I am 23 years old with a 6ft height, but I am underweight. How can I improve my weight?

To gain good weight, to bulk, to add muscle, you need to:

  1. Stimulate growth by lifting heavy
  2. Provide fuel for growth by eating a lot
  3. Prioritize your goal by getting your life in order

Most healthy people who do these things gain weight. Mostly muscle.


Tell your body that it needs to get bigger by lifting heavy.

Either buy a barbell and a power rack, or join a gym that has one. Get a copy of Starting Strength (thewiki is a good overview and quick-start guide; the book is a full description of the program, including excellent instructions on the lifts) and start lifting heavy. Compound exercises like squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, and presses will stimulate whole-body growth. Light, easy weights won't make you bigger or stronger, so while it's important to stay safe, make sure you're lifting heavy, challenging weights. Lifting three times per week is probably the best compromise between frequent exercise and ample rest.


Provide your body the raw materials it needs to make you bigger.

Eat a ton of food. Real food is far superior to processed crap, but you'll need to eat a lot. Your best bets are high-animal-protein items like meat, eggs, milk, and fish, but you should also make sure to eat a huge amount of vegetables, greens, starches such as sweet potatoes and rice, and good fats like pastured butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado.

If you're ever hungry, you're not eating enough. When in doubt, eat more. Lots more. Plan your meals. Cook in advance.


There are things which get in the way of growing muscle. Decide if getting bigger and stronger is actually your goal. It's okay if it's not.

Things which can hamper your getting-bigger-and-stronger goal include:

  • Not sleeping enough
  • Not sticking to the heavy-lifting-and-big-eating program detailed above
  • Endurance exercise or high-intensity conditioning, which could include running, cycling, swimming, long hikes, snowboarding, metcons, sprinting, HIIT, ball sports...
  • Being too stressed, working too much, not getting enough sun or social life
  • Being a picky eater
  • Refusing to acquire necessary equipment

Rest is crucial. Sleep is the primary time for your body to grow. Staying up talking with friends is what makes life enjoyable, but six hours of sleep will keep you from growing. The body also does a lot of growing on days off from lifting, so don't fill those up with other exercise. Certain types of exercise are more prone preventing muscle gain than others. Running is great--I love sprints!--but it doesn't help make me bigger.

I want to get bigger and stronger, but sometimes I also want to play Ultimate frisbee or go hiking. When I'm serious about getting bigger, I skip the hiking or keep it short, and I don't play Ultimate. When I'm okay with progressing slowly, I go ahead and play Ultimate and go on longer hikes, but I realize that they are counterproductive to the sole pursuit of getting bigger and stronger.

The same goes for food. I value food quality. I vastly prefer organic vegetables, local produce, and grass-fed meat and eggs for a variety of economic, ethical, and health reasons. For lunch at work, I need to choose between planning ahead and cooking beforehand, getting a factory-farm-meat sandwich from the deli, or going hungry and stymieing my growth. There are similar choices for vegetarians and people with other food restrictions.

Many people are short on money or space, and wonder if there are alternatives to a barbell and squat rack. The simple fact is that barbells are best for getting bigger and stronger. Other methods like dumbbells or even bodyweight exercises definitely work, but a barbell and squat rack is the simplest and fastest solution. Why? First, it can be loaded in small increments, so you can progressively challenge yourself without big jumps in weight. Second, barbells allow for much heavier loads than anything else. Without proper equipment, progress is slower and less effective.

Understand these choices and make them for yourself. For more info follow my Facebook page.

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