If I had a dollar for everytime one of my clients asked me “how long does it take to build muscle” I would be sitting on a beach somewhere retired, unfortunately I’m not, and what is even more unfortunate is that there is no clear cut answer for this due to all the variables that happen from person to person.
My answer to this question every time is this, you will see the best and quickest results when you give everything you have during every single workout no matter what is going on in your life at the moment, in other words, NO EXCUSES. Work your ass off and you will see amazing results, half ass your workouts and you will see half ass results, It really is that simple.
This article won’t help you with the work ethic and mentality you approach every workout with, that’s up to you. What I can help you with is what you need to do in and out of the gym to give yourself the best chance at seeing the quickest muscle growth while doing it safely.
This article will explain how muscle growth occurs, the best way to train them, how much rest you need, what you should eat, and it will set the right expectations so that you know what to expect.
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What Makes Your Muscles Grow
Your body’s daily job is to keep you alive, everything from you breathing, walking, digesting food to even laughing needs energy and resources to allow it to happen. Your body will only use these resources to build muscle if it feels challenged or threatened enough to warrant this action, and if it has extra resources to lend to it.
Simply put, you have to lift regularly and heavy to give your body a reason to feel like it needs to increase its strength and you have to eat a proper diet that will give your body the fuel to build muscle.
The first time you ask your muscles to do something challenging and unfamiliar is when your body will start to strengthen them, no matter what form of strength training you choose to perform it will cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, as your body repairs these cells through muscle protein synthesis the tiny cells are repaired by your body laying down new contractile proteins, and this is what causes your muscle to become bigger over time.
How Long Does It Take To See Visible Muscle Growth
This is actually a trick question. Seeing visible muscle growth depends on how much fat you have on your body.
On average, about 8 weeks into a strength training routine you should notice a difference in your strength, and how much weight you’re using during your workouts.
If you actually see a difference in your body at this time is going to depend on how much excess fat you’re carrying, you’re not going to see any definition if there is a layer of fat over top of your newly built muscle.
To make matters even worse, you might actually see a little more weight gain since in order to build muscle you have to be on a calorie surplus which will make you gain a little fat while building muscle.
This is why it’s recommended not to start bulking until your body fat percentages is between 12 and 15%, going on a calorie surplus with this little amount of body fat on you will prevent you from storing an excess amount of fat and will also be easier to lose once you decide to go on a cutting phase after bulking.
How Much Muscle Growth Will A New Lifter See Compared To An Experienced Lifter.
This surprises a lot of people but when you’re just starting to lift weights you will actually grow muscle much faster then someone who has been doing it for a couple years.
This is because your body reacts differently when it first experiences the challenge of lifting heavy weights. At first your body is learning how to use its neurological system to fire its individual muscle cells to allow you to start and finish each exercise.
A good example would be the first time you do a barbell squat, your legs probably feel a little shaky, and your balance is a little off. This is due to your neurological system not having the proper muscle memory to know what muscle fibers to fire in order for you to smoothly complete the movement.
On average these neurological adaptations will last 5 to 8 weeks and this is when you’ll see the biggest jump in strength and size
You’ll hear people talk about losing weight while building muscle, but this is only possible for brand new lifters to accomplish, this is because of the neurological effects, hypertrophy, and protein synthesis combined. If you’re losing weight while trying to bulk up and you’re not new to lifting then most likely you’re not eating enough calories, or you’re doing to much cardio.
An experienced lifter grows muscle through protein synthesis and hypertrophy only, causing the amount of muscle growth to be reduced. Another reason is that everyone has genetic limitations and the closer you get to yours the harder it is to continually build muscle.
If you plan on making this a habit for years to come you’ll notice that bodybuilding results have there ebbs and flows and you need to continuously evolve the way you target your individual muscle groups to see results.
How Long Does It Take To Build 1 Pound Of Muscle.
As the previous paragraph explained this will depend on your experience level, a brand new lifter will build a pound of weight in about 2 weeks, an intermediate lifter will gain 1 to 2 pounds a month and an experienced lifter will probably be less than half a pound per month.
Remember, this is all averages that depend on your genes, work ethic, and diet.
Increments Of Muscle Gain
- One pound of muscle – It will only take you a couple weeks to build your first pound of muscle especially if you’re a newbie.
- 5 pounds of muscle – It actually won’t take you very long to put on 5 pounds of muscle, on average about 10 to 12 weeks.
- 10 pounds of muscle – If you’re eating a proper muscle building diet that limits the amount of excess fat you gain, then about 7 to 8 months into your strength training routine you and everyone else will really start to notice your physical transformation.
- 20 pounds of muscle – This is when it starts to become very hard to build more muscle, it will take about 2 years for you to hit the 20 pound mark. The only good thing is that if you stuck with it for this long then you obviously enjoy it and don’t mind putting the time in.
