Your gym bags are packed, your mindset is lit, and you’re ready and waiting for the ‘Swole Train.
And that is a beautiful place to be!
However, a part of you is wondering what to expect on this journey: you want to pack on the muscle as quickly as possible, but you’re not even sure what a realistic goal to aim for looks like. 5 pounds a month of gains? 10 pounds? Is that aiming too high or too low?
Lucky for you, I’m the conductor of this train, and I’m not leaving you without some important advice and instructions for your ride.
Here, I’ll show you how to determine a rate of muscle growth progress that’s right for you, so you’ll be in the sweet spot when it comes to expectations.
Realistic Muscle Gain Rates
One important thing to keep in mind that’s not often discussed when it comes to muscle gain: like fat loss, it’s often non-linear.
You know how some weeks you’ll be losing fat at a steady rate, then the next week you (annoyingly) lose nothing, then the week after than you drop more than you did the week before?
Oh yeah. Muscle gain can be like that. And, if you’re not prepared for it, you can easily start to think something is wrong with either your training or body.
Before you get worried or throw in the towel, know that gains also depend on a pretty big amount of factors, including: age, biological sex, genetics, consistency with food intake, training experience, intensity, frequency, style, volume, and even stress levels!
This is why determining your realistic rate of muscle gain is pretty individual, even with detailed “average” expectations, so take extra factors applying to your situation into account!
General Expectations For Muscle Gain
Young men (30 and under) can gain 15 to 25 pounds of muscle in their first year of training, and another 10 to 15 pounds in their second year of training.
Young women (30 and under) can gain 8 to 12 pounds of muscle in their first year of training, along with another 4 to 6 pounds in their second year.
Older individuals will typically be expected to gain less due to lower testosterone and growth hormone levels (this is the same reason women also gain less than men). In addition, cellular turnover isn’t as quick in older individuals, and recovery make take longer.
After these initial three-or-so years of training, it often takes years of consistent and intense effort to see incremental gains, so it’s not necessarily reasonable to expect a consistent 15 pounds of muscle gain every year no matter what!
Because of the varying numbers of pounds you can possibly gain in a year, it can be difficult to determine how many pounds you should be putting on per month, because again, these depends on your growth being linear, and your training type and volume.
You could aim for 20 pounds of gain per year, and aim to average 4 pounds a month, but it’s always good to consider things like holidays, vacations, heavy work seasons, and life in general, and set your expectations based on reality, which prevents disappointment from creeping in.
The ultimate key to growth is consistency (in fact, 80% of your results depend upon this!), so set goals that you are able to commit to fully.
Also, always make sure your plan and diet strategy support your growth goals (you need to be lifting with a certain frequency, intensity, and weight). If you need guidance, check out my 12-Week Primal Body Program: a detailed program with a comprehensive strength training plan and nutrition guide to build lean muscle.
What To Do If You Aren’t Gaining
You’re lifting heavy, you’re eating clean … but ya aren’t seeing them gains yet (or progress is extremely slow).
This happens at least once to all of us, and it’s typically the result of one of several factors: diet, recovery, and hormones. This is why I recommend upping your calorie intake by about 250 calories a day, either by adding 25 to 50 grams of carbs and/or 7 to 15 grams of fats. Or simply add 1 to 2 cupped handfuls of carbs and/or 1 to 2 thumbs of fats to your daily intake. Your diet can easily affect your testosterone and growth hormone levels (especially calories, carbs, and fats), so it’s truly the best thing you can optimize to build. When you’re eating a lot of protein, it can be easily to feel extremely “full” without getting an adequate amount of calories.
In addition, make sure you’re getting adequate recovery. This is why breaking up your lifting days by doing upper and lower splits is necessary – you’re able to recover one area while still working on another.
To further promote recovery, try Epsom salt baths, and even consider grabbing yourself a foam roller to break up tight tissue and ease soreness.
Be sure to also allow two weeks for changes to take place once you make them, as it takes time for your body to re-calibrate.
What To Do If You’re Gaining Fat
Again: it happens. Anytime you increase your calorie intake, there is usually an adjustment period you need to go through with your diet in order to control fat gain while putting on muscle.
My advice to try first is to increase your daily protein intake by about 25 grams, and decrease your daily carb intake by about 25 to 50 grams and/or fat intake by about 7 to 15 grams.
Remember This Key Point
I can’t stress this enough: this is about progress, not perfection!
It’s great to aim high, but it’s crucial to celebrate daily and weekly wins, such as: having more energy and vitality, not skipping a day of scheduled workouts, feeling more confident, feeling more at ease with food, and lifts that are easier than they were the week before!
These are no small victories, and they deserve to be celebrated!
For a Step-By-Step Guide Featuring Strength Routines a Comprehensive Nutrition Guide to Build Lean Muscle, Check Out My 12-Week Primal Body Program Here >>>
The Bottom Line
• Set realistic expectations for muscle gain to avoid disappointment
• Hormones play a big role in muscle gain, which is why younger individuals will typically gain faster than older individuals, and males will gain faster than females.
• Your rate of progress depends on several factors, including your age
• If you’re not gaining, adjust your carb and fat ratios as mentioned above
• Celebrate daily and weekly wins – they are no small victories