How Long Does it Take to Naturally Build Lean Muscle?
The internet is awash with training programs that guarantee huge muscle gains in as little as a month of training, but how realistic is this? If you’ve ever trained in a gym, or watched friends or family do so, then you’re probably aware that results take a little longer. In fact, you’d struggle to find anyone who has legitimately doubled the size of their biceps in anywhere near as short a time as that. Most gym goers never get results like that.
So how long does it take to naturally build muscle? There isn’t an evidence-backed answer to this, and it really is true that everyone is different. But Lyle McDonald has created his own estimation using anecdotal experience and his experience as a coach. It is by no means a completely accurate method, but it is probably the closest we have to an answer.
Factors in Muscle Building
Your training age is not based on how old you are, but by how long you have been training. A 42 year old who started training yesterday has a training age of 1 day, while a 20 year old who started lifting weights regularly at 15 has a training age of 5 years. Bear in mind that this applies to training consistently, if you performed a bench press 10 years ago and have only exercised five times since then you don’t have a training age of 10 years, you have a training age of zero.
The younger the training age, the faster you can build muscle. But it’s not as straightforward as that as there are many other factors to consider. Your testosterone levels can play a huge part in how quickly you gain muscle (which is why competitive bodybuilders tend to supplement with testosterone). So a man with low testosterone will have a much harder time building muscle than someone with high levels.
How often you train, how well you train, and how well you recover are also important factors (some would say the most important factors).
What is a realistic target?
According to Lyle, a brand new trainee can expect to build around 20-25lbs a year at an average of 2lbs per month, with this rate halving after a year, and again in the third year. By the fourth year you’d be lucky to gain 2-3lbs total . This means that if you have never trained before you could expect to gain a maximum of 46lbs of muscle within 4 years, then an additional 2-3lbs per year after that. This works out at about 1lb per month as a mean average.
How Best to Build Muscle Naturally
Train regularly, and at a high intensity, use periodization or similar techniques. Prioritize rest and recovery, make sure that your diet is high in protein (consider supplementing with a protein shake, creatine, BCAAs, or similar pre/post/intra-workout shakes).
Look for ways to naturally boost testosterone (sleeping more, higher fat intake, lift heavy free weights, lowering stress), or use testosterone boosting products. There are also other proven tips to help optimize muscle mass gain. Oh, and be patient! As you can see 1lb of muscle gained per month is a decent way to transform your body within 4 years.