work too, but most guys are going for a V-shaped physique, so most approaches to weightlifting are designed to primarily bulk up the upper body. There’s nothing wrong with you going after that, but you may prefer a different sort of physique for yourself.

For an example, let’s say you’re naturally thinly built and you want Jen Selter curves. Even if you want to look slender like Selter instead of curvaceous like a Kardashian, lifting is still the best way to do this! It just means lifting in a way that actually suits your goals.

Maybe you do fewer bicep isolation lifts—or none at all—so that your arms don’t get much larger. If you use your arms for compound lifts they’ll build up the little bit of mass that you want to give you slender balanced functional muscle tone, but they won’t grow larger than your boyfriend’s.

Maybe that means avoiding tons of ab isolation work (like crunches) so that your waist doesn’t get big and bulky.

Maybe that means doing a lot of glute isolation lifts to build up an enormous tush.

Here’s what a few months of “bulking” can do when the training program is designed with those goals in mind. Ioulia did a full body strength training program to drastically improve her full body strength… while also doing some extra bodybuilding lifts for her target areas.

Bony to Bombshell Muscle-building / Weight Gain Program for Skinny Women—Ioulia

Obviously there are many different types of goals. This is just an example. Keep in mind that you can use lifting to accomplish a myriad of different goals. If you want broader shoulders, say, you can accomplish this through bodybuilding as well, you’d just put more emphasis on training your shoulders, upper back and chest.

So, which type of weightlifting is best?

There are a few subdivisions of weightlifting, so even once you’ve settled on weightlifting there are a few choices to make. Fortunately, some styles of lifting rise above the rest when it comes to building muscle and gaining weight.

Let’s go over a few different styles:

Conditioning (e.g. Insanity / P90X / Callisthenics). This isn’t weightlifting per se, but it is resistance training. Very light resistance training usually performed in circuits to make it brutal on your aerobic system. It’s designed to get you in good physical “condition” so that you can do well in the military, with martial arts, Tough Mudder or whatnot. It’s easy to do it at home, it’s fairly safe, it could be fun in a want-to-kill-yourself kind of way (I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy it)… and it’s aerobic, not anaerobic, so it won’t build muscle very well. In fact, beyond a very beginner stage it won’t build muscle at all. 

Power Training (e.g. Olympic Lifting). This is a power sport where you athletically throw a very heavy barbell around.  Not really relevant for your goals, since it’s not ideal for building muscle mass, and it’s a little more dangerous than some of the other options. (It’s still safer than jogging and soccer though!)

High Intensity Power Training (e.g. Crossfit). This is the newest type of weightlifting, and it’s a hybrid between power training and conditioning. As you can imagine, combining aerobic resistance training with a type of weightlifting that isn’t very good for building muscle results in… a style of training that isn’t very good for building muscle. Most of the most muscular CrossFit people came into the sport already muscular. It also has a reputation for making women look like men. That’s ridiculous. However, it’s definitely not a program designed with women’s physique goals in mind. It’s not even a program designed with men’s physique goals in mind! Moreover, combining fatigue-oriented conditioning with a risky-ish athletic style of weightlifting results in a markedly higher injury rate. If you’re doing an Olympic lift like a “clean”, fine, but if you’re in any way new to lifting weights, maaaybe don’t do twenty of them in a row until the postural muscles in your back collapse and you risk injuring your spine.

Powerlifting (strength training). This is where you learn to lift as much weight as you possibly can for 1 repetition. Like Olympic lifting, Powerlifting is a sport. Once you master the technique of lifting heavy, the way to excel at the sport is to pack on as much muscle mass onto your frame as possible, since muscle mass is pretty much perfectly correlated with muscle strength. This type of lifting is still safer and jogging and soccer, but as far as lifting weights goes, it’s hard on your body and injuries aren’t that uncommon.

Bodybuilding (training for aesthetics). This is where you lift in a way that optimizes muscle size, leanness, proportions and aesthetics. You can use it to become as big or as toned as you want. A bikini model uses bodybuilding to build her physique just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did. Different goals, different genetics, same methods.

With bodybuilding the weights are lighter than with powerlifting—often about twelve repetitions before you hit muscular failure—and it’s about as safe as exercise could possibly be. It’s way waaay safer than jogging and soccer. The most common injury is dropping a weight on your foot, and that is fairly uncommon.