- Above 20 pounds of muscle – Unless you hit the genetic lottery you will have a hard time building more than 20 pounds of muscle. Everyone has a ceiling they hit keeping them from adding on more muscle. To hit this point you will need superhero genes and anywhere from 5 to 7 years of consistent training.
What To Expect In The Beginning Weeks
Let us get this out of the way first, you are going to be sore after your first couple of workouts, especially after your first leg routine (good luck sitting on the toilet the next day). This due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) this is simply the soreness you feel from breaking down your muscle fibers and the resulting act of your body repairing them.
You should not be overly sore though, if you hurt so bad that you can’t move then you used to much weight, or you did to many reps.
Another important thing to look out for is if your joints are sore, if you’re experiencing swelling, pain, or discomfort in your joints then you were doing the exercise wrong and you need to learn the proper form and technique before trying to do this or any other exercise.
This is why you’re doing it right, you want to feel, look, and be stronger, and if you train with the right intensity and continually progress how much weight you lift, it isn’t uncommon at all for you to add 10 to 15 pounds on your bench press or 40 to 50 pounds on your squats in a month’s time.
Increase in body weight
I’ve mentioned before that you need to be on a calorie surplus in order to give your body the fuel it needs to build muscle, unfortunately no matter how well you eat you will gain some excess fat during a bulking cycle.
If you’re gaining more than a pound a week you should look into how many calories you’re eating, a general guideline is if you’re gaining half a pound a week then most of it is muscle, if it’s more than that you may be adding a little bit of fat also.
The Right Expectations For Your 1st 2nd And 3rd Month Of Lifting Weights.
1 to 2 months – The first sign will be an increase in strength, you’ll be doing a mundane chore around the house and you’ll realize that it isn’t as taxing as it used to be. The repetitive training plus proper nutrition is giving your body the motivation and fuel to build muscle.
3 to 4 months – If you’re following a nutrition plan that is adding a calorie surplus using whole foods, then you should start to notice a difference in the way your body looks,
6 months plus – At this stage your changes are noticed by you and everyone you know, beyond visible aesthetics you’ll also have increased your bone density, your serotonin levels would have gone up making you less stressed and happier, and your sleep habits should be better.
Women VS Men (How Long Does It Take For Women To Build Muscle)
There is only one difference when it comes to building muscle in both genders and that is the amount of testosterone each sex has. If you go by the averages a women will build muscle slower than a man
It is true that the average male has more testosterone than the average female, but different men have varying amounts of testosterone as do women. There are plenty of cases where women have been tested to have more testosterone than a male counterpart.
My point to this is whether you’re a man or woman, there are countless positive examples to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen, and if you’re having a hard time reaching your goals, then figure out a fitness and nutrition plan that will help overcome your shortcomings.
The Most Important Laws Of Building Muscle
Progression And Intensity
If there is only one thing you remember from this post I want it to be this.
The only way for you to see considerable change in your muscle size and strength is for you to follow the rule of progression and intensity.
You have to attack every workout with the highest amount of intensity that you can manage while still keeping the correct form and technique. Remember, your body needs to be motivated to build muscle and if you’re performing lazy, half ass workouts then your body won’t see a need to build your muscles.
Progression is simply adding to the amount of weight you use, or how many reps you perform.
If you lift the same amount of weight week in and week out then your body is going to adapt to the challenge and it will stop building your muscles. You have to constantly progress your workout in order to keep it challenging.
The best way to know when you’re ready to up your weights is to pay attention to how easy your last couple of reps are. If your last two reps are easy and no longer challenge you then it’s time to progress the amount of weight you’re using.
If the last two reps are hard and leave you physically tired then you’re right where you want to be.
When you do add weight it’s normally a good rule of thumb to not go above 10%, you don’t want to go to high and hurt yourself.
How heavy And How Many Reps Should You Lift
What goal you’re trying to achieve will determine how many reps you do.
To develop maximum strength you need to do lift as heavy as you possibly can for 2 to 6 sets of 6 or fewer reps.
If you’re looking to increase muscle size then you will want to use heavy to moderate weights doing 3 to 6 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
How Much Protein Should I Eat Daily.
You want to eat around 1 gram of 100% whey protein for every pound of body weight you have.
For an example I weigh 182 pounds and I consume between 175 to 190 grams of protein per day.
I reach this amount through whole foods that I prepare myself, and 1 protein shake after my workout.
Train each muscle group twice per week
The latest research shows that your muscles can fully recover within 3 days of an intense workout, that means if you did leg workouts on Monday then you should be hitting the squat rack again on thursday.
This is important because volume is a very important factor wen it comes to hypertrophy. When you perform a larger amount of training at a high intensity (remember the rule of progression and intensity) your body will increase its muscle building faculties.
People that train once per week saw increased hypertrophy by 3.7%, where as people that trained twice per week saw an increase of 6.8%.
That’s a 48% increase, I know I don’t want to lose those types of results
Make Sure To Rest
I have clients tell me all the time that they don’t want to take a rest day, and while I applaud their dedication, rest days are just as important as your training days. You already know how your muscles are broken down from intense training, well the only time they are repaired is when your at rest.
