How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Predict Your Progress With Muscle Growth Rate Calculator

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPT, BSEngUpdated: April 24, 2024

The mechanisms for muscle building kick into gear after just one workout. But how long does it take to reap the rewards of your hard work and see noticeable muscle growth?

To answer that question, I reviewed half a dozen sports nutrition studies to determine a reasonable rate of muscle growth based on experience level, training routine, and diet. Then, I created a calculator to show you how much muscle you can gain in a week, a month, or a year!

How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

According to several studies, consistent weight training workouts can help you gain 0.3 to 0.7 lbs of muscle per week on average1,2,3.

Additional studies suggest that beginners with no previous weightlifting experience could gain as much as 1 pound of muscle per week4. On the other hand, experienced lifters may struggle to gain 1/4 pound of new muscle per week.

If we split the difference, the average person could expect to gain 1/2 a pound of lean mass weekly. That may not sound like much muscle, but it can really add up over time.

Table 1. Estimated Time to Build Muscle by Experience Level

Muscle Gain Beginner Intermediate Advanced
5 lbs 1 month 2 months 5 months
10 lbs 3 months 5 months 9 months
15 lbs 4 months 7 months 14 months
20 lbs 6 months 9 months 19 months
25 lbs 7 months 12 months 23 months
Rate of Muscle Growth Chart

To illustrate, picture a raw 8-ounce steak sitting on your kitchen counter. Now, realize that your body can create that much muscle in just seven days from just a few hours of training and some spare calories. It’s actually quite impressive!

Even more impressive is that you could gain 6 lbs of muscle in 12 weeks. To put it into perspective, picture a dozen of those steaks packed on your body.

When you extrapolate that over several months, you could gain upwards of 25 pounds of muscle in a year. That amount of muscle can transform your body from bony to brawny!

What Does 25 lbs of Muscle Look Like?

A picture is worth a thousand words when visualizing what 25 pounds of muscle looks like. So, I decided to share my transformation from 140 pounds to 165 pounds of lean mass.

I should point out that I added this muscle mass over many years while also losing some body fat. While the difference in scale weight is less than 25 pounds, I look significantly bigger due to the added muscle size.

Keep in mind that this before and after is intended to be an example of what 25 pounds of added muscle can look like. It’s not necessarily what you should expect in one year.

Weight Gain vs Muscle Gain

When discussing muscle gain, it’s critical to understand the difference between scale weight and lean mass. Scale weight is any mass that makes the number on the scale go up, including muscle, fat, water, food, and so on.

Conversely, lean mass is comprised of bone and skeletal muscle. So, increases in lean mass generally coincide with muscle gain.

Body Fat Gain

With increased calorie intake, it’s not uncommon for even experienced lifters to gain one pound per week. However, the larger the surplus, the more weight comes from body fat gain4.

Additionally, increasing calorie intake seems to have a point of diminishing returns where eating more simply results in more body fat without any additional muscle mass gain.

Glycogen Stores

At the start of a new workout routine, you might see a rapid increase in body weight of a few pounds or more in the first week. This is especially true if you increase your carbohydrate or calorie intake.

However, it’s essential to understand that this new weight is not entirely lean mass. Instead, the body can store hundreds of grams of carbohydrates, called glycogen, within the muscles and liver.

While full glycogen stores create the appearance of bigger muscles, they technically do not qualify as lean body mass gains.

Water Weight

For every gram of glycogen, your body can also store 3-5 grams of water. For example, a typical man’s body can store 500g of glycogen, which carries with it up to 2,500 grams of water. That’s nearly 7 lbs of scale weight gained in a matter of days.

You may also experience weight gain due to water retention, separate from the water stored within glycogen. Water weight can increase with inflammation, high sodium intake, or creatine supplementation.

Rate of Muscle Growth Chart

Calculate How Long It Takes to Build Muscle

Based on your experience level and desired weight, calculate the number of months it will take you to build muscle.

Muscle Growth Rate Calculator

Rate of Muscle Growth Chart

Predicted muscle growth rate based on 1/2 pound of lean mass gain per week.

