How quickly can you gain muscle?

How quickly can you gain muscle

Building muscle takes time, effort, dedication, and discipline. But how long does it actually take for the average man or woman to build a decent amount of muscle? If you train properly, how quickly can you gain muscle mass? Learn your potential rate of muscle growth per year!

According to one popular model of muscle growth, presented by Lyle McDonald of BodyRecomposition.com, the average rates of muscle gain that men can expect following proper training and nutrition vary depending on years of training experience. In his first year of proper training and nutrition, the average man can expect to gain between 20 and 25 pounds of muscle, which equates to approximately two pounds of muscle mass per month. As illustrated in Table 1, the rate of muscle gain then starts to plummet.

Years of proper training Potential rate of muscle growth per year
Men Women
1 20–25 lb (2 lb/month) 10–12.5 lb (1 lb/month)
2 10–12 lb (1 lb/month) 5–6 lb (0.5 lb/month)
3 5–6 lb (0.5 lb/month) 2.5–3 lb (0.25 lb/month)
4+ 2–3 lb (not worth calculating) 1–1.5 lb (not worth calculating)
Table 1. Average rate of potential male and female muscle growth per year.

Females could expect to achieve half of the values in Table 1, for example, 10 to 12.5 pounds of muscle gain in the first year of proper training and nutrition. One of the main reasons is that women tend to have far less testosterone, which is, of course, a major growth hormone.

Age is not mentioned in the model, but is a factor: Mature individuals will probably see less of a gain than young individuals.

McDonald makes the point that a man who has been following a poor training program for four years and therefore has gained very little muscle mass may still be able to gain 20 to 25 pounds of muscle in his fifth year of training if he starts training and eating properly. Likewise, a woman who has been following a poor training program for four years may still be able to gain 10 to 12.5 pounds of muscle in her fifth year of training if she starts training and eating properly.

If the values in the table are summed, it suggests that the average male can expect to gain between 37 and 46 pounds of lean muscle mass in his first four years of proper training and nutrition, after which he can expect to gain only two to three pounds of muscle mass in each subsequent year of training. The average woman, on the other hand, can expect to gain between 18.5 and 23 pounds of lean muscle mass in her first four years of proper training and nutrition, after which she can expect to gain only one to two pounds of muscle mass in each subsequent year of training.


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