There is no other way around this physiological effect, don’t over train you body no matter how motivated you are.
What Food Should You Eat For Fast Muscle Growth.
I’ve stated many times in this article that you need to eat the proper food in order to give your body the right amount of resources to fuel your muscle growth.
This comes from a well balanced diet of whole foods containing the correct ratio of macronutrients, and micronutrients.
The three macronutrients you will worry about are Proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Protein is the most important macronutrient included in a diet based around building muscle, if you don’t eat enough protein you will not see results. You want to eat protein from whole foods and lean meat.
There are 4 calories in every gram of protein
These are some examples…
- Whole eggs
- egg whites
- skinless chicken breast
- turkey breast
- lean red meats
- cottage cheese
- natural peanut butter
Carbs are your body’s main source of energy without enough carbohydrates you won’t have enough energy to focus and produce the right amount of intensity during your workout that is needed to give you results. You want to include complex carbohydrates into your diet and stay away from simple carbohydrates.
There are 4 calories in every gram of carbs
These are some examples of complex carbs…
- whole grain breads
- white potatoes with skin
- lentils, and beans
- 100% whole wheat pasta
Fat is one of the most controversial dieting topics out there, we have conditioned to think fatty foods are horrible for you and to not include them whenever possible.
You need healthy fats in your diet for many reasons, but you need to make sure you know how much you’re eating since they have more than double the amount of calories in every gram then protein, and carbs.
There are 2 different types of fats. Good fats come from monosaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Bad fats come from transaturated fats.
There are 9 calories in every gram of fats
Here are some examples of healthy fats…
- olive oil
- natural peanut butter
- almond butter
- Dark chocolate
Macro Calculator provided by calculators.tech
How Does Cardio Fit Into Your Strength Training Routine.
There is a myth that you should avoid cardio while weight training this isn’t completely true.
Where this stems from is how you need to eat an additional amount of calories everyday to give your body the right amount of resources i order to build muscle.
If you do too much cardio you run the risk of burning those calories off for that day and hindering your results.
One or two days of cardio per week isn’t going to kill your gains, and it will also help you limit your excess fat storage, so that you don’t have to do as long of an cutting phase after you’re done bulking.
Tracking Your Results
It is imperative that you print out or make up an exercise log so that every time you workout you can write down what exercise you did, how weight you used, how many sets, and how many reps.
You do this because you want to be able to track your progress, and look back at what you did last week and either increase the weight or the reps to every exercise to keep progressing (were back to that rule again) I can’t express how important this is if you really want to build muscle.
You also want to keep track of how much weight you’re gaining, obviously if you’re building muscle your bodyweight is going to go up. How much is going to depend on how much muscle your body is able to build due to your fitness level.
You want to make sure you’re not putting on too much fat, this will just make you unhappy with your results and make the cutting phase that much longer( no one likes to cut)
Tips And Exercises That Will Build Your Muscle Fast.
If you’re new to lifting and have never done these compound exercises please watch the videos below and study the form and technique the instructors are using. These are the best exercises you can do, but they are also the most physically demanding, and can cause injury if not done correctly.
- Do compound exercises – Compound exercises differ from isolation moves because they work more than one muscle group, this means you are using heavier weights, and in the end you will trigger more muscle stimuli making you build muscle faster. You’re routine should include, Barbell squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and barbell rows.
- Utilize the barbell – If you don’t own an olympic barbell, buy one. The bar is normally between 60 and 70 pounds allowing you to lift heavier weights, you also have to use stabilizer muscles to balance the barbell during the exercises which will trigger more muscle growth.
- Squats – Barbell squats are one of the most physically demanding compound exercises you can do, they work the entire lower body and due to the stress it causes your body will react by releasing anabolic hormones which increase muscle stimuli and growth. If you find squats to be uncomfortable on your upper shoulders and neck try a neck pad to help support it better.
- Deadlifts – Deadlifts like squats are very demanding on your body and bring great results to muscle growth and developing your back muscles, one of the biggest problems especially for new lifters is that your forearms aren’t developed yet and they give out before your back muscles have been fatigued enough. Picking up a pair of wrist straps will take care of this problem and allow you to sufficiently train the desired muscle group without having to quit.
- The overhead strength is my favorite exercise to target the shoulders, and also works your triceps, chest, and back. It helps strengthen your lockout strength and gives you a full upper body workout.
How to do a barbell squat correctly
How to to a barbell deadlift correctly
How to do an overhead press correctly
There isn’t a definitive answer I can give you to let you know how much muscle you will build in 2, 3, or 4 weeks.
What I can tell you is that the saying “working out is 80% mental and 20% activity” is true.
Following all the tips and exercises cited above will give you the knowledge to know how to become a beast, but if you don’t have the mental fortitude, discipline and commitment none of it will matter.
In the end how much muscle you put on is up to you, and you have a lot more control lover it than you may think.