19 Simple Tips To Help You Get From Scrawny To Brawny

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
January 9th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
58K Reads
19 Simple Tips To Help You Get From Scrawny To Brawny
Having trouble packing on muscle mass? These 19 simple tips will help you skip the complication and get you back on track to building a better body.

Who doesn’t want to pack on mass to their scrawny, muscle-less frame? With the countless amounts of plans and programs offered up on the interwebz it’s easy to get frustrated and downright confused with what to do next. You may even suffer from analysis paralysis – otherwise known as information overload.

You may just need a simple list of tips to get you started down the right road to more muscle and less wasted time. Below are 19 tips to put into instant practice to help you achieve just that. Read them, practice them and reap big rewards.

  1. Get Real: Your goal shouldn’t be to pile on 30 pounds of muscle in a month. Good luck accomplishing that! Be honest with yourself and set realistic goals, be specific and focus on your objectives. Create small, manageable steps such as four pounds of muscle gained per month or one pound of fat lost per week. It doesn’t sound like giant leaps of change but over time, it will quickly add up. Setting lofty, unrealistic goals will only leave you disappointed and unmotivated.
  2. Compound Your Training: You’ve probably heard this one so many times that you might ignore it. But it still bears repeating: Use mainly compound, multi-joint lifts in your training. Like the old saying goes: You can’t carve a pebble so ditch most of your isolation movements for the big boys. Stick to flat and incline barbell and dumbbell presses, barbell and dumbbell shoulder presses, barbell, dumbbell and t-bar rows, all forms of pull-ups, barbell and dumbbell curls (yeah, I know, isolation), dips, close-grip bench presses, deadlifts, squats, leg presses, Romanian deadlifts and several forms of calf raises.

Athlete with Dumbbells

  1. Stay Progressive: One of the most powerful tools to helping you gain more muscle and strength is to be progressive with your weights used and reps performed. Each workout aim to increase either the amount of weight on the bar or the amount of reps you do. Now, I know what you are thinking, “There’s no way I could do this every workout!” True, you may not be able to get this done every single workout, but attempt one or the other the best you can. Once you hit a plateau change up some of the movements or shift the order of exercises to bolster new progress.
  2. Go Frequently: The common belief when it comes to training is to train each muscle group only once per week. This is great if you are making gains, getting lean and are remaining motivated, but for most of us this approach can become a bit stale and lacks progress. If overtraining is avoided and proper nutrition is applied muscle tissue has the ability to recover rather quickly. Have you tried training each muscle group twice per week? How about three times per week? Have you ever tried full-body workouts done frequently? More frequency equals faster gains.
  3. Double Down on Protein: Staying with the principle of keeping it simple, if you know you are lacking in the protein department, try doubling your intake for a few weeks. We tend to overestimate our protein consumption and could afford a little more in our diets. If you eat three egg whites in the morning try six. If you eat four ounces of chicken, try eight. It may seem extreme but also may be just what you need for more lean muscle. Be sure to take in at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This can be increased anywhere from 1.25 grams to 2 grams if necessary.

Cutler Nutrition Supplements

  1. Energy Complex: Another no-brainer is the necessity to eat energy for muscle. What do I mean? You need carbohydrate in order to build muscle and the absolute best forms are the complex type if your goal is to stave off body fat at the same time. Carbs are protein sparing meaning they allow protein to do what it needs to do while carbs help with energy stores and assist with protein synthesis. Starting with two grams per pound of bodyweight would be a good start. Adjust up or down from there.
  2. Afraid, Not: With all of the prevailing research studies of late, people are still afraid of big bad fat. Constricting dietary fat is a big no-no when it comes to packing on mass. Fat can be a formidable ally helping you regulate hormones, feel full and increase heart and circulatory health. You can start with .05 to .08 grams per pound of bodyweight or 15-25% of your overall calories.
  3. Eat Often: Just as you can adjust your training to take on more frequency, your diet can afford more frequency too. Answer this question honestly: Are you eating four to six solid nutritious meals per day every week? Most people would answer no. The key is consistency. Just having one or two meals per day most days of the week won’t cut it. Your body needs nutrition several times per day week in and week out.

Complex Carbohydrates

  1. Eat the Real Stuff: Staying on the subject of nutrition, it’s definitely worth mentioning the fact that you need to eat real food in order to go from scrawny to brawny. There’s no way around it. Supplements are great and have their place, but nothing can replace the real stuff. Be sure you include eggs, meat, turkey, chicken, fish, rice, potatoes, quinoa, oats, whole grains, nut butters, nuts and olive oil in your diet. These are the foods that pack on lean muscle, period.
  2. Don’t Program Rest: There is a saying that I live by when it comes to training: Don’t schedule rest, life will schedule it for you. If you are super organized and schedule your training to follow certain cycles many things in life will throw a wrench into your perfect plan. Let’s say you scheduled a week off from training after six hardcore weeks of hitting the weights. So, you take your week off and then after your relaxing week you get the flu or work is crazy and you are missing the gym or something in your personal life goes haywire. Those are your days off. They will automatically happen.
  3. Get Some Z’s: Okay, I know what you’re thinking, duh! But here is yet another example of being honest with yourself. How much quality sleep do you think you get each night? Is it consistent each week? Set a strict time for the sack, ditch the technology at least one hour before lights out and wake up at the same time each day. Get your body in a rhythm of healthy, consistent rest to help increase workout recovery. Get at least eight to nine hours of shut-eye per night.
  4. H2 Oh Yes!: Over 70% of your body is made of water so why wouldn’t you keep a close eye on your intake? Even the slightest level of dehydration can significantly hinder your strength in the gym. Over time you will lose precious ground when it comes to a bigger, better you. The simplest way to fix this is to start slow. If you are normally low on the wet stuff, start with a half of a gallon per day for a week or two and slowly increase to ¾ and then ultimately a full gallon.