This is hands down without a doubt the best way to exercise if you want to look better. It’s also very healthy! Combining a very safe style of lifting with one designed to make you look strong and healthy is, perhaps not surprisingly, a very good way to become strong and healthy. (And as mentioned above, recent research has found that a typical hour-long bodybuilding workout also counts for about half an hour of cardio.)

So which style of lifting is best? All of these types of training have advantages and disadvantages. If you had to pick just one, I would recommend a bodybuilding approach (designed with your own aesthetic goals in mind).

But you don’t have to pick just one!

You could start your workout with some strength training to develop strength and athleticism. You could keep that part of the workout short to avoid the higher injury rates and the wear and tear on your body. Then transition to bodybuilding to build some curves where you want them. You could spend a little longer there, since bodybuilding is easy to recover from, very healthy, very safe, and allows for a lot of growth. After that you could do some higher intensity conditioning to challenge your aerobic system. You could use simple lifts with a low rate of injury to keep it safe.

That gives you a safe and effective strength, aesthetics and cardio program that will have you performing well, feeling great and looking amazing. 

(This may sound confusing, and it can be. That’s why we designed the Bony to Bombshell Program—so you’d have all that work done for you. We’ve got some advice coming up though.)

Yeah, the gym is intimidating for skinny people

Pretty much every naturally skinny person I’ve ever met has found the gym pretty terrifying. I definitely found it terrifying. So… I gained my first 20 pounds at home. Only then did I have the confidence to step foot into a gym.

It’s not that we’re cowards or anything, it’s just that the gym is kind of a skinny person’s worst nightmare. If on the soccer field you’re judged by how good of a soccer player you are, then in the gym you might think you’re being judged by how muscular you are. If you aren’t confident about the size of your muscles, this makes the gym a very intimidating place.

If you do have the courage to get yourself to the gym, you’ll soon learn that the gym isn’t actually all that intimidating. Most people there are kind and welcoming, and the ones who aren’t are often too busy admiring their biceps in the mirror to even notice you.

But getting to the gym is easier said than done. So here are some options with a little less “tough love” in them:

1) Build a simple home gym. If you don’t like the gym environment this is a really easy way to build muscle at home. All you need are some heavy adjustable dumbbells that go up to 80 or 100 pounds, and an adjustable lifting bench. (That’s all you need to do our Bony to Bombshell Program.)

How to Build a Simple Home Gym to Build Muscle / Gain Weight / Lift Weights

2) Do lifts that match your experience level. If you’re new to lifting and you start attempting back squats and barbell deadlifts… things are going to get real awkward real quick. These are very advanced lifts that take years to master. You run the very real risk of ten guys without necks all fighting for a chance to coach you. Their attempts will be in vain too, because even the best coaches in the world wouldn’t be able to teach someone these lifts in just an hour or two.

This may not be your cup of tea.

To get around this, do lifts that match your experience level. I recommend goblet squats and dumbbell sumo deadlifts. (We’ll teach you these lifts in our next post.) These variants are easier to learn, you won’t look that awkward doing them, they build just as much muscle, they’re safer, you won’t need to fight for a turn at the squat rack, and most people at the gym won’t have anything to contribute because they won’t even know what it is you’re doing.

3) Go to the gym during off hours. Most guys will lift weights either 3 or 6 times per week, and most will train right after work. This fits their schedule, and it’s also when their testosterone is at it’s daily peak. This means that at 6pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nearly every guy will be at the gym competing for the bench press bench and the squat rack. If you go at any other time, say 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, you can often avoid the craziness.

4) Practice the lifts at home. If you’re worried about showing up at the gym and looking like a goof in public as you try lifting for the first time… just practice the lifts at home beforehand! You can grab a book or jug of water and practice your goblet squats and dumbbell sumo deadlifts. They won’t be heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth, but at least that way you can show up at the gym already in the know.


This may or may not sound like good news. The fact that bodybuilding and strength training programs are the best programs for building muscle is an awkward truth for most skinny people—it definitely was for me.

It would be much more pleasant if we could build up muscle mass as a by-product of doing something that we’re already good at. This is why I spent so long trying to build muscle by doing things like swimming, bodyweight workouts and martial arts. I felt like I wouldn’t be judged as harshly based on my lack of muscle mass if I exercised in a way that wasn’t solely focused on muscle mass.

