Everyone’s natural potential to build muscle mass differs from one person to the next, as do the number of years it takes to hit that point. What we can say for sure, however, is that it takes time – about three to four years, on average – and lots of hard work in the gym in order to see significant muscle gains. So what’s realistic? How much muscle can you realistically build in your first year of training?
The Science Behind Maximum Muscle Growth
Research from the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University (McMaster.ca) looked into the maximum amount of muscle that a person can build in a single year by training and dieting.
The team behind this study recruited untrained males who were not currently participating in any type of exercise program and split them into two groups: 1 group trained for 10 weeks before being given six weeks off; the other group remained sedentary for 10 weeks followed by six weeks of regular exercise.
After the six-week break period, they switched their workouts to continue alternating between activity and rest periods. Over a one-year period, both groups showed improvements in muscle size and strength when compared with the control group.
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However, more significant changes occurred during the first 6 months of training when compared with those seen after 12 months. These findings suggest that it takes less than 6 months to reach maximal gains in muscular size if one is healthy and trains consistently for about an hour each day or three times per week.
What Size Will I Reach In My First Year Of Training?
If you’re new to lifting weights, it’s a good idea to do an introductory course in weightlifting before you start. It’ll help you learn the proper form and give you a jumpstart on picking up muscle-building knowledge.
The initial bulk of your muscle gain will happen within your first few months of training due to the newbie effect. Studies show that experienced lifters take 8-12 weeks to see significant gains while those who are new see results after just four weeks.
As such, it’s common for people with no weightlifting experience to put on 15 pounds or more during their first year of training. If you’re new and you want to reach 25 pounds of muscle within one year then be prepared for a lot of hard work! The most rapid increase in strength and size typically occurs within the first six months of training.
After this time period, progress becomes slower but still makes steady gains each month. One study found that novice weightlifters gained an average of 1/2 pound per week during their first eight weeks of strength training (10 pounds total) while those who had been lifting longer made only half as much progress in their first eight weeks (5 pounds total). That said, building muscle isn’t something that happens overnight.
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Maintaining what you’ve built is going to require time and patience as well. In general, muscles grow about 5% bigger when they recover from being worked and shrunk down when they don’t get used. Take the classic biceps curl for example: If you curl 10 pounds 20 times, then your biceps will swell by about 5%. However, if you never use them again afterwards, they’ll shrink back down to where they were originally.
In order to maintain a higher level of growth, you need to constantly challenge yourself through both heavy weightlifting sessions and lighter ones where you try different exercises like curls and tricep extensions.
What Does It Mean To Get Huge?
When you want to build muscle and gain size it’s not just about hitting the gym hard and being consistent with your workouts. It’s also about eating a diet plan that is high in protein and carbohydrates.
It can take months for these results to be visible so you need to be patient! And then when the time comes, instead of gaining just 5 pounds of muscle like some people may think; it will be more like 10-15 pounds if you are following the right guidelines.
One way to measure gains is to see how much fat around your midsection shrinks when training diligently. If you’ve been training consistently but still notice fat on your stomach and don’t know why, try to step up your cardio routine by doing 30 minutes at least 4 times per week. You should also be drinking lots of water throughout the day because dehydration can slow down progress.
If all else fails and there is no progress or even weight loss happening, consult with a nutritionist who might have some insight into what could be going wrong. For many, food allergies can cause an unhealthy reaction and lead to inflammation.
Try cutting out gluten or dairy from your diet for two weeks and see if there is any improvement. There are plenty of food substitutes available at health food stores that offer easy solutions like almond milk for dairy milk.
Who Is This For – Beginners or Intermediates?
Many people think it’s easy to build a significant amount of muscle in their first year of training and get discouraged when they don’t see results immediately. The truth is that it takes time and consistency to build a solid foundation.
With that said, we compiled a general timeline for someone who has never been in the gym before but wants to train for at least an hour three times per week:
1-3 months: 0-4 lbs of muscle gained
4-6 months: 4-8 lbs of muscle gained 2 years: 12-16 lbs of muscle gained
A good goal would be to shoot for around 4lbs per month during this timeframe.
Aiming for anything more than this is a recipe for disaster and will lead to stagnation or injury. For those wanting to gain mass, you’re better off starting with building a strong foundation and then adding weight. In order to make progress quickly, take advantage of compound movements like squats and deadlifts while using moderate weights so you can stimulate as many muscles as possible.
Keep doing those two exercises until you can perform them with perfect form 3x/week without fail before moving on. Remember – it doesn’t matter how much weight you lift; if your form is sloppy then you won’t make any progress! At this point, you should start to add in isolation exercises.
Bodyweight versions of these are a great way to get started since you don’t need any equipment and it forces you to balance the strength between opposing muscle groups.
Remember that diet plays a huge role in building muscle.
Eating enough protein will ensure your body repairs and builds new muscle tissue effectively. Add extra calories from fats and carbs too if necessary because these provide energy which will allow you additional training sessions each week without overtraining.
Are There Exceptions To These Guidelines – Yes. But Very Few.
Unfortunately there are exceptions to these guidelines. Some people can build more muscle than what’s discussed here and some will build less. There are many variables that go into how much muscle one person builds as opposed to another such as age, genetics, and hormone levels.
I have seen some people develop a really well-muscled physique in the first year while others barely add any muscle mass. It is also important to note that these guidelines don’t account for changes in diet, so an increase or decrease of caloric intake may affect your results.
For most men, the guideline of gaining 10 pounds of muscle is realistic but it should be noted that this number might vary depending on factors like genetics or diet changes (e.g., adding protein shakes).
For women, this might be difficult without a weight gain supplement since they are typically carrying around 15% body fat on average which equates to about 15 pounds of body weight – if not more! It is also worth noting that you can’t target specific muscles when training so it is difficult for women to change their body shape significantly without adding muscle all over.