How Fast Should You Gain Muscle Mass When Working Out?

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about Muscle Building and the rate of growth you can expect.

So how fast should you gain muscle mass when working out? It’s rarely a one shot answer.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to pack on the muscle in a short period of time, while others might be overjoyed when you put on 5-6 lbs of lean body mass in a year?

It’s about how much muscle can you build and the answer isn’t just so straight forward or simple.

Consider the following: The average man has between 30% to as much as 60% of his lean body mass as actual muscle. The average women has between 25% to 50% of her lean body mass as actual muscle.

Muscular growth is rarely a liner process and tends to come in a series of cycles.

“You cannot calculate your actual muscle gain, short of having a biopsy.”Jeremy Likeness, Certified Personal Trainer and Body Transformation Expert

That means that no matter what you eat, how hard you train or what supplements you take, muscle growth will never come at a predicable steady rate. This makes those 10-12 pounds of muscle a year for a natural bodybuilder a myth along with any other hard numbers telling you how much actual muscle to expect or any references to the actual rate of growth.

Here’s just a short list of the things that can influence your muscle growth:

  • holidays
  • injuries
  • illness
  • nutrition
  • training
  • sleep
  • medications
  • complications called “life”
  • and more…

By the way…

Some people are genetically predisposed at packing on lean body mass and can just look at a weight and gain muscle (you know those people right?). Others have to work like the dickens to just gain an ounce of muscle and their rate of growth is slower.

Researchers from the Netherlands, Van Etten, L.M., Verstappen, F.T., & Westerterp, K.R. studied the effect of body build on weight-training-induced adaptations in body composition and muscular strength. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26, 515-521. In the study they found that men with a “solid” build gained more muscle than men with a “slender” build following a 12-week weight-training program .

Although fat-free mass increased in both groups, the slender guys gained only 0.7 pounds (0.3 kilograms) versus 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms) in the solid group. My point is…

The nearer you get to your muscular genetic potential, the slower the gains will be. This is known by exercise professionals as the ceiling of adaptation. The longer you’ve been training, the slower your gains will be. Somebody like me who’s been training for 17 years will gain less muscle mass than a new trainer who’s just started out in the first 6 weeks.

So what does this mean to you?

That being said, based on the consensus of the available studies, the average trainee can gain roughly 2-4% of their initial weight in the form of muscle after 6 weeks of regular resistance exercise. These figures are based on the results of studies using trained subjects with a body fat percentage of 10-15%. Extremely lean or obese individuals would be hard to predict.

None of the studies I could find made reference to a female’s ability to build muscle so my best guess is about half of the male studies but I can’t prove that as there’s no research to fall back on. Let’s face it…

How much muscle can I gain is not a linear approach. You won’t keep growing at the same rate forever. In fact, the studies that do reference muscle growth were only on male trainees in the first 6 weeks of training. That seems somewhat predictable but after those 6 weeks, you need to know what to expect and it’s not going to be the same number week after week or year after year.

Over the course of a year, it’s rare for people to add more than 25 lbs of muscle but it’s very possible for them to add more than 25 lbs of lean body mass. Lean body mass defined as a combination of anything that is not fat. And that’s why…

Increasing your lean body mass is something you can track and calculate and should be your focal point to determine your progression. How much muscle you build in a given time period is not because it’s not a linear process and it can’t realistically be determined short of a biopsy.

“A beginner on a decent training and nutrition program might be able to gain 25 pounds of muscle in their first year of training. In year two, we can cut that number in half, giving you a gain of 10-12 pounds. In year three, the gains will be halved again, giving you 5-6 pounds of new muscle.” – Christin
Finn

If you are gaining more lean body mass that is generally a positive because you are gaining more muscle than fat. For most weight-gainers, .5 pounds per week would be an even more realistic goal as they reach their genetic limit. Frankly…

Staying focused on your goal by training intensely, eating consistency and engaging in proper recovery are things you can control and will result in your optimization of lean body mass.

Remember that gaining muscle is a long-term project. If you’re dedicated and consistent in your efforts, you will not be disappointed.

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
www.nobullbodybuilding.com

Categories: Natural Bodybuilding

  • Kevin

    You don’t have to be dead to have a biopsy, that’s an autopsy. A biopsy is a medical procedure that removes just a small sample of tissue, alive or dead, for diagnostics purposes.

  • Kevin

    You don’t have to be dead to have a biopsy, that’s an autopsy. A biopsy is a medical procedure that removes just a small sample of tissue, alive or dead, for diagnostics purposes.

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  • Doc

    Some thoughts on this. I suspect that some guys are perhaps way under potential muscle mass when they start training. Lets say someones natural set point might be 190# and circumstances, such as being a literallly starving student has kept their weight down. If this guy starts eating well, and training properly I suspect that he would very rapidly gain to that set point of 190#. I also suspect that if someone has trained hard in the past, and circumstances have prevented training for some time that when they start training again that their gains will be more rapid because their myocytes will already have more nuclei. Finally I would bet that the recovery period post workout on the cellular level becomes shorter with repeated training, because the molecular machinery for this will become more adapted to this activity. Any responses?

  • Doc

    Some thoughts on this. I suspect that some guys are perhaps way under potential muscle mass when they start training. Lets say someones natural set point might be 190# and circumstances, such as being a literallly starving student has kept their weight down. If this guy starts eating well, and training properly I suspect that he would very rapidly gain to that set point of 190#. I also suspect that if someone has trained hard in the past, and circumstances have prevented training for some time that when they start training again that their gains will be more rapid because their myocytes will already have more nuclei. Finally I would bet that the recovery period post workout on the cellular level becomes shorter with repeated training, because the molecular machinery for this will become more adapted to this activity. Any responses?

  • erik

    I agree with doc. I have experienced all these scenarios myself. I gained 25lbs in just 5-6 weeks when I first started training. A huge amount of muscle but I was very underweight and ate next to nothing whilst spending most of my time playing cimputer games. Once I looked “normal” I got hooked on training due to the rapid gains but after 3 months my gains slowed considerably. I eventually stopped training after a year and lost most of my muscle except the initial 25lbs I gained which I beleive I'd only lose if I starved myself again. Gaining muscle after having not trained for about 6 months was easy and I attribute this to muscle memory and I quickly gained back any muscle lost. I stopped training again for well over a year however and not only did I lose muscle mass but also the muscle memory. I ate perfectly and trained the same but I imagine myocite degeneration must occure if a training lay off is too long bringing you back to square 1. As a result it has taken 6 months instead of 3 to regain all my muscle mass. I am experiencing scenario 3 now. Having continued training with high volume russina style training programs I have adapted to lifting much more frequently while still making very good gains. There is however a limit here too. As ones strength increases significantly so does the stress on the body and muscular recovery will take longer. I understand your recovery ability cannot increase more than 30% above a beginners level.

    As for being able to predict muscle growth in a linear fashion I must say I am always amazed at how unpredictable the human body is. There is definitely no way of telling when you will have growth spurt or how large that growth spurt will be. It is very possible to add an inch to your arms in a couple days or inches to your legs in as short a time. The reality is ofcourse is you didn't add an inch to your arms or legs in a couple days but by training hard for months. I also noticed that certain people will gain in much more frequent growth spurts but in smaller increments. Imagine if a correlation between muscle growth and verticle growth in teens could be made. In my own case being one to have infrequent but enormous growth spurts it would be quite accurate.