How quickly can you gain muscle?

Man measuring biceps with tape measure

Building muscle or curves takes time, patience, and dedication, but it is worth the effort. According to one popular model of muscle growth presented by Lyle McDonald of BodyRecomposition.com, the average rate of muscle growth that a man can expect following proper training and nutrition will 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 1.7 to 2.1 pounds of muscle mass per month. As illustrated in Table 1, the rate of muscle growth then starts to plummet.

Potential rate of muscle growth per year

Table 1. Potential rate of muscle growth per year and per month in men and women.

Women who do not take steroids can expect to achieve half of the values in Table 1 — that is, 10 to 12.5 pounds of muscle growth in the first year of proper training and nutrition, equating to 0.8 to 1.0 pounds of muscle mass per month. One of the main reasons is that women tend to have far less testosterone, which is, of course, an important hormone for muscle growth.

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

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 man 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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