What Every Naturally Skinny Woman Needs to Know About Exercise

If you’re a naturally skinny woman who’s trying to build muscle and gain weight, most workout programs aren’t designed for you. Only 3% of people are trying to gain weight, and most of them are men. As a thin woman who wants to bulk up, you’re in such a small minority, and your goals are so diametrically opposed to the average woman’s, that basically everything you read about fitness will be wrong.

Most of women’s workout programs are either oriented around weight loss (everything), improving cardio (such as cycling), or designed to improve flexibility (such as yoga). So you might try the new trendy new workout routine, try harder than everyone else, and you shrink. Shrinking wasn’t what you wanted, but that’s precisely what the program was designed for.

When that used to happen to me, I thought that my genetics were to blame. But our genetics don’t suck. We’re just naturally thin people who are trying to bulk up. We just need a bonafide bulking program that’s actually designed to help us build muscle, gain weight, and build stronger curves.

What does a women’s weight-gain workout look like?

Let’s Talk About Cardio for Thin Women

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 workouts are designed to improve.

Now, to be clear, cardio is fantastic for improving our general health. This doesn’t improve your physical appearance, but it improves heart and blood vessel function. Cardio is also a good way of burning calories and losing weight. The problem is, cardio isn’t very good for our muscles. The weight women lose from doing cardio is a mix of both muscle and fat. For the average overweight woman, that might not be a problem. Most overweight women are already quite strong, especially in their lower bodies. However, as a naturally thin woman, cardio won’t help you build muscle.

You may have seen these examples already, but here’s a woman who is probably naturally slim, and has world-class cardiovascular health and muscular endurance:

Female Olympic Marathon Runner

Here’s another woman who also appears to have a naturally thin build. Except in her case, she’s been weight training to develop her strength and power:

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 they’re representative examples of the research. 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. Even if you ate a great bulking diet while doing cardio, a large portion of that weight gain would be fat.

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 just need to chisel off the fat that’s covering it. Sort of like taking a giant rock and chiseling out the Amazon warrior hidden away inside.

There are a lot of reasons why overweight women are already so muscular. To make a long story short, though, gaining weigh causes both fat gain and muscle growth. Even with a completely sedentary lifestyle, gaining ten pounds will usually result in a good 3-4 pounds of muscle along with 6-7 pounds of fat.

Moreover, carrying around that extra bodyweight will make them even more muscular. Going up a flight of stairs while weighing 200 pounds requires quite a lot of lower-body strength. If you weight 100 pounds, imagine going up a flight of stairs while carrying a 100-pound dumbbell. Imagine how good that would be for building muscle in your thighs and butt. And this is what overweight women are doing every single day of their lives. Often several times per day.

Overweight women are already strong. They already have muscular thighs and round butts. For them, getting toned actually does mean getting smaller. They tone by removing the fat on top of their muscles. That reveals that large muscles that are hidden underneath.

For naturally skinny women, though, getting toned means developing more lean muscle mass. On the plus side, we don’t need to worry about losing fat. On the downside, we need to start climbing those stairs with the 100-pound dumbbell.

Furthermore, cardio isn’t all we need for general health. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends doing at least 150 minutes of cardio and doing at least two strength training workouts every week. So if you’re a naturally skinny woman who’s trying to get bigger, stronger, and curvier, you should technically be doing cardio and strength training.

This advice is confusing for another reason, though. WHO is recommending that women do “strength training,” but strength training has a couple different definitions. Let’s talk about what they mean.

Should skinny women be doing strength training?

In the fitness industry, strength training normally means focusing on the barbell squat, deadlift, and bench press. Strength training is about trying to get stronger in a powerlifting sense. That’s not what the World Health Organization means. They’re talking about training to build muscle and become stronger.

This is an important distinction to make because that type of strength training isn’t the best way to build muscle. Even if your goal is getting stronger, there are better ways to gain general strength.

In this article, we’re going to talk about a type of strength training that satisfies what the World Health Organization is talking about, but it has nothing to do with powerlifting. We could call this a women’s “bulking” routine, or perhaps a “hypertrophy training” routine. You could even call it a women’s bodybuilding routine.

It’s rare enough for women to want to gain weight that there isn’t even a standard name for it. It doesn’t matter what we call it, though. The important thing is that it’s designed to help a naturally thin woman build a stronger, healthier, and curvier physique that’s shaped more like an hourglass.