Not surprisingly, that kept me very skinny for a very long time.

The good news is that the better your training program, the more your muscle cells will be doing everything they can to grow as quickly as possible. They’ll be incredibly insulin sensitive, meaning that more of the food you eat will be invested in building muscle, and less stored as fat.

The newer you are to lifting, the more exciting this news is. You may think that your genetics are keeping you skinny, but by optimizing your training for muscle growth you may actually find that you can grow at an incredibly rapid pace.

What a few months of bulking looks like on a naturally skinny woman

A few months from now you might be twice as strong, a dozen pounds heavier, feeling more energetic than ever, and pretty excited about what you’re capable of accomplishing with lifting and nutrition.

* * *

If you ever want a full program that covers absolutely everything you need to know about building muscle, videos of every exercise you’ll need to know, and includes a ton of recipes, a vibrant community full of great women with similar goals, and coaching/customization from us throughout the process, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

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  1. Luisana on November 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    I really liked the article, but when I got to the crossfit part I was very surprised about what you say about it….just because bodybuilding is for some people,like you guys, the best way to bulk, crossfit has it benefits on body too.I am a little sad about that part of the article….

    • Shane Duquette on November 25, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      Hey Luisana,

      I actually think CrossFit is really cool! They took weightlifting and made it more intense, challenging, cardio-y, and community oriented. They kind of turned it into an extreme sport. They did a great job of popularizing this unique style of weightlifting too, and getting more people into weightlifting is a great thing—especially since most people aren’t really interested in building muscle, so who cares if CrossFit isn’t very good for that.

      That’s not to knock CrossFit. I mean, take soccer. Soccer is a sporty way to be active and healthy with your friends. It also has a higher injury rate than bodybuilding. It’s also not very good for building muscle. Soccer is awesome though. Just not awesome for building muscle.

      Same thing with CrossFit. Super cool, just not very effective for building muscle (at least when compared with things like bodybuilding and strength training).

      Some very cool studies out there showing that CrossFit is rad for making people fitter though. Very impressive increases in v02 max and whatnot. So impressive that the American Military was considering replacing their basic fitness training with Crossfit. The injury rate was too high though, if I recall correctly.

      So I totally agree with you that CrossFit, when used properly, can be fantastic for you 🙂

      • Shundelle on October 22, 2016 at 8:12 am

        Hello I’m interested in the program, I am a college student. Do u have something that is more afforable.

        • Shane Duquette on November 3, 2016 at 1:14 pm

          Hey Shundelle, we have a student discount and a payment plan. So instead of 197 all at once, you’d be looking at more like 40 per month over the course of 4 months 🙂

    • Annette on January 3, 2017 at 2:00 am

      This program sounds pretty interesting. What kind of payment plans do you offer and will I automatically find this option at checkout? Thank you!

      • Jared Polowick on January 6, 2017 at 10:37 am

        Hi Annette,

        At this time our payment plans are set up manually, but in the future we are planning to bring it to the checkout page. I’ll send you an email about the payment plans now 🙂

  2. Emily on November 25, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I love these articles! As someone who’s naturally skinny (~95lbs, 20 years old, 5’4”) and eats more than most people I know who weigh a lot more than me, it’s great to get advice on how to gain weight/build muscle in a way that will work for my body type! The weight racks are definitely my worst nightmare especially when I start by picking up only 10lbs weights… but thanks to you guys at least I know how to use em!

    • Shane Duquette on November 25, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      …and soon you’ll be picking up 15 pound weights. Then 20. And eventually those 100 pound ones 😉

  3. Kirsty on November 26, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I so wish I could afford to buy this guide 🙁 Student life….

    • Jared Polowick on November 26, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Hi Kirsty,
      We do have a student discount, or a payment plan to help make things a bit easier. If you’re interested, shoot us an email at us@bonytobombshell.com and we can give you the details 🙂

  4. Ashlie on November 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

    I would Love this to build up my skinny fat body! Except I don’t love the price, are there any sales,black Friday sale, coupon code for this book?! I really need this 🙁

    • Shane Duquette on November 26, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Hey Ashlie,

      Glad to hear you’re interested! We don’t have sales, per se—we don’t feel like that would be fair to our other members who paid full price—but we can set you up with a payment plan if that helps. If you’re a student we also have a student discount option. Send us an email at us@bonytobomshell.com.

