Can I REALLY get bigger?

I have a very thin frame.

As a child, I was bedridden much of the time with a throughly UNFUN bout of asthma. As a result, it is possible that I may not have had the proper nutrients, or calories, or something.

Anyhow, I’m not entirely sure why, but, as a 5’11" male at nineteen years of age, I have perhaps one of the smallest frames of anybody I know. It’s not a pure matter of muscle, it seems as though my BONES are quite literally, smaller than they should be. It’s mostly an aethetic insecurity, so it’s not as if my well being is resting on an answer, but I would appreciate if anybody could lend some advice.

IS it possibile for me to, as an example, make my wrists any thicker, so I can finally wear a watch without it knocking against my hand? Or is it a matter of certain excercises to build muscle around the skeleton itself?

I appreciate any answers you can lend, I’ve been a fan of Straight Dope since I first found the site, somewhere back in middle school. Hopefully I’ve honed my wit enough to prepare. :eek:

Human growth hormone + intensive weight lifting sounds like your main chance (at this point) to bulk up your frame, but at 19 you’d better be quick about it, and get a doctor’s recommendation and supervison before you consider anything like this.

Regulation of bone mass by growth hormone

Good Lord, just wait, my child. Wait till you’re 35 or so, and in the meantime, enjoy all the high-fat, high-calorie foods you want, and never exercise. When you hit your mid-thirties, you ought to fill out, and then some. Report back then.

Nineteen? You’re still a child, lad. Be thin and be happy. It will last for awhile but not forever.

Boy did I misread this OP… :smack: with all the penis threads lately I thought you were one of those :rolleyes:

Sorry dude, yeah putting on some bulk ain’t hard to do.
You’re 5’11" & you weigh what?
I wish I could loan you some muscle. I’m like 5’8" and it’s hard for me to stay under 200# and I am not fat.

Room Finder Do I understand right, this is your FIRST post? Well, if so, let me be the first to say welcome to the SDMB. :slight_smile:
If you are really interested in bulking up let me know. It takes work and dedication and 19 isn’t a kid anymore. I’ve done a LOT of training with folks in this area. Bones are very difficult to modify if THAT is a weakness, but it’s not impossible. I’ll go ahead and give you a clue, my wife (recently deceased, car accident AND my daughter both have/had Muscular Dystrophy) OKAY…
I have had a LOT of experience in helping underdeveloped bodies to “muscle up”.
Like I said, it takes some work though, but nothing exraordinary. Mostly diet and a regular workout…you will need to get a COMPLETE physical however to ensure that you don’t overstress you abilities.
Have you ever been involved in a weightlifting program? What (if any) sports have you participated in?
These kinds of things are factors that must be considered plus genetics and most importantly…are you willing to dedicate yourself to a regular workout and diet?
If so, write me…if not then let nature take its course. You will probably enjoy being thin when most people are fighting their weight gain in another 20 years or so.

It is possible but how much can be managed is dependant on a number of things.

Follow the link below to more detailed information on how to think of an exercise regimen that will help with this issue.

I can speak as a physician, molecular biologist and from personal experience. This is not, however, medical advice. I’m not a specialist in the field; I haven’t examined you; and this is just off the top of my head (the info may be a little out of date)

First off, Human Growth Hormone is probably not even an option at your age. It simply doesn’t do what astro thinks it does.

In low levels it may assist muscle mass development, but risks aside (and I don’t advocate hormones for this kind of use, at all), it’s not the even a particularly good hormone for muscle development at your stage of life. It isn’t particularly efficacious at increasing bone girth.

Since you are 5’ 11", you are most likely at or near your ultimate adult height. Most of your bone growth is over. At doses that affect body form (vs. the low doses used -with debatable safety- to promote muscle growth in older people), you are likely to experience uneven bone growth in the more susceptible joints. Classically this includes acromegaly (uneven growth of some bones of the face and jaw) and arachnodactyly (long spider-like spindly fingers). These were recorded in people with overactive growth hormone long before HGH was available commercially, and are seen in “late stage” juvenile supplementation by physicians. Alas you rarely hear about the “failures” in the rah-rah pro hormone press.

Leaving aside the considerable possible health risks, HGH will primarily act at the remaining active epiphyseal growth plates (thin growth regions near, but not at, the end of your long bones). The result: you’d likely become be taller and ganglier, with possibly some body parts out of proportion (and not the ones you might want). This is called “longitudinal growth” or extension of the long thin bones.

I’m not throwing fancy words at you to impress you. They are useful search terms for you to do your own research, and confirm what I say. I wish there were a simpler way, but the more detailed the concepts, the more you run out of simple words to distinguish between simple ideas. It stuns me that someone can baldly give you advice that might damage you or even eventually shorten your life, without a second thought. There is a reason that some of us spend extra decades in school, hunched over boring books, and it’s not just to make money. I made more money running a computer company in the 1980s than I do now. (But I’m happier now – though I was happy then!)