We’ll simply call it “lifting” or “weight training.” You’re on a site that focuses exclusively on helping naturally thin women build muscle and gain strength. All of the content here should align with your goals.

Should skinny women start with cardio or weight training?

In an ideal world, you’d eventually have a lifestyle that involves both cardio and weight training. However, if you’re currently fairly sedentary, it might make more sense to ease into this a little bit more slowly.

If you had to pick just one type of exercise to help you build muscle, gain strength, improve your appearance, and improve your general health, then you should start by lifting weights. That’s not true for everyone, but if you’re currently fairly skinny, that’s probably true for you.

The good news is that lifting weights will also raise your heart rate, allowing you to make cardiovascular improvements as well. If you do three weight training workouts per week, each lasting about an hour, that will count for about 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. That’s more than enough for a beginner to improve their cardiovascular fitness.

However, if you have time to do both types of exercise, the ideal approach would be to eventually follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines, doing at least 150 minutes of cardio and at least two strength training workouts every week.

What’s the best type of lifting for building muscle?

Hypertrophy training (aka bodybuilding, bulking) is the type of exercise designed to build muscle. Hypertrophy training also comes along with a host of other benefits: greater strength, improved fitness, better general health, greater bone density, increased longevity, and even improved cardiovascular health. However, since hypertrophy programs are designed with muscle growth in mind, these other benefits are just byproducts.

With hypertrophy training, you’ll gain a maximum amount of muscle, whereas any cardiovascular improvements will be more moderate. If you wanted to get the full cardiovascular benefits, you’d also want to add in cardio.

The tricky thing is, most of these “bodybuilding” programs are designed for men. As soon as you starting googling about bulking, you’re going to find sites for skinny guys who are trying to build muscle. And perhaps you don’t want to be “bulky” in the first place, so why would you be looking for a “bulking” program?

By that same token, most bodybuilding information is geared at men who want to be bodybuilders. And again, if you aren’t trying to look like a bodybuilder, there can be a big disconnect there.

To be fair, a lot of the information on these sites is perfectly application to women who are trying to build muscle. If you want to build a bigger butt while gaining overall strength, a bodybuilders approach to squatting and deadlifting will be quite good for that. Not perfect, but quite good. Certainly better than weight-loss “toning” workouts marketed towards women.

One way to think about is is that curviness is found on the path to bulkiness. If you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you may wind up looking curvier but still slender:

Before and after photo of a woman's weight gain transformation

Depending on how skinny you’re starting off, you be able to gain even more weight while still looking quite slender:

Before and after photo of a skinny woman's weight gain transformation

Regardless, at a certain point, you’ll build enough muscle that you start to look remarkably strong and curvy. Here’s a good example of that:

Before and after photo of a skinny woman gaining weight and building a bigger butt

Now, what if you kept going? What if you gained 30, 40, 50, pounds? That’s when you might start looking bulky. I’ve personally gained 55 pounds, Marco has gained 63. That has bulked up our physiques quite a bit. Mind you, we’re men, and we’re tall. But keep in mind that it takes quite a lot of muscle to go from being skinny to being bulking. There are many stops along that train gain ride.

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.

Furthermore, your muscles will eventually reach their genetic limit. There’s only so big that your arms can get. And if you have naturally thin bones and you’re naturally thin, you’re going to keep that bone structure even as you bulk up. (Here’s our article about muscle growth and strength potential for naturally skinny women.)

There’s still an issue with most bodybuilding programs though. Most of them are designed for men, so there’s a lot of extra arm work, a lot of extra chest work, a lot of extra waist bulking work, a lot of extra upper-back work. This is going to cause a disproportionate amount of their muscle growth to be in their upper bodies.

What does a women’s bodybuilding program look like?

Now, don’t get me wrong, women should still do plenty of arm, chest, ab, and upper-back exercises, it’s just that you don’t need all of this extra focus on it. You can do a balance muscle-building routine and then add the extra emphasis where you want it. Maybe you want that extra emphasis in your arms, maybe you want it in your hips—that’s up to you.

For an example, let’s say you’re naturally skinny woman who wants to remain slender, but also wants better muscle definition, more of an hourglass figure, bigger hips, better posture, and more overall strength. Bodybuilding is still the best way to accomplish those goals, you’ll just want a bulking program that has those specific goals in mind.

