How fast can you build muscle?
How fast can you build muscle?
How much muscle can you expect to gain if you train on a good muscle-building schedule?
Every fitness coach probably hears these questions regularly.
The internet is full of workout programs that “guarantee” 10 pounds of muscle gain in just 4 weeks.
How realistic is such an assumption?
I’ve seen athletes with identical training programs and (nearly) identical nutritional plans achieve wildly different results.
What Influences How Fast You Can Build Muscle?
Five key factors affect how quickly you build muscle.
1. Training age
Your training age is when you are already doing strength training.
Beginners build muscle much faster than advanced users who have been training for years. Professionals need the most patience.
2. Hormonal profile
The amount of testosterone and other muscle-building hormones in your body can fluctuate.
Among other things, two factors influence how high your level of muscle-building hormones is:
- Do you do strength exercises that release a lot of testosterone? For example, anyone who neglects leg strength training should not be surprised if there is less free testosterone in the blood and muscle growth stagnates.
- Does your body “naturally” produce more or less testosterone…?
Which brings us to the third point.
“Men build muscle two to three times more easily than women,” a sports scientist friend once told me when we were discussing the subject.
Each of us has the genetic cards that we dealt with at birth.
In science, the Gaussian bell curve is often used to assess larger quantities statistically. For example, 68% of all people fall within the area of the bell curve known as the “genetic average.”
Below I tell you how much muscle you can expect to gain per month if you have “average genes”.
If you’re one of those people with “bad genes” for building muscle – that’s no reason to throw in the towel. On the contrary.
4. Muscle memory
Let’s say you weigh 90 kg and decide to train for a marathon for the next few months. You may well be losing 10 kg of muscle mass during this time.
How long does it take to rebuild the 10 kg of muscles afterwards?
The good news: not for very long. If you eat right, you can do it in maybe 1-2 months. This is because your body has mechanisms to quickly restore a previous muscular state of equilibrium (homeostasis). This ability is often referred to as “muscle memory”.
5. Legal and illegal supplements
Of course, steroids and other potentially harmful performance-enhancing substances can help you build muscle much faster.
But I think you are intelligent enough to refrain from such illegal means.
Some harmless dietary supplements can have a positive effect on muscle growth, such as creatine.
How fast can you build muscle?
I want to give you two models to help you gauge how fast you’ll gain muscle and what to expect from a decent muscle-building program.
1. Model: Muscle building pace according to McDonald
Lyle McDonald is a fitness coach and author who also coaches bodybuilders on nutrition. From him comes the following equation, which indicates how much muscle you can build per month. The table gives the values for men. Women can expect about half.
The estimated kilograms of muscle mass that a man can expect every month in the first year of training is about 250 grams per week. That doesn’t seem like much at first, but it adds up to more than 10 kilos in the first year.
In the following years of training, you can assume that your progress will be halved under optimal conditions.
Each of the five factors above can positively or negatively affect tempo. A prerequisite for these values is a decent training plan and the appropriate muscle-building diet.
While the values given in the table are for men, Lyle assumes about half for women – i.e. 5-6 kilos in the first year.
2. Model: Muscle building pace according to Aragon
Alan Aragon is a fitness coach, nutritionist, and lecturer at the American National Academy of Sports Medicine. It indicates the monthly muscle build-up that is realistically possible without banned substances as a percentage of the current body weight.
Here, too, women can use about half the values.
According to this, a 60 kg beginner can build up to 900 grams of muscle per month (approx. 7-11 kg per year). Here, too, provided that he follows an excellent training plan and sticks to his diet.
If he’s 70kg after a year, as an “advanced” athlete, he can expect to gain another 350-700 grams of muscle per month (about 4-8 kilos in year 2).
The longer he trains, the slower the muscle build-up takes place. Bulky natural bodybuilders have been training for at least 5-10 years.
How serious are muscle-building programs that “guarantee” 5 kg per month?
Under optimal conditions, beginners can expect to gain around 1 kg of muscle per month – beginners around half.
I consider training programs that “guarantee” every customer an increase of 5 kg “lean muscle mass” per month to be dubious.
Through such a program, people who gain 5 kilos of “mass” a month will most likely gain at least 3-4 kilograms of fat – or they are exceptional personalities with an excellent genetic predisposition.
It can be different when it comes to rebuilding muscle mass that you already had.
In this case, 5 kilos a month can be quite realistic.
How fast can you build muscle? Conclusion
If a massive muscle is your goal, you can achieve much in a matter of years with purposeful, consistent training and intelligent nutrition.
Small weekly gains can add up to an impressive amount over several years.
What is also clear: muscle building is not for the impatient – real staying power is required here. The longer you train, the more patience you need if you want to make further progress.
Remember that you will only achieve the muscle-building speed mentioned above if you ensure optimal conditions (training, nutrition, regeneration).
In my experience, consistently building muscle can be much more challenging than losing body fat.
Visible fat loss is more months with the right commitment. Body fat reduction requires some lifestyle and dietary adjustments.
Building muscle, on the other hand, takes years. Continuous training is just as important as the right diet. Overall, this requires more patience and commitment.
If you stick with it for many years and train hard, you can get close to your genetic limit. In this article, you will find out where this natural muscle-building limit is for you.