      If the full coaching program is still outside of your budget, don’t worry—we’ll be coming out with more articles, videos and newsletter content—all totally free—to help you even if you aren’t a member 🙂

  5. Michelle Howard on November 27, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Thank you so much for this article! I’ve been following you guys for awhile. I’m sooo excited!! Finally someone understands my pain, no girl I know wants to gain weight. I am planning on purchasing the program, maybe as a Christmas present for myself! I would say I’m “skinny fat”…can’t wait to get a flat stomach and gain about 15-20 pounds of muscle everywhere else!!

    • Shane Duquette on November 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      So glad you’ve been liking our articles, Michelle! Your goals sound right in line with what we can help you accomplish, so I’m stoked to get you into the community. 15-20 pounds is a big goal too, so you’re going to have some really gnarly transformation shots after a few months 😀

  6. nora on December 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I want to gain weigth but I dont want abs, I love my flat belly , and an hourglass figure (I dont like the skinny -muscular figure , no offense), is it posible to get a plan only for thick legs ans bigger butt?

    • Shane Duquette on December 3, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Hey Nora,

      Luckily, it’s easier to have a flat stomach than to have abs, so not only is it possible to achieve, it’s easier to achieve. The reason you may not be seeing that look with a lot of fitness celebrities is because they find having abs more impressive, and for someone who is into fitness, that can be a fun goal to strive towards.

      Can you get a plan that helps you build the body you’re looking for? Absolutely! Your goals line up quite well with our default Bony to Bombshell program, and we could also help you customize it to fit you even better 🙂

      I hope you decide to join us!

  7. krystal on December 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Im interesting on this program. I have one question. Do I have to go to the gym to do these exercises or can I do them at home.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Hey Krystal, glad to hear you’re interested!

      You can do the workouts at home so long as you have some heavy things to lift. I’d recommend getting some heavy adjustable dumbbells and an adjustable bench, but really any heavy things will do 🙂

      I hope you decide to join us!


  8. Bella on December 28, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    This was a great artical and I love the idea of your program. I’m 16 and have always been skinny, small and underweight for my age group. I eat as much as anyone and I love playing sports and would consider myself moderately fit. I’d love to be stronger and have a curvy body but as you’ve explained, cardio and things that I enjoy like running, yoga, Zumba, dance, netball, soccer do not help to gain muscle. I want to be strong but I also want to be fitter and still participate reguarly in those activities. How would that work if I did your program????

    • Shane Duquette on December 30, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Hey Bella,

      That’s awesome! Sounds like you’ve got a really healthy lifestyle.

      You’re right. That stuff is great for your health and fitness… but it won’t do much to change your appearance or build muscle.

      If you could make time to do three hourlong workouts per week (we’d tell you exactly what to do) then you could still do perfectly well with the program—perhaps better than average actually because you’re so fit 🙂

  9. Lily on December 29, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Is this program good for a 42 year old skinny fat person(me)? Will I have the same results?

    • Shane Duquette on December 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm


      Results won’t start to diminish until around 60, but just to make sure your tendons and ligaments are ready for heavy lifting, if you sign up we’d start you a little lighter for a month just to keep things optimally safe 🙂

      I hope you decide to join us!

  10. Allie on January 2, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Really identified with this program. I have been doing BodyBeast for the last 6 months and have seen changes in my body, but not as much as I’d like. I teach yoga and practice regularly. Can you customize these programs? I just would like to gain a lot of muscle mass and am not at all scared of getting bulky!

    • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      You can absolutely customize the program! We can help you do it, too—coaching and customization is included. I’ve gained 55 pounds, Jared 45, Marco 70, and we’ve helped many people gain several dozen pounds each. We can definitely help you get as bulky as you wish in exactly the way that you wish 🙂

  11. Lydia TerHaar on January 9, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Hi there,
    I’m very interested in this program as someone who has struggled to put on weight, especially in some areas as opposed to others. I’ve had issues with being underweight recently, and have increased my calorie intake pretty significantly to gain weight. I’ve had some good results from that, but I still find the weight going most easily to my lower stomach- not great. I love to run and dance, and I practice yoga regularly. I thought some of those things would help build more leg/booty muscle, but I haven’t gained as much as I’d like. I’m a student, so I’d definitely appreciate a program with a discount or payment plan. I like the look of this- it seems so different than other fitness media that has weight loss in mind. I notice I look much more like the women in the before/after pictures on this website than many others.

    • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Glad to hear you’re interested in joining us, Lydia!

      Ermm, yeah, gaining weight primarily in the lower stomach definitely isn’t a good sign. Fortunately, I think that’s just because you haven’t been doing exercise that causes muscle growth. Running and dancing are great for your health, but they’re cardio activities, so they cause your body to develop more blood vessels, improve blood flow, etc. None of these adaptations have anything to do with muscle mass, so if you gain weight while doing them it makes sense that you’d gain fat instead of muscle, and research supports this. Similar deal with yoga—also not a muscle-builder.

      So you may find that your genetics are better than you assume, and that you actually build muscle quite readily in all the right places when you train for it!

      I’m going to email you with some student and payment plan options 🙂

      • Lydia TerHaar on January 14, 2016 at 11:33 am

        Thanks so much! Also, what kind of equipment is needed to do the exercise part of the program?

        • Shane Duquette on January 14, 2016 at 5:46 pm

          Just some dumbbells, ideally adjustable dumbbells that can go pretty heavy—you’re going to get strong quickly. And then perhaps an adjustable lifting bench too, but that’s a little bit less important. With those two pieces of equipment you can do the entire program and get perfect results 🙂

  12. Sabrina on January 10, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Hey there!! I’m really encouraged to buy this program (assuming I can afford it…I’m a student as well). I already sent an email asking about the student discount. I’ve always struggled to even just maintain an excercise routine. I used to do those 30 day challenges but they either failed to show results or were just too much for me. I’m always tired and get tired really easily when exercising. How long would it take for this to show results??

    • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      Hey Sabrina, I know we already answered your email, but I’ll answer here too for the sake of anyone else who’s reading the comments.

      How long will it take for this program to produce results? You’ll have measurable results within a week—you’ll see your weight move up on the scale, usually by 1-3 pounds in that first week, then 0.25–1 pound per week thereafter. That’s to get “measurable” results though—proof that you’re on the right track—not the results that will have your colleagues wondering if you got extremely high end glute implants.

      To get remarkable visual results it usually takes about 5 weeks, or around 5 pounds. Sometimes 10 weeks. If you check out the transformation shots that we post around the website (some are in the sidebar) you can see some transformations and their timeframes 🙂

      The longer you stick with it, the more dramatic your results become. Here are Aomi’s before/after shots at the three month point, for example.

  13. Jennifer on January 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm


    I’ve been a Cardio Queen (swimming, biking, running) and healthy eater all my life (I’m 47). I finally made the plunge last year into CrossFit, and the gym I belong to has a great focus on Olympic lifts. In August I joined their Barbell club and am so pleased to slowly see strength gains. I want to be able to do 3 strict pull ups by the end of 2016.

    I have made it a goal also to change my body composition to be 21.7% (yes..that exact!) fat, which means I need to decrease my current % by 4.5. Why I’m writing you is that I’m searching for a solid meal plan (or cook book) to achieve my protein intake goals (a gram for each lb. in body weight.) Does BtoB offer such nutritional guidance?


    • Shane Duquette on January 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Hey Jennifer,

      Sounds like you’re in pretty impressive shape! Swimming, biking, running, CrossFit, Barbell Club? Damn! That’s awesome 🙂

      A huge part of program is nutrition. How much to eat, what to eat (although we’re not restrictive at all), how to manipulate your appetite, one on one coaching… and a ton of helpful recipes.

      I hope you decide to join us! We’d love to help you get to 21.7% 😉

  14. Aquarius Moon on January 22, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I have to say that calisthenics works. I can’t lift due to a spine injury from a previous car crash. But calisthenics helps keep my BMI below 21 and body fat percentage at 22.

    • Shane Duquette on January 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Glad to hear it’s working for you, Aquarius 🙂

  15. Anne on February 1, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    So glad to read this article. I’m about to start bodybuilding exercises at the gym this week, and it’s good to know that it really works for so many people! Hope that in a few months I’ll be part of this team!