While bone density (the “bone bank” astro mentioned) is desirable, you are seeking bone girth, which is a very different thing. Both are best helped by exercise, because bone is actively remodeled when a load is placed on it regularly: osteoblast cells constantly lay down new bone throughout your life, and osteoclasts constantly resorb bone to adjust its shape. These processes occur at a significant rate, especially at your age, and when actively stimulated by use: think of your friends who’ve broken bones (a fairly modest injury at 19, but a fairly serious one at 90), and how completely they healed in a matter of months.

I also speak from personal experience. I was skinny at about your age, and grew muscular - a husky he-man, compared to everyone else in my extended family- simply through normal life activities. Since you mentioned watches and wrists, I’ll discuss tha in more detail.

I had slender “surgeon” fingers and hands. (actually, most well-practiced surgeons don’t have those for long–it’s just a popular misconception ) The major power muscles of the hand are in the forearm, and the force is transmitted to your fingers through tendons (put your fingers around your fingers, forearms or wrists and flex your fingers individually: you’ll feel where the muscles doing the real work are) For this reason, normal strength training will mostly build your forearms, not your hands and wrists

The “intrinsic” hand muscles (which will help keep your watch on) are easily and quickly developed by combining force and delicate wor. In my case, I developed both dramatically working on my car (a common teenboy activity, back in my day) doing plumbing (for myself family and friends), home repairs, etc.

This not only strengthened and bulked my fingers/hands, but thickened the bones and tendons of my wrist, By comparison, I’d done a fair amount of martial arts in my late teens (which included some board- and brick- breaking stunts back then), and though that undoubtedly strengthened my bones (and, I often suspect, did a bit of enduring damage) it didn’t bulk up my hands and wrists that much. Trust me, a few hours of straining to awkwardly attach blind nuts, gripping pilers at every angle, hammering studs, fixing plumbing, yardwork etc. each month will make your watches fit, will save you a lot of money, and build valuable sweat equity in your home (or your parent’s home, etc.)

Good results can also come from more “casual” exercises with grip strengtheners, etc. I used those as a teenager, too, but they didn’t have as much effect as the varying challenges of productive work–but in my mid-late 20s and through my 30s, they did have quick, very noticeable effects, and are certainly more convenient later when you have kids, who make more demands on your time

For general body development and basic “bulking up”, I found isometric exercise (straining opposing mucle pairs against each other with no change in body position) to be excellent. I never had a body builder’s physique, but I did put on 20-30 lbs of muscle in several months on a regime of 5-10 minutes of painless exercise 4x a day (often during lectures or while watching TV – it’s an almost unnoticeable activity) There are plenty of good books on stretching and isometrics, and they’ll offer a greater variety of exercises and advice than I can.

Exercise doesn’t have to involve a heath club, equipment or scheduling. Sports and other activities are wonderful for cardiovascular and other benefits, but whether you are athletically inclined or not (I was; it didn’t bulk me up much) you can develop the basic girth and mass you seek with other activities.

I still periodically do those exercises today, and I can see/feel the effects in a matter of weeks. Some of that is from experience (you get better at going the exercises effectively over time) but if I recall correctly, the effects on my upper body development were pretty clear within the first few months when I started as a teenager.

In fact, when I hit send, I’m going to start putting up post-its around the house and office. It’s about time for me to start yet another biennial cycle of isometrics.

Bear in mind that while you can make considerable improvements to your physique, you’re going to be limited by your slender build. You’re probably also going to gain more slowly than someone who’s more of a mesomorph. That’s not to discourage you, but rather to manage your expectations.

The most important thing is to eat enough to support your growth, and that may be harder than the actual exercise.

Not to be flip, but a lot of women’s watches these days don’t look like “women’s” watches, and you could get one that fits snugly against your wrist without being oversized. So you could at least solve the watch problem.

If you work out a lot and eat a lot, you may bulk up. Then again you may not. I am 5’10" and still very thin. I pumped iron and got a lot stronger, but was still thin. The down side is you’ll never be a sports star, due to the lack of size. The big plus which lasts a lot longer is, you can eat as much of anything you want, and not have to diet. I’m 51 now, till thin (middle age spread never happened), but I can still eat everything and anything, and get away with it. I also still have good blood pressure (for my age, at 130/80), virtually no cholesterol, no heart trouble, and can wear the same clothes I fit into in my 20’s. Being thin does have an up side. “All you can eat” buffets fear me :smiley:

How much do you weigh? At 5’11" you are a reasonable height for a guy, so unless you are really really light, I don’t see much of a problem here.

I used to be rather scrawny as a teenager, but both my friend and I are rather alarmed that adult-ness is already starting to kick in, as both our bodies are filling out in their respective predispoisitions. So give yourself a couple of years to see if your body fills out all that concave space in your chest.