  • Maybe you do fewer biceps curls—or none at all—so that your arms don’t get much larger. You can build balanced arm size and strength from doing the compound lifts, after all (such as chin-ups).
  • Maybe you avoid doing tons of ab (rectus abdominis) isolation work (like crunches) so that your waist doesn’t grow too much bigger. After all, the heavy compound lifts will naturally strengthen your transverse abdominis muscles, which will help to maintain better posture while cinching your waist in tighter like a corset. Squats, deadlifts. and overhead presses are great for that.
  • Maybe that means doing a lot of glute isolation lifts to build bigger hips and a bigger butt. Maybe you even modify your squat technique for that goal, using a low-bar barbell squat and “sitting back” into it. That’s going to prioritize glute growth over quad growth. Or maybe you want to prioritize thigh growth and postural improvements, so you choose a front squat.
  • Even the way that you overcome plateaus and choose accessory lifts is going to depend on your longterm muscle-building goals. For example, are you going to focus on bringing up muscles that lag behind visually? Or are you going to strengthen the muscles that are limiting your lifting performance? Or a mix of both?

Here’s what a few months of “bulking” can do when the training program is designed with those goals in mind. Aomi did a full-body weight training program to drastically improve her full-body strength and muscle mass, while also adding in some accessory lifts for her hips.

Obviously, every woman is going to have different goals. This is just one example. The point is that you can use a “bulking” routine to accomplish a myriad of different goals.

(This may sound confusing, and it can be. That’s why we designed the Bony to Bombshell Bulking Program. We’ve done all the work done for you, and we also include coaching in the member community, where we can help you customize the workout routine to better suit your own genetics, circumstances, and goals.)

How to build muscle at home

Pretty much every naturally skinny person I’ve ever met—male or female—has found the gym pretty intimidating. And I say this as someone who’s been doing this eight years, with nearly 10,000 clients. I’m no exception to that, either. I was absolutely terrified of going to the gym for the first time.

It’s not that skinny people are cowards, it’s just that the gym seems like a place where people are judged based on the size of their muscles. And we have naturally smaller muscles. If you aren’t confident about the size of your muscles, this makes the gym a very intimidating place. But if you’re too intimidated to go to the gym, how can you ever build bigger muscles? A conundrum, to be sure.

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.

I didn’t know that, though. So my solution was to gain my first 20 pounds at home. That’s what gave me the confidence to step foot into the gym.

You can build muscle with a simple pair of dumbbells

This is by far the simplest way to build at home. All you need are some heavy adjustable dumbbells that go up to 60–100 pounds and a lifting bench. That’s all you need to do our Bony to Bombshell Program. In fact, you don’t even really need the bench. We have plenty of members who do the program with just two adjustable dumbbells.

When it comes to buying adjustable dumbbells, the fancy option is getting some IronMaster ones. However, you can get simple ones like the ones pictured below. Are they perfect? No. Will they help you gain 20+ pounds of muscle? Absolutely.

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

I used a setup like this for several years while living in a small condo in downtown Toronto. I didn’t have much space, so I’d carry the dumbbells and bench into the living room, do my workout, and then store them in the closet.

You could also build a simple barbell home gym

Nowadays, now that I live in a bigger house with a spare room, I’ve built myself a simple barbell home gym. If you have a spare room or garage, and you have $500–1500 available, this is a great way to build a home gym that you can use for a lifetime.

Here’s how to build a simple barbell home gym.

In the long run, this is cheaper than getting a gym membership. But it can certainly be a large upfront cost, especially if you don’t know yet if you’ll adopt weight training as a longterm habit.

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. To get around the steep learning curve, do lifts that match your experience level. We usually recommend goblet squats  instead of back squats, and dumbbell sumo deadlifts instead of conventional barbell deadlifts.

These variants are easier to learn, you won’t look that awkward doing them, they build just as much muscle, they’re safer, and you don’t need a squat rack.

Also, remember that some bodyweight exercises are just as good as weight training exercises. Bodyweight training in general isn’t very good for building muscle, but some bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups and chin-ups, are absolutely brilliant for gaining size and strength.

Again, though, start with beginner variations. You can ease into push-ups by starting on your knees or by raising your hands up on a bench. And you can ease into chin-ups by jumping up and lowering yourself down, or getting some resistance bands and attaching them to your chin-up bar.