    • Shane Duquette on February 1, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      Great call, going with a bodybuilding-type program, Anne! Good luck with it, and I hope you soon become a part of this team as well 😀

  16. bre on February 28, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    What about pilates reformer, will, that make you smaller or bigger?

    • Shane Duquette on February 29, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      That’s a bit of a trick question. The answer is neither. More endurance-y types of exercise like pilates aren’t really related to body composition at all. The adaptations it will cause your body to make have to do with cardio: more blood vessels, more red blood cells, a more efficient heart, etc.

      So you’ll probably stay looking about the same. This is good if you like how you look, bad if you’re looking for change.

  17. Keva Pickens on March 5, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I left my email address for info about your payment plan. Thank You!

  18. winter skin on April 6, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    It’s amazing to visit this website and reading the views of all
    colleagues on the topic of this piece of writing, while I am also keen of getting experience.

  19. Morning Blessed on May 16, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Hi Shane. I’m in! How do I sign up again?

  20. Emma on June 20, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Hi! I just found your website and am reading up on your plan. I’m a skinny woman, who married a skinny man, and just recently joined him in the gym this week. How intimidating- just as this article described! He was guiding me with very similar advice as you give here. I’m looking to gain muscle throughout, but I would also like to increase endurance while hiking (or jogging/running). Should I encorporate any cardio into your suggested routine (lift, rest, repeat)? Or will this exercise regimen be enough to help increase my endurance on top of muscle building?

    • Shane Duquette on June 20, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Emma, that’s awesome! Sounds like you and your husband are on the right track by doing something really healthy like this together 🙂

      If you hike and jog and whatnot then you probably don’t need much extra cardio in addition to your lifting for the sake of your health—your lifestyle already sounds pretty balanced in that case. But since you want to improve your endurance with cardio and hiking, yes, adding in some cardio could help with that.

      A good place to start is by adding in a couple 20-minute steady state cardio workouts each week, trying to keep your heart rate between 120–150 during that time. Try to do them on non-workout days, but if you must do them on the same day as you lift, do them beforehand. You can increase the length of those cardio workouts by 5 minutes per week and you can also add in a third cardio workout. Do this until you reach your desired fitness level, and then you can reduce the quantity of the workouts to just one per week to maintain that level of fitness 🙂

      I hope that helps!

    • Shane Duquette on June 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      (If you have enough on your plate with the lifting right now, you can always add this stuff in later.)

  21. Nikki on June 21, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Ive done yoga for over 10 years but would love to get stronger, and also get rid of my lower back ache… the two muscles either side of my spine seem to work overtime. I’m a complete beginner at weights, don’t think I’d have the confidence in the gym! All that said, in interested in the programme, could you send me details of how to spread the cost please?

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Hey Nikki,

      Yoga is awesome, and it should set you up well when you start a program designed to get you stronger 🙂

      Yeah, your spinal erectors. When muscles are sitting at the right length they activate when they should, when they’re stretched too far they activate too infrequently, and when they’re in a shortened position they activate too often. It’s common for people’s hips to be tilted forward, and this stretches out the hamstrings and abs, shortens the lower back muscles. This will often make the hamstrings feel tight, your abs look a little distended because they can’t contract properly, and your spinal erectors will suffer from overuse because they’re pretty much always contracted.

      Weightlifting can help with this, provided that you lift with really good technique and work to improve your hip mobility/strength. We can help you with that.

      And yes! I’ll shoot you an email now 🙂

  22. Victoria on July 19, 2016 at 3:43 am

    I tried emailing you about the Student Discount and the Payment Plan but it said that there was a “Domain Error” 🙁 Any chance you guys know what’s up with that?

    • Shane Duquette on July 19, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Hey Victoria, I’m not sure what happened there. I’ve got your email attached to this comment though, so I’ll send you the student discount and payment plan options now 🙂

