How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Year?


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A very good question has arrived at our website at Builder. The questioner was curious about the optimal tempo of the muscle-building process, namely, how much muscle can he gain a month. We like questions because the answer might be instructive for others as well.

It’s not easy to answer that question, but let’s get into it!

Like in most cases, the short answer that first comes to our mind is: it depends. We do speak about a beginner or a professional? A man or a woman? Young or old? Can he/she afford supplements, or can’t? How good is his/her genetics? These things matter... a lot.

Because a lot of gyms are still closed because of the pandemic, let’s see what can you expect in terms of building muscle if you’re restarting your workouts.

When you stop working out, you lose muscle first, not fat. This is because you don’t lift the same amount of weights, so your body thinks it’s unnecessary to keep the muscle mass. Fortunately, we also know that there’s such thing as muscle memory, therefore, when you start to train again, you will gain every gram of muscle you previously had, relatively fast (of course only when you pay attention to recovery).

So first of all, don’t get sad if you’ve lost most of your gains and you are not as muscular now as you were in summer: you will get everything back fast!

Let’s get to the exact numbers!

A little side note before we start: we’ll talk about adults in this article because children grow at a much faster rate since their system is still under development.

This is how much muscle (not bodyweight, we’re talking about raw, dry muscle mass) you can gain in the first year, naturally, as a beginner:

With rare, excellent genetics: 3-5 kgs. With average genetics, half of that, 1,5-2.5 kgs. If you’re a woman, the half of these numbers. If you are on the „B-side”, you’re short, you have really bad genetics, you have to look at the minimums of those ranges.

The closer you are to your genetic ceiling, the harder and slower you can build muscle. If you do everything right, you can gain 0.4-1.3 kgs (good genetics vs bad), in 4 years you can gain up to 13 kg of muscle overall with rarely good genetics. If you weren’t born that lucky, 10 kgs of muscle is a very good result after 4 years of training. Do not expect more from yourself, otherwise, you’ll be disappointed.

If you’re progressing slower than that, you have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • do you change your workout plan frequently enough?
  • can you lift heavier weights over time?
  • is your training intense, or you’re constantly looking at your phone in the gym?
  • do you have muscle soreness post-workout?
  • are you doing the exercises correctly?
  • do you get the pump during training?
  • do you give enough time for your muscles to recovery?

If everything is alright here, which means you change your workout plans every 3-4 months, you can lift more weights month by month, you have muscle soreness frequently, personal trainers don’t look at you with a surprised facial expression while you exercise, you get a great pump after your workouts, you don’t have the willpower to write anything on your phone during training, and your muscles get a nice 48-hour rest following every workout, take a good look at how good your recovery actually is:

  • do you consume enough protein?
  • are you in a slight caloric surplus?
  • do you sleep enough every day?
  • do you work out with the muscle which is sore?
  • do you drink a shake after your workouts?
  • do you take creatine?

If everything is right here also, which means you consume 2 grams of protein per every kg of your body weight, you consume about 100 calories more than you burn away, you sleep 8 hours every single day, you don’t train a muscle that is sore, you always drink a protein shake with carbs post-workout, and you also tried taking creatine, then maybe bodybuilding is not for you, because you have really bad genetics.

But even if this is true, does this mean that you should stop working out? Absolutely NOT. You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. You don’t even have to be Frank Zane. You don’t have to compete in bodybuilding. If you can sculpt a slightly better version of your body in a couple of years, that’s more than enough and it's worth your efforts.

There’s not one physique that can’t be made impressive by working out and eating right. Ordinary people even struggle to get six-pack abs, so if you can at least achieve that, you will stand out from the crowd.

What about experienced lifters?

Since an advanced lifter is much closer to his/her genetic potential than a beginner, the speed of muscle building is significantly slower. A natural athlete may expect 1 kg of lean muscle mass gain every year with good genetics after the first 4 years of hard training.

Since you cannot build muscle until the end of time, stalling is completely normal after a while. When this happens, the goal is not to build more muscle, but to keep the muscle mass that you already have.

Of course, gaining muscle mass is not the only goal that you can set for yourself. Other goals include maintaining a more ripped physique, fixing asymmetries, building a more healthy body (with stretching for example).

From a certain point of view, it’s no use to ask how much muscle can you gain a year. The exact speed of the muscle-building process can only be predicted roughly, we can’t say you will pack on 1.34 kilograms of muscle on your frame in 2021. To be honest, all you have to do is to check if you do everything right and train as hard and smart as possible.

The rest is the job of nature – and recovery! :)

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