How to Build Muscle Faster

Of course, you must follow a diet and exercise plan to gain muscle. It would be best to take specific actions to build muscle at an ideal rate of about 2 lbs per month.

Resistance Training Program

A good strength training program creates the required stimulus to break down muscle fibers so they can rebuild bigger and stronger. As a personal trainer, I adjust several training variables to optimize muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth.

  • Workout Frequency: Novice lifters should start with a training regimen that trains all the major muscle groups three days a week. More advanced lifters will benefit from training four to six days a week.
  • Training Volume: Hypertrophy studies suggest that a training volume of 10-30 sets per muscle group per week elicits maximal growth. These sets can be spread out between a few different exercises for each muscle group and across multiple workouts. 
  • Reps & Rest: Similar studies also indicate muscle growth is best achieved with sets of 6-12 reps with moderate loads of 60-80% of one rep max (1RM). Shorter rest periods of around 60 seconds between sets create the ideal stimulus for muscle hypertrophy.
  • Progression: Gradually making your workouts more challenging is known as progressive overload, a key concept for muscle growth. You can apply this overload by increasing weight, increasing volume, or decreasing rest periods over time.
  • Recovery: It’s also vital to include rest days and get enough sleep to recover from workouts. If you push too hard, you risk overtraining and diminishing your results.
Resistance Training for Muscle Growth

Proper Nutrition

As a certified nutrition coach, I’ve learned that you can bust your butt in the gym, but if you’re not eating right, you won’t gain an ounce of muscle! So here are some 

  • Calorie Intake: Building muscle requires eating at least enough calories to equal what you burn daily, also called your maintenance calorie intake. However, optimal muscle building involves eating slightly more calories than you burn, creating a moderate calorie surplus of 10-15%.
  • Protein Intake: Eating enough protein is another important factor in building muscle. Studies suggest maximum muscle tissue growth occurs at around 0.74 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is 20-30% of your calorie intake. More is not necessarily better when it comes to protein intake!
  • Food Choices: Consuming a balanced diet of healthy foods provides your body with the macronutrients and micronutrients it needs to build muscle tissue. While it’s possible to gain muscle on a dirty bulk diet of junk food, clean bulking is much better for your overall health.
  • Meal Timing: When you eat your meals in relation to your daily routine (nutrient timing) is not a critical factor when you’re just starting out. However, intermediate and advanced lifters can gain a slight advantage by consuming protein and carbs around their weight lifting sessions.
Calorie Surplus for Muscle Growth

Muscle Building Supplements

It’s important to realize that there are no magic pills or shortcuts to building muscle. However, a few tried-and-tested supplements can help when used in conjunction with resistance training and proper nutrition.

  • Creatine: Creatine is the most studied muscle-building supplement. A review of studies spanning 34 years showed that creatine effectively doubled the rate of muscle gain compared to a placebo1. So, it’s likely the best supplement to maximize muscle building.
  • Protein Powder: These tasty whey powders are a convenient way to increase your protein intake, although you shouldn’t rely on them as a replacement for whole food protein sources.
  • BCAAs & EAAs: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs) are the primary building blocks of skeletal muscle. If you eat enough protein, you don’t need to supplement with amino acids, but they can help increase muscle protein synthesis, particularly when combined with a post-workout protein shake.
Calorie Surplus for Muscle Growth

More Muscle Building Guides

Now, you have a realistic expectation of how long it will take to build muscle based on your experience level and fitness goals. Check out some of my other detailed bodybuilding guides below to learn more about the process of building muscle!

High-Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT) for Muscle Gain

How to Build Chest Muscle: Tips, Exercises, & Workout

How Long Does It Take To Get Abs?

Beginners Bodybuilding Nutrition Guide

Most Accurate Bulking Calorie Calculator

Simple 3 Minute Proats Recipe

Protein oatmeal (aka proats) makes your breakfast better. This simple proats recipe gives you a complete meal with loads of flavor.

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