Here’s a full beginner workout.

Key Takeaways

The best way to build muscle as a naturally skinny woman is to lift weights. More specifically, you’ll want to do a hypertrophy program, a bodybuilding program, or a bulking program. These are all terms for workouts that are designed to stimulate muscle growth. Everything else is probably a weight-loss workout in disguise.

You may also want to choose a workout that’s designed specifically for women. There’s no real issue with doing unisex or even men’s workouts, but they probably won’t be designed with your specific goals in mind. Or maybe they are. That’s up to you.

The good news is that the better your muscle-building workout routine is, 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. This is due to a phenomenon called newbie gains, and you can see examples of naturally thin women quickly building muscle here.

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 just weight training and a good bulking diet.

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, dozens of different weight gain 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.

Website | + posts

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has over ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people build muscle, get stronger, and gain weight.

Did you enjoy the article? Why not share it to help someone else?


  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 😉

      • Lupe on August 21, 2020 at 11:37 pm

        I was told you can’t build muscle if your skinny due to not having anything to build which doesn’t sound right to me but I wouldn’t know myself, any good advice/info about this?

        • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:44 pm

          Hey Lupe, you can absolutely build muscle when you’re skinny! You build the muscle out of the protein and the calories that you eat 🙂

          There’s no need to get fat first or anything like that. Start with a weight training program, then start eating more protein, then start eating more calories. Once you’re eating enough calories to gain weight, you’ll start packing on the muscle 😀

  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!

  31. Isabella on June 30, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    I’m 16 and currently weigh 96 lbs. I have somewhat of an hourglass figure but I’m extremely thin. I want to build bigger legs, arms and bum. I still don’t understand if using body weight workouts at home will work out or if I need to use more weights and resistance bands!

    • Shane Duquette on July 1, 2020 at 8:20 am

      Hey Isabella,

      Weight training tends to be the easiest way to build muscle. Resistance bands are popular right now, but they aren’t as good as weight training (as explained here). They do still work, though.

      Bodyweight training is a good option, and for skinny beginners, it’s more than enough. It’s more difficult than weight training, but you can build muscle just as well. Here’s our article on how to build muscle and gain weight with bodyweight workouts. If you can buy a couple of adjustable dumbbells in the near future, though, it will become even easier to build muscle. The workouts can be shorter, simpler, and less painful. But starting with bodyweight works great 🙂

  32. Ramisa Inayah on July 22, 2020 at 6:11 am

    Is there any free guide which I can use? because I’ll not be able to afford to buy the program as I am just a middle school student. Also is it okay for 15 year olds to participate in this program?

  33. Aarthy on November 4, 2020 at 6:50 am

    For my height & weight, my bmi is below par and people always use to call me broomstick or giraffe. I’m someone who is physically active, I love cycling, running and trekking. But all of them demands more endurance. But I cant do them without losing weight, confused whether to focus on weight or stamina. I wanted both. 🙁

    • Shane Duquette on June 21, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Hey Aarthy, you can absolutely train for both strength and endurance! It’s true that having a lower body weight can help with running, and having a higher body weight can help with strength. Even so, building muscle while doing a mix of strength and endurance training will help you get better at both goals 🙂

  34. Anna on January 5, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Hi! I was actually wondering how you would define a “skinny” or “naturally thin” woman. Maybe you’ve specified it somewhere and I just overlooked it? By looks? By BMI? By how the woman personally “feels”? As your program is designed for thin women, I am actually unsure if I’d fall into this category or not. Thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on June 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      I’d define “skinny” as someone who’s underweight or weaker than average. I think that’s what most people mean when they say “skinny.”

      I’d define “naturally thin” as someone who tends to lose weight or wind up thin when they aren’t paying attention. So you could have someone who’s in perfect shape, but if they get stressed or busy, they might lose a bit of weight. Someone’s whose propensity is to lose weight instead of gain it.

      You’d like our program if you want to get bigger and stronger, even if you aren’t thin. It’s made for people who also tend to have trouble eating enough calories to gain weight, though. It’s made for people with that natural propensity to have a lower body weight.

  35. […] with thicker body types who can quickly reach their leg goals with a decent amount of exercise, skinny girls tend to have a hard time gaining and sustaining […]

Leave a Comment