Muscle growth is an exciting topic for many people.

After all, who wouldn’t want to pack a few extra pounds of muscle, look better, and be stronger? Plus, muscle adds shape to your body and comes with an admirable athletic look.

But how long does it take to gain muscle, anyway? In other words, if you started training today, how long would it take you to start looking more muscular?

Let’s discuss.

First: It Depends On Your Expectations

Before discussing rates of muscle gain, it’s essential to set clear expectations:

Muscle growth is a slow and challenging process. It often takes months of dedicated training and proper eating to see noticeable gains (1). Unlike fat loss, which typically brings noticeable changes in mere weeks, muscle gain is different.

Many beginners today have false expectations because we live in the influencer era. Go on Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, or Facebook, and you’ll be met with dozens, even hundreds of muscular and lean people, showcasing their physiques.

The problem is, this creates a warped view of what physical development is and how quickly it occurs. Plus, we can’t overlook steroid use, which is prevalent today. People claim they’ve achieved a specific outcome naturally, but there are plenty of influencers who keep a secret or two from their followers.

So, How Quickly Does Muscle Growth Occur?

As we dive into specific numbers, it’s important to note that factors like your training program, nutrition, adherence, effort, and genetics play a role. Some folks gain muscle more quickly, where others have to work hard to get anywhere.

With that said, let’s go over a muscle growth model developed by Lyle McDonald a while back. According to him, we can expect to gain:

  • Up to 20-24 pounds of muscle in our first year of training
  • Up to 10-12 pounds of muscle in our second year of training
  • Up to 6 pounds of muscle in our third year
  • Roughly 2-3 pounds per year after that

In other words, we can expect the majority of muscle gain to occur within the first three years of training.

Of course, these guidelines apply to the average person, so there will always be good and bad outliers. Some people might gain more muscle consistently over the years, and others might struggle for each pound of muscle. Studies have certainly shown us how individual differences can vary (2).

A Few Extra Words On Muscle Gain

Estimating how long you’ve been training right is also difficult. For instance, one person might have been going to the gym for years and still be in the beginner to early-intermediate state. Poor eating habits, inconsistent training, and a lack of sleep also play a role (3, 4).

Another person might step inside the gym for the first time and be way beyond the beginner stage. For instance, if the person has been doing manual labor for over a decade, he is bound to have above-average muscular development.

In any case, you shouldn’t fixate that much on ‘how quickly I can gain muscle.’ The journey is rewarding, and you should focus more on the next few steps than on the massive mountain on the horizon. The only accurate way to see how long it will take for you is to do the work and actually see it.


If you’re looking for the proper guidance along your muscle-building journey, head over to this page and contact us today. We offer excellent personal training services in San Jose, and we would be happy to have you on board with us.

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