  23. Jules on August 31, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Hi there. I’ve been reading your articles and I have to say I really like your approach to muscle building. I’m interested myself in starting lifting weights as a complement to my current training (I do a lot of pole dance/fitness which is similar to calisthenics in many ways and actually allows for a lot of progression but it works the upper body a lot more than the lower body). So I’m really looking to improve my lower body strength! I was looking to buy some heavy dumbbells as you have suggested but I really struggle to find some suitable ones online? Most of them only seem to go up to 10-15kg (22-33lbs) each, or the heavier ones I’ve seen were extremely expensive. Or do people buy a set and separate weight plates to make them heavier? Or do you think it would make sense to get only one heavy dumbbell, as I’m mostly interested in lower body exercises?
    And – this might sound dumb – if you order heavy weights online, how are you even supposed to carry the package?
    So are there any particular weight sets you’d recommend? I’m based in the UK if that makes any difference.
    Thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on August 31, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Hey Jules,

      Very good question! I have adjustable dumbbells similar to these ones. It can take a little hunting to find ones that allow you to go heavy enough, but I’m really happy with them.

      Should you get just one if your goal is primarily working the lower body? That’s a very interesting question! I would say, yes, that could work. Although you’d still have more options if you had two of them—e.g. you could do split squats with a weight in each hand—you don’t need a second one. So that would depend on your budget.

      If you order them online, they should bring the package right to your door (or perhaps right inside). From there, you can open the package and carry everything separately. However, some shipping companies do suck at this, so you might see the person really struggling to get it to your door. That’s ultimately their responsibility, though.

      Does that help / answer your questions?

      • Jules on September 1, 2016 at 10:07 am

        Yes, that helps a lot! I think I’ll get one for now and perhaps get another one later on if I feel I’m not getting as much out of it anymore. Thank you very much! 🙂

  24. Drea on September 28, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    I have been working on gaining weight for nearly 5 years. This past January, after a change/loss in life, I am able to get more sleep time uninterrupted. Before, I gained strength, not weight. But, I am gaining weight now. My arms are bigger and I see muscle definition. I feel stronger. I have muscle lines on thighs and shapely lower leg. I have a cleavage definition starting! My waist is one inch smaller. BUT I feel like I’m popping out of my shirts!
    Also, I notice pant thighs and backside are fitting tighter. My butt moved upward.
    I am seeing results…. but I got so used to being thin and underweight that it is starting to feel like a psychological stress to feel— bigger.
    I lost nearly 30 lbs very quickly after a death in the family 5 years ago. That is when the unintended weight loss happened. If I got the slightest bit fearful or worried, weight would drop, then I would get worried about losing the weight I needed. I am healthy.
    After that I had saggy skin… and still do. I could see ribs all over.
    I really do feel as though I am building – especially the muscle I lost.
    Can you get to a point where the body is happy with the muscle (I want to keep it and have it for just being healthy) and then becomes able to burn off the excess “skinny fat” jiggle that is left?
    I have adrenal fatigue so I adapt all work out around it, as not to worsen the adrenals.
    My diet had always been healthy. I have to stay with a GAPS (gut health) diet and a diet based on my needs.

    • Shane Duquette on October 4, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      That’s awesome, Drea!

      Sounds like you’re gaining muscle while, if anything, losing fat! 😀

      Sleep is a pretty cool thing. For example, people who sleep more will gain more muscle and less fat when gaining weight. More sleep is also associated with less fat gain in the general public, although in our case I suspect it would have the opposite effect, making it harder to gain any weight at all.

      On the flip side, we have stress. More stress means more fat and less muscle when gaining weight. And like you noticed, when we naturally skinny people are overly stressed, it makes it almost impossible to eat enough to even maintain our weight!

      I’m so sorry to hear about the death in your family, and I really hope that things are going better now.

      Now for your question. Can we get to a point where our body more easily maintains muscle mass, allowing us to focus on getting rid of fat? Yes! Absolutely. The trick will be to lose weight (about a pound per week) by going into a calorie deficit while eating plenty of protein (about a gram per pound bodyweight) and following a good weightlifting program. The calorie deficit will cause the weight loss. The protein will feed your muscle. The lifting will tell your body that it should get rid of fat instead of muscle.

      Your question might be about a set point. Meaning, after building muscle will it want to stick around? The answer there is yes as well. This is referred to as “muscle memory.” Once you build muscle, you will be “naturally” more muscular thereafter.

      Does that help / answer your question?

      And congrats again on the gains!

