• Mark Young

How Much Muscle Can I Build?

When first starting to work out, one of the things that people need to do is manage their expectations.

This is important because, if we expect something to happen fast and it doesn't happen, we're more likely to get frustrated and throw in the towel.

Having realistic expectations helps us to understand what a reasonable rate of progress looks like so we're less likely to become discouraged.

Unfortunately, social media and marketing have caused most people to set their expectations way too high when it comes to physique change.

When it comes to weight loss, I have found that people tend to have somewhat unrealistic expectations. But when it comes to building muscle, most people's expectations are way higher than are possible.

So, in order to paint a picture of what a reasonable expectation for muscle gain looks like, I'd like to share a some generally accepted numbers.

But before you read them, please note that these numbers assume an optimal situation. They are going to be influenced by your training, nutrition, sleep, stress, age, and genetics. If your situation is not optimal, then you can begin adjusting your expectations now.

Men Year 1: 20 - 25 pounds Year 2: 10 - 12 pounds Year 3: 5 - 6 pounds

Women Year 1: 10 - 12 pounds Year 2: 5 - 6 pounds Year 3: 2 - 3 pounds

Here are a few points you can take from this.

An adult male with an optimal training and nutrition could potentially expect to gain 35 - 40 pound of muscle with diminishing returns after year three of training.

At the absolute fastest, one might expect to gain an average of two pounds of muscle per month. By year three, 0.5 pounds of muscle per month is more likely. (Hint: If you're gaining faster than that, it probably isn't muscle)

An adult female will have an even more difficult time putting on muscle. With an optimal training program and solid nutrition, one might expect to gain between 17 - 21 pounds of muscle.

For women, this means that gaining an average of a pound of muscle per month would be the fastest a woman might expect to gain. So the notion that weight lifting is suddenly going to cause a woman into a musclebound bodybuilder is really quite unlikely.

Even when intentionally trying to build muscle, it takes a lot of deliberate effort to achieve that look and it isn't going to happen by accident. Instead, weight training to build muscle typically results in a stronger, leaner, more toned physique.

All in all, the take home point here is that building muscle is very slow and it takes many years. The secret to building great physiques is that it takes months and years not days and weeks. Set your expectations accordingly.

“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years." - Bill Gates

Mark Young, BKin, is Head Personal Trainer at Heron Creek Yoga & Fitness, a locally-owned health facility located in the Ancaster Rotary Centre at 385 Jerseyville Rd W. Contact us for top quality professional care at our 10,000 sq ft facility which has plenty of equipment, a dedicated Yoga studio, and much more. Email:, phone 905-648-4571, ig @heroncreekyogaandfitness, fb heroncreekyogaandfitness

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