I can speak as a physician, molecular biologist and from personal experience. This is not, however, medical advice. I’m not a specialist in the field; I haven’t examined you; and this is just off the top of my head (the info may be a little out of date)…


I hateto follow up your excellent near-treatise with the following response, but here goes. In one of his weightlifting books, Arnold Schwarzeneggar divides bodybuilders into at least two groups: ectomorphs and mesomorphs. The bottom line is that even the ectomorphs were really, really bulked up. They had smaller frames, but could rip a door off its hinges, no trouble. Judging from the pictures, however, one is immediately suspicious of anabolic steroid use.

If you pump iron and match your workouts with protein-intense, high-caloric diets, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to bulk up.

Let me start things out by expressing my sincere gratitude and awe at the lot of you. Since I started reading the SDMB about five years ago, I did and still do think it’s one of the more reassuring reminders that maybe we humans aren’t doomed, after all. :smiley:

Back on subject, for those asking, I weight about 135 pounds, with very little body fat and very little muscle, as well, and at 5’11" the result is a very slender build. Although, perhaps my initial post was somewhat dramatic. My desire to bulk up is a more aethetic want, than anything particularly pressing to my health, and I can always use a pocket watch if my wrists don’t someday fill out.

However, the desire still remains, and having recieved a number of conflicting suggestions and expectations (hormone and steroids are right out), I’m still unsure as to whether, physically, it’s POSSIBLE, and plausible, that certain excercises or actions might squeeze a few more millimeters out of my bone structure. If excercise is the best options, which seems to be the case, are isometrics the way to go? Wouldn’t something higher-impact have more of a ‘healing’, and thus, thickening effect on my skeleton? From what I understand, wrists, fingers, ankles, and the like are mostly just collections of joints of tendons, but ARE there underlying muscular structures that could be thickened? Or should I just become a spelunker and learn to wiggle through tiny cracks because nobody else can?

Room Finder, for what it’s worth, my husband was about 5’9" or 5’10" and 125 pounds soaking wet when he was 17. He bulked up a bit when he was 18 and 19, because he was maturing AND because he was going through boot camp in the Air Force. For quite a few years after that, he was well-filled out, not too heavy, not too thin. He is fairly active, physically. These days, though, he can’t get below 200 pounds.

Do some exercise, but enjoy your thin days. While some people remain naturally slim all their lives, in my experience, most men do bulk up sometime between their teens and the time they hit 25. This is small comfort, I know.

I’ll add another “personal experience” story to the mix, just to reassure you.

When I was 19, I was 6’4" and weighed about 132 lbs. soaking wet. I had many of the same concerns you had, but no natural explanation like you (the asthma.) I was just frigging skinny. :slight_smile: Pants hung off me, because it was hard to find Levi’s with 29 waist and 36 inseam and I had the same problem wearing a watch as you do. But, over time, my crazy metabolism slowed some, I ate whatever my heart desired and now I’m a very healthy, fit 188 lbs.

Of course, we are all different and I would never try to predict anyone’s future weight. On the other hand, I thought you might want to know that your aren’t the first with a very slender build and that it is possible to fill out a bit given some time.


An out of the blue thought: Do you know whether you were given significant amounts of oral steroids (prednisone etc., NOT the anabolics which are a different animal entirely) for the asthma? I know this can cause some growth suppression in children though at 5’11" I doubt it’s done much to you. However, I know it can cause osteoporosis when taken long-term. If you had a lot of steroids as a child, could this conceivably cause smaller bones? How do your bones compare with those of your family members? do you appear significantly more slender than your relatives?

I hate to be flip, but take this from a guy who did go from scrawny to “reasonably powerful-looking.”

Simply put, just go lift. Lifting will make you hungry. Solve that problem by eating (a lot, high-calorie, high-protein). Which will give you more energy to lift.

(of course, cardio twice a week and enough stretching to keep you loose and avoid injury)

My advice is simple for this one reason:

It’s the best way to get bigger. And even if you don’t get bigger, you’ll certainly be stronger, and in better health. So there really is no downside.

Ronnie Coleman (former Mr. Olympia) has modified versions of his workouts for beginners and bodybuilders of all levels. I use them and am a big fan of his.

I also wholeheartedly recommend buying a few basic books on nutrition and weight training and absorbing the concepts. And get someone to show you how to do the lifts correctly with free weights, which are infinitely preferable to machines.

If you want to e-mail me, I can give you the workouts I started with. They ought to fit a guy your size.

In a word, yes and yes. I was on a number of fairly frequant inhaled steroids, prednisone included, from about age 5 to about 12, with doses large enough to give me the shakes. I am significantly skinnier than my generally muscular family, and then some. However, in terms of height I’m about average, perhaps an inch or two shorter than my father but somewhat taller than my mother. I doubt it was the medication that suppressed my widthwise growth, as much as my lack of excercise and nutrition during my illness.