  25. asanda mntambo on November 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

    hi i am asanda from South Africa and i read ur article it was so interesting and informative, do you have the program here in South Africa coz i really want to join it, please. thank you

    • Shane Duquette on November 3, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Hey Asanda, our program is international! We wrote the program from Canada, but you can sign up from anywhere in the world, and you’ll see that everyone in the community is from everywhere. We’ve love to have you! 🙂

  26. Nicole on February 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Ok i see you guys have payment plans. How can i get on this payment plan , also im a mom of 3 girls and have tough time knowing when , what and how to eat . do you guys have eating plans included in the program

  27. Stacy Reeve on April 3, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    So glad I stumbled across this blog!

    I’ve always been naturally slim (when I was younger I even got called ‘stick’) and lots of women say ‘oh I wish I had your figure’ but I’d love to be stronger and fitter.

    Up to now I’ve done quite a lot of cardio – my favourite is BodyAttack and I love dance based classes like BodyJam and Zumba but I find if I do too much cardio I just lose weight and look way too skinny.

    So I’m trying to build more muscle by eating more protein and lifting weights. I’m only 2 weeks in but already seeing an improvement and this blog is very useful.

    • Jared Polowick on April 3, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      So glad you’ve been finding the articles helpful Stacy 🙂 Cardio, of course, is great. But for your heart health rather than for your muscles, bones, tendons, etc. So definitely don’t give that up if you’re enjoying it. But finding a way to add more lifting to your life is a great idea.

      Just wanted to point out our two beginner articles on nutrition and lifting, you might find a lot of value in them:

      PS cool blog, I hope you keep up with it!

    • April on December 13, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Hi, I am 46 yrs old, 5’0” and weigh 99lbs. I have a BMI of 19.5 & BF of 22%. I have exercised most of my adult life.. taking breaks on occasion for a month or 2 at a time. This year I lost down to 96lbs due to extreme stress & lack of eating. I started concentrating on weights only (although I love to jog) but I felt I was wasting away. I’m currently on a break, week 4. But I lift at home using 15lbs for upper body & 25lbs for lower body for 15-30 minutes a day 5-6 days a week. So I have visible (baby) muscles all over but I can’t seem to eat enough to gain anything, even fat. When I’m stressed I eat very little. Not only that I find it very difficult to drink fluids. 8oz of water is a lot for me. Any suggestions…. any & all appreciated

  28. Agnes on May 27, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    First of all, I am so glad that I found so many articles about dealing with being skinny and not only that, that I could find a program that can actually work for me as well. Great job!

    I was wondering… As I grew up, I did not manage to correct my body position, by that I refer mainly to my spine and shoulders. I actually begun thinking that it is too late to correct them now (I am 28), but I see in some before/after pictures here that the position seems corrected. Is that the case with anyone lifting weights? I also have to mention that I have back aches quite often and I feel that my bad posture is to blame, but is very difficult to stand straight all the time, as well as constraining, tense, unnatural – because all the years of standing the wrong way.

    Thank you!

    • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      A big part of postural is muscle imbalances and weakness. So doing the right exercises, which we’ve included, can help a lot with posture. So you can see a lot of progress very quickly.

      The smaller nuances that most people only care about for aesthetic reasons may take years to fix though. Some bony adaptations have happened. It can be worked on, but after your initial improvements from muscle strengthening, which is usually enough to remove common aches and pains, your postural progress will take more commitment.

      PS just to be clear, you can’t will your way into good posture. It’s a strength thing first, then gets into little rehab exercises related to breathing, etc.

      You sound like you could get a lot of benefit from the program!

  29. Sherri Emmert on July 5, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I would love to get this program.. is there still the option of a payment plan?? Thanks

  30. Chelsea Rice on May 28, 2019 at 10:17 am

    I sent an email as well, and it seems this comment thread may be a bit old at this point, but I’m hoping to get some input or before after type stuff from or about women who are athletes in a pretty strength (red twitch??) oriented way. Hearing from distance athletes was encouraging, but not quite the same. I’m an avid backcountry snowboarder, climber, and do a bit of surfing and a bunch of other stuff. Generally trying to kill my self outside. I have plateaued or quit most strength training programs because as much as I want more curves, I just fall off when it becomes a leg day vs powder day choice. I also have very frequent but usually minor injuries I’m recovering from. I can stay lean and fairly strong, but my butt just disappears and I drop 5ish lbs in about a week if I have a tweaked knee or a touch of whiplash. Anyway, maybe someone else had similar concerns. Thanks!

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