Athlete Drinking Water

  1. Jump the Roadblock: Plateaus suck. Sometimes you gut through each workout hoping to bust through that roadblock of no gains but it proves to be no use. It might be time to vary your training. No, I don’t mean wiping the proverbial slate clean and starting over. I am talking about small changes such as varying your rep range, cutting out fluff isolation exercises and going back to basics, shifting your frequency, training at a different time of day, getting a training partner. The list can be endless.
  2. Avoid the Hidden Monster: There are many killers out there threatening our health at every turn. Heart disease, cancer, metabolic diseases, etc. are the big ones. One hidden killer that many don’t give any thought to is stress. Stress can be a gains-killer. Most stressors in our lives cannot be completely eliminated, but they can be managed. Learning to pick your battles, focus on the important and keeping calm during undesirable situations will be a great start on reducing stress.
  3. Don’t Get Lazy: It’s an old wives tale that you must save all your energy for the gym. To not partake in any outside activity that would threaten your precious muscle-building efforts. One hour of hardcore training and 23 hours of living like Happy Gilmore isn’t the way to lead an ideal, healthy life. Don’t be afraid of the pick-up game of basketball, the quick jog with the girlfriend or just being plain active during the day. Your gains won’t go bye-bye just by doing what the body was meant to do.
  4. Be a Terminator: One of the many advantages of the Terminator was that he never forgot anything. He had “detailed files.” Sure, you’re not the Terminator but keeping a detailed journal of your training and diet practices can get you one step closer. Keeping a journal not only lets you take notes on weights used, reps, sets and diet practices, it also keeps you accountable for your actions. It becomes a companion, a history of what is working and what isn’t.
  5. Don’t Join Fight Club: What did Edward Norton do in Fight Club that we often do to ourselves? He beat himself up. No, I’m not saying you’re taking your own punches, I am alluding to the fact that we oftentimes beat ourselves up mentally over a lack of progress. Stop it! Look back at your journal, assess what needs fixed and move on. Keep experimenting. It’s the only way to find what works for you.

Athlete with Dumbbells

  1. Patience, My Good Fellow: Patience isn’t only a virtue when it comes to building a solid frame of muscle, it’s also a requirement. Nothing worth having is easy. You need the mindset to put in the hard work day-in and day-out with a boatload of patience. Overnight miracle programs full of promises are crap! The only way to get to where you want to be will require consistency and a lot of time.
  2. Have Some Freakin’ Fun: If you don’t like the process of what you are doing then find something else to do. If you’ve been bitten by the iron bug and love to train then congratulations, you are ahead of the curve. On the other hand, if you are following a certain program and it’s just not that fun then find another program or do it yourself. If you are miserable, you won’t last long and will most likely quit well before you ever reach your goals. Lift big, eat right and have fun!

Cutler Nutrition Supplements

Shailesh Patil
Posted on: Mon, 01/19/2015 - 00:35

Hey Brad,

Nice Article on Muscle Building Program. I wanted to do this things but my back problem I can't do that now. Can you tell me some good or muscle strengthening exercises for Spine. I've T3-4-5-S1 Level Disc Reduced. I want to get Muscles but due to this issue I couldn't able to do it.

Please, help me and give some tips to muscle building.


Posted on: Sun, 04/12/2015 - 13:26

My back is stiff due to a degenerated disc's plus my knees are going and I am 63 years old. but still like mass; what would you concentrate on without hurting yourself .

Posted on: Sun, 01/18/2015 - 16:38

I appreciate the good tips. From an abs perspective , what is the best exercises and foods ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/19/2015 - 09:41
Posted on: Thu, 01/15/2015 - 08:33

Thanks Brad, much appreciated. Do you have any particular brands you recommend?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/15/2015 - 10:35

Hmm.. Just as long as it's a reputable brand. There are some great recommendations here on M&S:


Look around and let me know what you like.

Posted on: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:47

Hi Brad,

What supplements do you recommend for muscle building? Right now I'm doing a 5 day program and eating around 3000 calories per day. I'm currently 160lbs.


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:55

Hi Greg,
The best (in my opinion) are creatine and beta-alanine. Of course you can't go wrong with a quality whey protein as well.